“You’ll find him when you stop looking for him.”
“God will grant the desires of your heart so just keep praying for him everyday.”
“When you are the woman God wants you to be, He’ll bring you the man you’re supposed to marry.”
And my personal favorite: “Jesus is your first love anyway. He’s the best boyfriend you’ll ever have so just focus on him.”
While there may be hints of Scripture and some truth in each of these statements, they have typically been much more hurtful than helpful. Yes, I know people who met their spouse the minute they stopped stressing and simply started living. Yes, I believe in praying for your future spouse. Yes, I believe in focusing on becoming the fullness of what God designed me to be. Yes, Jesus’ sacrificial love for me is incomprehensible and complete. However, can I just let you know that although Jesus has given me more than anyone else ever has or ever will, he still has never sent me flowers on Valentine’s Day, he’s really hard to cuddle with, and people stare when they see you talking to an empty chair at restaurants.
These statements are hurtful because at the heart of many of them is an implication that a spouse would appear if only I did or said the right thing. There is a subtle message that if only I had more faith or prayed the right prayers or had the right posture towards life then everything would be working out like I want. I spent way too long believing that if I just prayed the right prayer or had the right amount of faith or lived my life in a certain way then God would FINALLY provide a husband. It’s just not true. There is a major theological problem with this – God cannot and will not be manipulated. He is not a puzzle to be solved, a genie in a bottle that will release 3 wishes with the right words, or a magician waiting for the right spell to be spoken.
And though Jesus’ love for me is complete, no, he is not my boyfriend. He is my Savior. He is my Lord. Two things a boyfriend or husband can never be. In fact, according to Courtney Reissig, “Marriage to Jesus while waiting for a husband can often trivialize our Savior in a way that makes him more like a sweet boyfriend who takes us out on dates, rather than the God-man who paid for our sin on the cross. Jesus did not accomplish redemption to marry us individually. He died for the church corporate, of which we are a part. His death accomplished something much greater than simply meeting our deep-seated desires for a significant other. That is what Paul is getting at in Ephesians 5:22-33 when he speaks of the mystery of marriage.”*
So, to all my single ladies (and gentlemen) who deeply long for a spouse, allow me to offer these words that I pray will give hope instead of cause hurt and maybe bring clarity instead of creating more confusion. First, yes keep praying for and about your future spouse. Make your requests known to God! Like any good parent, he does give good gifts (Matthew 7:11), does give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4), and does invite us to persist in prayer (Luke 18:1), However, sometimes what we want and ask for is not in line with God’s plan for our lives. And so like any good parent would, he says no, or not yet. Second, instead of trying to find the magic formula to get God to give you what you want, set your heart and mind on Him (Colossians 3:2), recognize that God’s ways are not your ways (Isaiah 55:8), and trust that God’s specific plan for your life is bigger and better than anything you can imagine and that he will faithfully carry it to completion (too many to cite). Trust. That’s ultimately what it comes down to. Either you trust God is good and His plan for you is better than your own plans, or you don’t. Third, remember that Jesus and many of those early apostles set an example of how to live as a single person. Jesus himself knows what you are going through! Finally, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in all aspects of your life, including your marital status!
And to the “paired up” friends wanting to be helpful, may I encourage you to listen, seek to understand, validate, and empathize with your single friends. May I kindly suggest you refrain from offering advice? (“Have you tried Christian Mingle?” is not a helpful thing to say!) It is also not helpful to tell your single friends about the ways marriage drives you nuts. It is REALLY not helpful to complain about your sex life (at least you have one). It IS helpful to pray with and for your single friends, but ask them specifically how you can pray. It IS helpful to grieve with them, to hope with them, and to go out to dinner with them so they don’t have to keep talking to an empty chair. And it MAY be helpful to introduce them to people you think might be good for them, but do so with their permission and only if they are open to being introduced to someone. If you have someone in mind for a single friend of yours, simply ask, “Are you open to meeting someone I know and think might be a good match for you?”
Married or single, we are all part of God’s beautifully diverse family. We all have a special role to play in advancing His kingdom, in spreading the Good News, and in loving others well in Jesus’ name. Single or taken, we’re all awesome because we are made, adopted, and loved by an awesome God!
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Share your experience! How can we honor, support and encourage one another regardless of our marital status? Does the church need to do anything differently to invite those who are single more fully into the church? Let me know what you think!
*”Why Jesus Isn’t Your Boyfriend: A Critique of Dating God.” Christianity Today, June 25, 2012 http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2012/june/why-jesus-isnt-your-boyfriend-critique-of-dating-god.html?start=2