By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
Singleness is a gift. And every single person right now has probably cued the eye rolls. I know I have. Because it certainly doesn't feel like a gift. In fact, like patience, this gift can sometimes hurt. Can sometimes make us feel abandoned or left out—like the last one picked for a game of kickball in gym class.
And yet Paul encourages singleness (1 Corinthians 7). So did Jesus (Matthew 19:11). So why does this cognitive dissonance take place? Why do so many singles, engineered for marriage, cry out to God in anguish when it seems that he has allowed everyone around them to get married but appears to have forgotten them?
Before we dive into some of the reasons for this, I should add the caveat that not every Christian will or plans to get married. Many are perfectly content with celibacy, and some have chosen a life of singleness to avoid another sexual sin. So for those Christians, please know that I don't exclude you in this article. But I plan to address the singles who want to get married, but God has not opened that door for them yet.
Let's uncover why singleness hurts sometimes, and how we can combat the lies of Satan.
Reason #1: The Church Places Marriage on a Pedestal
I cannot express the number of times I've said to fellow singles, "Far more people would be single in the church if the church didn't put so much pressure on singles to get married." Don't get me wrong. Culture perpetuates this too. Hallmark's Christmas movies stand as an extreme example of this, media bombarding us with the idea that no matter how hard we work or whatever we accomplish that we'll have never truly "made it" until we say "I do."
Church activities, church groups, even examples in sermons pretty unanimously are geared toward married people. I've witnessed so many times that as soon as someone gets married in the church they tend to pariah their single friends. They tend to talk down to them as if they've somehow leveled up and their singles friends are still a chapter behind them.
Granted, this isn't the case in every house of worship. I want to make that clear. Some churches, cognizant of how ostracized singles feel, do their best to welcome them, make them feel equal, and to provide ample opportunities for them to participate, meet, and serve.
But if you ask any single person in the church, I can guarantee they've felt the enormous pressure to chase after a husband or wife to finally feel accepted and treated as an equal. Hence why the Christian marriage divorce rate matches that of the world's. And hence why so many Christians end up with abusive partners or partners who are not strong in the faith because church members told them to stop being so picky and to simply land a spouse.
How to Combat This: Church, we need to do better. If we claim God gives the gift of singleness, we need to treat singleness as a gift, not a curse. We need to gear church events to all people: single mothers, grandparents who take care of grandkids as the primary caregivers, single people in their 30s, elderly members who have lost a spouse, etc. The nuclear family does exist, but not as much as it had decades ago. So we need to adapt and make all feel welcome.
Reason #2: We're Looking at Our Timing, Not God's
It feels like God has held out of us. After all, people far younger than us, and far more immature than us, have gotten married. So why has God refused to introduce us to our future spouse? Did we do something wrong?
Culture gives us a timeline for viable marriage age. Even if we have friends and family members tell us, "Oh you have time." What they really mean is, "But not much." I have felt the pressure to get with a boy since I was 16. Ever since then, family members and friends constantly pester me with questions like, "When will you find a boy?" Or they'll give so advice like, "Well, go join a small group and you'll meet him."
Nine small groups later, we've had no luck. And when we feel pressure on the outside, we tend to place that pressure on the inside. So we ask the Holy Spirit, "Why haven't you brought him into my life yet?"
God's timing often operates far differently than ours. But if we truly looked back on the events of our life—and how we would've planned them—we probably should lift up praise to God that he didn't listen to us during all those times.
For instance, I desperately wanted to get a book published before I reached the age of 18. Now, 24, I realize just how much time, marketing, and money goes into the process. I was so green and unprepared years ago. I can only imagine the frustration I would've faced had God said yes and gave me a publishing deal at the age of 17. Odds are, I probably would've quit the publishing industry by now.
How to Combat This: Remember God's timing during your life. He has never failed you yet. And he did not bring you this far to abandon you.
Reason #3: We Look for Love Outside of God
Why do we seek marriage? Most often because we want to feel loved, feel chosen, and feel comforted. But if we have a saving relationship with the Lord, he grants us those things every day. A spouse will fail us in many ways. They will not always love us as we should. Care for us as they ought, etc. But God will never fail us.
Don't hear me wrong. Marriage offers many beautiful things. Gifts such as sex between loving spouses, a model based on Christ's love for the church, etc. We all look forward to these things. But marriage doesn't last forever. However, our relationship with the Lord will.
How to Combat This: Experience gratitude in your present circumstances. God has brought so many blessings into your life right now. We can often glamorize marriage in our heads and forget about the fights, the hard days, the loneliness. So instead of worrying about tomorrow, express thankfulness for today.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/KatarzynaBialasiewicz
Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author 21+ books. More than 1400 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.