[Guest Blogger: Deb Bostwick] In the next few weeks, we will be delving into Singleness, Dating, Engagement and Marriage – doing it all God’s way. We’ll be offering up a healthy and Godly perspective of singleness and dating.
As we look at singleness, we see it as a unique period of unmatched devotion to Christ and ministry to others, even while waiting (or not waiting) for a spouse. It is no secret that many singles struggle with contentment as a single person, as well as, how to deal with feelings of guilt and shame related to your past. There’s a lot of brokenness in our stories, but our period of wait can be a really significant time to be introspective about ourselves, to work through our baggage and learn about and love the Lord.
If you are “out there” dating, you know there are a lot of peaks and valleys in the pursuit of marriage. It can be very discouraging filled with regret, mistakes, and failures that maybe didn’t have to happen. Perspective is key. It is important to develop good, robust friendships with the opposite sex; to build community where you are getting to know men and women; learning to admire the qualities in the opposite sex that are worth admiring, especially their love for the Lord. But also, their devotion to the lost and their willingness to serve in ministry in the church or elsewhere. We need to cultivate an admiration and affection for the right kind of qualities in people leading us to an attraction to the right kind of qualities in a future partner.
We’re always bombarded with messages from the world that allegedly tell us what real love is and how to find meaning and significance in another person. We’re taught that message by the world from a young age. There’s even a certain view from Christians that would say the church is sometimes too focused on marriage and married people, and there’s perhaps this idolization of the nuclear family—the perfect unit of a man and his wife and his kids—and contributes to the desperate search for a relationship among some people. It can also lead to a sense of feeling left out, marginalized, and made to feel like junior varsity Christians.
So how do we navigate this? A great perspective is being in a healthy place of being solidified in the Lord and secure in Him. Until you really immerse yourself in the gospel, in the Word, in healthy Christian friendships and fellowship, the world is going to teach you all kinds of messy definitions of love. We know “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us” (I John 4:10). So, if we want to learn what love is, we look at how He loved us by sending his Son to die for our sin. We need to soak in the reality of that love long enough that our love in dating, and eventually in marriage, begins to look like that love and not the opposite of that love. And that takes time, i.e. the wait.
In the meantime, part of a healthy dating life is realizing the preciousness of singleness. The Bible doesn’t diminish singleness; it exalts it. It speaks to it as a time for undivided devotion to the Lord, and there’s amazing potential in singleness. If marriage becomes your one thing, your primary focus, it will ruin you for the presence of the Lord. The pursuit of marriage can become your god. A person who wants marriage more than anything is not prepared to be in a healthy marriage. Marriage is going to consume too much of their heart and desires. We need the Lord to be that one thing for us so that we can keep things in proportion.
Singleness is not a curse. I think something many single people wonder is if the lack of marriage is a punishment from God. Maybe as a result of some past mistakes or sin, God is holding those over them and that’s why He’s withholding marriage from them. Did you ever wrestle with that kind of thinking?
We all suffer in various ways with trials of various kinds. Often, people who are experiencing similar things will talk to each other and say, ‘You don’t really understand what I’m going through.’ This is often where the line can be crossed between suffering with the hope in God and self-pity. In this world, we tend to indulge in self-pity. Self-pity causes us to retreat into ourselves – no one understands me; no one can really speak to what I’m experiencing. I think Satan does that to isolate us. I know it because I experienced it over the years where I thought I was going to be married, yet I wasn’t.
Beware of self-pity in singleness because self-pity will isolate you from people. You may already feel lonely. The self-pity that we feel can isolate us from others that God has put in our life. And God has said that the most important relationships in our life are not blood relationships. It’s not marriage; it’s not children; it’s people who hear and do the will of God. It’s important that self-pity doesn’t rob us of the encouragement and the counsel and the exhortation and the rebuke that we desperately need in order to be faithful in our singleness.
But we can wonder, God, are you against me? Why would it go this way? We need to keep in mind, that there are things we may want, and other people think is good, but God still may have other plans for you. Embrace that. Know that he knows you better than anyone. He promises to supply all of your needs according to his riches in mercy. He’s a loving Father. He knows you best. Even if in the moment you think you know better, he knows better than you, and he loves you. Ultimately, we need to anchor our hearts in the hope of heaven, in the hope of Christ, that in His presence there is fullness of joy.
Marriage and family are good things to be desired. Before I was married I knew they were good things; the Lord says they are good things to desire. Now being married, I can say emphatically it is a good thing. But, we don’t want it to rise above where God has it in Scripture and in our lives. We need him to be that one thing. Hold nothing higher than Him.
God is a good God and he is not dangling the prospect of marriage over you. God always gives you what you need when you needed it. If you don’t have a spouse or significant other, it’s because God doesn’t believe you need it – right now! God will bless you. Be selfish during this time, take time to figure things out, to enjoy yourself. Go to counseling, get into the Word, seek community – work it out, whatever it is.
Below is an excerpt from an interview by Curt Harlow at Bayside Church. I love when Charles Metcalf says that anything you are in can only be as healthy as you are. People tend to get into a relationship or marriage thinking that it’s a cure-all, fix-all. It’s not.
Bottom line: Savor your singleness – it is the last time you have to work on yourself – only yourself with no distraction. That one time you can have single focus, where you can self examine, grow and work on yourself. And God will meet you here. God is the God of waiting. He meets us in the wait.