Someone I know shared the video below on Facebook recently. It’s funny, but like most comedy, it definitely stems from experience.
So though I’m 22 at the moment, and not 29 or 31, I have been thinking a lot about this panic that many women have in their late twenties/early thirties, and mid and late thirties. The horrible fear that if they’re still single, they’ll never get married. They’ll be left on the shelf, be pitied by those who are already married and, apparently, will become cat ladies.
And why am I thinking about this? Because I am a woman who follows Jesus in the UK. (There are way more women than men in the UK anyway, but undoubtedly more women than men who love Jesus). I also love the Bible, I believe it is how God speaks to us and that it should take priority in church over music and ceremony and what celebrity Christians spout in the media. I also believe that it should be studied properly, and talks shouldn’t just take one verse as a platform to let the preacher speak about whatever they want. Talks should look carefully at the context of the book of the Bible it’s from, and whereabouts it has been placed in salvation history. I want a husband who believes this too, who sees his life as ministry (regardless of whether he’s in fulltime paid ministry or not), whom I find attractive, enjoy spending time with, and who finds me attractive. And unless there is a revival (i.e. hundreds of people becoming Christians all at once), or I move abroad, there MAY well be a possibility that in a few years time, there will be nobody single like this left, and I’ll be ‘all alone’. Especially as many Christians tend to get married in their twenties and not so much in their thirties (my parents are an exception to this rule).
But that’s a little way off right? I was chatting to a Christian girlfriend a year older than me about this today, and she said that I don’t have to worry about this yet. However, I do think that singleness has become an issue in the church today, when it really shouldn’t.
Yes, I don’t know how it feels to see the years rush by and have no one interested in you. Or to have someone seriously interested, and then the relationship unexpectedly ends, and you’re beside yourself with disappointment. Or to be inundated with wedding invitations from friends. Then realize the majority of your good friends are now married. And then dread social gatherings, because often you’re the only one there above a certain age who is single. And when people a bit younger than you seem interested, they then somehow find out that you’re a bit older than them. And they scarper. Literally. Or you decided to try online dating, but it was horrifically awful. I don’t know how that feels – from what I’ve heard it sounds both soul destroying and embarrassing. And I’m sorry if you’re reading this and you’ve had a rough time.
Yet I can relate. I’ve wanted to be married ever since I can remember. (Blame Disney). I’ve had a lovehate relationship with my nearly twenty-three years of singleness. I’ve hated feeling discontent, envious of others in relationships, and like there’s something wrong with me because I’ve never had a boyfriend, especially when older married women at church ask about my love life, thinking that being in a relationship will fix my problems.
But in the last two years, I have loved the freedom it has given me not to become preoccupied with being in a relationship. I have loved the time I have had to devote myself to the church, to mission, my friends and my relationship with God. And I truly mean that. And I want to continue to love singleness, to serve joyfully, my heart guarded from this concern that so easily consumes and distracts.
I know I’m young, and I don’t know as much as older people. But I wanted to write this post to help specifically Christians who struggle (I think all single Christians do – if they don’t at all, then they are almost definitely lying). I definitely don’t love singleness all the time, but if married people were honest, they would tell you that they don’t love marriage all the time. Anyway, this may sound like common sense (and it is), but I want to get it out on the internet anyway.
– Pray. God gave Jesus up for us to rescue us from His judgement AND because He wants us to be close to Him. So if you call yourself a Christian, don’t be afraid to talk to our Father. Don’t be afraid to tell Him exactly how you’re feeling. And if you want to get married, pray about it! Confide in Him. He really cares for us.
– Read 1 Corinthians 7. Yes, I know it’s about marriage. But look closely at verse seven. Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, who are basically living as if Jesus isn’t coming back. Paul wishes that the Corinthians were single like he was. But then he says, ‘But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that’. Paul is basically assuming that marriage is a gift AND singleness is a gift. Singleness is not a consolation prize, or a second-class ribbon, or an after-thought. No, it is a GIFT.
And in verse seventeen, God assigns marriage or singleness to Christians. God is active and purposeful in what He chooses to give. Singleness is meant to be. They should remain in it i.e. they should live out this gift (in verses twenty and twenty-four). And in verses thirty-two to thirty-five, singleness is a lifestyle which means you can live wholeheartedly for the Lord without getting distracted. And Paul even says that not getting married is better than being married (verse thirty-eight), but also that marriage is a good thing.
So far from being a sad and sorry state of affairs, being single is great! It’s not a mistake on God’s part. You haven’t been overlooked by God. You haven’t done something wrong. You haven’t missed the boat. You have not been left on the shelf. You are not deprived of what should be yours. It’s good to desire marriage, but it is not a right. Marriage is a gift from God, and should be highly honoured. Singleness is equally a gift from God, and therefore should be highly honoured too. Feast on this.
And I know it’s all to easy to say something because you feel it’s the right thing to say in Christian circles, and yet honestly doubt what you are saying is true. In my second year at university, I used to say to others repeatedly whom I shared my singleness struggles with, ‘Well, I know that singleness is a gift’ and not really believe it at all. Now, I really do think that singleness is more a gift than a mistake. And if you disagree that singleness is a gift, just ask God to change your perspective and work in your heart, so that you start to see that it is.
– Don’t make being single an issue. I’ve been thrilled to be part of a church this year where no one has drawn attention to my singleness and made it a problem. However, previously I’ve attended two churches before this who have gone about it differently. In services, one prayed for people who were single in the same breath as those struggling with mental and physical illnesses, thus making singleness like an illness, not a God-given way of life. The other wasn’t really sure what to do with people who were single, and some older married women would say to each other, ‘I wish (insert name here) would get married soon. It’s such a shame they’re single.’ For a while, this didn’t help me have a high view of singleness. In fact, it made me fear being single merely because of being pitied or looked down upon. If you’re in a church like this, whatever you do, don’t leave. (After all, no church is perfect). Talk to someone on the leadership team. Explain how you feel. Open 1 Corinthians 7 with them, and point out how singleness is a gift, and that you feel like an after-thought compared to those who are married and have families. If they don’t listen to you or tell you you’re being overdramatic, then leave, and find somewhere which preaches the Bible and loves everyone, regardless of their marital status.
It might be a good idea to avoid reading books or online magazines or articles which you might find unhelpful. It may become a preoccupation. There are two sites in particular which sometimes publish helpful articles, but are mostly not so good (I’ll put the links below). Stay away from them, and instead, dive into God’s word. God’s word feeds and nourishes no matter your situation.
– Relax – best piece of advice anyone has ever given me. Ignore friends who try and play matchmaker, and don’t worry about what people say. God is in control. He has a plan.
– If you haven’t already, Get A Life. Get outside. Live life. Love the church. Invest in friends and family.Get to know God through His Word – study Scripture! Draw up a bucket list of things you want to do. Don’t entitle it, ‘Things to do before I get married’. Call it ‘Things to do because I have life right now to the full’. Your life starts right here, right now. Not when you get married, or find that right person, or get your dream job or go into full time ministry or when you have children. And who knows, Jesus could come back tomorrow! Or next year! And it won’t matter then if you are married or not! (And don’t write letters/a journal for your future spouse… cringe!)
– Keep it simple.
If you’re a guy and old enough to get married, and you like a girl and she’s 1) available 2) a follower of Jesus 3) enjoys spending time with you 4) in a position to get married, pray about it, give it some time, and if you still feel the same way, tell her you’re interested! And if she says she’s not, don’t worry about it! Better for you to have asked, and evidently better to be with someone who feels the same way, rather than pining for a girl who definitely doesn’t feel the same way. And don’t let this put you off asking another girl out in the future! It’s probably not personal, and I guarantee there is probably a girl you know who you don’t consider in that way, but is secretly hoping you’ll notice her! (I really do think it’s a miracle when two people go out with each other and both of them really like the other person!) Care for all girls you meet like a brother would – try and be as clear in your actions as possible. If in doubt, don’t do or say it.
And girls, be nice to guys. It’s frustrating when there are available men you know who are not taking an interest in you. It can be all too easy to badmouth them, and set your standards too high. If a guy does like you, he will do something to let you know. Even if he is shy, he will do something. (But if he uses a cheesy chat up line, feel free to slap him!) And don’t waste time trying to find out whether he likes you or not by reading between the lines or analyzing how he is behaving around you. There is no real way of knowing whether a guy likes you unless he says so. Plainly. And if he doesn’t, don’t jump to any conclusions. I think it’s okay to tell him that he’s acting really strange (only if he actually is though – check what is happening with a close friend who has good judgement), and ask if he can clarify what is going on. If he is mature enough to be in a relationship, I’m sure he would tell you how he feels about you. Christian guys are generally either really nice to most people, or just really awkward in social situations. So let him lead. It’s so consuming trying to manipulate social situations so that you end up talking a lot. If you like a guy, be friendly and smile, but don’t hang around him all the time. Feel free to text, email him etc but don’t spend the rest of the day waiting for him to reply back. Talk to God about it, and then get on with your life. We can trust Him completely, and if he likes you, he’ll take the hint and reply back and try and get something started. And if he likes you but doesn’t try and get to know you, he isn’t ready to really consider a relationship, and it’s not worth getting upset about it. Rule of thumb – try and treat men like brothers. If in doubt, don’t do it or say it.
– Trust the Lord. Trust that in His perfect timing and if it His will for you, He will bring someone along who will like you. He has a plan, which often is infuriating because we often have no idea what He is doing. But we can look back and see His hand at work, and we can praise Him for His faithfulness and steadfastness. And there’s no need to settle. Don’t start seeing someone because you 1) feel like no one else will go out with them 2) feel like no one else will go out with you 3) are bored 4) feel lonely. It’s not fair on them, on you, and on God. It will only cause a lot of grief.
– Be open-minded about the future. Do you have a heart for a certain people group, or age group to hear the gospel? Chat to someone at church to see what you could practically do about it. Don’t write yourself off as someone who will NEVER get married – you never know what’ll happen in God’s plan! But also don’t bank on getting married one day. Have open hands. Don’t belittle what God might have planned for you. He may send you across the world or to somewhere you never thought you’d be for the work of his Kingdom. It’s scary, but God knows what He’s doing!
– Fight the lies. You are not a second-class citizen because you’re not married. A relationship may not happen when you least expect it. Being content in your relationship with God doesn’t automatically mean that you will now be given a spouse. Striving to be godly won’t guarantee you a spouse either. Please don’t think that if you don’t find your spouse at university that you will never get married ever. Or that Christian camp (which only happens once a year) is an ideal place to meet someone (UNLESS you end up at the same church/university afterwards). Or that Christian ladies/men are all hopeless and that you’d have a better chance with non-Christians (i.e. flirting to convert). Or going to church/CU and constantly keeping an eye out for someone who catches your eye will fix this problem. Pray that your attitude would change, and God would give you the right attitude when it comes to relationships and serving Him.
Anyway, enough from me. Here are some things to peruse which are much more succinct:
Please feel free to comment below with any more advice to add or any more scripture to encourage! In Christ!