I rarely write on the topic of singleness or courtship or marriage because, frankly, in my opinion most girls – including myself – need to be thinking about it less, not more. Just about every girl I know has an innate longing for a romantic relationship with a young man. While our culture encourages the fulfillment of this desire through the modern dating scene, those who have elected to embrace a courtship model are apt to expend the same amount of time and energy on anticipating and preparing for marriage. In short, even for the well-intentioned marriage has become a god, occupying the foremost thoughts of the heart and driving the primary pursuits of the day.
That’s why the title phrase of this post, Riding to Hell in a Hopechest, really resonated with me when I read it in the fabulous article just posted by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin. Their post, Why Am I Not Married?!?, is a hard-hitting exposé that I think every young woman should read. In order to get the full context of that passing phrase that I lifted from the post, you’ll have to read the whole thing for yourself. (And hopefully it has sufficiently shocked you into going and doing just that…)
In addition to bringing to light what I believe are the foundational heart issues with which many young women are wrestling, the Botkin sisters also call us back to a remembrance of the faithfulness and sovereignty of God. This is an issue that I have studied at some length in the past, and which led me to write a short overview of my findings. I’ve previously only shared it with my family and a few close friends, but I am posting it here now because I believe it is relevant to this discussion. Perhaps it will also provide further hope and encouragement for other unmarried women who are patiently waiting on the Lord to bring them a husband…if and when He so chooses.
This study was initially prompted by a question posited to me by a friend regarding the parallel between salvation (the relationship between Christ and His Bride) and marriage (the relationship between a man and his bride) that is clearly put forth in Scripture. This is written, then, as a response to that question.
Marriage and the Sovereignty of God
originally written August, 2009
Although I’m familiar with the concept of marriage as a picture of Christ and His Bride, I had never considered the parallel between election/the Sovereignty of God and the initiation of a marriage relationship. Supposing that the analogy is valid, then we would recognize the Sovereignty of God not only in ordaining the marriage, but also in orchestrating all the events prior to the marriage, and in bringing about the consummation of the marriage at the particular time of His choosing. We would also acknowledge that each of these elements are so designed in order to make known God’s power in us and to declare His glory throughout all the earth (as we see in God’s dealings with Pharaoh – see Romans 9).
What appears, then, to be the delay of God’s plan may be seen rather as an indication that His glory will be magnified in a postponed deliverance. The intervening events serve as the conduit for greater glory, not merely as a holding time in which we wait for God to work.
For instance, if it is by God’s election that one is to be saved, but the point of salvation occurs at a late stage in life, do we conclude that God’s plan of salvation in this case has been thwarted? Indeed not! (see Job 42:2) We are all as clay in the hand of the Potter (see Isaiah 64:8; Romans 9:20-21). He forms us as He will and when He will. And we know that He “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12a). All things. The means, the end, the schedule, the particulars.
With these truths in mind, we pray for the salvation of the unsaved; we preach the word, seeking to “be instant in season, out of season” (2 Timothy 4:3), knowing that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). But in the end, we hope unceasingly in the mercy of God, who alone is mighty to save (see Psalm 147:10-11; Isaiah 63:1).
Similarly, we pray for a godly marriage; we uphold and embrace the biblical covenant of marriage and God’s design for raising up a godly seed (see Matthew 19:4-6; Malachi 2:15; Isaiah 66:22). But in the end, we hope unceasingly in the mercy of God, who has promised that “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).
My hope, then, as an unmarried woman is ultimately neither in marriage nor in the prospect of a godly husband, but in the mercy of God. This is an incredible thought to me in light of Proverbs 13:12, which I have before used as justification for a spirit of discontent. “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” For if my hope is in a godly marriage, then until that desire is fulfilled, I will live in a state of heartsickness/heartache. But if my hope is in the mercy of God, I will be in a state of “lively hope” (1 Peter 1:3) because His mercies/compassions fail not; indeed, they are new every morning! (see Lamentations 3:22-26)
I can take heart in the knowledge that what seems to be a delay of God’s plan for marriage in my life is actually the means by which He is working to bring greater glory to Himself, both through His mighty and faithful deeds in the intervening period and in the eventual consummation of that plan. And I can likewise trust that the Lord who “hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Proverbs 16:4) can still be trusted even if He has ordained that I should never be married.
Another thought that came to mind is that the Lord who fashions the seed of the next generation in the womb and who knows all the days ordained for it before even one of them comes to be, must necessarily also ordain the coming together of the two through whom He raises up that godly seed. We need not worry or become disheartened (as I am prone to do!) as the child-bearing years seem to pass us by, for that, too, is in the hand of God. Procreation itself is not the transmitter of a godly seed – the Sovereign God Himself is! “Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed” (Psalm 112:1-2). We must therefore fear Him, delight in His commandments, hope in His mercy, and trust in His timing.