Writer Erica Gustafson wonders, should you expect a husband from God because you have been ‘a good Christian’?
I will begin by stating that I am a well-seasoned self-sufficient single woman (thank you very much). For thirteen years I served as a missionary around the world and carried various leadership roles within the international missions organization I served with. It may also be helpful to state that while I may be a well-seasoned self-sufficient single woman, my strength and independence also perform as cover-ups for a deep longing to be loved by and give my love to another. My singleness never seemed to bother me. I wanted to follow God’s will and believed my obedience meant the rest of life’s details would fall into place; mainly marriage and finding a spouse. So, I rarely talked about it and assumed marriage would happen whether or not I talked about it. I now realize that is was denial more than anything. I was afraid to admit marriage was something I wanted for my life. It is way too vulnerable, too personal, and way too honest.
I wanted to follow God’s will and believed my obedience meant the rest of life’s details would fall into place
Earlier this year, after noticing signs of ministry burnout, I stepped out my leadership roles, left full-time ministry, and moved from Europe back to the U.S. These changes created much needed space for rest as well as reflection of my four decades of life. Though these decades are rich in experiences and friendships, they are also mingled with disappointment. “I just thought my life would be different by now,” frequents my thoughts and eventually reforms into, “I just really thought I would be married and creating life with my person by now.” I thought it when I turned thirty, and again this summer when I turned forty (and it took me years to admit out loud).
I have heard other single female friends in ministry wonder why God had not brought them their husbands yet, saying things like, “I gave my life, my everything for him, yet he hasn’t given me this thing I deeply longed for. Does he not care about me? Why has he left me so alone?” Instead of having answers, I am also sitting with their questions. I spent what feels like the best years of my life in a work I loved but assumed would ultimately lead me to my husband only to find myself holding unmet expectations instead of the hand of another.
“I gave my life, my everything for him, yet he hasn’t given me this thing I deeply longed for. Does he not care about me?”
My own thoughts move from, “I thought if I followed you would bring me my spouse like you did for so many of my friends,” to “I have been so faithful to you… where is your faithfulness to me?” Those thoughts gain momentum, and I begin to hear them differently. Instead of longing I begin to hear accusation, “I did this thing for you, so you should have do this thing for me…” “I served. I gave. I did what YOU asked. Where is my reward? What have you given me?” And like running into a sliding glass door, it hits me. I have missed it. Then a different question forms. Have I bought into a version of the prosperity gospel? I think God owes me something for what I have done for him. Somehow I shifted from life with God for the sake of intimacy and relationship, to life with God for the sake of getting a blessing or reward. I want God to validate my faithfulness by giving me the thing I want and think I deserve. It is like I have put coins in a machine and am waiting for my prize to pop out. However, rather than a prize, what comes out is more questions.
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But it is now in those questions I am learning to find comfort. Because those questions have nudged me to the more honest and raw places of my heart, and those are the very places I believe God desires to meet me most. Do I hope marriage will be part of my life one day? I do. But do I see it as something I am entitled to because of my obedience? I do not. I am learning that, if I will let them, longing and lack can actually lead to deeper places of my heart and God’s. And it is along this journey that I am inviting him to show me what joy and contentment look like in a world of questions and uncertainty.