Last week I was asked to speak at a singles’ conference. The conference organizer asked me to talk about the idea of singleness not being a time of “waiting for life to start,” etc.
First I want to say that I love this singles’ ministry. Three single ladies in our church began it a few years ago. Now it’s an international ministry, and well-attended. They tried several styles of meeting organization, but what works is them planning a weekend activity and everyone coming together for 3-4 days. This month, they had 4 days conference at a church area outside of Kiev. Before that, they had a few-day conference in Belorussia. Soon will be a rafting trip. Then a trip to Crimea the next month. They mix lectures with sports, cookouts, devotionals, Q/A, and so on.
I love this group. I love them for several reasons. I was a single for several years—until I was married at 27 or 28, I don’t remember. I also read a great book by Wendy Widder about singles and the church. Singles constitute a large segment of society, and we need to be intentional about befriending them. We need to be intentional as a church in doing this, too.
So back to this topic for this conference. I had a special time preparing this talk, and I was very ministered to by the Lord for my own benefit as I prayed about this. The following are my notes, written in first person.
I want to talk today about being single and having feelings of incompleteness, feelings that life won’t start until I get married, thoughts that I have no life because I’m not married, etc …
It’s normal for us to be tempted by these thoughts but dangerous if we live them out, if we walk down the path of our lives believing these things—that my life is not important and is incomplete because I’m not married. We might not exactly notice, but we are making decisions based on these beliefs.
So I want to share with you the answer to these false beliefs—and the answer is a well. Yes, a well—as in lower a bucket down and draw up water.
Let’s imagine that everyone’s life is like a desert. It’s dry, hot, without grass, no trees, fruit, or flowers. And we are thirsty.
Now, it seems to us that we need to dig a well here for this dry area. We dig a well of our dreams for marriage and children. We can dig wells of relationships with friends. Or a well of finding meaning in our work or calling. And we dig, trying to satisfy the thirstiness we feel.
But what we must understand is that THERE ALREADY IS A WELL INSIDE YOU, AND IT’S THE ONLY RIGHT WELL.
Marriage love, friends, children, sex, intimacy, closeness—these are things we can enjoy, but if we make them the well of our hearts, if we want to drink from them, we will be disappointed. And we will be drinking something that is of no use to us, something that could even be a poison.
We first need to understand what our souls are really thirsty for:
In John 4, we see part of the answer. Here we have an interesting lesson in the Samaritan woman’s life. She kept digging wells in her heart to find what will satisfy her thirst. 5 times she married! The 6th time she didn’t marry, she just was trying to satisfy her need living with a guy.
And it’s very clear that she was not satisfied. She wasn’t drinking from the right well in her heart.
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water. … Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (Joh 4:10, 13-14 NAS)
Jesus said to her that all these waters we could drink of, we will still thirst. Only His water can help us not to thirst again. Why? Because His water, when it goes into us, becomes inside us a source of water.
Now, what does all this mean? Let’s talk clearly.
First, we’re talking about salvation. Drinking of Jesus’ water means we believe in Him for salvation.
And maybe this is disappointing to you. That the Bible doesn’t offer you any other secret to happiness except salvation. Because, you say, I am saved, and it’s good. Yet I still feel thirsty. I still feel like I’m missing something because I’m not married. And we don’t want to say OUT LOUdD that I’m disappointed in Your salvation, God, I’m not all the way satisfied with what you did. But let’s say it out loud, as Simon Peter did, “”Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life,” and see what God answers us.
“Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14 NAS)
And we read this and we think, eternal life? well, sure I have eternal life … but I still want to have a husband, a family. But this is the secret! At this point, we must choose to become disciples of Jesus, not just believers. We must be willing to let God rearrange our values and learn to value what God values. He says eternal life is the thing? And I’m disappointed? Well, I need to change how I value eternal life! What am I not getting here? So let’s dig a little more in this well that God puts in our hearts. Let’s learn how to drink from His well of water inside us. It’s the only thing that can satisfy us.
In John 7, Jesus talks again about water inside us, and we see something great here:
“Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Joh 7:37-39 NAS)
Here we begin to understand this water picture a little more. When we believe in Jesus, His Spirit comes to live inside us, and His Spirit is the great Well, the great source of water for us. We drink it to eternal life.
Maybe we again are a bit disappointed. The Holy Spirit? Well, this is old news. I know I have the Spirit inside me. So what? I still feel thirsty. …
And this is where we need to stop again, and we need to correct ourselves according to God’s Word. Here is the well! The only well we should be drinking from!! And the secret is that we have to LEARN TO DRINK FROM IT. We have to train ourselves to drink from the living water God put inside us.
Because we, of course, want to drink of the old waters that will never satisfy. We have a longing in our hearts for a husband? Understand what you are longing for—it’s not just a husband you want. You don’t just want a body of cells next to you. You have much greater expectations when you say “husband.” You want a man who loves you, who thinks you are beautiful, who values you, who pays attention to you, who will listen to all we want to talk about, etc, etc, etc. … We’re looking for a lot more than just a bunch of cells! It’s a whole world of intimacy we desire when we think of a husband.
But how easy it is to be disappointed in this. And for a husband to be disappointed in his wife! If we drink of these waters, we’ll be disappointed, maybe even poisoned. If we take our hearts and focus on this one well, we’ll be sadly disappointed—that Samaritan woman—How many husbands did she have? ??? and did any of them satisfy her? No.
So let’s understand the one well God has put in us that can SATISFY ANY AND EVERY THIRST.
And please stop for a second, because part of us wants to say, well, I don’t want my desire for a husband satisfied by anything but a husband. I don’t want to change my desires. …. Please, just open your heart to what God wants to say to you through His Word. He has the best road in place to satisfy you, to lead you to a satisfying husband, or a satisfying life with no husband. Only His way will do it the right way.
The water inside of us when we believe is the presence of the Holy Spirit inside of us. We really have lost the specialness of this because the Spirit started living in people about 2,000 years ago, so we no longer really think it’s anything special. So let’s go back and understand why this is so amazing.
And I want you to see that is really is amazing! Jesus Himself said it is BETTER that He go back to the Father so that the Spirit could come live in us—imagine!!!
“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. (Joh 16:7 NAS)
Jesus—He lived among us, He was the perfect example, He showed us God Himself, He never sinned, He healed everyone, He raised from the dead, He showed us God the Father. And He said it was BETTER that the Holy Spirit come than that He be here with us. Can you imagine?? So we need to understand why is this better????
You see? This is what we must come to in order to satisfy our thirst. When we were saved, when we believed, this amazing SOURCE of living water opened up inside us—the Spirit came into us! We have to come to this well, and we need to look into it, drink from it, dig it out more, understand what it all means. We can’t run off to dig other wells—of husband, children, friends, beauty, money, profession — those wells of water are poison water. They leave us more thirsty.
We need to come back to the well of water God opened in our hearts by putting His Spirit inside us and understand what this means. We have to let this Good News water run out over the desert of our hearts, creating a green garden of life inside us.
A question, for each of us: Have I “stopped” life in order to wait for a husband? Has this desire become an idol for me?
You know, the desire for a family is a normal desire, but it can quickly become an idol. Am I living in self-pity? Am I consumed by being beautiful and attracting men’s attention in a wrong way? Am I willing to sin in the smallest way in order to attract a man’s attention?
Stop digging in sinful wells. Come back to the pure source of water God has put in your heart when the Spirit came to live in you.
And I want to tell you, it doesn’t end when you get married! All the sinful places I can dig wells are still there with a husband and children. I am tempted to dig for poison water. I am learning also to come to the source of living water inside me.
These next questions deal with what we need to understand about the importance of the Spirit coming to live in us—things we are already used to, but we need to come back to them again to value why Jesus said it’s better for us to have the Spirit inside us than His physical presence on earth.
- Do I judge my own or others’ value by whether or not they are married? do I think, for example, that married women in church are more important? Do I think that married women can do more in church than a single?
This is an important sign that we do not understand what God did when He gave us the Spirit.
- We are all priests now, we all can come before God ourselves and intercede for others. Not just priests, men, Levites, etc. God equaled us all. (before this was chosen nation, was priestly line, was forgiveness through priestly system, vows through priestly system, men had higher status in serving in the tabernacle and in religious affairs, etc.)
- We were recreated into a body for Christ; we’re not divided by social status any longer—married/unmarried, jew/gentile, slave/free, man/woman.
- Am I using my spiritual gifts in His body or do I use singleness and dissatisfaction to not get involved?
- Paul to Timothy—use your gift! don’t let others despise your youth!
- i. “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2Ti 1:6 NAS)
- The women in Acts and women disciples in the Gospels—how much they did for the church!
- Because the Spirit lives in us, a whole new way of relating to each other has opened up.
- Am I learning to communicate with and have friendship with God through the Spirit and the Word? Am I using the wonderful means God has given us today to draw close to Him? We understand so much more of God, have so much more revelation today than at any other time! Let’s ask God to really make His presence real to us, His spirit living inside.
- Redemption of singleness. Redemption is buying something back. It was good. It was messed up by sin. God redeems it by making it better than what it was originally. Can we ask God to make singleness in my life a greater, better thing than marriage? Maybe I’m only single for a time, it might not be permanent. But ask God to redeem this time, to make it of more value to me and to His eternal purposes than if I were married.
These things we are digging here is drinking from the living water that has sprung up inside us. We have to teach ourselves to drink from the waters of salvation. Only this source will satisfy our thirst. Clean out this well. Sit at it daily. Put down our shovels. Close up the other wells that can’t satisfy us, that can’t grow a garden or fruit in our lives. Learn to drink, drink deeply, from the well of life.