It’s a question she continues to wrestle with as she strives for contentment in a phase of life that remains uncertain – “Will I still be single in the next few years?”
Living in her new African home with her team was merely a dream and prayer for Mary* a little more than a year ago. Now, two months after her arrival, she can look back at the long and exhausting journey that brought her to this point in her ministry. It took years of praying, seeking the Lord’s open doors, training, and waiting.
However, as her new normal begins to settle and daily routines slowly but surely become reality, a restlessness seeks to consume her thoughts in quiet moments.
While Mary hopes to be married, her first desire is to obey the Lord’s leading whenever he tells her to move. This meant that instead of waiting in the comfort of her own culture and language, she remains hopeful while wading through the difficulties of preparing for long-term ministry. “I think that’s something the Lord is teaching me to place in his hands. I’m prayerfully waiting on it,” Mary said. “It has remained consistently the thing that causes anxiety, worry, fear.”
The concern for what’s next and balancing our desires with seeking the Lord’s will has been the struggle of every age and every stage of life. It’s a human pain caused by anticipating something while trying to hold loosely the gifts that may never come – Abraham and Sarah waited for a child and didn’t expect it by the time the Lord blessed them with one (Genesis 18). Jacob waited seven years for Rachel, then worked another seven years to earn her (Genesis 29). Simeon was promised an introduction to the Lord’s Messiah before his death but waited several years before Mary and Joseph walked with baby Jesus into the temple (Luke 2).
While every desire and each persons’ ‘wait’ is different and to be considered from an individual perspective, there are a few things that hold true for everyone who understands what it means to hopefully wait on the Lord.
Your feelings are true, real and valid and the Lord wants to meet you there.
The Psalms overflow with lines of lament, confusion, mourning and questions for direction. We can resonate with brothers and sisters whose stories in scripture reveal similar hurts from patiently waiting.
“I do think the Lord has really met me,” Mary said. “I think in all of that, I have experienced his comfort and his grace. I think I’ve experienced extra measures of his grace through teammates, people from home, and locals.”
There are things you can do in this season you cannot if you get what you asked for.
Whether it be in ministry, your personal circumstances or any area of influence in your life, when the Lord says “yes” to what you have been asking for, things will change forever. Specifically in singleness and ministry, there are opportunities single men and women can take that are more difficult for those who are married. This is how these phases of life are intended and it is good but cherish the things that will change when that next phase comes.
There is purpose and intention in this waiting and it is never wasted.
While the Lord understands and empathizes with our hurts, desires and waiting, he is never surprised by our current position. However long or short it may be, the Lord is using the period of time his children sit in waiting to produce a trust, faithfulness and perseverance.
As Mary contemplates the ways in which God prepared her to be in this place and she peers into the near future when she will see him transform lives with the Gospel, she points to his faithfulness and provision.
“Above all, I am a beloved child of God. That’s what my identity is rooted in,” Mary said. “It’s a privilege and honor to serve with the lost here … Our Father is the one who provides and sustains. To cultivate faithfulness doesn’t come naturally to us as human beings. I think that’s something I’ve been encouraged in. Whatever that ends up looking like, I’m going to strive to cultivate faithfulness.”
*Name changed for security