As part of an active leadership team in one of our church’s singles groups, I regularly facilitate table discussions on the evening’s topic. Inevitably, our status as singles and how it’s seen and treated like cooties comes up. It has been especially difficult for many of our singles as, over the last several months, various couples have started dating. At least three of them have become engaged and one just got married. I’ve had several people, both men and women, share with me how much they dislike being single and want desperately to get married.
Between loneliness, romantic and sexual urges, a desire to have children, and a host of other considerations, many Christian singles don’t want to stay single. I get it. I’ve been there.
I myself never thought I would be single “this long.” I thought, for sure by now, I’d have been married for many successful, happy years. I thought I’d be watching my children, maybe even grandchildren, grow up. I did not plan on still being single at “this age.”
When I was a child, later on in high school, and for years afterwards, I dreamt of wedding plans. I mused over what colors and songs and meaningful traditions I would include and the video we would make together. I didn’t pore over wedding magazines like some of my friends did, but I did take notes on what features I liked on different dresses!
I thought of how fun it would be to serve in the same ministry together. I pondered what family values and parenting guidelines I think my husband and I should share and agree on. I thought of how we would plan for a family financially on just his income alone. I would plan to quit my job with the first pregnancy and stay at home to home school. I thought about how I would affair-proof my marriage and follow his spiritual lead as a woman of God.
I understood—and continue to accept—that plans often change without notice, people change and forget to tell you, and life marches on relentlessly.
Over the years, as several men walked into my life and I let them back out again, I began to develop a different, more relaxed attitude toward weddings. My thoughts about singleness and marriage for myself have shifted. I’m not 100% sure now that the Lord even wants me to get married. If the Lord brings the right man into my life, hallelujah! If He does not and calls me to stay single for the rest of my life, just for Him, hallelujah. And if the rapture hits today, even more hallelujah!
I think I’m pretty content right now and have been for some time. I can’t even see getting my life tangled up with serving a man and serving alongside a man. I don’t think I’m too picky. I have just never been convinced that I have met “the right one” for me. I know many writers out there disagree with my idea of there being The Right One, but that’s for me, not for them.
I suppose if one is spiritually mature enough, has a solid understanding of the foundation for a Biblical marriage and the principles of a marriage covenant, then one could make almost any marriage work. But I don’t just want any marriage. I want His best for me. I do find myself enjoying life more often and more broadly in spite of my single status and because of my single status. I am relaxed around my male friends and am glad for them to go marry someone else.
I do not fault any of my single Christian friends for wanting to get married. I can empathize with my Christian brothers and sisters who want that special romantic relationship. Spring is in the air around here, which makes things exponentially worse as we roll into summer!
So you don’t want to be single. You’re not alone, pun intended. Are you frantically running from church to church, singles group to singles group, looking over the pickings and hoping to find the right one? Does seeing couples hold hands and kiss send you into an orbit of self-pity and longing? Does news of couples getting married make you itch to hurry and do the same thing?
Relax. Chill. Take a cold shower if you need to. Life is a journey, not only a destination. There are many things I do to manage my journey, my heart, and my life as a Christian, single woman. I jotted down some thoughts for you from my experience, plus I scoured the Internet last night looking for more helpful ideas. There are lots of things to work on while you are waiting to meet and marry the right one! This is not an exhaustive list, but I do hope you find something helpful here.
THINGS TO DEAL WITH WHILE YOU ARE STILL SINGLE (Not in order of importance after the ideas dealing directly with your relationship with God):
- Get to know God better. You do this by spending quality time alone worshiping, reading and studying His Word, reading Christian autobiographies, and praying. Then you can do the next one:
- Trust God. Lean deeply into Him. Surrender to His sovereignty and trust in His timing. Know that God’s not punishing you by keeping you single during this extended season of singleness. Understand that He does not love you less because you’re single, and He doesn’t love someone else more just because they’re dating, engaged, or married.
- Wait on the Lord, not on a human, to “fix” your single state.
- Firmly establish your identity as a child of God, being a Christian and not just a religious person. You’re a Christian, a follower of Christ, first and foremost. Your marital status is secondary, though it feels urgent for you to marry and change your status. For more information about establishing your primary identity as a child of God, see my very first blog post on January 11, 2016, entitled “Who Are You?”
- Let the Word of God and the Spirit of God heal your spirit and soul (mind, will and emotions). See 1 Thessalonians 5:23. This is one of the best preparations for marriage that you can have. You don’t want to build a marriage on your unhealed brokenness and issues and pain. You may attract the wrong kind of person and perpetuate, not fix, the wrongs that started in your own family.
- Learn to cultivate peace and contentment in your heart and your life. Drop the shame game and the comparison game. You’ll be able to access the peace of God better that way and experience His joy and love.
- Serve both God and your fellow man passionately, both in and out of the church. Pay it forward and sometimes even try to do it secretly. Life is much more fulfilling and fun when you’re serving God and man, not just your own appetites.
- Get a better understanding and practice about how to practice purity and sanctification in your life. Sanctification is both being set apart by God as a believer for preparation and service as well as building the fruit of the Spirit and Christ’s character into you, Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8. Purity is about keeping your heart and mind cleansed of ungodly influences that will push you away from the Lord and make for a horrible, deteriorating marriage based on selfishness.
- Get to know yourself better. Maybe now is a good time to take inventory of yourself and your life and figure what you need to keep and what’s overdue for you to get rid of for good—old clothes, old debts, old habits, old relationships that continue to exert a negative influence on you.
- Don’t bury your negative emotions about your single status. However, admit them to God more than to other people. Whining to each other about being miserable single all the time may create a negative atmosphere and an emotional inertia that’s no good for anyone.
- By the way, what are you doing to prepare for marriage besides whining about it? Are there some practical skills you know you need to learn, like how to keep your home clean, how to cook, balance your checkbook, or how to keep your vehicle maintained? Are there some accomplishments you need to start or finish, like losing weight, cleaning out the garage, or getting a better paying job that will sustain a family?
- Learn how to deal now with negative emotions such as unbridled anger or depression, conflicts, and unrealistic expectations (read: fantasies and delusions). Relationships ruled by any one of these, let alone more than one, may be headed for disaster sooner than later.
- Don’t compare your situation to others’ situations, especially if you find yourself always looking like the one who lost out or should have had something or someone. Now that’s the beginning of being jealous, envious, and covetous. Those attitudes flow from the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17; Ephesians 5:5-6) and will cause your spiritual life to shipwreck before you even get to the dating phase.
- Cherish moments.
- Celebrate and enjoy life. Help others celebrate and enjoy life.
- Take risks, get out of your comfort zone. Expand your horizons. Do those things you have always wanted to do, but were too afraid to try… bungee jumping? Walking the longest glass bridge in the world in China? Go on a game show? Learn how to cook like a gourmet chef?
- Do things alone or with your single friends that you hoped to do as a married person—take that overseas vacation, buy that house, adopt a child. A couple of years ago, I went on a trip alone to a place I’ve wanted to see my entire life—the Grand Canyon—and I’m so glad I went! I liked that so much I’m planning to take another big road trip next year.
- Take care of your temple! Eat well nutritionally, stay hydrated, shower and freshen up when you don’t feel like it, get out of your house or apartment to socialize, exercise, get adequate restful sleep.
- Simplify your lifestyle. That may mean things like get out of debt, get rid of clutter, revamp your schedule for important priorities and not just what everyone else wants you to do, and live within your means.
- Get active. Get moving. Not just physically, if you are not prone to exercise, but proactively engage yourself in your own life. Maybe you don’t have any energy when you get off work or out of school because you just drag yourself home, sit around and vege, maybe just watch TV, stay up late on your electronic device, and not get enough sleep before having to rush off the next day doing the very same thing. You’ll get some energy and relieve stress by exercising.
- If you’ve never done so, go on a missions trip where you actually have to leave the continent you’re living on.
- Take your time as you go through life. Don’t be in such a hurry all the time, if you’re like me and prone to rush everywhere! Take a minute to really see and appreciate the little things in life—bright pretty flowers growing by the freeway, a wide-eyed baby peering at you in the grocery store line, a new photo at your co-worker’s desk.
- Keep your antennas out and your eyes open. Look out for, not look for, persons who you can get to know whom you think has potential to become a dating partner.
- Don’t go exclusively to Christian singles groups and events, but don’t discount them either. Many don’t like going to Christian singles groups because they’ve heard it was a meat market and they’re scared of being hurt again. Or they’re boring. Or too old. Or too young. Or it makes you look desperate. If you haven’t been in the last six months, just Go! What better place to meet someone than at a church singles group? Be careful when you do go, however, since as you know there are wolves and wolfettes in every group.
- Or maybe your church doesn’t have a singles ministry. Pray about starting one, if you sense God’s leading in that direction. Be sure to work in conjunction with your church’s leadership after you start meeting as a group for a while.
- Make friends everywhere! You don’t have to win a popularity contest, but think outside the box when it comes to identifying safe sources for finding new friends. Don’t limit your circle of friends to just one arena, such as your church, your worksite, your school, or your children’s school. This may be difficult if you’re an introvert, but that’s when you learn to ask a few open-ended questions and hone your excellent listening skills. You never know where your mate is going to come from.
- Now is a prime time for you to develop personally. Are there some interests you would like to start or develop but for some reason, never did? Perhaps you had a childhood interest in painting, studying birds, collecting coins, or learning to play the piano that is still smoldering. What are you waiting for, to get married so that all your money and time will be diverted to mutual costs? If you are willing to spend money and make the time to do it now, pray and get started!
- Now is also a prime time for you to develop professionally. Did you ever finish college or get that specialized certificate or graduate degree that you’ve always wanted and still want? Are you a member of a professional association for your career? Maybe you want to start a business, become a consultant, or attend or conduct a workshop at an expensive but worthwhile training conference for your career, but you’ve been putting it off. Maybe you’ve been thinking about transferring or applying for a position in another department or company. What are you waiting for, to get married so that you can never have any time to go back to school? Well?
- Let the Lord help you make a list of qualities you want in your mate. I have a list. Then watch for and observe qualities in real time that you would like to see in your potential mate and develop them yourself. Like attracts like!
- On the converse, also watch for and observe qualities that you absolutely do not want in your mate and make sure you don’t have them yourself!
- Don’t become desperate. The world, the devil, and your flesh will try to pressure and panic you into making poor choices with your romantic attachments. Then when better quality potential mates look your way, they may not become interested in you because you’re so consumed with your poor choice.
- Watch out for wolves and wolfettes—people who will try to steal your body, soul, money, time, energy, and freedom for various reasons. There’s one in every church and singles group.
- Know your standards and boundaries for physical contact in a dating relationship and hold to them no matter what. I heard one workshop speaker at a Christian singles retreat tell us that, after he became a Christian, he’d tell women if they end up having sex, he would absolutely not marry them. That sure helped him keep his relationships pure and today he is married to a lovely woman of God.