Last month in my blog post entitled, Prolonged Singleness and the Bible: A Study of Tobit Part I, I provided a summary of the Book of Tobit. I especially related how God pointed me to the book of Tobit when I was single and had lamented to him that although there were women in the Bible that battled infertility, there was no one that ever struggled to get married. He showed me I was wrong.
After reading about Tobit, Tobias, Sarah, and Saint Raphael, my eyes were opened with wonder to the behind the scenes look at prolonged singleness. This is not to say that all my worries about my trial with this affliction were over, as this was not the case. Nonetheless, the glimpse into the heart of God regarding this heartache, however, provided me the hope I needed to sustain me further along my journey of prolonged singleness.
As such, I want to share with you what I learned from the book of Tobit regarding Sarah’s struggle with marriage and how it mirrors prolonged singleness experienced today. Most importantly, is God’s compassion and desire to remedy the situation. Let’s get started!
Sarah had Seven Husbands
We meet Sarah in Chapter 3, wherein we learn that she has been married seven times. However, a wicked demon, Asmodeus, killed each husband before they could consummate their marriage. (Tobit 3:8). Sarah is being accused by one of the maids in her father’s household of strangling each of her seven husbands on her wedding night. The scriptures tell us the following:
“That day she was deeply grieved in spirit. She went in tears to an upstairs room in her father’s house with the intention of hanging herself. But she reconsidered, saying to herself: ‘No! People would level this insult against my father: ‘You had only one beloved daughter, but she hanged herself because of ill fortune!’ And thus would I cause my father in his old age to go down to the nether world laden with sorrow. It is far better for me not to hang myself, but to beg the Lord to have me die, so that I need no longer live to hear such insults.” (Tobit 3:10 NABRE)
When I first read this, I realized that I had a lot in common with Sarah. While I had never been married and she had, her marriages had not been consummated. Modern dating, and even courting, did not exist back then. There was no getting to know each other or bonding before the big day.
Our existing system of romantic relationships, while not marriage, does allow for intense connections to form. As such, unmarried men and women can experience what is akin to mini emotional divorces as no boundaries are in place to prevent otherwise. Having had several hopeful relationships that ended with a bust, coupled with my ever-increasing age, I believe my pain was commensurate with what Sarah experienced.
I could relate to Sarah’s despair. Every time a relationship would end, or I had a very discouraging talk with someone regarding whether God had a spouse for me, my heart came up through my throat. Please know that suicide should never be an option (and if someone is contemplating such, please reach out for help or call 911). But the fact that Sarah was contemplating this and prayed for death, showed the amount of pain she was in over her situation.
I, too, was in a lot of anguish over my singleness. The desire to have a family and share my life with someone was constant. It never went away. And I believe this was because God created us in a primordial state of marriage and said that it was not good for man to be alone. (Genesis 1:26a-27, 2:18)
An Answer to Prayer
If you recall from Part I of this series, both Tobit and Sarah prayed to God for death: Sarah over the situation with her seven husbands and Tobit because he lost his sight. The book of Tobit tells us the following:
“At that very time, the prayer of these two supplants was heard in the glorious presence of Almighty God. So Raphael was sent to heal them both: to remove the cataracts from Tobit’s eyes, so that he might again see God’s sunlight; and to marry Raguel’s daughter Sarah to Tobit’s son Tobias and then drive the wicked demon Asmodeus from her. For Tobias had the right to claim her before any other who might wish to marry her. In the very moment that Tobit returned from the courtyard to his house, Raguel’s daughter Sarah came downstairs from her room.” (Tobit 3:16-17 NABRE)
I love this! God hears our prayers for a spouse. He sees the misery and pain we are in. What I think is important to note from this scripture passage is that God sent Raphael to heal both Tobit and Sarah.
What healing was needed? For Tobit, he was blind. We understand that the healing he needed was to receive his sight back and the scriptures confirm this. But what about Sarah? Was her healing to be content with her singleness? How about finding fulfillment in a career?
The scriptures tell us that God sent Raphael to heal Sarah by bringing her a spouse. And part of that healing involved dealing with the very thing that was keeping her entrenched in prolonged singleness. In Sarah’s case, Raphael needed to drive the demon, Asmodeus, far from her. I will talk more about this in Part III of this series.
This is good news. We know that God hears our prayers and desires to give us a spouse because he loves us and loves marriage. Marriage is from him (CCC §1603).
Faith and Patience
God works through time and space. Since he sent Raphael to bring Tobias to marry Sarah, they needed to walk from Nineveh to Media. Therefore, Sarah’s husband did not appear overnight.
This was a problem for me. I was about 36 years old when I first read the book of Tobit. I was more than ready to get married. Looking back, however, I had not even begun to understand the issues that were contributing to my prolonged singleness.
I met and married my husband at the age of 42. It was six years later. Please do not be discouraged by this. I did not always cooperate with God as I lacked faith at times that he would provide a suitable spouse for me. Part of my woundedness was and still is believing that God will not give me anything good. And I was not going to marry just anybody. I had to marry a man I believed I could sacramentally and legally bind myself to for the rest of my life.
It took five years for me to fully grasp the theology of how much God loves marriage and that it was not good for me to be alone. Also, I had to cooperate with God in working on the issues that were assisting in keeping me single.
This is where I will pick up in Part III of this series. Please stay tuned, as it continues to get interesting and hopeful!
By Julieanne M. Bartlett All Rights Reserved Copyright 2021