Prolonged Singleness and the Bible: A Study of Tobit, Part III

This month, I continue with the study of the book of Tobit, specifically looking at prolonged singleness in the Bible. In the blog post, “Prolonged Singleness and the Bible: A Study of Tobit  Part I,” I provided a summary of the Book of Tobit. Next, in the blog post, “Prolonged Singleness and the Bible: A Study of Tobit Part II,” I probed Sarah’s situation and how it mirrors our modern-day experience of prolonged singleness.

Also, I looked at Tobit 3:16-17, wherein God hears Sarah’s prayer of despair regarding her situation. In response, God sent Raphael to help both Tobit, who was blind, and Sarah, to marry Tobit’s son, Tobias. Marriage was the healing remedy – not being content, giving up the desire to marry, or focusing on one’s career, as many in the modern world may advise.

Angels in Disguise

As discussed in “Prolonged Singleness and the Bible: A Study of Tobit Part II,” God heard Sarah’s prayer and immediately sent the angel Raphael to assist with the answer. Raphael appeared as a man and accompanied Tobias on the journey from Nineveh to Media (Tobit 5:3-6).

We each have our own journey to make from prolonged singleness to marriage. While we must make this jaunt ourselves and do the hard work, we cannot travel alone. We need friends, support, encouragement, and resources. Yes, Raphael was an angel; Tobit and Sarah had celestial intervention. That said, you do not know what assistance God will send your way once you start praying and asking him to intervene.

For example, there may be an article or a book you find. A friend might call or be available to speak just when you need some encouragement. Someone will ask if you are interested in being set up on a blind date unexpectedly. It is amazing what God will provide for our journey when we ask him, are open, and expectant.

Provisions for the Journey

Along the journey to Media, Tobias and Raphael camped next to the Tigris River. Tobias went down to wash his feet in the river, and a giant fish leapt out and tried to swallow his foot. Raphael instructed him to grab the fish and cut it open, taking its gall, heart, and liver, as they make useful medicines. As such, Tobias was to keep these with him (Tobit 6:2-6).

Raphael was looking ahead to the wedding night of Tobias and Sarah when he gave these medicinal instructions (Tobit 6:16-18). Being curious, Tobias asked Raphael what healing value these fish parts contained.

“He answered: “As for the fish’s heart and liver, if you burn them to make smoke in the presence of a man or a woman who is afflicted by a demon or evil spirit, any affliction will flee and never return” (Tobit 6:8, NABRE).

What does this mean for singles today? Prayer, devotionals, and the Rosary. The journey from prolonged singleness to marriage will require and need many of them prayed. These heal you as you travel bravely along this difficult path.

As the burnt fish’s heart and liver created a smoky aroma around a person, so do the prayers of a person rise up before God like incense. In the book of Revelation, “Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold alter that was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy one went up before God from the hand of the angel” (Rev 8:3-4, NABRE). Incense reflects the prayers of God’s people.

As Tobias picked up the items he would need for his wedding prayers, so must you develop a consistent and hardy prayer life. This may include novenas, chaplets, litanies, scripture, and petitions. I highly recommend that the Rosary be prayed as well. I discussed the reasons for this in more depth in the blog post, “The Blessed Virgin Mary Loves Marriage, Too.

A Very Real Evil

As mentioned previously, Sarah was married seven times, and on each of her wedding nights the wicked demon, Asmodeus, would slay each husband before the marriage could be consummated. How can this be looked at through the lens of modern, prolonged singleness?

The devil is working overtime against marriage, with contraception, divorce, cohabitation, the belief that two parents or marriage is not necessary for the birth and raising of children, and abortion. The list goes on. However, one very deceptive strategy the devil has taken up is to thwart the formation of marriages just like he did with Sarah in the book of Tobit.

Marriage is so important, not only to us spiritually, but to the world around us. Every time a marriage occurs, another image of the Most Holy Trinity is reflected in and through us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in §1603 that, “The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life.” This reason, along with many others, is why Satan wants to destroy marriages and prevent others from being established. (For additional reading on the significance of marriage, you will want to read my three-part blog post series, “God Loves Marriage: How Come?”).

Recognizing this very real spiritual element that is at work in your struggle to find a suitable spouse is essential if you are to succeed.

Some tactics utilized by the devil include hopelessness and rejection, failures of the opposite sex, and discouragement from others, especially within the Church. His main weapons are lies and deception.

The biggest thing to remember is that God loves marriage and wants to help you find a suitable spouse. I encourage you to remember that there is a bigger picture going on here in your struggle to marry.

A Prayer for A Spouse

When Tobias and Sarah went to their bridal chamber, Tobias remembered everything that Raphael had instructed him to do. He burned the fish liver and heart, and had Sarah accompany him to pray (Tobit 8:2-4).

I love the prayer that Tobias prayed. It is a beautiful marriage prayer:

“Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors; blessed be your name forever and ever! Let the heavens and all your creation bless you forever. You made Adam, and you made his wife Eve to be his helper and support; and from these two the human race has come. You said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a helper like himself.’ Now, not with lust, but with fidelity I take this kinswoman as my wife. Send down your mercy on me and on her, and grant that we may grow old together. Bless us with children” (Tobit 8:5-7, NABRE).

When I was single, I would pray this prayer for myself, making a small adjustment to verse seven as follows:

Now, Lord, you know that I need a spouse not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on him, bring us together in marriage and allow us to live together to a happy old age. (Changes are added in italics.)

Perhaps this prayer is something that you can use as well.

Remember that all our prayers are recorded in heaven. Not only is this established in the book of Revelation, but Raphael revealed it to Tobit and Tobias in the end: “Now when you, Tobit, and Sarah prayed, it was I who presented the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord; and likewise whenever you used to bury the dead” (Tobit 12:12, NABRE). God wants us to pray. And he will answer one way or another. (I recommend reading my blog post, “The Vocation Awakening”.)

This concludes our study of the book of Tobit. My hope is that you find as much encouragement from it as I did when I was single. Please feel free to drop me an email and let me know how the study may have impacted you. I would love to hear from you!  

Julieanne M. Bartlett           All Rights Reserved           Copyright 2021

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