Losing Hope

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by Camerin Courtney
July 28, 2004

I've got to be honest, it doesn't look so good for me.

Though I've loved our conversations here over the past several weeks-with so many of you chiming in with thoughts and opinions about the fact that single Christian men today seem to be MIA and that their female counterparts often are labeled "too independent"-these trends disturb me just the same.

It's been exciting to uncover legitimate new trends. And then depressing to really look at these realities: single men and women are having a difficult time finding one another, and when and if they do, they're also having a difficult time figuring out how to relate with one another. And as the gender that's on the plentiful end of the imbalance (read: lots of competition and not a lot of potential companions) and that's being given mixed messages about the roles I'm supposed to play in life and in relationships, it's not looking so good for me.

I'd hoped that addressing these tough realities would help clear the air, give new insight and understanding, be one of the first steps toward positive change. While I hope and pray we've accomplished some of these things, one reader wrote in to say, "This is all so depressing! With all these uneven ratios and misconceptions, I'm beginning to lose hope that I'll ever get married."

Losing hope. I hear you, sister. I've read the hundreds of response e-mails over the past month, offering depressing odds and widely conflicting opinions about everything from a single's place in the church to gender roles and felt a bit of despair settling in myself.

It's like I've suddenly found myself in some sadistic new reality TV show with 40 women vying for the affections of one man who's hidden in a crowded airport terminal. Even if I find him, it's possible he'll prefer someone else. And even if he doesn't, are we even compatible? And even if we are, he might, just might turn to me and say, "You're a bit too independent for my taste." Arrrgh.

My guy friends tell me it's no picnic on their end of the trends either, with few excuses for being "still single" (since the ratio's stacked in their favor), with a palpable sense of desperation in many of these women, and with the rest seeming not to have any need or room for male presence in their life.

Now, I'm not talking about having an obsessive, gotta-get-married-tomorrow type of attitude. I'm talking about singles who have a deep desire to be in a godly marriage someday, but who are living life fully now, following God's call on their life in their current single state-but who are facing the tough fact that, due to some of the dynamics we've been discussing, marriage rates are going down, that the percentage of the population that never marries is on the rise.

Perhaps the toughest part of it all is that when I turn to my Bible for reassurance that all hope isn't lost for my desire to get married someday, I find no guarantees that I'll be provided a godly spouse. There are no ironclad promises that my desire to be in a godly, healthy, ministry-centered marriage will be met someday. This just makes me want to throw up my hands and run directly to the nearest convent or convenience store for a pint of Ben & Jerry's.

When I turned to God this past weekend to whine about the unfairness of it all, I felt him lovingly, patiently point out what I was trying to put my hope in: marriage, statistics, ratios, guarantees, human beings.

Instead of hope in any of these flimsy things, I felt him nudge me toward faith. Faith in our God who, though he doesn't promise us a spouse, does promise never to leave or forsake us. Faith in our God who created us male and female, and knows every inch of the gap in between. Faith in our God who can do exceedingly abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine. Faith in our God whose ways are not our ways, who can use this generation of singles to usher in a new, healthier brand of gender roles in relationships, or who may use this current crop of unmarrieds, with our "undivided devotion to the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:32-35), to shake the planet for his purposes.

That's if we'd just take our eyes off the problems long enough to focus them where they need to be: on him. I don't think it's wrong to identify and discuss new difficulties and areas of brokenness in our world. How else can we know what to pray about, what to work on? But I think this identifying and discussing needs to be done with the big picture in mind. God's not surprised by any of these trends. God's still sovereign and all-powerful. God is bigger than all of these trends and any of their resulting frustration, depression, or anger.

So I find myself trading in my flimsy hope for bigger faith-and bigger prayers. Prayers with serious words in them, like revival, understanding, healing, and forgiveness. I don't know what the future holds for you and me. I don't know if promising new trends await around the next corner or if we'll watch our current trends of datelessness, gender imbalance, and gaps in understanding grow. But I do know that if we put ourselves, our dreams, our brokenness, our trends, our misunderstandings, our ratios, our frustrations, our hopes, and our fears in his hands, he'll craft something wonderful and beyond our expectations. And it will be according to his will and higher purposes. And he won't waste a single thing.

Camerin Courtney

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