Ever feel this way? Been there. Nine years ago I hit 30 and ran into my friend’s office gulping down tears. “Hollie, I just can’t do it any more!” I broke down sobbing, back against the door, as overwhelming feelings of insecurity, sadness, and rejection took over. My boyfriend of three years had still not moved forward. The clincher: we were about to go on a trip with some friends so his roommate could propose to his girl friend whom he had been dating less than a year.
In our group, dating past a year was unusual. Three was an anomaly. During those three years I had seen girl after girl after girl get engaged. On average we went to about 15 even 20 weddings a year. Even though I had a boyfriend, I still felt left behind. To his credit, he was in seminary and working hard to save up money to propose and provide for a wife. As a church intern, it took a long time. But that didn’t make it any easier each time another woman got her ring before me.
20 years in singles ministry has shown me almost all women in a singles group inevitably grapple with these feelings on some level at some point. I asked our dear copy editor Sunshine to share her thoughts on this as she has been faithful to approach it from a Biblical perspective. I wish I had known then what she does now. It might have made it less awkward for my interns on the other side of that office door.
Learn to Value the Gift of Singleness
Singleness is a gift. This may sound strange or over-idealistic to think of singleness as a blessing, especially when marriage in the Church is such a focal point. When yet another friend gets engaged, it is easy to feel as if you are missing out. However, there is a purpose to this season of life. We are given the gift of singleness for the common good. What does that mean? We are not here on earth to live for ourselves. Jesus calls us to die to our flesh and self-interests daily in Luke 9:23-24.
In the following passage, Carolyn McCulley challenges us in her book Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye to redefine how we think of singleness: “The good news here is that singleness is not about you – either your good qualities or your sinful tendencies. You have a ‘gracious endowment’ that is for the good of those around you! So the next time someone asks you why you’re still single, you can reply with a straight face, ‘It’s for your good!’” Focusing on others instead of yourself gives you less time to worry, brood, or sit in self-pity. As a single woman, it’s easy to get self-preoccupied, even in pursuit of noteworthy goals like personal growth or Godly disciplines; however, we will experience greater peace and joy the less we are zeroing in on “me, myself, and I”.
Stop Striving for Marriage
Many times we are tempted to wonder if there is something wrong with us that is causing our single status to continue. We may wonder if we are not mature or godly enough. We may hear well-meaning friends say, “I finally met the right person when I became content.” However, there is a problem with this; it places the emphasis on our own actions to attain marriage. It can cause us to strive, which is not the place where God wants us. It is God who ultimately changes us at the deepest level. Who would get credit if you thought you had conquered discontentment and then achieved marriage by your own efforts…you or God?
I have also heard testimonies from married people saying they met their future spouse while they were struggling with singleness. As Christians, we don’t have to take on the burden of achieving a certain level of contentment in order to get God’s blessing. Sometimes God gives marriage as a means of sanctification; He may bring the right person into our lives only for us to realize we really don’t know how to love someone!
Marriage is not a prize for those who have reached a mysterious point of spiritual maturity. We can do nothing to earn God’s approval. In the end, God often thwarts our attempts for control so we can acknowledge His loving, sovereign hand. In the panoramic view of His plan we will be grateful He was at the steering wheel – not us. Likewise, McCulley emphasizes the sovereignty of God in relationships: “Ultimately, we are single because that’s God’s will for us right now. That’s it. It’s not because we are too old, too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, too quiet, too loud, too smart, too simple, too demanding, or too anything else.” So relax, girl, and go live life!
Please comment: What has helped you to see singleness as a blessing? How has God helped you to be content in any circumstance?
Sunshine is a single teacher living in the East Bay of California. She has traveled to Ethiopia, Cambodia, Ireland, England, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Darien Jungle in Panama. Sunshine enjoys discipleship at her church and makes a mean tortilla soup.