"Is God punishing me? Is that why he won't answer my prayer for a happy marriage?"
It's a question most of us singles ask at some point in our lives, especially during times of intense loneliness. Many of us are still asking it. Some ask it every day.
I don't pretend to know how God's mind works. But God has revealed much of himself in the Bible. Let’s take a look and see whether he does, in fact, punish his children.
I believe the most accurate revelation of God is found in the New Testament. Jesus Christ is God, and since Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united in the Trinity, none of these three Persons can act contrary to the other two.
That means God the Father can't be mean while Jesus is gentle. God the Father can't be vengeful while Jesus is forgiving. And God the Father can't be a punisher while Jesus is merciful. They all act in harmony. What we see in Jesus is true of all three Persons of God.
Unbelievers like to point to God in the Old Testament when he was smiting pagans or bringing plagues upon people, saying he was cruel. That's a simplistic and wrong understanding of the Bible.
Sin has consequences. A life of sexual promiscuity that results in STDs or AIDS can't be blamed on God. Stealing, getting caught and going to prison can't be blamed on God. Abusing your body with illegal drugs or alcohol then getting addicted can't be blamed on God.
But wait! Don't get angry. If you are a Christian, there's good news for you.
If Christians sin, they are not exempt from the consequences mentioned above. But our sins, past, present and future, have been forgiven through Jesus' saving death on the cross. We singles don't have a license to sin, but we need to start seeing God differently.
Jesus gave us the most accurate, revealing description of God the Father in his parable of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11-32. You remember the story. The younger of two sons demanded his inheritance, ran off to a far country and squandered it on wild living. When a famine hit that land, he wandered back home, where he was received by his father with love and forgiveness. There was not one trace of retribution or punishment.
Repeat: no punishment.
Of course, the boy's actions did have consequences. He wasted his inheritance and it was gone forever. He disgraced himself and his family. He hurt both his father and his brother.
But let's look at your situation with that knowledge. I'm not suggesting at all that you are a sinner or have done anything wrong. When hard times come, we often imagine we are being punished for something we've done, when that's not the case at all.
We always underestimate God's love for us.
Jesus told you through that parable that God forgives you for your sins. He doesn't punish you. He's glad to have you back. Based on this story, you can rightly assume that your loneliness and frustration are not punishments from God.
So what is going on? Why hasn't God answered your prayer?
Don't assume the worst. Don't turn God into a mean judge and torturer when he's not. When you ask, "Is God punishing me?", you can be confident the answer is "No!"
But you have to accept that truth. You have to etch it deep in your heart, believe it, and act on it. What does acting on it mean?
It means stop blaming God or imagining you’re locked into punishment. Try a different approach to life. If you can't find a restaurant, you stop wandering around and ask directions. Or you use a GPS or your cell phone. But you don't keep doing the same thing that isn't working.
The funny (or not so funny) thing is we don't try something different when we're looking for a spouse. We think it's God's responsibility to track down this person for us and drop them in our lap. When that doesn't happen for several years, it's time to try something different!
More assertiveness. An online dating service. Even blind dates. We can pray to God to help us overcome the fear that's holding us back.
One of the regrets I have in my life is that I wasn't assertive enough in my younger years--with everything. I held back too much. I used the shyness excuse. Don't do what I did! Learn from my mistake.
I often asked myself, "Is God punishing me?" and it took me years to understand he was not. Don't waste those years like I did.
God always wants to give you more courage, and he especially wants you to depend on him more. But you do have a part to play.
Take some time to thoughtfully look at your situation and see if you are doing everything you can. You may find that with God's help, doing something new in your situation will make all the difference in the world.