My experience is that there comes a moment as a single woman where it just stops being fun. Where you are done with the single scene, worn out by meat markets, and frustrated by well meaning but insensitive friends or family who keep suggesting the wrong guys to you. I remember feeling like I needed to talk myself into marrying someone that friends thought was good for me but who made me feel like dying inside personally. Was he my last chance at happiness? Being a Christian single woman is hard!
And I don't think it gets easier. I only seriously struggled with unfulfilled longing for about a year and a half. I have many godly friends who have struggled with it much longer. A few months ago, one shared with me how she keeps thinking she's dealt with the emotions and put them to rest, just for them to resurface months later. Each resurfacing of pain is particularly hard. “Hadn't I gotten past that?! Not again!”
Another friend this week shared with me her struggle to figure out her life at this stage. She thought she'd be at a different place in life at this point. She would have done so much differently if she had realized she would still be single into her late 40's. There's a temptation to point out the positives in her life. Isn't that how we like to counsel/encourage people sometimes? “Hey, it's not so bad. Look at all the opportunity you have. Look at all the people who love you. You've done this, this, and this that you couldn't have done if you had a family.” Blah, blah, blah.
Instead, I think there's something profound to be learned from God at creation noting that it is “not good” to be alone. That's monumental. In PERFECTION, it's not good to be alone. Single friend, I encourage you to stop kicking yourself when the painful feelings of loss arise in your heart. Don't fall into the “why am I not past this” mentality. You aren't past it because it's a really deep need! I can't imagine trying to guilt someone who had lost a loved one to death when recurring feelings of grief arise. But we often project such guilt onto our single friends. It's normal to feel grief! You feel grief and restlessness because you bear the image of God. Because you are like Him.
I've talked about this broader theme a lot lately. It's the idea of godliness with contentment. Because you are godly – you love God and have God-given longings – you experience restlessness with the things in your life that don't reflect His perfect created order. I received this timely email from a reader this morning who gave me permission to post her question.
“Whilst you were single desiring marriage did you find that it was once you were content in your singleness that the Lord brought forth you a husband? Alot of the time I come across articles and personal testimonies whereby its often cited "once I was content in the Lord" or "once I had enough faith" or "once I stopped doing x and did y" the Lord blessed me with a spouse. Doesn't this show that its based on man's efforts and not on God's sovereignty and grace which none of us are deserving of. I know many women who are mature and very content in the Lord who desire marriage and motherhood but the Lord has not opened His hand to give them these roles.”
Succinct and well put. Heaven knows God didn't wait until I had it all together in my singleness to give me my husband. And I know many women experiencing infertility who struggle with the same idea. “What is the lesson I have to learn before God will give me a child?!” No, friend! Your sisters in Christ with husbands and/or children did not EARN that good gift by their obedience or faith. It only takes a cursory look at society to know that for a fact. You aren't single because you squandered your last chance at happiness with your last boyfriend (which is what I thought during my particularly depressed time. I learned that you don't have to talk yourself into marrying a guy with whom you aren't at peace just because you think it's the last opportunity you are going to have.)
So what is godliness with contentment in these circumstances? It it NOT bucking yourself up to be all happy and smiley with your situation. Contentment is not a command to be OK with something God Himself says is not good. You long for something that is normal to long for by the very nature of your creation by God. Yet in our fallen world, that God-given aspect of your nature is unfulfilled. Contentment is understanding that you are not left as an orphan in this longing. You can say, “This sucks!” Because it does, but you can say it hand in hand with God, who said it first but in nobler terms. And you can say it knowing that you are equipped by the gospel to do battle and not be overwhelmed in this season.
If there is a lesson to learn in your singleness, it's to stay engaged with God in the wrestling. It's not to put to death longings that are part of your very God-given nature. And it's not to disengage with God because He refuses to answer those longings. It's to stay engaged with Him, alternately crying out in longing and resting in peace in His arms, calling on Him at every moment to meet the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs exposed by your unfulfilled longing.
It's not good for man or woman to be alone. And God has not left you to navigate this by yourself! You are not married. But you are not an orphan. May the vision of your very good Father in heaven holding your hand through this season uphold and encourage you this day.