I love your blog. I read it every week. The problem is I am not married, but I desperately want to be. I am a college professor; almost 40 years old and my heart’s desire is to be married and have a family to share my life with. I am tired of being alone. People joke about the sound of their biological clock ticking, but mine is loudly clanging away with each wasted minute! I’ve tried dating websites; I’ve been set up by friends and in desperation I recently tried a singles cruise – all disasters. I want to believe God has this situation, but deep down, in my heart of hearts, I fear He has forgotten about me. Why am I still single? What’s wrong with me?
Thank you for writing and for putting into words what I’m confident many singles feel. My heart hurts for you, but I guarantee you are not forgotten. Lean in and read this letter with an open heart. I pray that it will encourage you.
I have written and rewritten my response to your letter four times. I believe yours is the toughest letter I’ve answered in this series … because it strikes a chord deep in my heart too! As a happily-married woman of 33 years, your letter made me question God’s plans and reexamine what I truly believe. I know the power Jody, my husband, has played in my own sanctification process, and I am desirous of this relationship for all believers, including you. So, let me remind us both of some truths about God, and in so doing, bolster both of our faiths!
GOD LOVES YOU MORE THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE.
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9).”
God created you, sweet sister, and His plans for you, like all His plans, are good! Regardless of your marital status, God loves you and is walking through life’s journey holding your hand. You are not forgotten. You are not alone. On the contrary; you are the apple of His eye!
Let me see if I can illustrate this point with a short story. In May, Jody and I went on a trip to Greece with our youngest son and his wife. Our first stop was the island of Santorini. On this island there is a beautiful 15 kilometer path along a volcanic mountain ridge between two of the major cities on the island - Oia and Thira. We hiked it our first morning on the island. The path and the surrounding area were breathtaking. After we had walked about ninety minutes we came to an intersection where we had to decide which path to take. We could either take a steep climb with better views of the caldera, or take a less steep climb but longer climb through many wildflower-strewn open spaces. Both were appealing. Both had their challenges. Both were good!
GOD DESIGNED SINGLENESS AND MARRIAGE. It’s our choice!
“I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7:7-9 - NIV).”
When I first read your letter, my short story came to mind. Why? Because it sums up life. Both marriage and singleness are part of God’s path through life. Both are gifts from God. Both have challenges and trials, but both are beautiful and have blessings. It is easy to over-desire the path you are not walking on, but as Christians, the truth is that both paths go to the same place – eternity with God in Heaven! With marriage and singleness, God sometimes definitively puts our feet on one path or the other. He does this by blocking one or the other paths. But more often than not, God lets us chose between marriage and singleness. Modern day Christians often become bogged-down with thoughts that God only has only plan for us. We think that God has only one career path for us, only one city for us to reside in and only one person with whom to share our life. So, we become paralyzed with indecision. This may not be your past, but this is often the case with other Christians. So, please keep reading.
I have no idea if you have or have not turned down proposals of marriage, but I have seen sisters stuck in “relationship decision paralysis.” Thinking that there is only one correct choice, they sometimes wait for God to write their next step, who to marry, in the sky. When deciding if a man is the right man to date or marry, remember that there are many good choices and just a few wrong ones. Of course, married men and non-Believers are off limits. But, there are many good choices that God will honor. When we consider that God’s purpose for marriage is to support our journey to holiness, there are many people that He can use to play this role. If you are looking for a rock star millionaire with a face like Brad Pitt, you may be looking for a while 😊. So, I would encourage you to see potential suitors more like God does - through a heart lens; not just with your eyes. And, do not dismiss Christian Brother friends. They may be exactly who will love you well; they may be the iron that can sharpen your faith. With your heart wide open, look around and pray for God to help weed out the wrong choices.
GOD WILL NEVER LEAVE US ON THE JOURNEY.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6 - NIV).”
Now, back to my story. My family and I chose the slow but gradually rising path. While that path had beautiful wildflowers along the way, they often almost impeded our passage. And much to our surprise, many of those wildflowers were covered with thorns. So, although we did not get a tough cardiac workout like the steep path, we did get beaten up with thorns. After about 30 minutes on the slow and meandering path, and with scratched-up legs, I began to complain, “We should have taken the steep path; it would have been killer for a short while, but we’d be done already.” Ugh! No path is perfect! Keep in mind that the challenges that you are right now facing are equal to the challenges of your married Christian sisters. Also keep in mind that Paul, the most influential man in the New Testament next to Jesus Christ, never married and warned against marriage. Now granted, Paul thought Jesus’s return was imminent, but for the sake of the Gospel, he still chose to never marry.
GOD BUILT US FOR COMMUNITY.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25 - NIV).”
I am confident that if my family and I had taken the steep path, my heart would have pounded out of my chest and I would have been dripping with sweat and cranky by the time we made our lunch stop. Both paths would have been tough. But, Hey! Life is tough! I do not mean to make light of your loneliness in your letter. I understand its nature. Being alone … eating, living and playing all by yourself is tough!
We serve a God who lives in triune community, and since we are made in His image, we need community too! God wants you in community. A spouse is a great answer to this need for community, but a spouse is not the only answer. God would not have put the need for community inside all of us without offering suitable answers for all of us, single and married! For single believers, the biggest part of the answer is the church. Fellowship with believing friends can be equally rewarding and can be used in your sanctification process. These friends can help you to become more like God. So instead of a single’s cruise, plan to vacation with your tribe of sisters – this would be a much better use of your money and time! And if you don’t have a tribe, start looking for one today. I know your tribe is out there just waiting for you to join. To navigate the spiritual journey, they need you as much as you need them.
Now, since I chose the slow meandering path of marriage, I would love to talk you into this path as well. There is a part of me that wishes I had a list of healthy bachelors in your area who love Jesus and are wanting to be married too. I would fix you up 😊! In the natural, I would love to play match maker. But, I am not your heavenly Father and I don’t know His plan. I also fear that there are some in your life who may be making you feel like a second class person just because you don’t have a spouse. Church often feels a lot like Noah’s ark with everyone mated-up in tight pairs, so let me apologize for any well-intentioned Christian brothers and sisters who have inadvertently increased your pain. I know I have said the wrong thing to hurting single sisters with things like, “Stop looking and turn around; he will be there,” and “Keep working on you, and when you are ready God will bring the right man into your life.” Say what? Both are human attempts to bring change to a situation. Both put the responsibility on your shoulders. Both are Biblically wrong because they imply that you can manipulate God with a “do this and He will do that.” I’ve heard many other misstatements through the years. You get my drift.
My beautiful sister, you are not going to find your answer anywhere but in God. And, the simple truth is that God is enough! God loves you and is working on your behalf; even if you don’t feel it. Rest in His excellent arms and open your heart to the people He has put in your path. Thank you for writing and reading WordWashedWife! Now, go find a mature Christian sister and ask her for a hug and prayer for contentment and wisdom moving forward!
Word Washed Wife
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil,
to give you a future and hope (Jeremiah 29:11).”