Thursday, June 26, 2008

Better to Be Single Than to Wish You Were

“. . . if anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:38)

I love that line. Better to be single than to wish you were. I wish I could take credit for it, but I can’t. It came to me in an email from a friend. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Today I’d like to tell you the tale of two emails. They don’t carry the weight of biblical epistles, but I think God has something to say to us through them

Email # 1:
This came to me from a single woman who wrote to express appreciation for the daily devotionals but offered a word of challenge on this weeks’ series of meditations on the single life. The critique pointed out that singleness involves a very real struggle with loneliness. This person fully embraces her call to serve Jesus and has good friends in her life. But losing her husband to cancer after 22 years of marriage has been hard, and loneliness is an ever present reality in the single life. As she put it, “I have many friends, but that cannot compare with the quiet I have had to learn to deal with.”

Email # 2:
This came from a friend who wrote to tell me about her mother who has been single for 15 years since the death of “the love of her life.” After working through her grief, which sounds like it took a while, she started leading a group called “Begin Again” for others who have lost their spouse. My friend wrote, “Mom sees a lot of people who, after losing a spouse, are desperate to get married again because they are afraid of being alone.”

The common thread that links these emails is the reality of loneliness in the single life and what to do with it. One writer reminds us that even a full and active life as a single adult doesn’t remove the ache of a silent and empty house. The other writer also knows the pain of loneliness and reminds us that loneliness is a bad reason to get married.

Loneliness is a wound on the soul, and the human soul bears many such wounds. Soul wounds have no regard for your marital status. What married people and single people share in common here is our tendency to mend the wound ourselves, to find something that will make us better, take the pain, make us stop hurting.

The lonely tend their wound by jumping into another relationship. The anxious tend their wound by trying to control everyone and everything around them. The grieving tend their wound with constant busy-ness. Those who live with a nagging sense of inadequacy might tend their wound with constant work and ladder climbing, piling up the accolades.

Jeremiah diagnosed our condition when he identified the sin of the people in turning from the source of living water to dig their own cisterns (Jer. 2:13). We do that more than we know. We dig our own wells when Jesus invites to come to him and drink of living water.

In one way or another we’re all thirsty. When we dig our own wells and try to fix loneliness on our own, the remedy we use often proves inadequate. Thus the proverb: Better to be single than to wish you were. God can be trusted with every wound of the soul. God is sufficient, and those who trust him lack no good thing (Ps. 34:10). Thanks be to God!

Lord Jesus, we are thankful for your invitation to come to you and find living water. There are places in our lives that are parched, and we need what only you can give us. Forgive our efforts to mend ourselves and teach us to rest in you. We thankfully cast every care upon you in the knowledge that you are sufficient for all that concerns us today. Amen.

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