A Different Kind of Rich

“God giving you a husband does not prove his goodness- marriage isn’t even inherently good. But God is good, always…. When God’s goodness becomes dependent on his delivery, you have perverted the true gospel into nothing more than a prosperity message”.

Party of One by Joy Beth Smith

I could handle being single in my 20s while living in America and marriage actually seemed like a possibility. A few potential soulmates wandered through the college & career Sunday school class I attended or came as candidates to the organization I worked for. Hope stayed alive even as the years of my 20s ticked by.

It felt noble to go to the field without a spouse, so devoted to Jesus that I was willing to bury dreams and sacrifice marriage to see Him glorified. I loved Him more than anything, but the reality of living single overseas became painful too. There were days when I didn’t want to have to figure out how to fix cut electrical wires or broken plumbing, when I wanted someone at my side who shared my calling and passion and would be strength in the areas of my weakness. I began to feel like I deserved a spouse for all that my calling had cost me, that God was withholding something from me. Couldn’t He take away the longing so my lack didn’t hurt so much?

I saw it everywhere, as friends back home posted pictures of engagement rings and wedding showers, registries and baby bumps. Isn’t God kind, they would write. Was He, I began to wonder? I don’t have those things. My dreams are still unfulfilled. If God’s kindness means a husband and a baby, a ministry partner and a shared home, then He must not be kind to me. The lie was fed as I saw my lack and focused on what God wasn’t giving me.

When I looked around me through the lens of scarcity, I started to grumble about other unanswered prayers. I railed against a God who would allow such suffering in my life and the lives of precious people around me who were struggling. Where was He when my teammate and I lived through the darkest year isolated from any kind of support in a little village? Where was He when a cancer scare came, when my teammate’s health suffered?

I came back to the States for home assignment that year holding tightly to my anger. My body was worn down from the fight, and my soul was parched for truth. Oh, but God. He hadn’t given up on his tantrum-throwing child. He hadn’t abandoned me in the months and years I had never asked for. He spoke healing through a gentle counselor, through wise members of my organization, through my family’s tender care and understanding.

My counselor recommended a retreat center not far from my house, and I gathered coffee and my Bible and journal, asking God on the drive how He wanted to direct my time. “I’m still angry with You,” I admitted in the car, “but I want to come back to You.” Two words came to mind that day: freedom and grace.

As I sat in the library of the retreat center with winter light streaming in, I looked up every verse I could find that included those two words. Then I read this statement in Ephesians, chapter one, verses six through eight: “So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding,” (emphasis mine).

The Father whispered these words to my heart: “My kindness is not dependent on what I give you. No, my kindness is shown in My undeserved mercy, the riches of grace poured out through Jesus.”

The longing for a spouse, a partner for adventures and every day life, has not gone away in the two years since that retreat time. But I am slowly learning to bring those desires back to the feet of Jesus and allow Him to remind me again of His goodness. To scrub my eyes clean of the lack and see instead the riches and sweet gifts He gives me daily if I will fight to see them.

How are you experiencing God’s kindness and rich grace in your life? How are you fighting for contentment in the areas that might resonate with lack?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

12 Comments

  1. Kimberly October 24, 2018

    Thank you for sharing this, Sarah! I’m also single out in the field for over four years now (and in my thirties…) and would love to have a spouse here with me. I’ve had to learn to look at what God has blessed me with (and I’ve been abundantly blessed in so many ways) rather than what I don’t yet have, even though it is quite challenging at times. It does make me feel better knowing I’m not alone in this.

    1. Sarah C Hilkemann October 24, 2018

      Hey Kimberly, thanks for commenting! You (and I) are definitely not alone. It is hard but good I think to hold both the gratitude and longing together.

  2. Amy Young October 24, 2018

    Sarah, thank you for leaning into the hard (confusing) parts of our stories where God doesn’t seem to be intervening in the way we want :). I have no doubt everyone reading this has some corner of their story that touches yours. Contentment is for all of us, even in the midst of confusing times. This is a good word! Thank you.

    1. Sarah C Hilkemann October 26, 2018

      Thank you, Amy!!

  3. Lisa October 25, 2018

    Hi Kimberly, thanks so much for sharing this. No, you are not alone in this! I have been on and off the field for 30+ years and am now working at sending others. Still single in my mid-50’s and believe it or not still struggle with this issue from time to time. This is a good reminder for us all.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann October 26, 2018

      Thanks for sharing, Lisa!

  4. Phyllis October 25, 2018

    Thank you so much for writing this. It spoke to my heart, even though I’m not single. I am keeping this quote forever:
    “God giving you [anything] does not prove his goodness….. But God is good, always…. When God’s goodness becomes dependent on his delivery, you have perverted the true gospel into nothing more than a prosperity message.”

    And this:
    “The Father whispered these words to my heart: ‘My kindness is not dependent on what I give you. No, my kindness is shown in My undeserved mercy, the riches of grace poured out through Jesus.’”

    THANK YOU!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann October 26, 2018

      Phyllis, I’m so glad this could speak to your heart in the season you are in! So true- God giving *anything* does not prove His goodness to us!

  5. Sarah October 28, 2018

    Thank you so very much for this. I’m still single in my early 40s, and am now having this issue rear its head once again as I return to my home country after 20 years on the field and realize the vast divide between me and those from my “own culture”, let alone a potential spouse.

  6. Becky December 3, 2018

    Wow I needed to read this! Thank you for sharing Sarah, knowing I’m not alone in this battle is comforting and being encouraged to surrender my dreams at Jesus feet is so freeing and the exact words I needed to read. I’m in a season of fighting for contentment and thankfulness and this read has given me more umph towards Jesus. You’re wonderful!

    1. Becky December 3, 2018

      Wow I needed to read this! Thank you for sharing Sarah, knowing I’m not alone in this battle is comforting and being encouraged to surrender my dreams at Jesus feet is so freeing and the exact words I needed to read. I’m in a season of fighting for contentment and thankfulness and this read has given me more umph towards Jesus. You’re wonderful!

      Woah my picture is so big…

  7. Becky December 3, 2018

    how do I delete that picture?
    I thought it would go in the little circle..

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.