“Not ANOTHER article on singleness”

single woman silhouetteAs a child, when someone would ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” my answer was always, “A wife and mommy.” Blame it on my upbringing, culture, or gender, but it was the honest truth. Entering college (one that had ‘Bible’ in its title, which students tongue-and-cheek changed to ‘bridal’) that desire continued. While I did not go to college to find a husband, like many young people, I assumed I would find my spouse during those four years and get married soon after graduation. As freshman year faded into memory, senior year reached its climax, and nothing happened, anxiety had set in. Was I doomed to a life of singleness? Was something wrong with me? Was I hoping for it too much?

Questions, unfulfilled longings, and the struggles they bring filled much of my twenties. Well-meaning people made statements meant to encourage, which sometimes accomplished their purpose and sometimes brought unvoiced angst and frustration. After all, I believed God was in control. But what if his control meant my singleness? No thanks, Lord.

Today, I don’t get emotionally charged from comments made by others. Believe it or not, I’m ok, and even enjoy (!) my singleness. But I have found that the large amount of articles, blogs, talks, and incessant online dating commercials on ‘being single’ tend to make me roll my eyes, especially as Singles Awareness Day (aka Valentine’s Day) approaches. I groan and think, “Not ANOTHER article telling me what to look for in a spouse, be like as a single woman, or do in my singleness! Not another commercial telling me to find God’s match for me!” Don’t get me wrong. Many articles have excellent encouragement and advice; we need to hear or read godly input from men and women who have learned to live well in singleness. Many people have found spouses through online dating, and I couldn’t be happier for them.  Yet, it can feel like my singleness is a problem to be solved rather than an opportunity to be utilized. With all the helpful information out there to encourage or guide us in being single, there are a few lessons I’ve learned that seem to stay out of focus.

Contentment is not the absence of longing

Christian singles are rightly encouraged to search for contentment in the Lord (married people need to do this too). We’re told that godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6. Note, the context of this verse is not singleness, but the truth can apply). However, what does it mean to be content? I used to think that if I was content in my singleness I wouldn’t long for marriage or a family anymore, equating contentment with apathy towards marriage. So imagine my concern when the longing didn’t go away. Through a lot of processing with the Lord I learned an important lesson. Contentment is not the absence of longing, but rest in the goodness of God in the midst of less than ideal circumstances. I still long for marriage and a family, but I’ve learned to long for God more, and in the process I’ve found contentment and joy in fulfilling the purpose for which he’s created me; namely, to know and love him.

Love Jesus

This one is actually said a lot, but it sounds too simple, Christianese, and like a cheap cliché. But maybe it’s a cliché because it’s true. Loving Jesus is the key to living a full single and/or married life. Without Him, I am nothing; without Him, I accomplish nothing; without Him, I gain nothing; without Him, there is no rest, or peace – all is vanity. This kind of love for Christ does not come easily or naturally. Sometimes there are many other things I’d rather have than him. And sometimes I treat loving him like a good luck charm. If I love Jesus, he’ll give me a husband. We don’t love Jesus like we should, but like the man who came to him begging for the healing of his son, crying out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) we can cry out, “I love you; help me love you!” My favorite hymn says it well:

Once earthly joy I craved,
Sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek,
Give what is best;
This all my prayer shall be:
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee!

Learn to laugh

Laughter can be a sign of bitterness (see Genesis 18), but humor can also help keep life in focus and bring relief from stress (Prov. 17:22), demonstrating we’ve found contentment. I’ve discovered that making fun of my singleness is… well… fun! My complete inability to flirt which has generated some very awkward moments, joking that my 5-year-old niece will probably be in a serious relationship before I am, or inviting my other single girlfriends to join me in spinster-hood with 80 cats all make for a good, or embarrassingly painful, laugh (I don’t want 80 cats, by the way).

When I laugh at my singleness, finding contentment in God and pursuing a deeper love for Christ, the reality of being single loses its vice-like grip on my heart. Marriage remains a real desire, but it no longer consumes me. Singleness is no longer a problem I need to fix. I still roll my eyes at online dating commercials and sigh at the plethora of help-for-singles articles (which, ironically, I’ve just added to). But even that becomes an opportunity to look to Jesus, find rest, and share a good laugh with him.

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17 thoughts on ““Not ANOTHER article on singleness”

  1. Nicely worded, Sarah. It echoes my time in college, though for a different reason. Georgia Tech is NOT the school to go to looking for a future spouse. Nevertheless, I got to a place where I wondered what was wrong with me. Why am I so repulsive to girls? At least that was my perspective. I also had the mindset that “single” is only a phase, not an end. It can’t be. After all, I’m a Christian. That’s the culture I was raised in.

    But when I was about 22, I actually called out to God in defeat. I said, “God, I give up. Nothing I do works. I can’t do this anymore.” To which God’s response was, “OK, now are you ready to let me try?” My senior year I met Kate, and 2014 will be our 10th year of marriage. Some people are supposed to get married. Some are not. But either way, it’s up to God. Once we surrender the search to Him, that’s when we find what we never knew we wanted.

    “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” — Psalm 37:4

    • Thanks for sharing Jamie! I agree that it’s often when we let go in the sense of turning to God that He begins to work in ways we never expected. To share a different perspective: I’m so glad that once you learned to give up and turn to the Lord He brought Kate into your life. However, I think many single Christians are confused by the very dominant perception that once we ‘let go’ God will bring someone into our life. How many times have I heard, “Once you stop looking for it, it’ll happen.” Sometimes He does, and sometimes He doesn’t. I ‘let go’ years ago and am still single. As Christians, who are also single, we need to learn to be ok with this. I love Psalm 37:4. The more I’ve learned to delight in the Lord, the more I’ve seen him change the desires of my heart to be focused on Him. The more I delight in Him, the more I want to go deeper in that delight and desire the things He desires. And those are longings He always responds to with a resounding, “Yes.”

      • Amen, Sarah. Part of the reason I wrote “yet another article on singleness” 😉 is precisely because there are myths and cultural norms within Christian circles that contribute towards the idea that singleness is something to be fixed – and it isn’t. That one article is actually part of a month-long series on singleness and the Church, and my hope is throughout the series to cast a better vision for all of us (single and married). My identity is found in Jesus, not in my relationship status. I long for the day when we cease idolizing romance as an end goal. “Happily ever after” in God’s kingdom is about healing, restoration, salvation, etc.

        I’ve “let go” a number of times (only to pick it back up again, that hope for someone “special”) – and I’m almost 40 and “still waiting” – but I’m not waiting aimlessly. I’m learning to live in the tension and paradox of wanting something I don’t have and yet being content where I am, and finding that God is more comfortable with paradox than I am sometimes. But along the way, I’ve seen him grow and change my understanding of what true Christian community is, and redefine my definition of “family” in ways that make being single far less lonely than it used to be. I may “wait” my entire life – but even the waiting is a gift because it also cultivates in my heart a longing for Him.

        Thanks for taking the time to write this post, in spite of the irony. 😉

      • All I can say to this is, “Yes and Amen!” 🙂 Also, I really enjoyed your blog that I linked to in this blog. Not only was it helpful, but it also gave me a good chuckle thinking of the times I’ve encountered what you wrote about.

  2. One important thing married people need to do is to not treat their situation as a universal thing. Some say that if you just stop worrying about it and give it to God, that’s when He’ll bring you a spouse. It seems to me that some people are taking their experience of when they met their spouse and making some kind of universal principle out of it. They shouldn’t do that because that creates an expectation in the single’s mind that might not be met, which will lead to more frustration and bitterness. It can also give us the wrong reason for trying to stop worrying about marriage and “giving it to God. “OK, God, I give it up! I give it all to you and I’m completely content in you!. . . . Where is she?”

    Now, it’s perfectly fine for married people to tell their stories about how they met. I take it that’s all that Jamie is doing. I’d just be careful about making your experience into some universal “law of getting married” or something.

    • Now, it’s perfectly fine for married people to tell their stories about how they met.

      And, I might add, singles can still learn good things from those stories that they need to consider and practice.

    • I was not saying “this is how you find a spouse”. I was saying it was how I found mine. And the point of my entire post wasn’t even about marriage. It was about surrender. In this or any other arena, the answer is always surrendering to God’s will. If you want to find a general rule in my story, it’s that.

  3. Pingback: three posts on singleness worth your time | Simple Felicity

  4. Well the real Truth is that Singleness really sucks for many of us men that would love to find the right woman to have a committed relationship with.

    • I know from experience how hard singleness is, for both men and women. And I think it’s ok to acknowledge that singleness can be, or is, tough. I’m learning that it’s how I choose to respond to my singleness that’s the real issue. Will I let the longing consume me, or will I seek to be consumed with knowing God and serving others in the midst of that longing?

      • The way i look at it God certainly punishes many of us that would want a love life, and many of us men which i will admit hate very much to be all Alone since the women that are single can handle it a lot better.

      • I don’t want to dismiss how difficult being single can be. However, I would challenge the notion (held by many, I believe) that singleness is a punishment from God. This idea that God is punishing us by withholding something good that we need sounds a lot like the lie the serpent spun to Eve in the Garden. It is true that God disciplines those he loves. If he disciplines someone through singleness, it isn’t out of anger or annoyance. Rather, it’s because he has something BETTER for us. Sometimes, love says “No.” Also, I’m not so sure it’s accurate to say that women can handle singleness better than men. We each have our own issues we have to work through with God in our singleness. Comparing my struggles with your struggles is like comparing apples to oranges.

  5. Well there is a very Excellent Reason as to why many of us Good men are still Single today as i speak, and with so many women these days that are very high maintenance, independent, selfish, spoiled, and very greedy, speaks for itself since many of us men are Not single by choice and would’ve Preferred to been married with a family. And for us innocent good men out there, looking for a good woman to settle down with is very Difficult since Most of the women today do have their Careers which seems much more important for them.

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