What I’m hearing you say is that what you really want is a husband with whom you can have a great marriage, and that you view a relationship with God as the means by which to obtain that husband.
First, let me help you get rid of that line of thinking by saying that there is no amount of good service that you can offer to God whereby he will then “owe” you anything:
“When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, [the master] says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me, you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.’” (Luke 17:7-10)
I beseech you therefore, brothers and sisters — by the mercies of God — that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)
Not “excellent service,” not even “beyond-what-was-asked-of-you-service,” but “reasonable,” as in, “what was expected of you in the first place.”
But it’s not enough to say that this line of thinking is wrong; no, you have to get into the motive behind the thinking in order to understand it.
I did a series of messages for the youth group at my church; after writing parts one and two (in my own strength), I hit a wall (AKA, I got writer’s block) — I didn’t know where to take it next.
What came to me was the following question:
“What are you looking for?”
In other words, “Why are you looking for ___ in the first place?”
In regards to women looking for relationships, you are certainly not alone:
The Barna Group — renowned for their research on the intersection of faith and culture — recently published some findings from a study they did of Christian women. What they found was that, overwhelmingly, most women identify themselves as wife of a husband or mother of a child instead of follower of Christ (62% and 11% versus 13%, respectively):
Click here to read the article…
WHY IS THIS?
Remember The Shack? I told you it was a great book… :)
*Jesus is talking to Mack*
“You’re not just dealing with Missy’s murder; there’s a larger twisting that makes sharing life with us (the Trinity) difficult:
“The world is broken because, in Eden, you abandoned relationship with us to assert your own independence. Most men have expressed [their independence from God] by turning to the work of their hands and the sweat of their brow to find their identity, value, and security…
“But that isn’t all: the woman’s desire — and the word is actually her turning — was not to (turn to) the works of her hands, but to (turn to) the man… Before the [turning], she found her identity, her security, and her understanding of good and evil only in me…”
Scripture relates it this way:
Unto the woman (Eve), [God] said, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception: in sorrow, you shall bring forth children, and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)
The husbands ruling over wives thing — which was not how it was intended to be from the beginning — is a curse from God in order to frustrate women’s turning to their husbands for their identity (read: it was supposed to inhibit women from making an idol of their husbands).
Don’t assume that God did this to women only, because the same thing was done to men in their search for meaning based on their achievements:
And unto Adam he said, “Because you have hearkened unto the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: Cursed is the ground for your sake (read: for your good). In sorrow shall you eat of it, all the days of your life. Thorns, also, and thistles shall it bring forth to you, and you shall eat of the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread…” (Genesis 3:17-19)
Further, from The Shack:
“Women, in general, will find it difficult to turn from a man and stop demanding that he meets their needs, provides security, and protects their identity. Men, in general, find it very hard to turn from the works of their hands, their own quests for power and security and significance, and return to me.”
What you also need to realize is that, while you are still looking for this husband more than you are looking for God, you will not find him:
You don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong — you want only what will give you pleasure.
Do you think that the scripture says in vain that the Spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy? (James 4:2, 5)
And from Exodus:
“For you shall worship no other [idol], for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14)
God, knowing that he will be giving you something that you would focus on (read: love) more than him will, because he loves you, withhold it from you to prevent you from becoming unhealthily attached to it. The reason for it is this:
*speaking of ancient Israel*
Their mother is a shameless prostitute… She said, ‘I’ll run after other lovers (idols) and sell myself to them for food and water, for clothing of wool and linen, and for olive oil and drinks.’
Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns (read: with curses), and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them. Then shall she say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband (God); for then was it better with me than now.’” (Hosea 2:5-7)
If referring to God as a “husband” is weird, it may help to keep in mind the romantic nature of the gospel — we are, in fact, the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:31-32).
The frustrations of trying to find what we’re looking for in people or things other than God is intended to point us back to him:
“Then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband (God); for then was it better with me than now.” (Hosea 2:7)
Our hearts may believe it is the only way, but that is because, somewhere along the line, we’ve bought into a lie.
“There is a way that seems right to a man (or woman), but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
What we must do is have the presence of mind to realize that we’re going after “other lovers” (read: idols) and (re)turn back to God.
It’s possible for the mind to point the heart in the right direction…
…but the mind can only control it but so much (partly because the heart is far more persistent).
What must happen is an authentic encounter with the love of God:
It is as if God planted a great big kiss in the middle of our spirit and all the wounds, doubts, and guilt-feelings of a lifetime were all healed at the same moment. The experience of being loved by the Ultimate Mystery banishes every fear. (Open Mind, Open Heart)
The apostle John put it this way:
…Perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. (1 John 4:18)
“Another way. Always another way.” ~ The Keymaker
While I’m sure that this is but one of several (or many) idols in your life — trust me, we all have them — there is a surefire way to take care of this.
First, you must take a look “under the hood” of your heart and realize what you are looking for in the first place.
When you realize that, the next thing to do is invite God into that place in your heart and ask him to meet that need for you.
Jenn Johnson gave a wonderful sermon titled Thriving Where You Are. Toward the end of the message, she tells a story about when she had everything she ever wanted and how God spoke to her about it. You might want to give that story a listen.
But please don’t think that God would be upset with you because of where you’ve been turning. Quite the contrary, God wants you back, and desperately at that…
You may want to check out these songs from Tenth Avenue North: Beloved and By Your Side. They each tell a powerful story of a people who have been striving to find life and love apart from God, and a God whose desire is for his people return to him with all their heart.
Ezekiel is also worth a glance as well:
"As I live," says the LORD, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their way and live. Turn, turn yourself from your evil ways — for why will you die, house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11)
Of course, I can’t let you go without recommending some additional resources to look into to help you on this journey of the heart. So, here are my suggestions:
- Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis & John Eldredge. This book will transform how you look at Christianity if you permit it to open your eyes. I’ll admit up front that there are some sections of the book I don’t like (e.g., Chapter 2 was hard for me to stomach), but reading the whole thing at least once is a must.
- Desire by John Eldredge. Pretty much a sequel to Sacred Romance, it takes a look at what we do with the desires of our heart. No “bad” chapters here, though — it’s all good.
- Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. Kyle Idleman is the newest author added to my favorites list. He writes candidly about topics that most pastors don’t address, and with humor as well (even if he did take a potshot at my favorite band from high school, albeit in another book lol). The book calls you to more without dictating what that “more” should be (it’s an individual thing, anyway).
- Gods at War by Kyle Idleman. The sequel to Not A Fan, it continues the journey by addressing specific idols that people follow. “Seeing my faith and life through the lens of idolatry has rebuilt my relationship with God from the ground, up.”
If you can only get one, you can’t go wrong with Sacred Romance as it will give you an entirely new paradigm through which to view your life. The Gods at War quote nails it perfectly, but Sacred Romance will give that same perspective the colors of the heart that it so desperately deserves…
Again, I feel like this is a “short” answer from me, but I believe that I’ve sufficiently pointed you in the right direction.
Go with God. :)