- It’s worth the effort to fight against the lie that you’re single because something is wrong with you. There’s not. At least not anything that would keep you from being able to get married.* I know this not because I know you or the intricacies of what you struggle with. I know this because I know married people – tall, short, skinny, fat, strange, quirky, awkward, smart, dull, beautiful, ugly, broken, messy, pulled together, adventurous, boring people who have all gotten married. It’s important to fight against that nagging feeling that we would be married if ____ were true of us.
- It’s hard to fight against the lie that you’re single because something is wrong with you. This feels backwards. It seems from the outside that this should be great news but it’s not is it? If you’re like me your response to this truth is often discouragement. I think it’s disheartening for two reasons. First, it means singleness truly is out of your control. If the problem were your body type there are things you might be able to do to fix it. You could go to the gym and get some muscles or lose some weight. If it really was because you weren’t funny enough then you could work on developing some witty banter. If it was because you’re just not looking hard enough you could hop on 87 online dating websites and devote your life to finding a spouse. But if those aren’t the reason you’re still single then it means you’re powerless in it… and that’s hard. That leads me to the second reason I think this is discouraging. If you can’t blame some feature of yourself, some action in yourself, then you’re left to wrestle with the reality that the Lord has intentionally placed you here, that for this moment right now it is his ordained plan for you to be single. I have often found it easier to blame my own quirks (or the quirks of the men around me!) than to do the painful work of wrestling with the Lord on this one. He has me here and if it was his intention for me to be married today, I would be.
- Marriage isn’t the solution to your problems. I know, I know, you already know this. But seriously, it’s not. And you must tell yourself this all the time. It is sneaky and it slides its way back into your thinking before you realize it. Marriage won’t fix the things that are struggles for you now. If you’re struggling to have purpose in life and you think being a wife and mother will fix that the hard news here is that the problem isn’t your marital status, it’s where you’re finding your purpose. If you struggle with sexual temptation marriage won’t fix that either. Sure, you’ll have someone you could satisfy those desires with, but what happens when they don’t want to? Idols don’t become less destructive when we add more people into the mix. If anything the damage grows because it extends beyond us. Whatever you’re struggling with in your single life will carry over to your married life and be affected by your spouse’s sinful nature on top of it. Fight against the lie that things would be easier if… better if… fixed if… It’s just not true. Marriage changes things, it doesn’t fix things.
- Marriage can be one of the most incredible blessings here on earth. Ouch! Throw salt in my already gaping wound. Rub it in by reminding me of what I don’t have. I put this one on the list not to stir up something painful but because it’s not actually helpful for you to ignore it. I’ve experienced myself and seen in others a number of different responses to this truth. We can respond in denial and look at all the marriages around us that are less than ideal. We comfort ourselves with the misery of others. If that’s what marriage is, I don’t think I even want it! But there’s something wrong when our comfort in loneliness is a jaded and cynical response to marriage. Certainly we’re called to something more lovely than that. Or maybe you experience jealousy, the kind of jealousy that runs so deep it hinders you from being able to rejoice with those around you. So rather than face the beauty of the blessing others have, you just ignore it. If you’re going to find contentment as a single person you need to be able to revel in this blessing for others and know certainly that Christ is good to you too without it.
- God is not withholding. So this is a tricky one because it really looks like he is. After all, if he wasn’t wouldn’t you be married? But here’s the thing… it’s more about the character of God than the specific blessings he chooses to give us. There will always be things he will withhold from us, but that doesn’t make him a withholding God. Not all of us will be brilliant. Not all of us will have athletic prowess. Not all of us will be born in a first world country. The question here is if he can still be the giver of good gifts who generously lavishes blessings upon his children even if he chooses to not to give you certain things. We would never say he is a stingy God because he chooses not to make me a millionaire. In the same way he’s not stingy if he chooses to not give me marriage. The next two points fill that out a bit.
- Understand how singleness fits into the greater story. There’s a beautiful emphasis on family in the church and while I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I do think we also need a robust understanding of singleness. It makes sense to me why we’re so much better at understanding families than singleness, we have a longer history of thinking about the Kingdom of God in terms of families. Consider the Old Testament. Israel is one big family and the way it grew was primarily through marrying and having children. Sure, there were some foreigners along the way who got grafted in but, on the whole, your job as an Israelite was to raise kiddos to become God fearing Israelites. In the New Testament this didn’t go away but it did expand. There is still a place for marrying and having children, for raising them to be God fearing Christians, but that’s just one of the ways the Kingdom grows. After Jesus we have this new commission – “Go and make disciples of all nations.” And we have two prominent figures, right off the bat, who model a different way of expanding the Kingdom. Jesus himself and Paul his apostle show us an example of fulfilling the call to fill the earth without being married. As a single woman I’m not called to make babies but I am called to expand the Kingdom through relationship with unbelievers. Why do I include this on the list? Because it’s never a good thing in my life when I feel like my circumstances are outside of what should be happening. Marriage is a good thing, we’re called to fill the earth, why if I should be married am I not? Seeing a place for my current status helps me find ground to stand on. Singleness isn’t outside the realm of God’s greater plan, I’m not lacking if I never get married. I’m not on the B Team if this never happens in my life. In fact, there’s an incredible call before me as a single woman that excites me when I look at it through this lens. I have the opportunity to serve the church and those around me in a unique way and that’s lovely. That’s why I include it.
- Being united to Christ is more glorious than marriage. I cringe when I write this one. Not because it’s not fantastically true, because it definitely is, but because I might hate it when people tell me that Jesus needs to be my husband. Something so glorious often feels trite. Oh? You’re struggling with singleness? Well then you just need to know Jesus is your husband. Problem solved. Except it’s not. It still feels like someone is missing, I still long for a partner in life. So how do you move from trite to true? For me it’s helped to think about it in terms of heaven. I still struggle with what that looks like here on earth but when I think about what we’re pointed to I can find things to sink my teeth into. Think about it, marriage can be one of the most extraordinary and beautiful blessings here on earth but it dissolves in heaven, not because it’s not good here but because what is coming so far outshines it, because it’s function here on earth is to be a pointer to something better. What is coming is so much greater that the relationship that could be one of the greatest blessings here on earth ceases to exist. That shouldn’t devalue marriage here on earth, but it should cast our vision forward and grow in us a longing for what is coming. As a single woman I long for marriage but it’s comforting to know that I’m not missing out if I don’t get it. I may be missing out on the appetizer, maybe I don’t get the mozzarella stick, but certainly I will be given the feast and it will be more glorious than I can imagine.
- Contentment comes as you let go AND embrace. I’m not talking about letting go of the hope of being married or the desire to be married, but the priority of being married. Let go of the things it’s come to mean for you. Let go of the idea that life will start when… Let go of the lie that value lies in another’s valuing of you. Let go of marriage as a need. But don’t just let go, also work to embrace where you’re at. Singleness isn’t all drear and drudgery. My roommate and I often delight in the beauty of a quiet, still, and clean home. One of the moments I’ve come to cherish the most is coming home after a day spent pouring out into the lives of others. I’m able to give more outside of my home because nothing is required of me when I get back. There is no child who needs me, no bedtime routine I have to jump into, no relationship that I have to work on. When I come home I can just rest, that is a blessing. And it is a blessing to have the freedom to pour myself out with others in ways I know will change if I ever am married. Contentment for me means embracing and utilizing the beauty of this period in my life to the glory of the Lord.
- “Why?” won’t serve you. I get stuck in this one. I see something the Lord has been working on in me in the context of my singleness and I begin to assign it a deeper reason. THIS, this is why I’m still single. The Lord had to leave me here so he could work on this before I got married. But where does that lead me? To the assumption that now that we’ve worked on it that marriage is just around the corner. And so far that’s always brought disappointment. It’s tempting to think that knowing the reason behind your singleness will help you be content in it. But why did I have to be single to deal with these things in my life and others got to do it in the midst of a marriage? The pitfall of trying to find a reason for it is that you’ll always be able to see through it if you try. I don’t know why the Lord has chosen to work on certain things in me as a single woman as opposed to bringing me into a marriage to work on them. But he has and I don’t need to know all the whys behind that. The fullness of his reasoning exists in his own mind alone. Sure, there are times when we’re able to see something that the Lord accomplished through certain events, but even then, it’s naïve to think that now you know the full purpose behind why he does what he chooses to do. While the Lord invites us to ask these questions of him, and he does because he desires relationship with us, the answers he gives in Scripture aren’t likely what you’re looking for. Job asks that question and God says, “Were you there when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Habbakkuk asks that question and essentially he ends up saying “Whatever you do Lord you’ll equip me to walk in it.” Ask “why” if you must, if that’s all you’ve got then certainly go to the Lord with it, but in my experience “Help!” is sweeter.
- Wrestle and turn outward. Contentment isn’t found by reading some crazy woman’s blog post on singleness. The truth is, you’ve probably heard all of these things before in one version or another. And even if there was something you haven’t thought of, I can promise you it won’t be the magic truth that makes you content. Here’s why… contentment doesn’t come from truths, it comes from a heart molded by the Spirit himself. It comes through the many hard conversations with the Lord wrestling with things you know to be true but struggle to believe. It comes from the moments sobbing on the kitchen floor with a broken heart pleading to believe that he is still good. It comes when you attend yet another wedding and ask the Lord to teach you how to rejoice with those who rejoice. When you go home and cry because it was hard and you know that he sees your tears, that they matter to him, and that he loves you deeply in that pain. It comes when you tell him that you’re not totally bought in to this idea that he’s not withholding from you, but you want to be, and you ask for help. It comes when you begin to delight in serving others with the unique things singleness affords. When you use your disposable income to be generous to those around you. When you enter the world of a young family and find ways to bless them because you can, because you have the time to do so. In short, it comes when you wrestle and turn outward.
*Ok, so this is more complex than a broad blanket statement. But this is a blog post not a textbook so bear with me while I gloss over the nuance a bit.
These are wise words, Kristin. Thank you for sharing!