Last week I got a Facebook message from an old friend who is recently engaged and planning her wedding. She emailed several of us single women because, as the thoughtful, intentional woman that she is, she wants to care well for the younger, single women who will be attending her bridal shower— to give them encouragement, and advice on being single. And she wanted to add to what she had to say by hearing from other older single women, as well.
I was blessed beyond words to be included in that message. Singleness hasn’t always been a sweet, easy road for me (as witnessed here and here and here and here and here and here and here… and here). But I have found God’s grace always sufficient, and His plan for me so incredibly sweet, that at the end of the day, I can’t argue with His direction, or even begrudge the way He has led. He has always led me well, and is always kind in His dealings with His children. I am grateful, and so, so blessed.
Here are a few thoughts I had in response to her message:
- The most helpful thing phrase ever spoken to me was something my pastor said a year and a half ago at a single womens’ talk at my church— “The basic posture of the Christian life is waiting. Either we’re waiting on a spouse, or waiting for children, or waiting for a job promotion, or a bigger house, or our children’s salvation, or retirement… and ultimately every Christian is simply waiting for Heaven, for Christ’s return.” That gave so much perspective to me, to help me realize that contentment is a heart attitude that translates across the entire spectrum of my life, not simply something to be practiced in my single years. Waiting, and learning to love Christ in the midst of waiting, is something I’ll always do, and it’s good to learn it now.
- Our culture says that having unfulfilled longings and desires is a bad thing, that it’s harmful for us to live that way. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. Instead, it teaches us that to long for something, and to not have it, somehow it actually teaches us how to long for Christ more, and how to fix our hearts on Heaven. That’s helpful for me to remember. Culture tells us that the desire for sex is like hunger pains— you’re hungry, you eat; you have sexual desires, you fill them. But that’s not what God teaches. He teaches us that learning self-control, training our minds and our hearts and our bodies to submit to Christ, that is a good thing, and that it actually serves to cultivate affection for Christ.
- Psalm 84:11— when God says that He will not withhold any good thing, He means that, and He means it for now. When there is something that I want that I don’t have (like marriage), it’s tempting to think that either: a) It is a good thing that God is withholding, and so we doubt God’s goodness; or b) that it is a good thing withheld now that we’re promised in the future, so we begin to hope in and hold onto the “someday” of marriage instead of hoping in God. The TRUTH is that when God says He does not withhold any good thing, it applies to today, to right now. “Everything is needful that He sends; nothing can be needful that He withholds,” said John Newton. It’s just another take on Ps. 84:11, but it essentially reminds me that if it was good for me for now, then I would have it. If I don’t have it, it’s not good for me for right now.
- To those who are single and want to be married, read more good books on good theology, and fewer books on singleness, dating, and relationships. If we think rightly of God, it will influence the way that we think about everything else. I think it would well serve most single women, in particular, to think much less about marriage, and much more about God. My top three recommendations: Knowing God, by J. I. Packer; Practical Theology for Women, by Wendy Alsup; and All Loves’ Excelling, by John Bunyan.
- As another friend said, ask God to show you the glory in singleness. I’m dating right now (a mature, godly Christian man who is blowing my mind and humbling me every single day… I don’t have words to describe how sweet this is), and frankly, I’ve been shocked by how much I actually miss being single. PLEASE don’t get me wrong— I’m totally crazy about my boyfriend, and totally crazy about dating him, and we’re dating with purpose, and I certainly don’t wish to be single again. But there’s something indescribably sweet about that “just me and the Lord” phase of life that, even when dating someone as wonderful as he is, just isn’t there anymore. To any other single women reading this: please, please, please cherish the time you have with the Lord now. Don’t spend your single years begging Him to end them— they are a gift. Five or six years ago I rolled my eyes when my dating & married friends said that. Then I learned how sweet and tender the Lord is, and contentment was less of a fight. The last few years of my life have, by God’s grace, been characterized by joy and contentment and sweet trust in God and in His timing, and I have no regrets about time used or emotions wrestled with. And now? Now I’m learning contentment in a different way, and learning how to love Christ in a different context (which, frankly, is harder than I expected it to be).