Recently I traveled alone between my two worlds: Philadelphia, my home and vocational base and the Midwest where I have decades-long friendships. Somewhere over Ohio I realized afresh that no one but the Lord really knew me in both worlds. Only Jesus had journeyed with me emotionally, relationally, and spiritually 24/7 in both places. I’ve had many of these heart-pang moments and yet realize that even if I had a traveling companion (friend or husband) who stood by my side, that person wouldn’t know me fully. There is only One who can: Jesus, the one in whom I am hidden in the intimate and unique home that I share with him alone.
Our union with Christ is an important truth of the gospel, and therefore our identity as Christians. Whether if single or married, or if you face storms or sweet joys in your life station (most of us experience a combination of both!), the eternal fact of being united to Christ needs to be a primary lens through which we interpret and respond to our circumstances. Including when you’re thirty thousand feet above ground, feeling sad and unknown, and inching towards the downward slide of melancholy.
What Union With Jesus Means
Jesus helped his friends understand the idea of union with him through a metaphor of a vine and branches.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)
Paul talked about this spiritual concept in his pastoral letters.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
“Abiding” (or remaining, having a home) in Jesus, Christ “in us,” and our lives being “hidden” in him all speak to the spiritual reality of our connection to Jesus through faith in his accomplished work on the cross and resurrection. All that was ours (sin and eternal spiritual death) and all that is his (holiness, eternal life, a spiritual nature, identity as the beloved Son) are exchanged. At the cross, he united himself to our hopeless human state and opened the door for us to be grafted into him, gaining access to the riches of heaven!
Storms of suffering
Most single woman share how being unmarried has included painful and disappointing storms, as well as life-giving sweetnesses. My married sisters will see in what follows that there are relatable bridges between our experiences, because our union with Christ makes us much more alike than different! Every single woman’s experience is unique but here are common storms that many of us face.
- Feeling ‘other’ in a world of married women (especially as you get older)
- Being misunderstood and therefore ‘missed’
- Hopes and desires needing to be surrendered and perhaps put to death, including the gifts of family, children, life-sharing intimacy, and sexual love
- Being rebuked because we’re perceived as discontent when in fact we’re grieving
- Overwhelmed by life responsibilities and financial decisions that are on our shoulders alone to bear
- Being told, “You just need to trust that Jesus is your husband!” when though we really do believe that, we’re hurting and would be encouraged by a person entering into our situation with compassion and on-the-ground help
There are many more, but these are the ones I hear often from friends.
Singles: though these storms are real, we need to humbly assess how we are responding to them. In our own power, or through Christ within us? We need to examine whether we are viewing these stormy experiences through the lens of the gospel, or the other way around and perhaps responding in sin.
Listen, I know this is tough; I’m with you in this. We know that as Christ-followers one of our constant good ‘works’ is the renewing of our minds. Union with Jesus means that he is closer to us than our singleness is! That he resides in our souls to comfort and strengthen us to trust him and not give way to beliefs that don’t line up with God’s word.
Our always-with-us Lord comforts (and provides for) us in these storms yet also enables faith, surrender, and repentance. Our union with Jesus helps us to grieve deeply in godly ways when the life he’s allowed isn’t the one we may have envisioned. And Christ within us gives us courage to humbly ask for help, honestly sharing about how we are really doing with others, and to receive the daily manna he offers.
Storms Can Lead to Sweetness
Like any trial, the storms of singleness you face can lead you to a deep, sweet communion with Jesus. I’ve spoken with hundreds of hurting married women about this over the years when they’ve shared with me their marital storms of pain and disappointment. The closeness we can have with the Lord may not feel initially comforting, or intimate, but he is there. The companionship of Jesus may not satisfy our souls in the way we desire a husband or friend to, but he patiently bears with us drawing us to himself.
Jesus assured us that he “…will be us with always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20), because he, our loving Lord, lives in our hearts (Eph. 3:17) and fills us “…with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19)!
Lord Jesus, help us to trust you in the storms of life, whether we are single or married, and to nestle into our union with you. Amen.
About the Author:
Ellen received her MA in Biblical Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in 1999 and serves as the Women’s Ministry Coordinator for Harvest USA, a national ministry focused on gospel-centered discipleship and teaching regarding sexuality. Ellen loves ministry to women and is most passionate about mentoring, teaching God’s Word and spiritually nurturing others to walk deeply with Jesus. New Life Presbyterian in Dresher, PA, is her home church.