I need to be honest with you.
I wrote a book about singleness, but I still feel like I know very little about being single.
Writing down principles on paper is easy. Living out the truth is a whole other ball game: I still have sexual urges that remain unfulfilled, I still hate waiting, and I still have no idea what to do with the holiday season: the mistletoe, the romantic music, the gifts, the family gatherings, the chestnuts roasting on an open fireplace, and the syrupy Hallmark movies.
The desire to be known and loved is a natural and God-given desire that can only be fulfilled with the love of God's Son, Jesus Christ. Ask any married woman: while marriage may give you temporary happiness, it does not meet your deepest needs. That privilege is reserved for Jesus Christ.
The struggle with finding satisfaction in Christ alone is a lifelong battle made more difficult by the message fed to us by consumer culture. Whether it's your favorite cable station or your daily Twitter feed, the incessant message in today's culture is that true satisfaction can finally be yours if you buy this product, take that vacation, or marry that man.
Now multiply that message by 10,000, and you've placed yourself in the middle of America's holiday season.
I heard it said once that when culture contradicts Scripture, Scripture has to cut through culture. The only way to battle the lies of culture is to fight with the truth of God's word. Scripture does have the answers you've been asking. But what's even better is that Scripture gives us real live examples of people to learn from.
Which brings me to Anna. Of all the people in the world in all of the history of the world, God chose an old single widow to spend his first Christmas with. In Luke 2:36-38, in just two verses, God not only affirms every single Christian and their quest to fit into the holiday season, but also teaches us how to thrive as a single Christian during the holidays. The story goes like this:
"And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was 84. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem."
So much can be said about these three verses, but I'll sum them up with four life-changing principles that every single Christian needs in order to thrive this holiday season:
1. Living out your calling starts now.
Anna understood what many of us are still trying to grasp: that God has a purpose for your life, and it starts right now. She didn't count herself out of God's purpose and plan because she was single. She didn't assume God wanted her to first be married in order to be used in God's kingdom. God has a plan for your life, and it starts right now. So stop waiting for Mr. Right to show up to finally do something for God. Stop waiting for the right environment, the right feeling, and the right circumstances to serve God. You were made for more than just waiting for your knight in shining armor to whisk you into a life of usefulness. You were created to know him, and to make him known. You were made to thrive. Are you living out God's purpose for your life?
2. Living with a single-minded focus prepares you to see God.
For over 60 years, Anna did not depart from the temple. She spent her days worshipping God, fasting and in prayer day and night. If anyone understood what single-minded devotion is, it was Anna, who became the first single woman to set eyes on Christ, the son of God. The greatest blessing of singleness is the ability to live a life of undivided devotion to Jesus, and I didn't say that. The apostle Paul did in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35. So stop wasting your life with the many distractions that surround us and ultimately harm our souls and turn our eyes from the main attraction: Jesus. If you're longing to see God at work in your life, make your life all about him. Like Anna, you'll be surprised at what you'll see.
3. Living purely is the means to intimacy with God.
It's no accident that Dr. Luke sneaks in Anna's sexual history in the brief verses that describe her. First, we're told that she was a virgin until marriage, and second, we're told that she remained alone until she was 84. "Remain alone" is the polite way of saying she didn't have sex for close to 80 years. Yikes. That's a long time to be sexually pure. For some of us, it seems like a heavy burden to bear, but for Anna, living purely became her means for greater intimacy with God. In Matthew 5:8, Jesus said it this way: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." The miracle of that first Christmas was that a Savior was born. Christ came to earth in order to save sinners like us. If you've failed him in the area of your purity, take heart. Christ was born to save you from your shame and your sin. He died on the cross for you. Why not admit your sin and recommit your life to him? Living purely may not be easy, but it's possible by God's power living in you, andit's the means to intimacy with God. Don't you long for it?
4. Living with patient expectation always yields joy.
Waiting always wins. What is it that you're waiting for? Are you waiting for your dreams to come true? Are you waiting for a man to show up and whisk you off your feet? Perhaps you need to reconsider the object of your waiting. Most of life's disappointments come from misplaced expectations. Anna got it right. When it came to waiting, she understood that waiting on God alone yields joy. And Anna wasn't the only one waiting. We're told there were many others in Jerusalem who were watching and waiting. That first Christmas, they too were filled with joy when they finally saw the object of their waiting. Are your eyes fixed on Jesus? God will surely meet you when you make your life all about waiting for him alone.
This year's going to be different. No more waiting for Mr. Right. No more wondering if your ship has passed you by. No more pondering what went wrong and dreaming of mistletoe. It's time for you to live the life Christ rescued you for. It's time for you to thrive.
Lina AbuJamra is a pediatric ER doctor in Chicago and author of Thrive: The Single Life as God Intended and Stripped: When God's Call Turns from Yes to Why Me? Connect with her online, and follow her on Twitter @linamay.