While marriage and celibacy may technically be opposites, they have at least one thing in common. Both can seem overwhelming when one imagines them lasting for a lifetime.
Even if you deeply love your spouse, the thought of putting up with his or her foibles or coldness or chaos every day for the rest of your life may be enough to make your hyperventilate. Likewise, those who have chosen to lead a celibate life may be happy in their friendships, their church, and their work, but when they peer into the future, the frightening prospect of growing old alone overshadows the mercies provided in the present.
If the thought of enduring your marriage or lack of marriage for the rest of your life is daunting, it is because God doesn’t hand out grace in a lifetime supply. He provides it one day at a time. If you feel like God has not given you the capacity to love your spouse for a lifetime, that’s because he hasn’t. But he has given you exactly what you need to be loving today. Furthermore, God has not given celibates the grace to bear a lifetime of solitude. But he will give you what you need to make it through this day.
As C. S. Lewis wrote in a letter to Mary Willis Shelburne, ““[I]t is seldom the present & the actual that is intolerable. Remember one is given the strength to bear what happens to one, but not the 100 and 1 different things that might happen.”
Jesus sought daily strength from his Father. He expected it would be provided as he needed it. That timely help is what God has promised to us:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16, ESV, emphasis added)
God will give us what we need, but he will not give it to us until we need it. He didn’t give the Israelites enough food to last through forty years in the wilderness; he gave them manna one day at a time. None of us has a lifelong stockpile of grace, but we can look forward to God’s faithfulness over a lifetime, offered to us one day at a time.
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