Singleness and God
This is an excerpt from a reflection I was asked to share at church a few months ago, about my experiences with singleness. As a quick recap for those who don’t know – my 1st relationship is also by God’s grace my last relationship. I got married aged 30 in March 2018 after meeting my now husband through online dating in February 2017. Before that I had never been in a relationship, not even in a pretend one growing up in Germany in nursery, primary or secondary school. So I’ve been single all of my teens and twenties – the time when everyone else around me is usually preoccupied with the topic and practice of relationships. So, here are 3 things I learned about singleness and God, during my single years:
1. Our view of God as good is truly tested in our singleness, in our yearning, in our sense of feeling incomplete, in our hope deferred
I remember praying many prayers and writing many journal entries in which I asked God for a husband, telling Him the many ways I felt I was ready for it. But ultimately, deep down I always knew it wasn’t about my readiness as wife, it was about how much faith I had that God is good regardless of the non-changing nature of my relationship status. I learned that God is truly good, all the time, and He is fully aware of my desires. So I had to trust Him and focus on what He called me to do in the meantime and anchor myself in His promises.
The Scripture that used to anchor me is Isaiah 58:11-14:
The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.Those from among you shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
The fact that God promised He would and I experienced that He did satisfy my soul in relational drought was what kept my faith fuelled that God is good ALL the time.
Just because one part of my life was unfulfilled, didn’t mean that God was not working in other parts of my life which was very obvious. I was growing in the fruit and gifts of the Spirit, I developed amazing friendships, I was trusted to support and then lead a ministry, I was receiving favour at work etc.
Proverbs 13:12 talks about ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life’. A desire fulfilled can only be a tree of life to the benefit of the community when we have learned to appreciate the giver more than the desire. Only when we have stopped idolising the desire can we truly share the blessing of it with others and give the glory due to the giver, not the desire. We see that in so many examples in the Bible, so many people who were waiting on God, where hope was being deferred and it felt like they would die if they did not get their desire and even tried in their own ways to fulfil that desire. But ultimately, when it came, their waiting and the deferral of that hope had built such a character in them that they were able to then share the blessing of that desire with others.
How that looks like for me practically – I was designed to worship. Like, if I love someone, I go aaaaaallllll the way in. God knew that if I had gotten into a relationship sooner, I would have poured my everything into that instead of learning to pour my everything into Him first. So, in my single years God made sure I learned to only ever worship Him. Now, because I have learned who God is and who I am and the importance of the ministries on my life, I am able to love my husband deeply (and soppily as he would say) without idolising him. And when you get to know him, you know there is a lot that could be idolised.
Instead, we are both able to recognise the ministry on our lives to cultivate communities, instead of us just focusing on saving money, buying a house, starting a family – all good goals, but not God goals if we are not aligning them with what God is saying to us to focus on in any given season.
God is good ALL the time and if we find ourselves in situations where we have good, godly desires but they are not being fulfilled and you are doing what you should be, trust God. He’s writing a story way beyond your wildest dreams. Which brings me to my next point:
2. Singleness is not a punishment, nor is marriage a reward
When we see singleness as a punishment we feel like we have failed or that God has failed us. And so we either strive to do better having a low view of ourselves, or we begin to resent God out of a sense of entitlement because we don’t understand how Joe Blogs got married before us when we know they are anything but perfect and we ‘deserve’ it more, whatever that means.
This is why I would come to God with a list of reasons why I think I was ready for marriage, the intellectual in me seeing it as another test that I have to study for and pass. And as the single years continued I would wonder if I missed something in my learning or did something that warrants God withholding the reward of marriage from me. But I could have also easily slipped into the trap of entitlement and comparison – both are distorting my view of God.
When we see marriage as our ultimate reward we make it an idol. We ascribe a level of glory to it that we should only be ascribing to God. And most married people will tell you that when we expect of each other what we should only expect of God it cripples the relationship.
A spouse cannot be your saviour, only Christ is.
The Bible is clear in showing Christ is our most excellent gift, and salvation is the best thing that can happen to us. So if God is willing to give us salvation despite our sinfulness, then He is not withholding marriage from us because of the same reasons. It goes back to trusting God that He is making everything beautiful in its time and back to us being serenely single in the meantime.
3. Marriage and the Gospel
We are all already engaged to be married. God is preparing us as Christ’s spotless Bride – so our most important focus should be divine sanctification not earthly marriage.
Earthly marriage is overrated. I say this knowing full well how hypocritical that sounds coming from me seeing how long I prayed for it, how much I love my husband deeply and thoroughly enjoy our marriage and how much I regularly pray that those who I know want to be married will find the right spouse for them.
However, my marriage is not the be all and end all of either mine or my husband’s existences.
Our marriage has not given us more or less worth in the eyes of our heavenly Father.
Our marriage has not reconciled us back to the Father.
In short, our marriage is not the Gospel. I’ll say it again, marriages are not the Gospel!
Especially as women, the amount of effort we put into being wifey material, writing lists and lists of our non-negotiables in a guy, planning epic weddings etc. is commendable, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we already have the ultimate wedding and marriage awaiting that blows all our current #relationship, #ring, #engagement, #wedding or #marriage goals out of the water.
Having made the transition from single to married myself, I know that as a church family and community we need to do better in explicitly declaring the Gospel of sanctification to each other, so we don’t assume we’ve ‘arrived’ once we are saved, married and have 2.5 kids and anything less or other than that is somehow a failure.
When we look at the pioneers of our faith, not all of them were married, had children etc. so whenever we consciously and subconsciously elevate the married and/or parenting lifestyle in our communities and conversations above another, we miss-sell what the Gospel actually is.
Ephesians 3:10 my favourite Scripture if I had to choose states:
“…to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places”
Our responsibility as Christians is to display and proclaim the multi-facetted wisdom and glory of God, whether single, married, or anything in between.
But instead we ask and speak to each other more about our relationship statuses than our sanctification statuses.
It’s a cultural thing, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. Christ challenges culture whenever it opposes the Gospel and so should we. Not too long from now when the Lord returns we will be part of a perfect marriage, a perfect family, a perfect community, not because we have or haven’t been part of one here, but because we have focused on being more Christ-like and ready when He returns.
In sum, my encouragement to those hoping to no longer be single, God sees you and loves you and is not punishing you. There is nothing ‘wrong’ or incomplete about you, trust God as you work out your salvation in fear and trembling, as we all should.