Feb. 14 divides its observers into two categories: single or in a relationship. For those in a healthy relationship, the day will shimmer with feelings of warmth and happiness. For those who are single and content in that status, the holiday will be a relatively neutral day. For those who wish for a committed relationship but find themselves single or emotionally alone, whether by reason of death, a troubled relationship, or simply not having found “the right one,” Valentine’s Day may very well be one of the most painful dates on the calendar. It is very possible that those who are alone and struggling will wake on Feb. 15 with a sigh of relief, knowing that the hearts and roses have finished their rounds for another year.
However, as believers, there is something that transcends all these relationship statuses. I have been working my way through Alistair Begg’s “Truth for Life: 365 Daily Devotionals.” Jan. 30’s reflection focused on God’s constant presence despite our trials. While this is essential meditation, the reality that God, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, is always with us jumped off the page with fresh potency. Here is a companion who can pass through all man-made barriers, One who will come as near as we allow and will even break down our foolish and silly defenses if He has set His love upon us. It is easy to forget this in the stream of overpacked life, when “How am I going to get it all done?” is often our primary reality. It is even easier to lose sight of this companion when the overwhelming loneliness of a world decked in red demands that we reckon with some of life’s most painful realities.
Valentine’s Day offers unique opportunities for evangelism and kindness. We most automatically associate the day with loneliness or romantic dinners. Those of us who have contact with singles who desire marriage would do well to remember their situations and find meaningful ways to warm their hearts on an otherwise challenging day. This is a choice opportunity to embody God’s love and presence and pave the way for meaningful friendships or future gospel openings.
But relationship categories and outreach aside, God’s unswerving and faithful presence speaks of a pursuing and faithful love, a commitment sealed with a crimson that is far more potent than the freshest bouquet of scarlet roses. This is something that we all need, whether we are married, contentedly single, or struggling with aloneness.
It is easy to see why Hallmark love stories are popular. There is something attractive and noble about a confident yet winsome suitor who perseveres, undaunted, through the obstacles surrounding the woman who has captured his affections. This pleasing portrayal conveys a sense of safety and value, but, as tantalizing as these movies are, they often fail to address the humanity and shortcomings that will mar all earthly marriages. Men and women both need this security, and it is found only in the certainty of the Holy Spirit’s constant presence.
“Because you are precious in my sight and honored, and I love you, I will give people in exchange for you … Do not fear, for I am with you” (Isaiah 43:4-5).
Every true believer, even the one who does not have an earthly spouse or who has a difficult relationship, has already received an invitation to his or her own wedding celebration – the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). This will be a perfect wedding reception. There will be no anticipation of disappointment, no painful realities of loneliness, no empty seats at the table. “… Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His peoples, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more; because the previous things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3b-4).
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has a list of practical, thoughtful ideas for those who would like to engage with singles on Valentine’s Day.
Rosalie Chesley serves as the assistant to the interim executive director and managing editor of BaptistLIFE at the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.