If you would have asked me freshman year what I expected my life to look like at 22, I would have told you I’d be engaged and living in a high-rise in a big city, wearing a suit every day as I go to my corporate job. None of those things apply to me today, but the hardest unmet expectation to come to terms with is that the“ring by spring” is not my reality.
So how does someone be content, or happy, in singleness? How do we desire a relationship without becoming bitter? What does it look like to walk with God in a season of singleness that is not guaranteed to end?
First and foremost, the desire for a relationship is not a sin.
I think it’s easy to be ashamed of wanting a relationship, feeling like you should just snap out of it, and be happy where God has placed you. Yes, we should praise God for the gifts and circumstances He has given us—this is vital when walking with Jesus. It’s even commanded in the Bible that we “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18). But that truth doesn’t mean the desire to be in a relationship is inherently bad. Relationships today can most definitely be glorifying to God, pointing each other and the people around them to Jesus. However, when we believe a relationship or marriage will bring the ultimate happiness, we will most definitely be disappointed, and it discredits the ultimate satisfaction found in Christ. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus says to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” If we are devastated by the loss of a relationship or fear the idea that we might never get married, then that is a pretty good indicator that we have an unhealthy desire, and are idolizing the love of another person over the love of God.
A healthy desire looks like praying for a relationship, but believing God is still good if we are single for the rest of our lives, and trusting that God’s plan for our life is so much better than what we can come up with in our imperfect minds. Isaiah 55:8-9 says that “’my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” If we pray, expecting that all our prayers will be answered in the exact way we want, we are not acknowledging that God’s thoughts are so much better than our thoughts. We have to cling to this truth that God knows so much better than we do, even when it feels hard.
Because we’re not guaranteed a relationship, we must fight the lie that our lives are on hold until we enter into a relationship.
How often do you think about what your walk with God is going to be like ten years from now, instead of thinking about what your walk with God could be like right now? Is it easier to think about pointing your future boyfriend or girlfriend to Jesus than it is to think about pointing your roommate to Jesus? Do you ever dream of your entire dorm or apartment complex knowing Jesus, or do you dream of the ministry you’ll have with your future spouse?
Your life is not on hold. Our calling to fulfill the Great Commission is not limited to when we are settled down (Matthew 28:18-20). I think it’s easy to believe we’ll start pursuing people radically for Jesus once we figure out where we’re going to live, what our job will be, and what our life is going to look like in five years. The reality is now, and five years from now, Christians are called to tell people about Jesus. We are called to share the wonderful, amazing truth that God sent His son Jesus down to die on the Cross for our sins, and we can have an eternal and an all-satisfying relationship with the God of the Universe if we ask Him into our lives.
The Bible gives examples of people of all walks of life answering the call to tell people about Jesus and take steps of faith for His glory. Paul was single his entire life, and wrote more books in the Bible than anyone else. The woman at the well was married multiple times, lived with a man that wasn’t her husband, and told her whole town about the amazing works of Jesus (John 4:16-30). Abraham and Sarah took a huge step of faith to follow God’s call to the Promised Land in order for God’s glory to be evident in His provision (Genesis 12:1-5). A relationship status does not qualify or disqualify you from the call to make Jesus’ name known. That is the beauty of the body of Christ—God gifts us with different stages of life in order to see His glory on display in every person in every season.
There are different strengths in every season of life to fulfill the Great Commission. And in singleness, there are some unique characteristics that equip us to share about Jesus in unique ways. In singleness, one major way we are gifted is the amount of free time we have. You might be reading this, and thinking that free time is a foreign concept to you. By free time, I mean time you are already using for other things, but that you can invite other people into. There’s more free time to get meals with people, to invest in living life with people by studying together, and to pour into roommates. But, most importantly, there’s more free time to be totally devoted to pursuing your relationship with God.
In 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, it says that “the unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.” As a single person, there’s a unique opportunity to serve and focus on God that a person in a relationship does not have.
There is thankfulness to be found in the seasons of waiting. These seasons are sweet and tangible reminder of the season of waiting we are in for Jesus to come back. I love a quote by Betsy Child Howard, using an example of a woman that is single, which says:
“If God ever gives her a husband, she will live out the picture of Isaiah foretold of rejoicing in the long-awaited bridegroom. Her wedding and the feast that follows will foreshadow the marriage supper of the Lamb described in Revelation…But what if she never marries? Does she fail as a picture of the gospel? Not at all. Instead, she will live and die as a portrait of what the church is meant to be now”1
My prayer is that we might not wait with bitterness, but live as citizens of Heaven who are awaiting Jesus’ return. We can pray for a relationship, just like we pray for Jesus to come back, but it might not happen in our lifetime. What a joy it is that we are called the bride of Christ, and we should be rejoicing in the marriage to our Savior so much more than we should be rejoicing in the idea of a potential marriage (Isaiah 54:5). He fully satisfies, and any relationship is a dim, imperfect representation of the relationship we have with Him.
Sarah Cobble: University of Illinois Cru Staff
1: Howard, Betsy Childs.Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams are Delayed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016. Print.