Singleness and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

A while back, my pastor preached a message on the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. I didn’t realize I kind of don’t like those guys until that moment. As they told King Nebuchadnezzar they refused to worship an image, they said a phrase I’ve read before but hadn’t fully processed.

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Daniel 3:17-18, NIV. Emphasis mine.)

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Photo by Marko Horvat on Unsplash

But even if he does not.

It would have been bold, and perhaps would have sent a stronger message, if Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had simply told the king their God would save them. Instead, they proclaimed that God is able, he would deliver them, and they also acknowledged they did not fully know what deliverance would look like. I can only assume they desired to live to tell the story, but they were still willing to trust God even before they knew the outcome.

Those words “But even if he does not” paint a picture of a kind of faith I don’t know how to have. It’s a faith to be admired, to aspire to, but it’s also the kind of faith that has the ability to make me feel like a failure. In the areas of my life, most specifically the area of singleness, where nothing seems to be worked out and I don’t know if or when it will or in what way, I desperately want to be able to have a “But even if he does not” kind of faith.

But it’s also the kind of faith that can drop me to my knees, unable to breathe for the realness and rawness of the ache of the unanswereds and unknowns.

Because one of my frustrations with being single is the expansive uncertainty inherent in it. I may have already met the guy I’ll one day marry, or I might meet him in two days or two years, or I may never meet the right guy at the right time and I will spend the rest of my life single, only ever wanting and hoping for things to be different.

I have no way of knowing.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t know what their outcome would be either, yet they found a way to trust God anyway.

God’s goodness, his trustworthiness, his lovingness do not depend on him doing what I want him to do. He is all of those things and so much more, always and forever, independent of my wishes or the actions he does or doesn’t take in my life. His goodness doesn’t depend on whether or not he brings me a husband.

Those are such easy words to type, and seem laughably simple–of course God’s intrinsic nature doesn’t change based on whether or not I get married. My ability to trust in his goodness sometimes seems to though.

A “But even if he does not” kind of faith fully recognizes God’s ability to grant me what I desire, while simultaneously recognizing and not shying away from the truth that God’s will may not match up with my own.

And if that is the case, I am the one who has to change, not him.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Does your ability to trust in God’s goodness sometimes hinge on whether or not he’s acting as you’d like him to?

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The Enduring Fight of Singleness

One of the most difficult parts of being single is that I feel like I’m always fighting.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Travis Modisette, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Travis Modisette, Creative Commons

Fighting to be content.

Fighting to remember my life is now, not if or when I walk down the aisle.

Fighting to not compare.

Fighting to know there is meaning and purpose in this, the here and now.

Fighting to not be mad at God.

 

It gets tiring, to be fighting all the time.

I want to hang up my boxing gloves, lie down on the mat, and just be. 

 

If I knew how to do that, I would’ve done it by now.

But even my attempts to stop fighting are, themselves, the source of the fight–the fight to be content, to remember my life is now, to not be mad at God.

 

That last one is the biggest problem, of course.

It’s not, objectively speaking, God’s fault I am single.

 

But I do believe God is all-powerful, listens to prayers, and hates to see his children hurt.

Which I struggle to make jive with my reality, in which I am single, it hurts, and God has the power to change it but hasn’t.

 

I trust God and that he has a plan for me, for each part of my life.

But I don’t think trusting him takes away pain or hardship.

 

So I don’t know exactly where all this leaves me.

I’ve tried to stop fighting, to just be, and yet getting there is its own kind of fight.

 

Singleness seems to be an enduring kind of fight.

A refining, lesson-riddled, challenging, sometimes freeing and rewarding fight.

But a fight all the same.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Do you ever feel like you’re fighting to be content with where you are?

Thoughts from Dietrich

In June, I signed up for an email devotional that ran for 40 days, taken from the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I missed the original sign up period, so I jumped in partway through.

After it finished, they offered it again. The exact same thing. Having missed part the first time through, I figured I might as well sign up again. Reading some of the posts for the second time, I picked up on things I had skimmed the first time. Consider Bonhoeffer’s words on worry (emphasis mine):

Abuse of earthly goods consists of using them as a security for the next day. Worry is always directed toward tomorrow. But the goods are intended only for today in the strictest sense. It is our securing things for tomorrow which makes us so insecure today. It is enough that each day should have its own troubles. Only those who put tomorrow completely into God’s hand and receive fully today what they need for their lives are really secure. Receiving daily liberates me from tomorrow.

Worry is always directed toward tomorrow.”

I’ve seen this in my own life; usually when I flip into hyper-worrisome mode, it’s not about something happening that same day. Even if it is, I’ve probably already worried about it for quite some time before the day arrived. Which is why he continues,“It is securing things for tomorrow which makes us so insecure today.” 

This is where the idea of not worrying and the actuality of it get so tricky for me. It doesn’t work to not plan ahead; if I didn’t plan, I’d rarely get anything done. If I hadn’t planned ahead, I wouldn’t have filled out my application, applied for loans, packed, and shown up at college to move into the dorms and start my education. There’s an element of “securing things for tomorrow” that comes with planning. I don’t think God wants us to never plan anything, because that doesn’t seem like a very responsible way to live and to take care of the things God has entrusted me with.

So how do I make sure I plan, but don’t worry?

Fortunately for me, Bonhoeffer told me that too: “Only those who put tomorrow completely into God’s hand and receive fully today what they need for their lives are really secure.”

There’s so much in those words it’s hard to even take it all in. Not only do I need to completely trust that God has tomorrow in control, I need to receive fully today what I need for my life. I’m not really sure what that looks like in regular life–going to work, eating supper, going to church, hanging out with friends, doing the dishes. Somehow, in that, to receive fully what I need for life.

Dietrich, you’ve certainly given me lots to think about.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

The Sun Will Rise

As I drive to work, some days it feels like I’m driving directly into the sun. Even with my sunglasses on and visor down, it seems I can’t escape its rays. Particularly on mornings when I haven’t had the time to properly clear the dew or frost off my windshield, this can nearly become hazardous. Besides an occasional notice of the way the sun lights up the already-colorful fall leaves, these are about the only thoughts I have regarding the sun in a regular week.

But would I notice if it suddenly wasn’t there? Yes.

My pastor paraphrased Jeremiah 31:37 this morning as follows:

“If the sun doesn’t come up tomorrow morning, I give you permission to believe that I can’t be trusted. But as long as the sun sets every evening and comes up every morning, you know that I’m faithful, you know that I’m reliable and that you can depend on me.”

The New International Version states it like this:

This is what the Lord says:

“Only if the heavens above can be measured
and the foundations of the earth below be searched out
will I reject all the descendants of Israel
because of all they have done,”
declares the Lord.

Every day of my life so far, the sun has risen. Tomorrow it will rise, and every day for the rest of this week, month, and the rest of my existence.

If I have such faith in the orbit of a ball of flaming gas, why is it often so easy to doubt that God will do what he says he will?

Yes, that particular verse in Jeremiah is directed towards the Israelites; still, lists of God’s promises would go on for pages. Promises that he loves me, that he has a plan, that he is working for my good, that he can be trusted, that he is there.

His promises last.

Even when I don’t live like it.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Thoughts for today’s post came from my pastor’s sermon today, entitled Gracefully Designed-Astronomy, which you can listen to here. Thoughts, questions, salutations? Leave a comment.

If I Could Plan Things

Yesterday I planned out the next year(ish) of my life.  Relationships, jobs, living arrangements, trips, some goals, and more were all accounted for. “If I Could Plan Things,” I called it.

A dangerous thing to do, maybe. If I keep looking back at it, checking off things that do happen and lamenting those that don’t, I have set myself up for frustration and letdown. My life could become consumed with regret at the goals I did not achieve, things that did not happen in the timeline which I wanted them to.

However, my reason for thinking through what I would like my next year(ish) to look like was not to create a checklist, meticulously putting a tick mark next to each thing as it happens. Fortunately I have realized that no matter how hard I may try, I cannot plan everything that will happen. And truthfully, as I thought about what I’d like the story of my next year(ish) to read like, I got kind of…stuck. After covering my major plot points, characters, and setting, I couldn’t think much further.

My point in thinking through this was to lay out what I’d like to happen so I can see what IS in my control. Because lots of things are NOT in my control. To a large extent, I can’t control which characters come into my life and which leave it, though I may be able to control the environments I put myself in in which I might meet new people. I cannot control major plot points, such as which jobs may or may not be offered to me, but I can control which ones I apply for and how my resume looks. I cannot control unexpected circumstances that may land me in a different location than I am in or have ever been before, but I can control how I accept those changes. And though I have control over some of these things that may affect some of the goals I’ve set for myself, I also have to accept that failure is possible. And if I do fail, even that can turn out okay.

There are some things in my plan that I have no control over. I believe my God has control over all of it though. Even the things I can actively work towards, he ultimately governs. Which is both comforting and unnerving. As has happened before, his plans may not line up with my desires. And that might (and quite possibly will) frustrate me.

Except I believe, though I may not always feel, that he absolutely knows what is best. Not necessarily what will make me the happiest, or what will be the easiest, but what is best. So even though I might have a plan for what I’d like to happen, ultimately it comes down to trust. To trust my God is working things out in ways I cannot see, for a life that I may not have planned.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~