Dear Single Missionary

by Editor on February 4, 2016

I once was an “expert” single person. After five years in China, I knew how to travel across the world with 100 pounds of luggage, stay in hostels alone, barricade myself on bunk beds at night on 27 hour train rides, and cook for one.

Sometimes it was fun, but often it was lonely.

At 32, I did end up miraculously getting married to a man I wouldn’t have picked at a time I wouldn’t have planned. But that is another story.

Ten years later, I write this to my 26 year old self who had just sold her car and possessions, quit her job, and left all her prospects for marriage to go live in the middle of nowhere (only four foreigners in the entire city and an eight-hour bus ride from an airport) and obey the call of her Jesus.

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Dear Younger Self,

I know you are scared of being lonely.  The following may not assuage your desire for marriage, but it may help you to see the value of this season on the days when you just want someone to rub your feet and listen to your day.

First of all, because you are single, God is going to meet your needs in very tangible ways. This is hard to accept, but sometimes God purposely leads you into the wilderness. Loneliness can be His means of grace in your life. He has demonstrated this through the heroes of the faith who have gone before you, and in your wilderness, He wants to:

~ Tell you that He sees you and wants to give you something to quench your thirst as He did for Hagar (Gen. 16:7-11, 21:17-21).

~ Bring you to the end of your own strength so that you will rely on Him alone to give you the nourishment you need for the journey ahead as He did for Elijah (1 Kg. 19: 4-8).

~ Provide for your very basic needs through His daily provision of manna as He did the Israelites (Exodus 16:1-36).

~ Simplify your priorities when you have been stripped down to only what you really need like John the Baptist (Mat. 3:1).

~ Test your faith in Him as He did Jesus–and then send angels to minister to you in your need (Mat. 4: 1-25).

Married people feel lonely, too, but when you are single, you must rely on God alone to provide for you in your wilderness.  Some days you will find yourself face-down in a dusty field, wondering what you’re doing and why you’re doing it–alone.  It is those who are the most thirsty who are most ecstatic over the provision of water.  God will see you, provide for you, hold you, and strengthen you.

Because you are single you will have the opportunity to go deeper in your relationships more quickly than married people.  I know you don’t want to hear this, but you have the gift of time.  Time to wander the markets, time to accept spontaneous dinner invitations, time to visit new friends at their homes in the countryside, and time to study language.  A married person doing marriage well will just not have the time that you have to delve into relationships in your new culture.

You are also more likely to have more satisfying relationships with other singles on your team and in your organization than you would have if you were married.

There will come a day when you will miss the sweet friendships you naturally developed with other women just because you had to share a room with them at your yearly conference or eat meals together because the families on your team were all busy.

Because you are single, you are going to fall in love with Jesus in ways you might not have if you were married.  Those times when you are bumping along in a crowd, with families on your team, or eating a delicious meal that you cooked and ate alone, you will feel that twinge of self-pity and longing, yet you will also have a deep sense that Jesus, Immanuel, is there with you. And He knows you to your core.

If you so choose, you will have hours to seek, find, hear His voice, and know Him. You will not only sit at the feet of Jesus, but you will lean on his chest. Yes, you will have guilt that you just binge-watched an entire season of Gilmore Girls instead of spending time with Him, but the minutes you spend in His presence will create a reservoir that you will one day, especially if you do marry, draw from daily.

Finally, because you are single, you will be called (forced?) to come to grips with sacrifice. You feel like the greatest sacrifice you are making in going overseas is surrendering your desire for a husband. Like the article you ran across many years ago entitled “Chastity: Love Wasted on God,” about the woman breaking her jar of precious perfume on Jesus’ feet, you, too, will feel that you have so much love to give that is being “wasted.”

All I can tell you is that the joy, peace and pleasure of Christ Himself that will wash over you as you pour yourself out for your first love will sustain you. And don’t be ashamed when you leave your gift at the altar only to run back and scoop it back into your arms again. He is a loving Father. A kind Father.  A forgiving and giving Father.

He does not give His children gifts of rocks or snakes, but only the best gifts are reserved for those He calls His children. 

And nothing we give Him is ever—EVER—wasted. 

Keep handing your desire over to Him.
Keep walking.
Keep living.
Keep learning.
Keep loving.
Keep growing.

It is not too hard a thing for the Creator of the earth to bring someone into your life if that is His plan. He brought Eve to Adam in his sleep, after all.

And I know that you know this, but if you are not content now in your singleness, you are certainly not going to be content in your marriage. Nothing can fill the true longing in your heart for intimacy like intimacy with Christ. 

Not even a man.

In His thirst-quenching, never-changing, always-fulfilling love,

Your Older Self

Adapted from original

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Leslie VernerLeslie Verner is a goer who is learning how to stay.  A wife, mama of two, former teacher, student of cultures, runner, extrovert (with introvert tendencies) and lover of Jesus.  She has her BA in elementary education and MA in intercultural studies.  She has traveled all over the world and lived in Northwest China for five years before God U-turned her life and brought her back to the U.S. to get married.  She blogs regularly about faith, family and cross-cultural issues at www.scrapingraisins.blogspot.com and recently completed the series 31 Days of Re-Entry.

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  • Erin Foley

    I love this! As a 32-year-old single woman in 3rd world missions, I can relate. God has brought me to an incredible place of joy in this. I have spent the past two years looking at the benefits and just falling back on God. It’s an incredible place to be in. Yesterday was definitely a day of self-pity, however, so your timing is excellent!!! Thanks. =)

    • I know, I feel like 95 percent of the time was fine, but in those 5 percent days, I needed to remind myself of some of these truths, so this post comes out of all those moments! God really is enough, isn’t He? There is nothing like intimacy with the Lord–especially when He is the only one to really lean on. I’m so glad you have been able to come to the place where you see the benefits of singleness.

  • Susan Williams

    Leslie, this is excellent! I could not have said it better myself. 🙂 Speaking as a 57-year-old single missionary, I have experienced all the things mentioned in your article – and much more. Your list of God meeting our needs as with those in OT are exactly what I have found – especially the story of Hagar recently. Not easy by any means – our Christian society and especially “church culture” keep telling us that married is the best way to go and family is the vocation for women. The “focus is on the family” – truly. Sundays are some of the loneliest times for singles – families sitting together, everyone leaving church to go out to eat or go home with their families.
    When I was overseas, I often invited other single ladies to my home for a potluck lunch on Sundays and I trust that made a difference for them.
    One thought that has sustained me in recent months is this: Whatever your life is like today (single/married, well-off/in need of $$, healthy/ill, feeling fulfilled in work or family/wondering what in the world you’re doing) – that is God’s BEST for you today IF you are following His path for your life. Whenever I mourn my singleness, I try to remind myself that God only gives us His best as long as our eyes are on Him – and so His best for me on any given day must be singleness. And yes, the intimacy we have with Him (no husbands mentioned for Martha or Mary in the NT) is incredible. I’m going to keep this for those I minister to who are single. Thanks.

    • Thank you for your wise words. And I think you’re exactly right that whatever our life is like today is God’s best if we are following His path for our lives. As a now-married woman, I have definitely found this to be true and can testify that I can experience just as much discontentment and loneliness in my position as a married woman as I did when I was single if I am not walking with the Lord and seeking Him. Because only HE truly fulfills. And Isaiah 54 is VERY marked up in my Bible from the time I was single! Thanks for that reminder. Blessings on you as you continue on in intimacy with Jesus.

  • Susan Williams

    Isaiah 54 is also a wonderful passage for single women.

  • Kristin Freudenthal

    I LOVE this! Thank you!!

  • Eden Julia Jones

    Amazing article. Just what I needed today — thank you!

  • Stacy Blackwell

    I’m a twenty-six year old missionary who just began her second year serving abroad. In Latin America, there is a huge emphasis on family. I often get many questions about mine being back in the US and being here alone. God has taught me lessons by being outside of my comfort zone, that I wouldn’t have learned back in the US. It is hard, and it is okay to say that, but it is also good. Thank you for sharing.

  • Perfectly said! As a single woman, 33 yrs old, and serving on the missions field for 11 years I couldn’t agree with this more. I have found myself in situations and places time and time again where all I could do was rely on God. He shows up every time! Thank you for this post!

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