Loneliness as a Reminder

“Does it get better when you’re married? The struggle with loneliness and feeling hopeless?”

My single friend, who was approaching her 30’s, texted me those questions late one night. She had recently had a bad break-up in which she lost the potential of a husband, a good friend (his sister), and her church small group. They both went to the same small group and he told her maybe she should look for another one if she was going to be so emotional about the break-up. Who wouldn’t be feeling hopeless after that?

I didn’t want to lie to her. “No. It doesn’t really get better.”

Let me explain. Sure it gets better in the sense that you have a companion, the ability to start a family, and potential for some great sexy time. But the struggle with loneliness? No, that doesn’t necessarily go away just because you’re married. We all crave to be known in ways that no human being can ever know us. So whether you’re married or not, whether you have tons of friends or just a couple of good ones, whether you are popular or flying under the radar, you will be lonely.

When you are turning to your husband, to your friends, to how well known you are for your satisfaction, it’s easy to fall into the trap of loneliness because you have taken your eyes off of the only who can truly satisfy. Maybe for a while these things can keep the loneliness at bay, but it will only be a matter of time until you either lose them or they fail you. And then the loneliness settles in.

This is something I struggle with even as a married person. At various points, I have found myself bemoaning the fact that I don’t have any friends who actually care about me. I watch all of the single people I know who have several intimate friendships where their friends actually hang out and call them and wish them Happy Birthday. I just don’t have a friendship like that in this season of my life. Maybe it’s because most of the people my age also have young children and are just trying to survive. And the ones who are still single don’t seem to view me as friendship material. Or maybe I am not putting myself out there enough. It doesn’t really matter why, because I have talked to those single girls that I am so envious of and they can be just as lonely as I am. The grass is not greener. You can be lonely and feel hopeless with the best this world and the people in it have to offer you and you can be lonely with the worst.

But thankfully, we don’t have to stay that way. Every time I experience these bouts of loneliness, I always find myself on my knees crying out to the God who sees me. And he reminds me of all the ways I am not alone and never will be. The worst can come my way: loss of family, loss of friends, loss of possession, but I will never lose my God. Hope is always within sight, if I choose to look towards the source of it.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:35-39

Dreaming Single

“I was talking to a friend of mine and she was telling me about her dreams for the future. She turned to me and said, ‘So, what are your dreams?’ I didn’t have an answer for her. I guess I don’t have any dreams.”

This was from a conversation I had with a single friend of mine recently. It broke my heart. It ended on a more encouraging note after I prodded her a little more on what her dreams might be and we came to the conclusion that she didn’t have to wait for a man to really start dreaming and asking the Lord what to do with those dreams.

It’s a huge problem within the Church. I don’t have the answers as to why, but the ratio between godly women and men is alarmingly unbalanced. Where are all the godly men? I watch my single friends approaching their late twenties discouraged and unwilling to dream. It hurts too much to dream about things like marriage and children when the likelihood of a godly man appearing in their life seems impossible. For some, careers become their passion and their dream. Some choose to serve God on the mission field and devote their lives to serving. But what about the ones who dreamed of marriage and children?

If this is your dream, I am not writing this to tell you that “nothing is impossible with God” although it is true. I am not here to tell you that God will send you the right man, if you just wait. I am here to tell you that God desires to use you for His kingdom right now.

I know an amazing woman, now approaching thirty, who recently adopted her first daughter from Haiti. She has always had a passion for the children of Haiti and didn’t let the lack of godly men stop her. She is unmarried. Will her pursuit of her dreams to love and have children of her own destroy a future of marriage? Perhaps. But she was willing to go after her dreams in unconventional ways. She is providing for and serving the least with the means God has given her, with or without a man to walk alongside her. She didn’t listen to the fairy tale of “one day my prince will come” and faced the harsh reality that there may never be a prince with boldness and bravery. She waited for a husband and realized he just wasn’t there. And then she chose to live her life in motion instead of frozen in time. She chose to start living at least part of her dreams, trusting God with the rest of her heart. Trusting that God would shape her desires to line up with the desires He has for her future. And if that includes a future husband, praise God! And if not, praise God for the daughter she is raising to be loved and cherished and known by a mother and the Father of heaven.

My challenge to the single, Christian women of our generation is this: start dreaming again. Don’t give up hope on having a husband, but don’t let it slow you down. You are made for love!! Love that is so much more than sexual love. A selfless kind of love. A kind of love that gives sacrificially and fulfills you in ways that no man could ever fill. As a married woman to a phenomenal, godly man, I can attest that not even he can fulfill me the way  that selflessly serving and giving of myself for the Lord fills me. If you have been frozen and given up on your dreams, I am praying God will begin thawing out your heart again for His kingdom and the work He has for you right now!

Often times we talk about how God will give us the desires of our heart. I think we confuse what the desires of our heart truly are with what the desires of our flesh are. I believe that the deepest desire of our heart is to be righteous and to be like Jesus. There is a reason we feel so invigorated and full of life when we choose to sacrifice and love selflessly like Jesus did. If we are walking in step with God, He fulfills that deep desire and brings forth the righteousness that Jesus has given us. It is a glorious thing to behold when women (single or married) shine like the Son.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act: He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.”

Psalm 37:4-7

Stephanie: An Open Book

Submitted By: Stephanie

I didn’t know what was going on with my body or what I was feeling. I didn’t know what to call it. I didn’t know if it was wrong or if it was normal. At first, all I knew was that it felt good. I wasn’t even a teenager yet.

It was years before I even heard the word “masturbation” and some years more before I put it together that that was what was going on. Up until that realization there had been a kind of indescribable confusion and regret that existed, but after a label was applied to my actions the shame and humiliation that followed was immense and drove me into further secrecy. For years I tried to fight it off, to end it, but it seemed there were triggers all around me sending me back to that act I despised naming.
I truly believed I was the only one I knew who struggled with it and I dare not test that hypothesis by asking questions; Lord knows I sure didn’t hear the word “masturbation” in church. So I kept it to myself, at least I tried. Something in me felt I had to tell someone and the scriptures that talked about confessing haunted me. So I decided to admit to some very close friends that I struggled with “lust.” That’s what I called it because lust, well everyone struggles with that and it was a broad enough label that I felt safe behind it; God could have His way and I could have mine. Although it wasn’t enough, not because it wasn’t enough for Him, but because it wasn’t enough for me in my own heart.
One night a younger girl on a youth leadership team pulled all the female leaders into a private meeting where she boldly confessed to us all her struggle with pornography; she just had to get it out in the open. Little did she know what that would start. Her confession gave the rest of us courage to open up and open up we did. Turns out every single one of my friends, who served in leadership positions with me, struggled with masturbation at some point in their life. We all had thought we were alone all that time.
I was in high school when that little saving grace occurred. Confessing to my friends gave me strength to stand up to something I hated; it made a lot of the shame go away and I found myself enriched with a boldness to lay my struggle out there for other girls so that at least they wouldn’t feel so alone like I did for all those years. But there was still some shame hanging on, shame that I wouldn’t be free from for another 4 years when I finally gained the courage to tell my mom.
See, when God made me, He made me an open book; I naturally share what I go through and I don’t have a lot of shame about it- it’s how I’ve always been. But what masturbation did was it robbed me of that. With masturbation being in my life suddenly I had something to hide, suddenly I had shame. So, for me, confessing was what was necessary to bring me back to me. I don’t think that masturbation was the great sin that needed forgiveness. I think the bigger “sin” was me not being who I was created to be and allowing something to muddle core parts of my being. I think that broke my God’s heart more than the act itself; having to watch me be robbed of the true nature He Himself had put within me. I have come to believe that God cares far more about us than He does about what we do. Whether that be the great and holy things we can do for Him or the hurtful and shameful things we can do despite Him, He cares for us. He cares about us.

Modesty in a Sex-Saturated Culture

I think it is safe to say that the topic of modesty is a difficult one. There are people with all kinds of different opinions on it and most people cannot come to an agreement on what the guidelines should be for girls and women of this day and age.

I have heard so many different arguments as to why women should be able to wear whatever they want. “Guys should be able to control themselves” and “Women in other countries don’t always even wear clothing, so I am actually doing pretty well.” I understand if you are someone who is tired of being judged for what you wear, but could you at least come up with some better arguments? Or maybe it is just that there really aren’t any good arguments for your selfish desire to get what you want regardless of the consequences to others.

I don’t know if everyone else realizes it, but our culture is sex crazy. I don’t just mean we encourage sex, we worship sex. It is in every aspect of our culture from seemingly innocent television ads to easily accessible hardcore porn. Now before you get all defensive, I am not saying that you personally, as a Christian, are sex crazy, but the culture you live in is. You have to accept that to understand the rest of what I have to say.

There are tribes around the world that do have a vastly different dress code than we do. It is perfectly ok for Himba women to walk around shirtless. Nothing is odd about it. It sounds quite freeing doesn’t it ladies? I would love to not have to worry about what bra or shirt I am going to wear that day. But there is something else that they don’t have either. They don’t have the billboards that are encouraging men (or women) to go see these topless wonders. It is not often that they have time to just sit and watch a movie where the camera lingers on a woman’s cleavage and lets you watch as she slowly, seductively peels off her top. So to see a woman’s breast in that kind of culture isn’t quite as titillating to the everyday viewer.

Jump back into your own culture and the same thing can’t be said. Everywhere you turn, the world is telling you that certain parts of your body are tantalizing. That you can control a man with them and that every man wants to see them. So, is that why you want to show yourself off? Because regardless of the real reasons for why you want to show off your body, that is what everyone else will think you want. You can whine and complain that it just isn’t fair and everyone else is judgmental and guys should have more self-control, but it won’t do you any good. The truth will still be the same. The more you show, the less you are in control.

I will delve more into this in future posts, but if you haven’t heard this from me already, here it is. Porn is an addiction. Porn is everywhere in our culture and very easy to access. Porn is something that nearly every single man in your life has seen. Porn rewires people’s brain to view women as objects to use instead of people to share life with. So, the closer you are to being naked, the more you reveal your body to the world, the more you become like an object.

Let’s take it one step farther. Christian guys are no exception to the porn statistics. Once they decide to fight their desire for porn, it is no picnic. God gives them a way out when they are tempted, but you do not make it any easier for them when you flaunt yourself the way you do. It may not be your intention to make your brothers in Christ’s struggles even harder than they already are, but intentions hardly matter in this case.

You want to be intentional about something? Be intentional about dressing in a way that is above reproach. Be intentional about not asking how much skin is too much, but asking the Father in heaven who created you if what you are wearing is beautiful in His sight. Be intentional about wearing clothes that make you feel beautiful, but don’t have you obsessing over what other people think about your body.

Do guys need to have self-control regardless? Absolutely. I actually read an interesting blog post on this very thing. You can read it here if you would like. He is a little bit harsh (and I hope he wouldn’t actually talk this way to his young son), but the point is clear. Guys have to control themselves. But Christian women need to control themselves too.

You might be wondering what my specific guidelines are when it comes to modesty. I won’t share them with you, because that is not the point. The point is that if you aren’t willing to sacrifice your choice of clothing to help the men and women around you fight their battles with this sex-saturated world, then you are not laying down your cross daily and giving your body as a living sacrifice. And if you don’t even know what your clothing choices should be, maybe you should start asking the one who created you and not the world who would love to claim you.

“Then he [Jesus] said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

Luke 9:23

Married Women: Have We Forgotten Singleness?

Recently, I talked to a friend of mine who is in her late twenties and single. She has talked to several different women, married and not, and had one question during our conversation that really stood out to me. “Do married women just forget what it’s like to be single?”

Her question came up after a long discussion about whether or not masturbation was wrong. Several women have given her great advice on this matter, but there are many who immediately tag it as a sin and expect single women to deal with it. To paraphrase…“I mean of course it is a sin, right? I, as a married woman, certainly don’t have a problem with it and I only need to have sex every other week and I’m good.”

Obviously there are several things that do not help a single woman, struggling with masturbation. If you have a low sex drive to begin with, you probably never dealt with masturbation the way women like us do. Not only that, but a married woman is getting her needs met if communication is good with her husband. As married women, we really need to think about what our advice and answers are going to be to this single, sex saturated generation. You can’t just throw out the first answer that comes to mind, especially if it isn’t something you struggle with anymore (if you ever did).

Single women do not need us making them feel worse than they already do for their struggles. If a person is convicted by masturbation, by all means walk with them and encourage them, hold them accountable and confront them on it. But telling them they should just stop in a matter of fact way is extremely unhelpful. They already know they need to stop, otherwise why would they be coming to you with it? And most likely it is something they have been struggling with since they were younger and have tried over and over again to stop, failing and feeling miserable about it.

So what can you do? You can start by praying about these women and asking the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom. Every woman is different, and the words they need to hear the Lord speak through you are specific to them. There is no formulaic answer. As married women, we need to start stepping up our game in the way we disciple the single women that are asking for our help and wisdom.

And if you are a single woman and you don’t know who to go to with this, start praying! God will reveal it to you. You don’t have to talk to a married woman, but you should ask that God direct you to someone who has overcome. When you are in the midst of your sin, it is easy to believe there is no end in sight and you will just always fail in this way. But when you know someone who has made it past that infinite line, the hope that has always been there becomes more than a dream

 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

–          Romans 15:13

Single and Masturbating

“When I get married, things will be different.”

I wonder how many women think that marriage will solve all of their problems when it comes to their struggles with masturbation. It won’t.

I won’t lie, marriage does make things easier. But if you haven’t started facing this area of your life with Jesus before you get married, you will face the same temptations and desires that you had before. Marriage might bury the desires for a time, but they will resurface at one point or another.

The same rules apply in marriage as it does in singleness. You need to confess to someone, you need to be in prayer and have others praying for you.  You need to use wisdom to avoid situations that make it harder on yourself. But there is one catch. You now have a husband who you have to confess to as well.

I know not everyone believes that masturbation is a bad thing. And perhaps you are married and you both masturbate and everything is fine in your marriage. I actually would love to hear your thoughts on it. But for my husband and I, there is no room for masturbation in our marriage.

Most people know Paul’s views on marriage. I used to always laugh when reading how he thought it best to stay unmarried unless you are burning with desire. I had plenty of desire, marriage was obviously for me. And it was. But I know things wouldn’t have turned out as well as they have, if I hadn’t given my sexual desires over to Jesus before I got married.

I still remember what it was like to be single, and I know how difficult it can be. Especially because once you have experienced pleasure in that form, it is particularly hard not to want it again. I am not trying to say that if you are still masturbating sometimes, you aren’t ready for marriage. But what happens after you give into your desires? Do you shrug your shoulders and say “oh well, I will just try to forget about it.” Do you beat yourself up and promise never to do it again only to give in the next week?

Or do you pray about it, confess it, and work on how to prevent it from happening again? If this is your answer, you are on the right path. This is the same line of thinking you will have to use when you have rough times in marriage. Your sex life may not always be what you want it to be, and you will have to choose to use the same self-control you learned as a single woman, pressing on when you fail, and making every effort to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

As a single woman, you have the ability to shape and form the wife you want to be for your husband. Take the time to allow Jesus to mold and shape your character now, so you don’t have to be reformed later.

Why I Told My Boyfriend

In my last entry, I shared the story of how my husband ended up finding out about my past addiction to pornography and struggles with masturbation.

I really think that for anyone who is currently single or dating there are a lot of important things to glean from that particular story.

First of all, I really don’t believe it is something that you should keep to yourself until after you are married. Sharing it will even help you discern whether or not you can live your life with that person.

If your boyfriend’s reaction to you sharing your past is negative in any way, there is something wrong. Either you aren’t as close as you thought, or he doesn’t love you the way Jesus does.

The idea that you should keep something this important from the man that could one day be your husband is somewhat deceptive. If, for some reason, he were to take issue with you having been addicted to porn or struggling with masturbation, it really isn’t fair to surprise him with this information after he has committed to you. Should he get over it and love you anyways? Absolutely! But starting a marriage based on deception is never a good idea.

Being able to communicate your fears, struggles, tendencies, and issues when it comes to sex is not always such a bad thing before marriage. A lot of churches tend to make you believe that sex is a topic that should never be discussed before marriage. It’s true, it can be harmful, but it can also be very beneficial for the first year of your marriage. There were things that I knew I wouldn’t want to do right away when I got married because of what I was exposed to in pornography. Instead of my husband being confused on our honeymoon and wondering why I wasn’t enjoying something or why I suddenly got upset, we were able to discuss it beforehand and have an understanding of what we were comfortable with.

Communication in general makes for a much better sex life, but communication before you even get married can make for a great sex life starting on day one!

Of course, you will have to use discernment and only share what is necessary for both of you to hear at this stage in the relationship. But I really do believe that not sharing it at all could be a recipe for disaster.

How I told my boyfriend…

“I’ll have to tell him before we get married, but I just don’t think I can tell him yet.” Those were my thoughts when it came to telling my now husband about my previous addiction to pornography and struggles with masturbation.

The way it all turned out just proves that God has a sense of humor. At least when it comes to my own life.

My husband and I had been dating for several months now and I was thinking that I would just wait until we were engaged to tell him. We were pretty confident we wanted to get married at this point. We were sitting in church one day when the pastor said, “Girls, on the very first date you need to be asking the guy you are with if he is addicted to pornography.” I sighed inwardly thinking that if he had been dating me a year and a half ago he would actually need to be asking me that very question. I was still too nervous about telling him though and figured it could wait until we were engaged.

I had never shared my past or present struggles with a guy before. I had no idea how he would react. Would he still love me? Would he be angry or disgusted? I had finally gotten over the idea that I was horrible and unique in this area of sin as a woman, but the idea of having to face my boyfriend’s rejection was too much for me.

We often drove about 45 minutes away to visit his parents and on our next trip there, he turned to me and told me he had been thinking about what the pastor said. “No, no, no I don’t want to hear this yet. I am not ready to tell you” was all I could think about. I already knew what he was going to tell me. The statistics of guys viewing pornography made it pretty likely that he had looked at pornography. I didn’t care about that, but what I did care about was that I was now going to have to reveal my ugly past to him. I immediately burst into tears.

He was confused, thinking that I was horribly upset by the fact that he had been addicted to pornography before. I explained through sobs that that wasn’t it at all and I had to tell him something too. I was shaking and crying and finally managed to let him know, through a mixture of him guessing and me saying random words, that I had been addicted to pornography and struggled with masturbation.

His reaction was the opposite of what I had feared. Some of his comments were things like, “At least we know we will probably have a pretty good sex life” and “Well, that’s a relief. I thought you were going to tell me you have homosexual tendencies”.

The funny thing is that the whole time he was trying to tell me his past, I could have cared less because of what I had to tell him. And the whole time I was trying to tell him about mine, he could care less because I didn’t seem to be bothered by his own.

We had several more conversations and still do concerning this issue, but it was one less burden for me to carry. I was so happy that I had to tell him sooner than later. I can only imagine the dread and anxiety I would have experienced the moment he proposed to me. “Oh no, I have to tell him now” would have been my first thought after he bent down on one knee instead of being joyful and thrilled.

Although I thought I knew better than anyone when I would need to tell my future husband, God knew much better than I did what was best for us. I really should have known better looking back on how most of my plans tend to work out.