Singleness and the Christian Woman

In my twenties, the world was my oyster. I was working as an archaeologist, travelling the world, and active in the church. I knew the grand total of two single Christian men, but marriage and family was never quite my number one priority.

It wasn’t until my early thirties though, that thoughts turned to finding a man to marry and raise a tribe of kids with. My body clock started ticking, and with so many of my friends married and having kids, I was feeling the pressure and time was running out. I started to feel “left on the shelf” and wondering when the Lord was going to answer my prayers.

At this time I was writing my prayers in a journal, pouring out my heart to the Lord and pleading with him for a husband and children of my own. I learned from Hannah, who prayed with such fervour about her childlessness, that the priest thought she was drunk (1 Sam. 1:9-18). I decided to pray with the same increasing desperation and emotional turmoil, searching the Scriptures and waiting on the Lord for an answer.

In that time, I watched many Christian women I knew reach the same point of desperation, give up on expecting the Lord to grant their requests, and decide to take matters into their own hands. Some married unbelieving men. Some had affairs. Some adopted children or even had IVF as a single parent. All of those decisions were compromises which came at high personal costs in the long run.

I had been faithful to the Lord all of my life, and he promises that if we delight ourselves in him he will give us the desires of our heart (Ps. 37:4). So, for me to desire something which I knew to be a good thing in God’s eyes and something he created us for, and then not to receive the fulfillment of that desire, left me with very hard questions about whether God really cared about me and about how I felt; namely unloved and forgotten.

By the age of 34, I was in full blown, early menopause and realised that the window of opportunity to have my own kids was closing fast. I was desperate for the Lord to answer my prayers, and just couldn’t understand why he hadn’t come through for me. It became clear to me that there were three ways I could respond to the Lord not giving me what I wanted.

First, I could give up on the Lord completely and walk away from my faith. Many women I knew had done exactly that. I knew that wasn’t an option for me. I knew his Word too well and the saving grace of his work on the cross. I couldn’t deny the truth of his gospel.

Second, I could give up on the spiritual battle over my singleness, but still trust the Lord for my salvation. This was the lukewarm, compromise option, by which (in my mind at least) I could still be saved but I would make the decision that the Lord couldn’t be trusted to come through for me on the things of this life that were important to me. But I realised that I’d be just like the people of Israel complaining about missing the rich food of Egypt. And as Psalm 103:15 says, “He gave them what they asked for but sent leanness into their souls”. Compromise comes at a price.

Third, I could just trust him, 100%, which for me was far and away the biggest risk to my faith. There was something – in hindsight clearly the work of the Holy Spirit – drawing me to take a leap of faith to trust him even if he didn’t give me what I was asking for.

As I stepped out in faith, I came to realise that I didn’t really believe that the Lord loved me, which was a shocking realisation for someone like me who grew up in the church. I knew that “he so loved the world that he gave his only Son” but was I just a pawn in his grand strategy for the world?

But as I searched the Scriptures, the Lord opened my eyes to the fact that I have two advocates, interceding on my behalf, whose prayers for me are far more passionate, powerful and effective than my own prayers could ever be.

The first advocate was Jesus, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. At the point of his most intense, personal stress to the point of sweating blood, knowing the suffering he was about to face, Jesus pleaded with his Father for us:

“…that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23).

The second advocate is the Holy Spirit, interceding for us with groans that cannot be put into words. Romans 8 shows both of our advocates interceding for us before the throne of God the Father, the triune God working as one:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

The intensity and purpose with which these two advocates pursued my cause was proof enough that the Lord loved me and I was deeply humbled by my own doubts. Furthermore, I realised that las in the case of Job, the LORD cares enough about me to send these challenges into my life as part of the process of refining, sanctifying, and ultimately glorifying his bride, the body of believers with whom he will spend eternity.

The Lord has brought me to a place of contentment with my singleness and childlessness, and a place where he is blessing the work he has called me to do. He has equipped me to be a leader of people in the workplace and young people in the Church. I have also had the blessing of using my archaeological training and love of Bible history to lead tours in Israel. I have lived a full life and learned to share my spiritual journey, so others know they are not alone and that the Lord will bring you through.

Finally, I want to say to those who have already made mistakes that Jesus Christ died to redeem you for himself. His shed blood is powerful to save, redeem and transform your life. Trust him. He’s worth it.

– Catherine Searle