Last week I was directed to a blog post written by a single woman about her struggle to live without physical intimacy in her life. Not only was the post refreshingly transparent, but it was also a helpful reminder to me as a now married woman. I still remember sitting in a Bible study full of married women, myself a single woman, as each member of the group bemoaned the chore of having sex with her husband. When they turned to me and apologized, “Oh sorry, Sharon! You must feel so awkward right now!” I replied, “Actually, I’m trying to figure out what you all are complaining about.”
It’s easy to take the comforts of marriage for granted. It’s also easy to forget the great struggles of being single. I hope the following excerpt will be an encouragement to those who find yourself at in the same place as the author. I also hope it will serve as an important reminder to those of us who seek to love you.
In our culture it seems ‘healthy’ or ‘normal’ when women desire sex as a means to emotional intimacy. But no one believes that a woman could struggle with the purely physical. So, I’ll go ahead and put this blog out there just in case it might be an encouragement. This struggle has provided for me the biggest challenge and deepest ‘suffering’ of singleness.
I believe that one day, I will look at my life and say with confidence that the single greatest blessing I have experienced of singleness has been pain of learning to live without physical intimacy.
Part of why it’s been so painful is it is probably the struggle that has confused me most. It’s been (and is) a pretty hard sell to get my body on board with the idea that I’m not missing out on what I was created for. It’s challenging to not feel entitled. And in a moment of absolute vulnerability, it’s one of the things that has made it the hardest to trust my sweet and faithful God. And in some ways – in dark and frightened places – I feel forgotten and betrayed and confused.
Because I know He knows me. I know He knows my body and my heart and I know He designed and wired this desire inside of me in the same way He wired my belly to grumble slightly around 11:02 AM. My hunger is designed to prompt me to eat. And so I do. And yet, my Father has told me that when I am hungry in this sense I must trust Him and not find food for myself. And He has seen fit not to give me any guarantee that this hunger will ever be satisfied.
There is pain. There is pain in watching my friends be fed one after another with the thing I feel like I need the most. There is pain in facing each morning with the knowledge that today there will be no daily bread for this hunger. There is pain as I sit, feeling as though I am starving to death, and listen to my married friends try to explain to me that eating is overrated. [Emphasis added]
And the truth is: this is the biggest blessing of my life.
You know what it makes me think about? Fasting. Fasting is strange. I think it’s weird that God is about physical fasting. It involves a need that is seemingly purely physical.
When I am lonely, I ultimately want God. When I am sad, only God can bring true joy. When I am afraid, it points me to the promises of God. When I feel rejected, unwanted, unloved, alone, in all these needs, God alone will bring true and lasting peace.
But, when I’m hungry, I want a cheeseburger and some fries.
Physical desires seemingly terminate on physical things. And that’s the beauty of fasting. God commands us to fast, not so that He can prove He is as good as a cheeseburger by making our hunger go away. God commands us to fast so that we learn to feel hungry and trust Him in the midst of that gnawing sense of need.
The goal of fasting is not for God to remove our hunger, but for us to learn that in the midst of hunger He is trustworthy. The feeling of hunger is the point of the fast. God wants us to feel hunger so that we are reminded that we are not supposed to be satisfied and we are supposed to long for Him. We fast to reflect that we trust God regardless of what our bodies tell us. He is our authority, not our bodies.
Today, my body wants something tangible and physical. My body doesn’t know that God will satisfy all my needs. It just wants what it was made to have. And today, I don’t get to have that. And so the line is drawn in the sand and the challenge is made. Today, what will be my source of truth? Who will be the one who determines what I need? My body? Or my God? Who knows my needs better? Me or Jesus? When I feel so clearly what I ‘need’, will I trust Him that there is a greater need? Will I learn to be hungry so that I can trust Him in hunger, not just in plenty?
There is no area in my life that makes me more likely to doubt the promises of God than this area. I have told friends through tears that many days I do not feel like I have everything I need for life and godliness because of this. I do not know how I am going to persevere in light of my hunger and in light of my Father’s gracious call to purity.
And so, this pain, more than anything else will teach me to trust. Each day, as the sun goes down and I still find myself securely held in the arms of the Father, my faith is built. He doesn’t promise to give me everything I need to never be hungry. He promises to give me everything I need to not starve to death on the road home to Him. And today I’m alive; He has proved Himself faithful. He doesn’t promise to give me everything I need to never ever falter. He promises to give me everything I need to finish this race. And today I love Him; He has proved Himself faithful. He will finish the good work He began in me. There is only one thing I really need. And it is secure.
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