It’s not always easy to be single on Valentine’s Day. Maybe for some people it is, maybe it depends on the year and some are harder than others. It hasn’t always been easy for me to be without a significant other come February 14th. During those times, I’ve tried many different methods to make it seem like I’m fine with my singleness, knowing all the while I would have given a whole lot to be anything but alone on that day.
After being in the church for enough years, I know pretty much all the right answers about singleness, marriage, God, and the like. God can and will fulfill all my desires, a spouse won’t make me happy or make all my problems go away, singleness is a gift, I can be content in the Lord now…the list goes on. But what do I do when I still long for a man to spend my life with, and no amount of self-talk, no matter how biblical it is, makes that go away? When I still feel alone and inferior to those in relationships, even when I know that I am complete in Christ? All of these truths are indeed true, but the more I look at myself I see that there has been a part of my heart that those truths have not yet touched. Because the fact of the matter is that while I know that a husband will not fulfill me, there is part of me that is still living as though he will. It’s not in a way that would draw attention or would cause people to notice (most of the time I don’t even notice it!). But around the holidays, or on Valentine’s day, there is that twinge in my heart that romance tends to set off—my heart longs for what other people have, and a little part of it really does believe that when I have it, things will be better and more fulfilling than they are now.
So I’ve tried to make myself content. I have actually tried to convince myself that I am content, while being well aware that it is not the case. I picture it like trying to keep one of those floaties under water (you know the ones you wear on your arms when you’re learning to swim). As long my hands are holding contentment in my heart it stays down there, but as soon as the hands come off, it shoots right back up to the surface and back to head knowledge. I have been trying to force contentment from my head to my heart and it just hasn’t worked.
I’m tired of trying to do that. I’m tired of there being this part of my heart that has not been transformed by the truth of God and what He says about me, and namely what He says about Himself. I want my heart gripped by His truth, especially when it comes to singleness, relationships, and who I am in the midst of that.
Just the other day I read an article written by a married woman talking about things she wished she had known while she was still single. She had some great things to say about singleness, what can be learned from it and what can be developed during it if people use the time well. But more than any specific thing she said, and what really got my mind racing was a stream of thoughts that went something like this,
“What if I actually took this advice and started living according to it?”
“What if I, and this generation of those who aren’t yet married actually lay hold of the truths that are taught to us by those who want us to benefit from lessons they have learned?”
“Rather than doing it my own way and then finding out they were right all along (that a spouse really doesn’t make things all better), and then trying to preach the message to those still single and who can learn from my mistakes, why don’t I just trust and actively walk in what they say?”
What would happen? I think a few things. One, I think I would experience more of God than I ever dreamed of, both now while I’m single and in a future marriage. Two, I think it would honor Him greatly. It would let Him be God, and would demonstrate a submission to His plan amidst my lack of understanding with what He is doing. And I’m pretty sure He loves when His kids trust Him. But how can I do that?
I know I can’t force biblical truths into my heart. It has to be a work of God Himself. However, there have been a few things in particular that I have been meditating on and praying that God would minister to my heart regarding who I am, and who He is that I would like to share.
1) God’s character is the same in seasons of blessing and fulfillment of desires as it is in seasons of waiting and exercising patience.
God is a giver, He is generous, He is kind, He is all-knowing and all-wise; He knows what is best for us. Why is it that I can rejoice so easily in seasons of blessing and not in seasons of drought? Why is it that I can be so thankful when I am getting to walk in my dreams but can’t muster up the same fervency of thanksgiving when He is still calling me to wait?
I have found that when I dwell on His character, my perspective changes. God is intimately acquainted with all my ways (Ps. 139:1-3), He is sovereign over every detail of my life (Matthew 10:29-31), and He is working things for my good that I be conformed more and more to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). So if God is having me wait for something (even something that I really want), is it the best possible thing for me right now? It is because He is so loving that He is having me wait for it! If the God of the universe is working things in my life with my best interest in mind, why should I begrudgingly accept His “wait” rather than rejoice in it?
Consider this quote by Andrew Murray,
If we but saw our God in His love, if we but believed that He waits to be gracious, that He waits to be our life and to work all in us—how this waiting on God would become our highest joy…
I want that truth to mark my life. I can’t say it always does, but I want the knowledge of God’s character to change the way I view waiting for Him. Not only that, but He is using my very circumstances to form me into the woman I desire to become. Right now He is allowing me to grow into the woman that will, Lord willing, get to walk forward in desires of being a wife and a mother some day. Many of us have big dreams of who we will become and what we will do with God and for His Kingdom. We have desires, longings, and hopes (all with the best intentions) to be the best man or woman of God we can be, as well as the best future spouse we can be.
But I often forget that He is forming us into those people right now. He is uses the every day, the mundane, the not-so-exciting, to shape us in ways that quick blessings could not accomplish. That truth has given me so much freedom; I can look at the seemingly mundane and truly rejoice that He is growing me now into the woman that will get to walk forward in the dreams He has given me when He says it is time.
2) We are seen by the One on whom we wait.
You are not invisible to the one that you are waiting for. God sees every time you obey Him, every time you hurt and feel alone, every time you cry out to Him asking Him to meet you. Every time you sacrifice for Him, every time you trust Him. He sees all of it, and He LOVES when His kids look at Him. He loves catching our eye when we fix our gaze on Him, when we don’t understand but tell Him that we trust Him anyways. He loves when we really mean that. He sees us and we are safe exactly where we are.
3) God could never disappoint His people.
I often end up disappointed or unsure at where God has me in life. While I may be disappointed in a moment for not getting what I want or what I think is best for me, God continues to remind me that He is the best story-writer in all of creation. Each of us are getting to play a part in the greatest story ever written. And God is using our desires, passions, longings and dreams for a spouse, family, or anything else, to write that story. We, as His children, will not be disappointed by the ending.
4) God is ALWAYS good.
Similar to #1, God doesn’t change. He is always good, always faithful. I believe that we can experience that goodness even more when we wait for Him and trust Him. In that time we see Him as good simply because of who He is rather than what He gives us. How purifying is that! Andrew Murray writes on the goodness of God as we learn to wait,
At our first entrance into the school of waiting upon God, the heart is mainly set on the blessings with which we wait for. God graciously uses our needs and desires for help to educate us for something higher than we were thinking of. We were seeking gifts; He, the Giver, longs to give Himself and to satisfy the soul with His goodness. It is just for this reason that He often withholds the gifts and that the time of waiting is made so long. He is constantly seeking to win the heart of His child for Himself. He wishes that we would not only say, when He bestows the gift, “How good is God!” but that long before it comes, and if it never comes, we should all the time be experiencing: it is good that a man should quietly wait. The Lord is good to them that wait for Him. 
Which leads me to #5…
5) Every need and desire we have is and will be fulfilled in Christ.
A husband will not fulfill me. My dream-job will not fulfill me. The perfect family or home will not fulfill me. The perfect ministry opportunity will not fulfill me. Christ is the only one who can and ever will make me whole. I have to confess, it doesn’t always feel like that. But that is a truth I am going to lay hold of by faith…that is, until I live with the man that teaches me that he really doesn’t fulfill me ;) I want to trust that I have full access to God now by the power of the Holy Spirit; no less than I will when I am married, or walking in my passions, or in a dream job. And if He is the one who has created me for Himself, then He is the one I am going to run after, here and now. And when He calls me to run side by side with a man, what I am running after will not have changed: God is and will always be the goal.
Please run with me.
I know this is the day for celebrating romance, as it should be; marriage and relationships are a gift from God. But so is singleness. And on a day when many singles feel lonely, undesirable, or at the very least, bored, I hope this look back into church history reveals God’s kind intention for your singleness.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and a key player in the first Great Awakening published a fifteen-point expository sermon on Paul’s letter to the Corinthians entitled Thoughts On A Single Life (1835). I will summarize each of his extensive points so that you can soak it all in.
- Singleness can be as holy as marriage
- Christians often view singleness as a spiritual malady to be fixed by marriage
- Paul commands certain people to remain single because they can concern themselves more with the things of God (1 Cor. 7:8, 27, 28, 32-35)
- Paul wishes that all men could be single like him
- Singleness, it turns out, is a gift that God bestows on people, either for a season or for good
- Those who are given the gift of singleness have great advantages to enjoy…
- being “without carefulness”
- without the necessity of “caring for the things of the world”
- desiring only to “please the Lord”
- concerned for being “holy both in body and spirit.”
- able to be “attending upon the Lord without distraction.” Wesley then compares the single person to Mary who is enabled by her freedom to “remain centered on God, sitting…at the Master’s feet, and listening to every word”
- a blessed freedom from the “‘trouble in the flesh’ which must more or less attend a married state”
- to experience “liberty from the greatest of all entanglements, the loving one creature above all others,” for Wesley later writes of how conceivably difficult it is “to give God our whole heart, while a creature has so large a share of it!”
- You have leisure to wait upon God in public and private…whereas those who are married are distracted by the “things of the world.”
- You can devote all your abilities, time, and energy to God.
- You must pray for God to help you see the value of your singleness
- You must pray for God to protect you in your singleness
- You must surround yourself with like-minded single people of the same sex
- It’s silly to hang out carelessly with the opposite sex if you are trying to enjoy singleness
- In fact, avoid all self-indulgence that weakens your desire for God. Wesley does not here advocate the avoidance of pleasure, per say, for God gives you all things to enjoy. Rather, he implores you to “avoid all that pleasure which anyway hinders you from enjoying [God]“
- Enjoy all the advantages of singleness to the fullest, and you may find that being single gets easier.
- Don’t worry yourself about what is better between marriage or singleness, because perfection does not consist in an outward state but in “absolute devotion of all our heart and all our life to God.”
Wesley is saying that the reason you are single is so that God alone can preoccupy your affections.
So if you are called to be single for good, know that this is a blessed calling, and one which God deems so respectable and difficult that He must call and anoint certain people to be so. But O! the joys of this kind of single life! For even if you are called to marriage one day, yet are single now, know that God designed your singleness to draw your eyes towards a better Love than this population can supply.
I pray our Valentine’s day be filled with the love of the Father in Christ Jesus by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as “every pleasure of sense prepares us for taking pleasure in God.”