Seven months ago I lost my engagement. It was very hard. However, I have been surrounded by so many loving people that I have found much encouragement and comfort in the situation. I have entered in to a time of singleness, and that is very foreign to me. It’s also surprisingly hard. One thing that is often said to me is, “This just means God has a relationship even better out there for you.” That has been said very often. The purpose of this post is not to rebuke that. I love that. It encourages and blesses me. I do pray and hope it’s true. In all likeliness it probably will happen. However, it isn’t guaranteed, and dwelling on it could be destructive.
I have noticed an inconsistency within myself that is likely common to us as Christians collectively. I call this ‘selective discernment’. It’s very easy to put our biblical discernment hats one when presented with something we already disagree with. I am quick to ask for a chapter and verse every time a religious claim is made that I disagree with. If a Jehovah’s Witness comes to my door and makes a claim, I am quick to ask, “chapter and verses please.” When the Mormons come to my door I am quick to ask “chapter and verses please.” What I found out was that when the claim was made that “this means God has a better relationship is waiting for you”, the question that never followed was “chapter and verses please”. I want this to be true. It comforts me. I had, therefore, no reason to challenge it, but the reality is that I don’t know that it’s true. I don’t know if God does have someone for me. That’s never been guaranteed to me.
God has promised me many things in Scripture. God has promised me eternal life, joy, hope, sanctification, grace, strength, discipline, truth, and the Spirit; He has never promised me a wife. I have good biblical warrant to know that whatever happens to me is being decreed and used by God for my good (Romans 8:28). I know that some of my struggles are the loving discipline of God, and I have good biblical warrant to know that He is disciplining me like a father His child (Hebrews 12:6; Proverbs 3:11). I have good biblical warrant to believe that God is sanctifying me and growing me in holiness (Ephesians 2: 8-10; 5: 25-27). No where am I promised that when I come out of this process God has a wife waiting for me. As a matter of fact, marriage is used as part of that sanctification process itself. Thus, if I do get married, my wife will not be a trophy I earn for being obedient and mature enough to win her. She will assist in my maturation and growth in obedience as I will in hers. That is why I am not particularly a fan of the expression I hear so often, “God hasn’t brought someone in your life because you haven’t learned to put God first yet. Once you learn to be content with only Him, God will bring you someone.”
Once again, chapter and verse please.
Once again, chapter and verse please.
I have no doubt that it is possible to idolize relationships over God. I believe it is an idol I have been fighting not to worship for seven months now. If I longed for holiness as much as I longed for a beautiful Christian woman my life would be incredible. There is merit to the expression. It is possible to put a woman or man over God. However, what I want to stray away from is this picture of God that He is some algebraic equation in the sky. I don’t have the outcome I want because I haven’t entered in the correct input yet; my variables are wrong. This view of God is the foundation of the prosperity and word of faith heretics. If you do this, God is obligated to do this. And it’s not true. Jesus is sovereign King. He is my Lord and my Savior. I love Him. He is free to do whatever He pleases in my life. I don’t get to expect anything from Him provided I do my part. If I do get married, my wife will be a gift. She will be an undeserved gift that my sovereign Lord has given me, in spite of me, in order to achieve His own good purposes and His own self-glorification. She is not being held in some divine trophy case, waiting to be presented to me the moment I come crawling out of my crucible.
It is in this realization (that a wife is not earned nor guaranteed) that I long to grow in discipline. For I know that if this gift is out there, she deserves my best. She deserves the best husband and spiritual leader I can be. And I am not that yet. I have learned so much about myself through this process. This heartache has served as calm water showing me a reflection of my soul. I have evaluated myself and seen things I need to change. I see immaturity in myself not seen before. I have identified sin not yet repented of. Therefore, as much as my flesh cries out, my spirit hits back. I wake up every morning in the hopes that the sun that peaks through my window will be the same light that shines on the moment I meet my future wife. I long for her, (if she exists) now. However, I am not ready. That is why, while my flesh desires her now, my spirit hopes God keeps her as far away from me as possible, for her sake and her father’s.
Much good has come from this circumstance. On top of growing in wisdom and maturity, I have grown closer with the Lord. However, in the heart of grace, I still struggle at times to understand why it has happened. I wrestle often with the discipline aspect of suffering. The Scriptures are clear God disciplines us. However, we have a very important warning in Job to be very weary of thinking that all the time. Job’s friends were convinced that he had done something wrong in order to merit the destruction God allowed (Job 4: 7-9). God disagreed. Again, God does as He pleases. Thus, I feel in my heart that I deserved every bit of this. I want to believe this happened because, quite frankly, I deserved it. That could be true. But I don’t know that’s true.
However, for all Christians ‘struggling with singleness’, it is important to focus on the biblical teachings about singleness and not dwell on the “why?”. We know singleness, in and of itself, is an amazing thing. Paul writes about it extensively in 1 Corinthians 7. This is one small part:
“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Cor. 7: 32-35).”
Paul loved his singleness and it allowed him a greater devotion to God. Therefore, if God should have me be single, I should not view it as a punishment. It is a wonderful thing. Perhaps my response is to believe this truth with my heart and not just my head.
However, I think that in my singleness, I am often tempted to respond in ways I am not supposed to respond. I am not supposed to try and begin earning a wife. My job is not to expect one either. God doesn’t owe me that. My job is not to know what God’s plans are for me. On the contrary, my job is to be content not knowing. I am called to repentance, faith, obedience, joy, peace and love. My job is to love God better and to desire holiness. I am to be grateful for every good gift that comes from Him. Whether in singleness or in marriage, since both are gifts, God is good to me. My response is to recognize that and live as if it is true.
The purpose of this post is not to attract attention and ask for a pity party. I know that what I went through, in the grand picture of God’s redemptive plans, was nothing. A very close friend of mine lost her mother to cancer last year. I won’t even begin to pretend I can relate to that loss. I didn’t lose a loved one to death, I didn’t get divorced with children, I am still young and healthy. I get it. It wasn’t that bad.
However, I don’t want to be pressured into a kind of mock-humility which ignores pain to any degree and trivializes a struggle that many Christians experience. What I went through was by no means the end of the world, but it wasn’t easy. Watching a fiancé give your ring back and walk out is not easy. Telling people the wedding they RSVP’d to is no longer scheduled is not easy.
Being single and Christian in this country is not easy. In a country that is growing in, not only an anti-Christian mentality, but also in shallow false converts, it’s becoming increasingly hard to find authentic Christian singles that we are attracted to in our area. Certainly in our day and age of social media, we can find many beautiful professing Christians. But depth is difficult to establish online, and you can’t marry someone on the other side of the country that you don’t know. It’s hard to be single. And I think that posts like these can encourage Christians. That’s why I write this. I don’t write this for pity, but to encourage.
I also think this could be encouraging for Christians who struggle with homosexuality, not gay Christians, but Christians who struggle with homosexuality. That’s an important distinction. The former is a contradiction of terms and offensive, the latter is a reality. The former can’t exist because of 1 Corinthians 6. It’s offensive because no Christian should be defined by their sin. We don’t call David one of those adulterous Christians. We don’t have gossiping Christians, or burglar Christians. Thus, we don’t have gay Christians. But, many Christians struggle with same-sex attraction. One thing that is discouraging for them is a forced commitment to singleness. They know, as God fearing Christians, they need to repent of that behavior. However, as long as they have those desires, they are forced to singleness. This discourages them. I want my brothers and sisters to know that they are not alone. Heterosexuals are called to singleness as well. I might be called to suppress my sexual desires forever, just like them. They are not alone and that’s encouraging. As a matter of fact, God has called many Christians to far worse circumstances.
There is a very pretty song I listen to called Roots and Branches by This Wild Life. It’s a secular song and contains a swear word (proceed with caution), but the falsetto is gorgeous. The song ends with the line,
“will I ever be a better man, or am I meant to be alone?”
That is the difference between loneliness and Christian singleness. First, I know I will be a better man one day because of the Scriptural teaching of sanctification. However, the main difference is in comparison to the latter part of the lyric. God may never call me to the marriage arena. I may be without a wife forever,
but I am never alone.
To you single Christian: God may call you to marriage; you may be single forever,
but you are never alone.