Anonymous asked a question:
I’m 27 years old and I’ve never had a boyfriend. I’ve only dated once but that didn’t go so well. I’ve prayed and I’ve prayed and I’ve asked God for my significant other but honestly sometimes I feel as if God doesn’t hear me. Which then causes my heart turmoil especially when I see other girls getting married and dating all the time. It just makes me feel like there is something wrong with me or I maybe I’m unworthy of someone else. I just really need some peace in this area or my life.
Hey dear sister, I know this is an especially painful season for you right now, but please allow me the grace to share a few thoughts with you.
1) Singleness is not a season of waiting.
I’ve said this before, but: You’re not waiting for a man. A man is not the focal point of anything. Jesus is the focal point of everything.
A Western culture indoctrinated in romanticism would lead us to believe that “singles” are simply biding their time, waiting for some significant other to save us from the throes of loneliness. And I know that the latest pop song or chick flick or young adult novel has awakened some weird feelings in you, and it would even be nice to have someone.
But relationships are hard work, celibacy is hard work, and life is hard work. There’s really no such thing as waiting for a spouse: your life has launched into being, and there’s work to do. If God is your priority, then a man who comes along who can even catch up to you would be dang lucky to have you.
2) Singleness doesn’t define your value, ever.
What exactly is “singleness”? I wish we would stop defining things by the absence of something else. Being single doesn’t mean you’re somehow “incomplete” until someone else completes you. Let’s pause to consider that even the idea of singleness is false at its best, and oppression at its worst.
In the first century, Apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 7 specifically to address single people. To paraphrase, he said, “If you want to get married, good. If you want to stay single, good, and it could be better.” To you, this might sound ordinary. But at the time, it was a loaded bombshell. This was actually an entirely revolutionary view of sexuality that had been previously unheard of.
During Paul’s life, the Emperor of the Roman Empire was actually charging a fee for the unmarried because it was considered bad for the economy and the family (never mind that Caesar was already bad for both). Being married with a family was considered the gold status of society, and a single person could only have been a widow or prostitute; there was no middle ground.
So Paul comes along, and moved by the Spirit of God, completely wrecked the whole idea of family and marriage and singles. He legitimized singleness as an absolutely acceptable life-choice, but more than that, said it can often be better for carrying out God’s mission on earth (1 Cor. 7:29-35). Paul himself was single, which itself would’ve been quite a scandal.
3) Please don’t allow singleness to rush you into being not-single.
Take as long as it takes. In the same passage (1 Cor. 7), Paul is urging us to not rush into relationships. Not only is rushing this unwise because we could shortcut God’s growth in our lives, but we could end up getting into a string of bad relationships or making other poor judgment calls when we’re clouded by the impatience to be with someone. Again, relationships are hard work. Pursuing anything goes beyond our idealistic hologram picture into a gritty, sweaty, pulsing reality that requires our everything.
God might or might not send someone to you tomorrow: but so long as you’re pursuing God, you might hardly notice. That’s a good thing. Find Christ, you find yourself, and maybe you’ll find someone else.
4) Your season of un-attached life, or the “gift of singleness,” is a unique season like no other.
There is a very particular way that God works through us when we’re not married or attached somehow, and it’s downright impossible for God to do those things any other way. I’m not trying to diminish one status or the other, but there are pros and cons to both which cannot overlap. I’m about to be married soon, but my married friend tells me the other day, “Use your remaining time wisely. Have a lot of solitude. Take long drives. Read as much as you can. Once you’re married, that’s it. It’s good, but so is your time right now.”
5) It might simply be that others are intimidated by you.
It could just be that your godliness is thinning out the dating pool. That’s a good thing, too.
When I was single and I went after the lady who is my fiance now, I have to tell you that I was totally intimidated by her. She was godly, she was a strong career woman, and she didn’t flirt back easily. Compared to her, I was a scrub, and I knew I couldn’t really pursue her unless I got it together. It could be very possible that other men see you as super-awesome, and as with most men, we’re just trying to get confident enough to make a move.
6) It’s okay for ladies to give a hint.
Do you see a dude you like? Ask him out for coffee.
Do you really, really want to meet someone?
It’s okay to be in situations where you meet people.
Are you kind of shy or new to the whole thing?
It’s okay to ask a friend for help. It’s okay to pray together.
7) Before relational intimacy with others, we first need relational intimacy with God.
My friend, again: I know this is a very tough time. Anything I’ve stated here is not a magic formula or silver bullet that will suddenly wash away the nights alone. I don’t mean to minimize anything you’re feeling, because I do believe most of us are called to be married, and singleness can be a tough time.
So I want to encourage you to continue to seek after God and trust Him. That’s probably the predicable pastor-ish thing to say, yet no one can give you the validation, affirmation, and approval that God gives you. If we squeeze that from a spouse, we will crush them and crush ourselves. Before we can rightly estimate people in our lives, we must first hold an accurate picture of God and who He is, so that our foundation would be deepened to the very bottom of our roots.
But more than simply seeing God as a vehicle to fill us, He is also the center of all things, the one who in Himself is worthy of all our affection. He is the pure beauty we’ve been seeking in all our relational ties; He is the only love who knows us exactly as we are, the very depth of our ugliness, yet He continues to pursue us and press in. I know that you know this. Sometimes it feels like a pithy consolation prize, like “Yes I know God is God, but I want a date.” I just know that the more I press into Jesus, the more I understand that he became ugly so we might become beautiful, he was single his whole life and calls us his bride, he stayed on a cross to absorb all the ways we have failed: such a costly love puts all others in their place. My situation might hurt me or maim me, and life is never easy, but we have one who stands with us always, who gives me a value and dignity apart from whatever I’m going through or have done, and in this, I am never truly alone. Each day, even with my tiny frail faith, this is enough. Trust Him, bask in Him, know His glory. You are absolutely loved by Him, as if you were the only one that ever was.
“You are significant without a significant other.”
— Shauna Niequist
This post is now in my book on sex, dating, and relationships here.