After sending my friend and her new husband off for their honeymoon, I walked back to my lodging by myself. Some friends had decided to go out after the wedding, but I was eager to get some quiet time alone after the busy day.
Still wearing my floor-length bridesmaid dress but now carrying my high-heeled shoes, I felt a warm contentedness for my friend. I was grateful I could stand beside her and celebrate the start of her marriage to a loving man.
But I also felt sadness and grief that at the end of the night, I was alone.
I thought I would be married right out of college and have two or three kids by the time I was 30. I thought I would marry my first love. I was sure my first serious relationship in college was the one.
I believed in the promise of a fairytale marriage—a promise that many well-meaning Christian books, pastors, and mentors had sold me in my adolescence. I was taught if I did things “the right way,” meaning I remained pure, dated intentionally, and tried to please God, then he would grant me a fairytale—complete with my prince, a beautiful wedding, and a family.
Instead, my relationship ended after three years, and I spent most of my 20s single with only a handful of dates along the way. This wedding would be my sixth time serving as a bridesmaid—celebrating my friends’ love and happiness—without a date myself.
I grieved my unmet longings for a spouse and the life I thought I would have. I yearned for the companionship, intimacy, and security of marriage.
And I felt let down by God.
Whether or not we marry, we all live with unmet desires. In various ways, we all grieve the life we expected or the timetable we planned for ourselves.
Even when our waiting is in the past, the memories of our grief can continue into the present. And God is with us in this grief, still offering us His grace.
You may grieve years of infertility even after the blessing of a child.
You may grieve a child’s disability while being grateful for his life.
You may grieve having cancer even after a clean bill of health.
You may grieve the years of spiritual doubts—the many dark nights of the soul—while being grateful for a faith that’s been tested.
But God’s grace carries us through these seasons of waiting. He is present as we grieve the unmet longings of our hearts.
God does not promise to reward us if we do the right thing. Faith is not a transaction or formula of “if I do A, God does B.”
But He does invite us to bring Him our grief. Psalm 34:18 (NIV) says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” And in Matthew 5:4, Jesus tells us, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
I did eventually meet my husband after seven years of singleness. We celebrate our fifth anniversary this spring. The card I chose for him said, “I wish I had met you sooner so I could have loved you longer.”
I am grateful every day for God’s grace that brought me and my husband together.
I am grateful every day for our daughter, who is now two.
And along with gratitude for God’s grace, I also hold space for grief.
I still grieve my years of singleness, full of pain and longing to meet my husband.
I still grieve the false promises I was told that twisted my faith in God into a transaction and made it difficult for me to trust Him again.
I still struggle with comparing myself to other women and feeling behind.
Through this, I am learning that grief and gratitude can coexist.
We can hold space for both sadness and joy.
We can validate our feelings of disappointment and longing while still being grateful for God’s blessings in our lives.
God can handle our grief and sorrow. He can handle our anger, confusion, and pain. God accepts and validates our feelings, but He doesn’t leave us in our grief.
He also gives us His grace.