Thursday, July 21, 2016

Unhelpful Advice we Sometimes Give

Sometimes in Christian circles we offer advice that we mean to be encouraging, but is anything but to the one we speak it to. I'd even say the majority of times it's actually hurtful to the one we're offering it to. And it's usually a generalized statement made off the experiences of a few, but is ultimately not true for most of us.

We mean the words with the best of intentions. We're usually really trying to be encouraging and helpful. But, when we fall back on these words, they have the opposite of the intended effect on the one hearing them. They cause pain and doubt and questions, rather than encouraging.

I've been on the receiving end of these words frequently. Almost always in conversation about my singleness and desire to get married one day. I've lost count of the number of times. the response I've received from well-meaning people has been something along the lines of:
"You just need to stop looking and start enjoying your life as it is, and then God will bring you a husband."
I used to just quickly change the subject or look for a way to get out of the conversation when I heard that sentiment. These days, I'll question you on why you said that. Yes, politely, but for a few reasons I can't just leave that statement unchallenged anymore. I makes some clearly untrue assumptions about me and declares as a promise something God never promised:

1) These words assume my life is revolving around finding someone to get married to.

But, if you were to take just a moment to look at what fills my time and the relationships I have, it would become clear that my life is not all about one thing. I've filled my life with many things that I believe God has given me for this time in my life.

2) These words assume I'm not enjoying my life as it is and that I can't as long as I still desire to get married one day. 

Yet again, if you paid just a bit of attention to my life you would see that I have a life I enjoy, all while still holding onto this desire. I'm not sitting back and waiting. I'm living life to the full as it is right now, but should the opportunity to get married come, I'd gladly change things in my life.

3) These words declare a promise God never made and makes it conditional on what I do.

They basically tell me that once I get my life to the point God wants it, He will give me a husband.
Where in Scripture does God promise us everyone will get married? Where in Scripture does it say that once we're doing life the right way, God will give us certain things for reaching that point?

The theology in this "advice" is wrong and kind of scary. There is not support in Scripture for these words.

Whatever the heart is behind these words, and many others we regularly use, they aren't helpful and can actually cause more hurt.

The people who I've appreciated the most in conversations, are the ones who just listen and don't offer me their advice for what I should or shouldn't do. They listen. They care. And they don't feel like they have to have the answer.

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