For Christian singles, it is easy to have an internal conflict over your singleness. Some in the church have touted that being single means you have a “special gift” with which you can be single-mindedly devoted to God. Without the constraints or responsibilities of family life, you are especially obliged to give yourself fully to the extension of God’s kingdom. Simultaneously, you’d love to be married! And you are weary of all the unsolicited queries about the state of your romantic life (or its non-existence). You’re constantly bombarded by a barrage of questions: Do you have a special ‘someone’? Why aren’t you dating? When will you get married? And you are left frustrated – as if there is a category, “intentionally-single Christian.”
Common Myths and Attitudes about Christian Singles
In a very helpful piece, Singled Out by God for Good, Paige Benton Brown illuminates the atmosphere in which Christian singles find themselves. Here I highlight some of her insights and reflections on the attitudes naively expressed by well-meaning church folk that leave the single soul disquieted.
1. “As soon as you’re satisfied with God alone, he’ll bring someone special into your life.”
The problem with this thinking: God’s decision to bless us has nothing to do with our efforts at attaining a certain level of contentment. We are not playing a game with God. We do not score a certain number of points before He allows specific things to happen. God moves and acts as He chooses, not based on our “earning” anything. If that was in fact the formula, we would never receive anything from God. His grace is freely given because we could never earn it. The same holds true for a spouse. By speaking these words to singles, a person is implying that coupled Christians are superior to singles, because they were “content enough” to earn a spouse. This is both untrue and also mean.
A better approach: We are constantly searching for means of fulfilment because we were designed for infinite happiness. We seek, hoping to fill a God-sized well in our hearts. Some singles longingly gaze at couples, believing the lie: “I would be happy, if only I had a boy friend/girl friend.” But that could not be farther from the truth. People who feel they need a relationship in order to be happy will be disappointed to find their relationship does not yield that infinite happiness, either.
Each of us is liberated in the happiness chase when we realize that temporal things do not satiate the desire for long-lasting satisfaction. Only the infinite, unchanging Creator God can do that. “Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips. Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.” (Psalm 16:4-5 NIV)
2. “You are too picky.”
The problem with this thinking: I have confidence that the God who created the entire universe in six days from absolutely nothing, is perfectly capable of making someone who complements you. The Lord is not constrained by our preferences, our desires, or our “pickiness.” We misunderstand His character if we think He is. “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
A better approach: There is a reason for your singleness. However, it is not as if God is anxious, distressed, or puzzled about the suitors you have turned down, wondering when you are going to finally accept one. In fact, being specific and discerning about the one to whom you will commit a lifetime is probably wise.
3. “As a single person, you can commit yourself wholeheartedly to the Lord’s work.”
The problem with this thinking: Unfortunately, this way of thinking implies that a married person is not supposed to commit wholeheartedly to the work of the Lord the way a single person should. Are we not all supposed to do this, married or single? The calling of Jesus is to take it up your cross and follow Him, in whatever state we are in. Marriage does not give license to excuse ourselves from participating in kingdom building. Expecting one particular section of the body of Christ to bear that load is unfair. Nor is it helpful to assume that singlehood is without its own responsibilities.
A better approach: It is important to acknowledge that both single and married people can have lives that are stressful and complicated. The distinction that could be made is that singleness often provides a privilege of being able to uproot, and is free of the lifelong obligations of marriage. There may be more flexibility than with family life.
We see this at play in the life of the famous missionary, Jim Elliott. He wrestled with whether his mission work in South America was better suited if he stayed single. It delayed his proposing marriage to Elizabeth Elliot for five years. Perhaps the important lesson is to take advantage of the privileges singleness offers that may be otherwise complicated if one was married and having to consider a spouse.
Our longing for marriage is a good thing, but if it is causing you distress or frustration, perhaps you should think about meeting with a professional Christian counselor in Spokane. It can be helpful to think through how to manage the myriad of emotions and figure out a strategy for coping. In many ways, working through these emotions and longings can have direct benefits for any future marriage.
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller and Singled Out by God for Good by Paige Benton Brown
“Meditation,” courtesy of Joshua Earle, unsplash.com, Public Domain; “Refreshment,” courtesy of Artem Kovalev, unsplash.com, Public Domain