Recently I received an email from a single woman in her twenties asking for some advice. Her heart’s desire is to be married, but she doesn’t see any possibilities on the horizon. She spoke of her love for Jesus and her desire to pursue purity. That desire has kept her from indulging in the frivolous romantic relationships many young adults around her are enjoying.
This precious woman’s email brought tears to my eyes as she also laid bare the loneliness she feels, the intense desire to be pursued by a godly man, and the painful feelings of unwantedness that result from the lack of having someone to love.
The Pain of Love Lost
I can relate to many of her emotions. In my own season of singleness, I remember those same feelings. I longed to be loved unconditionally, for someone to treasure me just as I was, with every spot, blemish, and sin. My heart ached for the young man who had broken up with me after a two-year relationship, and I wrestled with feelings of rejection.
But God in his mercy did not leave me there. Through my heartache, he drew me closer to himself to find comfort in his word, where I learned to trust that he will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).
During that season of waiting, I read a book that was formative in how I viewed relationships. It’s called Quest for Love by Elisabeth Elliot. I was inspired to live a counter-cultural life by not joining the ranks of those aggressively pursuing a man, but instead waiting for the right man to pursue me. One chapter in particular was life-altering. It was titled, “Marriage: A Right or a Gift?”
Help from Elisabeth Elliot
In this short chapter, I was confronted with the reality that I had grown up expecting to be married. This is what I wanted, so of course God would give it to me, I thought. But in Elisabeth Elliot’s no-nonsense way, she corrected my faulty thinking and completely realigned my perspective.
If you are single today, the portion assigned to you for today is singleness. It is God’s gift. Singleness ought not to be viewed as a problem, nor marriage as a right. God in his wisdom and love grants either as a gift.
Singleness as a gift! Are you kidding me?! I was shocked and offended the first time my eyes rolled over those words. But it was Elisabeth Elliot’s voice, along with the apostle Paul’s (1 Corinthians 7:7), that propelled me to not pine over a missing relationship, but to wholeheartedly pursue Jesus and the life he had given me to live.
If you want to make the most of singleness while you long to be married, here are a few practical points I learned in my own season of waiting.
1. Embrace the unique opportunities you have as a single person.
As the apostle Paul reminds us, the married person has dual responsibilities of pleasing both the Lord and his spouse. But the unmarried person needs only to be concerned about pleasing Jesus.
I want you to be free from anxieties. 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. (1 Corinthians 7:32–34).
As an unmarried person, you have a unique freedom that will allow you to serve in ways that may not be possible with a family. Enjoy the freedom your schedule allows. Go on mission trips, build depth of relationship with friends, linger a while longer in God’s word, and read inspiring books that fuel your faith. Use your gift of singleness as a way to edify and bless the church.
2. Take risks.
Trust that no matter where you are, if God plans for you to marry, he will lead you to just the right person, and at the right time. Some sweet friends of ours have been a great example. As singles who didn’t know each other, they both moved to a remote part of Africa to serve with the same mission agency. Little did they know God would align their paths together in those hot desert sands, and that they would come home just a year later engaged to be married.
My friend tells me, “My husband saw me mostly unshowered, with no make-up for a year. And he still wanted to marry me! Now that’s love!” Don’t let fear paralyze you and keep you from moving to hard places for fear of not meeting a spouse. God is greater than our best laid plans.
3. Remember that sex is not ultimate.
Society loves to tell us the lie that we can’t live without romance and sex. Sadly, we see younger and younger people buying into it. But God promises to meet all our needs in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Our joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction in life come through seeking him, not seeking the momentary pleasures in a relationship, even a marriage.
Living a life of purity and devotion to God will bring far more joy than any physical or relational pleasure ever could.
4. Find full and unconditional love in Jesus first.
The longing to be fully known and fully loved is only fulfilled through a real relationship with Christ. No person can love us better than him. He knows every secret sin, every glaring fault, and if we are hidden in him by faith, we are covered by his precious blood. We are forgiven, free, and loved. Treasure this truth and trust that he can and will be enough for you.
In whatever season of waiting God might have you in, choose to bloom where you’re planted. Embrace the life God has called you to, whether single or married. Trust that both callings are precious gifts of grace, both with painful and overwhelming hardships.
Happiness is not found through finding a soul mate, but through finding satisfaction in a loving Savior who has called you his own and made you a beloved son or daughter of the King.
(This blog originally appeared on Desiring God)