One of my best childhood memories is seeing my dad kiss my mom when he walked through the front door, home from work. I heard the latch unlock and waited to see it. A quick peck before we kids got hugs and returned to playing with our toys on the floor or doing our homework at the dining room table. I was young and impressionable, and I could never have guessed how I would grow to become a romantic idealist. I am an INFJ on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, an Enthusiast on the Ennaegram, a Developer on Strengthfinders, and I love love. According to these test results, I have smooth, warm language, easy connection with others, and the ability to eventually realize dreams because of a unique combination of idealism and decisiveness.
But despite my personality type, my desires, and even my prayers, the often-frustrating truth is this: there is nothing I can do to will a husband for myself.
Remember Elizabeth and Zechariah
For Elizabeth and Zechariah, the problem was a child—or the lack thereof:
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. (Luke 1:5-7)
No child. Barren. Advanced in years. Incapable, powerless, helpless, unable of producing offspring. So when I’d like to host my own pity party, I remember them. Because experiencing four decades of waiting myself, I wonder what it was like for them. I wonder how long ago they first prayed for a child. And perhaps, how long ago they stopped praying for a child.
I wonder if the mother of six next door knew of Elizabeth’s grief. The grief of her barrenness, but conceivably, also the grief of doubting God—trusting more in what she could reason—the facts of her barrenness and her age. I wonder if Elizabeth considered, “He may not be sovereign in this. In everything else, in everyone else’s life, sure. But not this.” So late in life, I wonder if she felt forgotten, if she still allowed herself to hope, if she even expected an answer.
Why hadn’t God answered with favor? Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes and from the priestly lines of Aaron and Abijah. They sound not only like a great godly couple but also good, wise parents. How could God be so patient? Did he feel their disappointment? Did he understand their anger as they received incessant questions and platitudes from family and friends?
And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” (Luke 1: 11-13)
Being a Jewish priest, Zechariah knew his patriarchal history. He knew that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob gave children to the barren wives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And yet, he didn’t believe it could be true for him. He wanted a sign, and God silenced him for the next nine months.
God Is the Sovereign Actor
When I was in seminary, I learned that the three verb tenses in English are related to time, but Hebrew verb tenses are related to action. When God tells Adam and Noah to “be fruitful and multiply,” the verbs tense is a Qal, telling us that the subject is human beings, and they are to act. But when God speaks to Abraham (and elsewhere thereafter), the Hebrew verb tense changes from Qal to Hiphil, meaning the subject causes the action of the verb. “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.” The subject changes to God, and therefore, becomes a promise: I (YAHWEH, I AM, God Almighty) will cause you to be fruitful.
How do we know God will be the one to cause it? Sarah is barren. Rebekah is barren. Rachel is barren. Hannah is barren. Elizabeth is barren.
Yet each one gives birth to a child.
I can trust the God of the Hiphil. I have a Father who is working everything out. All the days ordained for me (details included) were written in his book before one of them came to be. I believe that a fruit tree, a flood, barren women making babies, food from the sky, a sidewalk through a sea, jealous brothers, soaking-wet firewood, rotten kings, a worn slingshot, a prostitute, a divided kingdom, a loud trumpet, a presence-less temple, an already engaged teenage girl, four obedient fishermen, a young boy’s lunch, not enough wine, a deceased friend, a betrayal, and a crow are evidence that God’s divine, sovereign will is never thwarted.
Trust and Obey
These things cannot be explained. But these things can be trusted. God knows my singleness and my barrenness, but it is as easy as breathing to think that if I am single at my age, there is little hope of being married and having children. The odds are simply not in my favor. To meet a godly, single man now seems an impossibility. What if singleness, rather than marriage, is my fairy tale?
His Word tells me that I have everything I need for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called me to his own glory and excellence. Everything. As I learn to balance dating and ministry, dating and jobs, dating and friends, concentrating on God and who he has made me to be, I hope to slowly realize and ultimately believe that singleness has been the best plan to accomplish his purposes for me. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly and fall on their faces before the one who lived in perfect obedience to the Father. All the hairs on my head are numbered. I don’t need to be afraid or anxious or disappointed; I am more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. For he saved me and called me to live a holy life, not necessarily a married life. He did this, not because I deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show me his grace through Jesus.