By Aaron Brown, Crosswalk.com
There once was a boy who grew up in a loving family, though with time they began to drift apart. Suddenly, that boy, now a man, was without a place to belong. Thankfully, he found God for himself. Not only that, he found a person to talk to, laugh with, to hold - a girlfriend.
He had a place to belong for a time, until he didn’t. No marriage. No children. No future. A few years later he found someone new. Someone who treated him well, spent time with him, loved him, someone different, but in the end she too left him, abandoned.
Surely, he could live a single life. Just he and God. And yet, he desired something more, something tangible. And he couldn’t shake it, some feeling, a yearning perhaps. Something that maybe God first recognized in Adam.
Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.’ (Genesis 2:18)
Does God have a purpose in our heartache? In our seasons of loneliness? In our seasons of loss?
That is what Scriptures informs. The letters Paul wrote to fellow believers serves as a reminder that suffering has purpose (Romans 5:3-4). And then we have stories like the Book of Job which indicate that sometimes we encounter misfortunates, though we ourselves are innocent (Job 1:1).
As we navigate the complexities of relationships, dating, and marriage, we are bound to face some gain, as well as some loss. In the end, what is meant to be or not to be? This is a question about love. And no one is better fit to answer than the all-knowing God.
How Do We Know What Is Meant to Be?
Almost a month has passed since Valentine’s Day, and for many singles like me, questions still remain. Not questions about that day in particular, but questions about love. Love meant for us. Or not. Questions for God and maybe even about Him.
I can ask these questions of God somewhat comfortably. I’m early into a writing career and not yet thirty. Can the same be said though about the middle-aged woman who wanted to marry, but never did? Now she is past the age considered safe for childbearing. Or what about the man in his thirties who just got married, only for his wife to leave him, or worse, pass away?
Is the woman meant to be single or did she mess up along the way? Did the man marry someone who wasn’t the one, or was his wife’s passing simply a tragedy?
As Job said, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.” (Job 1:21)
How are any of us supposed to know what is meant to be and what is not? Or what is meant to be and what God just allows?
Sometimes relationships last and sometimes they don’t. Not everyone is even fit for a relationship. Not only that, God doesn’t intend for all of us to be married (1 Corinthians 7:7). Thus, just because we may want companionship doesn’t mean we will find it, and just because we have a relationship now doesn’t mean that it will last.
If I am single and desire companionship, what do I do? Act on my own accord? Wait on God? Both? How will I even know what God wants for me?
Are relationships preordained or purely free will? Does the answer depend on the people involved? Which are mine?
The angst that comes with these questions can sometimes feel unbearable. Our hearts may say one thing, but the Lord may be saying another. And like any good Christian, we just want to do the right thing.
To answer the myriad of questions I sought both podcasts and peers for spiritual insight. Want to know what I discovered? No one knows. Not for sure. Everyone seems to have their own ideas of what is meant to be and what is not. Some people believe in one, some believe in many, and others in anyone.
Some say that certain relationships are preordained, while others believe that every relationship is a choice. I had to wonder, what did I think? Having two relationships that ended in disappointment, not marriage, didn’t leave me feeling hopeful. Hearing that the divorce and marriage rate in America are about equal wasn’t uplifting either.
Then I began to speculate for myself over how everyone could be reading the same text, the Bible, but not have one absolute answer. What does God have to say about romance?
God’s Guidance for Ruth
Preordained marriages were the norm in ancient Jewish culture. Thus, there is no verse that strictly speaks to pre-marriage dating. That being said, there was one biblical romance story I had previously underappreciated.
The Book of Ruth details the life of a woman who lost her husband, only to then have God guide her into her next relationship.
So Ruth left and entered the field to gather grain behind the harvesters. She happened to be in the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was from Elimelech’s family. (Ruth 2:3)
Ruth happened to be there? She and Boaz met by chance? There are stories I hear today of people by chance meeting their partners, or friends, or whoever. I too have had these coincidental experiences. Seemingly coincidental experiences.
I could read Ruth’s story and think there was nothing to this, but I see more than just a random happening. Then something occurred in her story that couldn’t also be by chance.
In Ruth 4 when the redeemer is asked about obtaining Elimelech’s land the first time, he agrees. The second time he is asked, Boaz mentions that the redeemer will also inherit Ruth, and with that added bonus he declines. Then guess who ends up marrying Ruth? Boaz.
What are the odds, especially considering that God guides us through life? God was definitely guiding Ruth (Ruth 3:10-13). Ruth’s story has a happy ending, but sometimes our lives seem to be quite the opposite. Seem to be.
God’s Promises to Us
Just as God allows good things to happen to us, sometimes He also allows the bad. Life on Earth is not equivalent to an existence in Heaven so we can’t expect perfect bliss all the time, not even in our relationships.
Why does God allow some of our greatest disappointments? Maybe we’ll never know. But for myself, I have been able to reach some level of peace with what I do know. According to Scripture, I’m not promised a spouse, but I am promised other things.
God’s enduring love.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
The lonely season is not forever.
“A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:3-4)
God gives us more in the end than in the beginning.
“Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.” (Psalm 126:5)
“So the Lord blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first.” (Job 42:12)
All things work for my benefit. All things.
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
With these ideas in mind, I can safely conclude that my God is the God for those in love, and also the God for those abandoned. He is a God for those in marriage, and those who are single. God guides every single one of us, while at the same time we initiate action in our lives.
Waiting for God’s Answer
We will never be able to exact the correct ratio that determines how much of life is God-allowing (permissive will) and what He makes happen (perfect will). I suppose that mystery is what God intended.
Nonetheless, we shouldn’t just pray for our broken relationships to be restored or for our singleness to end. We ought to be more like Ruth, allowing God to do His work while we also do our part. In the words of Wayne Stiles, “We move, and then we allow God to guide and redirect.” And we pray while we also act.
If we can keep God first and foremost, maybe He will bless us with companionship, whether we had it before, or this is our first time (Matthew 6:33).
Until we get to that point, let’s do the best we can and wait for God to answer that question on love.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/tommaso79
Aaron Brown is a freelance writer, dance teacher, and visual artist. He currently contributes articles to GodUpdates, GodTube, iBelieve, and Crosswalk. Aaron also supports clients through the freelance platform Upwork.