The glow of her computer screen gone, Lexi sat in the darkness of her apartment. I can’t believe I did it again, she thought, seething with self-hatred after viewing pornography. To escape the swirl of shame and condemnation, Lexi put on a movie. It would be nine long days before she would pray or acknowledge God. I’ve messed up too many times, she told herself.

Perhaps you struggle with pornography or have an ongoing relationship of sexual temptation and failure in your life. You think, I can’t go to God again when I keep pursuing this! Or maybe you’re a friend, counselor, or pastor trying to understand another’s pervasive shame.

How can strugglers and helpers move out of the shame-spiral and toward real gospel hope?

Words of Death and Words of Life

Psalm 32 can guide Christian confession for your own heart and be a helpful map if you’re discipling someone burdened by unconfessed sin. It immediately gives a sobering prognosis and a rich assurance:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,

    whose sin is covered.

Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,

    and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Ps. 32:1–2)

First, the bad news; three words describe our evil hearts. “Transgression is breaking the law. It connotes smashing or breaking ties in a relationship—always the case when we seek our own way outside of our loving relationship with our Creator. “Sin signifies failing to meet the standard of God’s perfect law, while “iniquityindicates the twisted, perverse nature of our hearts as we turn away from God and pursue sin.

God knows we simply cannot clean ourselves up enough to lift the weighty burden of our sin; we need help outside ourselves.

But there’s good news! The three words of life in these verses reveal what God accomplishes for us, meeting us in our sin and shame. “Forgiven speaks of the lifting or removal of a burden that is too great—God knows we simply cannot clean ourselves up enough to lift the weighty burden of our sin; we need help outside ourselves. “Covered indicates God removing our sin from his sight. When God “counts no iniquityagainst us, he calls us his righteous children, clothed in the spotless robes of Jesus himself. Lexi is no longer identified as a “porn struggler” or as “shameful.” In Christ, she’s a new creation.

If you’re stuck wondering how to move toward God after sexual sin or what to say to help a sexual struggler, start here. By faith, Lexi can take hold of the amazing gospel truth that when we confess our sins, our God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Burden lifted! Sin covered! Righteousness declared!

The Sickness of Unconfessed Sin

Why did Lexi wait nine days to lift her eyes to God? What was happening in her heart during that painful time? Psalm 32 pictures the dangerous gap between sin and confession:

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away

    through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;

    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. (Ps. 32:3–4)

Of Psalm 32:3, Charles Spurgeon says,

When through neglect I failed to confess, or through despair dared not do so, my bones, those solid pillars of my frame, the stronger portions of my bodily constitution, waxed old, began to decay with weakness, for my grief was so intense as to sap my health and destroy my vital energy. What a killing thing is sin! It is a pestilent disease! A fire in the bones! While we smother our sin it rages within, and like a gathering wound, swells horribly and torments terribly.

Lexi is suffering spiritual anguish and shame. Psalm 32 points Christians toward humble confession of sin as the only solution to this sickness.

Acknowledge—Do Not Cover—Confess

I acknowledged my sin to you,

    and I did not cover my iniquity;

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”

    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Ps. 32:5)

As a helper, know that there’s always a strong pull toward partial confessions. You may need to use targeted or even open-ended questions such as, “Is there anything more you’re not sharing with me?” True confession happens when Lexi stops attempting to deceive, hide, or conceal her transgressions from God and trusted helpers.

Unbelief and Satan’s lies thrive in our hearts in this dangerous gap between conviction and repentance.

Acknowledging sin before God and a trusted helper is the path to freedom. In the shame and secrecy of sexual sin, there’s a strong temptation to cover, hide, or conceal. If you find yourself, like Lexi, considering the costly step of fully coming into the light, let me encourage you—confession is the path to life! God will forgive the iniquity of your sin.

Are You Living in the Gap?

Are you holding on to unconfessed sin? The Bible never makes a case for a “probation period” or establishing sincerity before running to Christ when we see our sin. Unbelief and Satan’s lies thrive in our hearts in this dangerous gap between conviction and repentance. In this place, we turn to useless, sinful “remedies”:

  • Atonement: I will double-down on serving in church and reading my Bible. I’m a changed person; I can make up for this fall.
  • Penance: I will punish myself with negative self-talk and emotional self-hate because I must pay for this sin.
  • Self-Pity: I am going to comfort myself with more sin because I’m sad about how this will impact me or my loved ones. I am the victim.

Oh sin-sick Christian! God invites you to receive the true comfort, joy, and counsel you need when you’ve made a shipwreck of your soul in sexual sin. Step out of the gap and run toward your gracious Savior.

Accept God’s Invitation

Psalm 32 goes on to say that God will tenderly instruct, teach, and counsel you with his eye on you (v. 8). He will surround you with steadfast love and give you times of rejoicing—even shouting for joy (vv. 10–11)! He gives these things freely, only asking that you confess before him in humility, believing his promises by faith.

Can Lexi dare to believe God will forgive her? Can you point Lexi to the glorious truth that God gives grace to the humble? Hear this rich invitation:

Seek the Lord while he may be found;

    call upon him while he is near;

let the wicked forsake his way,

    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;

let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,

    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isa. 55:6–7)

Do you find yourself in Lexi’s story? Are you a woman struggling with sexual or relational sin? I encourage you to seek help and discipleship in your local church. And please, reach out to Harvest USA. We offer targeted discipleship and Biblical support groups for women in a supportive, Christ-centered environment at our Dresher, Pennsylvania, office or remotely on Zoom. The women’s ministry team is here to serve you and point you to Christ, our only hope. Here is your invitation to step out of the gap and into the path of confession and repentance.

 

[1] I was helped in my word study in the original languages by Joshua P. Steele’s Exegesis of Psalm 32 as well as Derek Kidner’s Commentary on Psalms 1–72.

Hello! I’m Caitlin McCaffrey, and it’s my privilege to join the Harvest USA team as a women’s ministry staff member. I’m originally from the Philadelphia area but have been living in Los Angeles, California, for the past 15 years.

I’ve known about Harvest USA since I was a child; in fact, my mom worked in an administrative role there for several years in the ‘90s. I have a memory of helping fold letters to send out to potential donors at my kitchen table so, naturally, I’m going from folding letters to full-time ministry!

Jokes aside, I’ve been blown away by the resources coming out of Harvest USA, particularly in the last few years. My passion to see the church equipped to step into areas of sexuality, gender, and relational issues has only grown. I’ve pursued different avenues of equipping for ministry over the last decade or so—some formally, through higher education, and some through the ordinary and glorious life of the local church.

Many women in the church are suffering in silence and shame, and I’m eager to bring the gospel to bear on these sensitive issues for the women God is bringing to the ministry. Isaiah 61 spurs me on as Jesus talks about the ministry he himself has fulfilled (spoken of later in Luke 4):

The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, the he may be glorified. (Isa. 61:1–3)

In my short time as a staff member, I have seen that what we do here at Harvest USA is simply following Jesus and allowing him to minister to the broken parts of our hearts. Pray for me as I seek to follow Jesus in proclaiming liberty to captives and binding up brokenhearted women, so that they may praise him and become oaks of righteousness—for the glory of God alone!


Caitlin is in the process of developing ministry partners in prayer and monthly financial giving. Would you consider joining her support team here? Caitlin is relying on the generosity of people like you to enable her to continue in the ministry God has called her to.

This post follows my previous blogs, “Single Christian, Are You Enjoying Your Union with Christ?” and “Discouraged in the Battle Against Sin? Commune with the Living God!”

Understanding the dynamics of our communion with God can help us in the battle against sin, which, at times, can feel deeply discouraging. But it also sheds light on the deeper need in our hearts—to pursue joy and satisfaction in Jesus alone. As we seek freedom from sexual sin and say “No” to temptation, it’s important to feed the deepest longings in our hearts through communion with God.

Practical Ideas for Fostering Communion with God

In this life, we enjoy and commune with Christ by faith, so anything offered here is seen through that lens. Also, though the intent is practical, nothing will be a magic trick. There’s no “1, 2, 3 steps to victory!” or “Just do ______” quick fix for enjoying Jesus more. But, as we turn toward the practice of communion with God, here are 11 practical ways to pursue Christ.

  • Bible Reading

Jesus’s high priestly prayer in John 17 gives us a glimpse into his own view of the Bible: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). One way to grow in holiness and commune with God is to read his Word. One habit I’ve adopted is to stop before my Bible reading and intentionally call to mind that the words on the page are God’s revelation of himself to me. I pray from Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things from your law.” Enter into reading God’s Word with an expectant and humble posture, ready to receive of Jesus.

  • Prayer

In his earthly ministry, Jesus frequently went away to spend time in prayer communing with his Father. As with any relationship, spending time talking to someone will deepen your relational intimacy with them. Though we can’t see God, the faithful act of seeking him in personal prayer will cause you to more deeply commune with him. As we do this, he increasingly becomes our functional refuge: “Trust in him at all times O peoples! Pour out your heart before him, God is a refuge for us” (Ps. 62:8).

  • Church

In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he prays that they might come to comprehend the love that God has for them. But how do they do this? Paul says they do this with all the saints!  “That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:17b–19b, my emphasis).  In my own life, I’ve powerfully experienced the local church to be a primary means of learning about and communing with God. When I see a woman—tear-stained face—raising her hands in worship to God, and I know that this dear sister is deeply grieving a miscarriage, I can marvel at the worthiness of Christ as I bear her burdens with her. When I extend forgiveness or am forgiven by a brother or sister in the local church, I can worship God as the one who is faithful and just to forgive all my sins. When I forbear with a difficult-to-love brother or sister, I’m reminded of how Jesus bears with my difficult-to-love self in my many weaknesses! A healthy local church life will help us worship Christ and more deeply commune with him.

  • Meditation

Meditation is not emptying the mind. To the contrary, it is filling the mind with biblical truth. Meditation is the Christian’s way of slowly digesting truths about God—from God’s very own words—and intentionally calling them to mind to more deeply draw out these precious truths as we seek to apply them. God’s Spirit is an active agent in this endeavor. He reminds us of the words of Christ and leads us into all truth, enabling us to obey and believe.

  • Singing

Paul gives an example of one of the manifestations of being filled with the Spirit: “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Eph. 5:19). In our day, we have unprecedented access to a repository of rich songs from church history and incredible contemporary writing and music. If your heart is feeling cold, or communing with God feels too remote, try putting on a song with lyrics that specifically talk about God and his character or the gospel. Drawing near to God in song, with an aim to commune more deeply with him, is an often-neglected means of grace in private or family devotional time. Singing is not merely for congregational settings!

  • Scripture Memorization

The Psalmist asks, “How can a young man (or woman!) keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word,” and just a few verses later this idea is expanded, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:9, 11). Memorizing verses, passages or whole books of the Bible is a practical way to pursue communion with God. It’s a way to draw near to him, to demonstrate how precious his words are to you, and to submit your heart to him in humility, especially in your time of need. How our Father’s heart must delight in the preciousness of his people drawing near to him using his very own words of love and help!

  • Speaking about God

When the writer of Hebrews encourages the readers to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24), he says so in the context of drawing near to God and holding fast to our confession of hope in Christ. I believe the mutual edification of speaking about Jesus with one another can be a means to help us draw near and commune with God. Believers in Jesus, indwelt with the Holy Spirit, have the unique ability to help one another behold and commune with Christ. Let us consider this deep privilege and obey the command to consider how to do just this!

  • Enjoying God’s Creation

Simply beholding the beauty of the natural world, the creation of God, can help draw the believer’s heart to worship and commune with the Creator. The Psalmist writes, “The heavens declare the Glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). Getting out into God’s creation can be a way to help center your own thoughts on the greatness of the Creator. It’s not the creation itself that we worship. Rather, the creation points us to the beauty, power, and majesty of the creator—Father, Son, and Spirit.

  • Serving Others

In our service to others, particularly when we use the gifts God has uniquely given us, we can rest in and commune with God. Scottish Olympic sprinter Eric Liddell famously remarked, “God made me fast and when I run, I feel his pleasure.” There is opportunity for communion with and worship of God in serving and sacrificing for others. This is one of the dichotomies of the Christian life, that, as Jesus said, “it is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

  • Reading about God

The Bible is not the only book that can help our hearts engage with and commune with God. Good books about God can also stir up our affections for Christ and guide our hearts to worship and adore him. Consider reading a book about God’s character, his attributes, or the gospel. Perhaps reading a missionary biography or devotional book can help your heart grow in its affections for God himself. The purpose is not merely knowledge, but knowledge that elevates the heart to worship God for his perfections! Books that do this are a blessing and help to us in our efforts to commune with God.

  • Fasting

In Matthew 6:16, Jesus doesn’t say “if you fast” but rather, “when you fast. . .” (my emphasis). The practice of fasting is particularly neglected in the West, but fasting can be a powerful way to commune with God. Giving an intentional time and space to the Lord, to direct your heart toward your dependence on him through fasting, can point your affections toward the truth that we are dependent on him for all things—at all times. For some, fasting from food may not be an option, so consider fasting from another legitimate thing such as entertainment, technology, or other enjoyments.

Persevere in Your Pursuit of Deeper Communion

Does this feel discouraging? Does it feel like a checklist or mountain to climb? Let your pursuit of communion with Christ begin in that very place—the place of your weakness and need. Tell God how you feel. He knows you and wants to help you see him more clearly. Cling to his promise in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” It’s not a daily mountaintop experience we’re pursuing, but rather a faithful and formative obedience—which leads to joy.

“I said I would never do it again.”

“I can’t believe I’m back to the same old sin patterns.”

“Why can’t I stop doing this?”

“I thought I was past this.”

Why do we pursue sexual sin, particularly after we’ve come to loathe the impact it has on us, our spouse, our ministries, and our relationship with the living God? Have you ever said with the Apostle Paul, “Wretched man (or woman) that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24)?

There are many reasons why we pursue broken sexual choices, but I would like to focus on one core motivation: unfulfilled longing for something transcendent. Our hearts are designed to long for something intimate, life-giving, and hope filled. Sexual sin makes many promises, but it can never give us these things. Even godly sex within marriage, as glorious a gift as it may be, fails to be the ultimate fulfillment our hearts deeply—and rightly—long for. Speaking of the folly of idolatry in his commentary on Isaiah, Ray Ortlund says, “It’s absurd to try to derive an ultimate experience from a less-than-ultimate resource. That’s false worship” (293).

This blog follows a previous post entitled, “Single Christian, Are You Enjoying Your Union with Christ?” and takes a deeper look into union with Christ.

Two Distinct Realities: Union and Communion

Before discussing the nuts and bolts of how to enjoy your union with Christ, it’s important to make a distinction between two concepts: union and communion.

Union with Christ is a position Christians enjoy as a result of the work of Christ on their behalf, uniting them completely to himself. It is passively received; it is not something merited, achieved, or fought for. It is an act of sheer grace from God’s benevolent heart down to the Christian. Marcus Peter Johnson describes union this way in his book One with Christ:

To experience fellowship with the Son is to be made alive in Christ, justified in Christ, sanctified in Christ, seated in the heavenly realms in Christ, built up into Christ, and given fullness in Christ. Those joined to Christ are “members of Christ,” “crucified in Christ,” “included in Christ,” “baptized into Christ,” and “the body of Christ.” They eat and drink Christ, they are one with Christ, Christ dwells in them and they dwell in him; they can do nothing apart from him (39).

When reading this definition, you may be tempted to think, “Well, that’s great, but I live in the real world and certainly don’t feel like I’m on cloud nine, united to Jesus all day, every day!” How are we to reconcile the glorious truth of our irrevocable union with Christ with our day-to-day reality, which, if we’re honest, often feels dull, disappointing, or at times even hopeless?

Understanding the dynamics of our communion with the triune Godhead may shed light on the frustration of this dissonance between what we read in Johnson’s definition and what we experience in our daily lives.

Communion with God is the felt experience of the life of God intersecting with our own; it’s the sense that we relationally interact with God himself through the varied means of grace. We share in the life of God and relate to him in the many ways he represents himself as father, king, intercessor, comforter, counselor, refuge, friend, high priest, elder brother, great physician, husband, and sympathizer with our weakness. This isn’t even an exhaustive list of all the ways God describes his communion with his people! Contrary to our union with Christ, our communion does ebb and flow. It is subject to our weakness, efforts, striving, and lack thereof. We may experience profound joy in communion with Christ and we may experience seasons of weariness and discouragement. Even mature believers go through times when they struggle to have rich communion with God.

Our communion with God—or lack of communion—is one key to the “why” behind our sinful behaviors and attitudes. John Flavel says it this way:

The soul is so constituted that it craves fulfillment from things outside itself and will embrace earthly joys for satisfaction when it cannot reach spiritual ones. The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savoring the felt comforts of a Savior’s presence. When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls go in silent search of other lovers (vol. 2, 438).

Growing in holiness and purity is not merely the “putting off” of unwanted behaviors, though it is not less than that. It is also the “putting on” and pursuit of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Seeking deeper communion with God—the one who loves our souls—is a death blow to the pet sins we nurture because it brings the satisfaction we were longing for when we chose to pursue sin in the first place.

Acknowledging the Mystery

There is a degree of wonder and mystery involved in comprehending our union with Christ. When we pursue Christ, we’re endeavoring to do what only the Holy Spirit can enable us to do. In this life, we enjoy and commune with Christ by faith.

We must observe a posture of humility because, after all, we’re talking about communing with—enjoying, relating to—the living God. This is his world. All things are for him and through him and to him (Rom. 11:36), on his terms. Thankfully, we have a gracious God who wants to disclose himself to us—to be known and worshiped in Spirit and in truth. He is not hiding, so knowing God is not a scavenger hunt. Take heart! God relates to us intimately. He is deeply personal and specific, so there’s not a “one size fits all” method to unlock the secret to true communion.

It’s helpful to acknowledge that pursuing communion with Christ in a faithful way may differ for each Christian based on their season of life. A mother of young children, a man in hospice, a young professional, a pastor, and a teen all may have different habits of communion with God.

A dear brother in his nineties said that singing and playing his piano in worship to Christ has become more primary as Bible reading grew more difficult with age. Similarly, a mom with school-aged kids shared that in her single years she experienced her communion with God as primarily a silent, meditative time alone in the Scriptures. She laughed as she remarked, “I can’t remember the last time there was silence in our home!” As you seek after communion with God, seek first to be faithful in that pursuit. Rather than unlocking the secret to a transcendent experience, communion with God can grow even in the ordinary moments of daily life.

Why do we pursue sin in the first place? Often, it’s because we’re not pursuing our indescribably satisfying Savior. We try to fill our desire for transcendence with cheap trinkets when we have all the depth of the riches of wisdom and knowledge of God in Christ (Rom. 11:33). Indwelling sin can’t hold a candle to communion with God.

In the next installment of this blog series, I’ll discuss ten practical ways you can pursue deeper communion with Christ.

The prosperity gospel has become a lightning rod in many evangelical circles in the last ten years. Biblical teaching on this heretical distortion of the gospel reveals its true nature: it’s a way to use God to worship ourselves and achieve our own aims.

Religion columnist Cathleen Falsani said the prosperity gospel, “an insipid heresy whose popularity among American Christians has boomed in recent years, teaches that God blesses those God favors most with material wealth.” She goes on to say, “The gospel of prosperity turns Christianity into a vapid bless-me club, with a doctrine that amounts to little more than spiritual magical thinking: If you pray the right way, God will make you rich.”

But truth be told, deep down, we all love something about the prosperity gospel, don’t we? Our broken and autonomous hearts war against God’s Spirit within, in futile attempts to be lord of our own lives. When we look past our stated beliefs to the heart, most Christians must admit that we struggle to surrender our deepest desires to Christ—especially regarding sexuality. In many ways, we want God to help us make life work on our terms.

The Prosperity Gospel of Sexuality

The prosperity gospel of sex goes something like this: If I obey God, he will give me the things I desire sexually. This could mean an attractive and available spouse. It could mean fulfilling, passionate sex in marriage, or the removal of unwanted desires or shame from our past. Some of these are good things! However, most Christians have bought into the lie that we can earn our version of “sexual prosperity” by obedience.

This reveals the deeper question: Is Christ our prize?

In Luke 14:25–33, Jesus tells us about the cost of discipleship. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Jesus provides utter clarity on the terms of discipleship. But he does not harshly coerce or entrap his disciples into his sheepfold. Rather, he invites them into an honest discourse about their desires, suffering, and the ultimate cost of being a disciple of Jesus.

Counting the Cost

Jesus goes on to say, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:28–30, my emphasis).

If you regularly bypass the conviction of God’s Spirit to engage in unholy relationships, behaviors, or thought patterns, have you considered stopping to count the cost of your surrender to Christ? Can you honestly remember a time when you considered life in Christ, the glories of God, and the gift of salvation against your competing desires?

Is allowing your sexual desires to rule your life working for you? As Psalm 16 says, “the sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply.” Brother or sister, do you know the pain of having run after another god? Perhaps the god of a toxic and co-dependent friendship, an out-of-bounds sexual relationship, or the self-worship inherent in pornography and masturbation? We can’t build our life on the foundation of our own desires, with ourselves as the lord, and truly live.

Deliberating with the King

Jesus turns us to another example in verse 31: “Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace” (my emphasis). Brother or sister, hear the wise counsel of Jesus. Are you willing to sit down and deliberate with God regarding your deepest desires?

The very same God invites, “Come now let us reason together, says the Lord; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isa. 1:18). Will you reason with God regarding your desires that compete with allegiance to him? He invites you to do so! Our God knows our hearts. He sees how we’ve been broken, abused, or disappointed. He sees the cost many Christians will face for following Jesus in their sexuality. Our generous Lord will not ask of us something which he will not abundantly comfort in the riches of his kindness for all eternity (Eph 2:7).

Jesus, Our True Prize

The prosperity gospel gets something right. We do receive riches and benefits when we come to Christ. But the benefit and riches are found in Christ himself, as he offers himself to us as a faithful provider and the one who knows our deepest longings. In Christ, we will benefit from his love for all eternity.

However, in this earthly life, we will struggle to believe that our suffering has purpose or that God’s ways are truly better. God invites you today to honestly grapple with him, to bring your warring desires to him in surrender (even the good ones), knowing his ways lead to life and flourishing—even as we suffer and long for many things. As Helen Roseveare, who suffered deeply in her surrender and service to Jesus as a missionary, said at the Urbana Missions Conference in 1976,

“One word became unbelievably clear, and that word was privilege. He didn’t take away pain or cruelty or humiliation. No! It was all there, but now it was altogether different. It was with him, for him, in him. He was actually offering me the inestimable privilege of sharing in some little way the edge of the fellowship of his suffering. . . One has tried to ‘count the cost,’ but I find it all swallowed up in privilege. The cost suddenly seems very small and transient in the greatness and permanence of the privilege.”

Have you heard a sermon on singleness lately? If you’re honest, as a single Christian, perhaps you bristle at the thought of the topic. Maybe you’ve been wounded or just plain frustrated by some of the messages you’ve heard—likely on themes of contentment, sexual purity, and guarding against selfishness. I heartily affirm these as relevant themes for godly single Christians to consider. But when was the last time you, my single brother or sister, considered how the abundant riches of Christ can be uniquely experienced in your singleness?

Do you regularly relish the wealth of Christ that is yours to be received and enjoyed right now? Surely there’s more to life than just holding on for your condition of singleness to change.

Whether you’re single and waiting or have become single through the painful loss of widowhood or unwanted divorce, this post is particularly for you. Still, because all true believers are brought into irrevocable union with Christ, all Christian readers can rejoice over these truths regardless of their marital status.

What are some features of singleness that can draw out—or perhaps even enhance—some of the blessings of a believer’s union with Christ?

Simplicity

Have you heard about the pitfalls of being single? Perhaps you’ve heard negative discussions around things like excess free time, the need for wisdom in relationships, temptation toward sexual sin, and concerns about selfishness. These are all real concerns, and faithful singles should pursue obedience in them. However, have you considered your time of singleness as an opportunity for undivided devotion to Christ? For simplicity in your devotion to him?

In 1 Corinthians, Paul gives the most explicit instructions for marriage and singleness found in the New Testament: “But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that” (1 Cor. 7:28). He goes on to say:

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. (vv. 32–34)

I believe Paul is describing a simplicity that lends itself to an undivided heart toward Christ. Is Paul saying here that those in a season of widowhood or singleness have simple, worry-free lives? I don’t think so. But one of the opportunities unique to singles is to pursue undivided simplicity and devotion to Christ, while looking to the reward. Christ himself, and communion with him, is that reward.

Christ Our Reward

Consider Jesus’s words in the Great Commission, as he’s sending his people out to fulfill his mission: “Behold! I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Or when Jesus speaks of his Holy Spirit and says, “And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16, emphasis mine). Is this not one of the things our hearts long for most? We long for someone who will make a permanent covenant with us—one who will be with us forever, who will be “our person,” our closest companion. Jesus himself promises to be nothing less than this to us, by faith, in this present age.

These are not mere platitudes or simple ideas to appease us as Christians. These are rich truths to be received, meditated upon, and taken hold of by faith! Dear Christian brother or sister in a season of singleness, would you consider today the riches of Christ? They’re not only yours for all eternity but can be received by faith today! Would you take hold of them in Christ with all your heart? By prayer? In community with the family of God?

Receiving Christ in a Season of Unmet Longings

Maybe these words sting a little for some. How can I enjoy Jesus when I’m experiencing the pain of unmet desires? What if Jesus seems like a consolation prize to settle for? I want to affirm the good desire for romance, sexual expression, and companionship that are found in a godly marriage—but even this good thing only points to the greater reality found in Christ.

Let’s listen to Paul’s words again: “I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:35). Paul’s goal for this exhortation is clear: undivided devotion to the Lord. Just before this, Paul, in speaking to all believers, says:

This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. (vv. 29–31)

Even those in godly marriages are called to live in such a way that the glory of Christ is at the forefront because the present form of this world is passing away.

If this idea doesn’t get you excited, I would encourage you to consider that God created your longings and therefore knows how to fulfill them better than any other. Psalm 16:11 makes a stunning claim about God: “In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” The life of a single Christian, united to Christ, can be truly rich. As Sam Allberry writes, single believers have an opportunity to display the sufficiency of God’s promises in the gospel and his love for us relationally.

 Getting Practical

Pray

Ask God to help you see things the way he sees them. How might your perspective need to shift to align with his holy and righteous view? He longs to meet you and help you as your loving Lord.

Invite

Invite God into the painful moments when you feel the sting of being single. Another wedding without a plus one? Feeling left behind in life as your friends move on? These moments of sorrow also include an invitation for you to have Christ himself bear your burdens with you.

Repent

Ask God to search you for ungodly attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors around your singleness. Repent and turn from these things. Maybe you just don’t believe that Christ can fulfill the deepest longings of your heart. Maybe you’ve tried to seek him in the past and it didn’t seem to “work.” Don’t do this alone! Seek the help of trusted brothers and sisters walking with you along the journey.

Receive

Wait on the Lord as you long to receive the good gifts he has for you in your singleness. Jesus is the greatest gift. There are no guarantees about when or how he will show up; be on the lookout! It helps to keep in mind that we still experience the felt comforts of Jesus amid a broken world this side of heaven. Have your heart and eyes wide open for the ways in which he is meeting you with his sustaining grace in the present even as he points you toward the ultimate fulfillment of your all your longings in heaven—namely, perfect fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Single brothers and sisters, let’s pursue our glorious Savior, Jesus Christ, with all that we have, in whatever season God has called us to for today. He not only gives us good gifts in every season, but he himself is our portion and our eternal delight (Ps. 16). Enjoy your unshakeable union with Christ today. He is worthy!

Caitlin McCaffrey is our new Women’s Ministry staff member and started with us in July 2022. Please consider joining her financial support team here!


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