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Singleness: Surviving or Thriving

During one of my trips to Russia, while I was discussing marriage with my Russian sister Julia, she surprised me with, “But Tanya, you said that you didn’t want to be married.” “What?” I responded. “I want to be married. I really want to be married!” “But you said that you are happy being single.” I chuckled as I thought about how a conversation one year earlier had not crossed the language barrier very well. I had mentioned that I was content being single but must not have explained that I still want to be married! As we closed the conversation, Julia assured me that she would pray for me to be married someday.

Just because one is content in her singleness does not mean that she does not desire marriage. However, we have to guard the strength of that desire and make sure it does not consume us. My desire for all of us, married or single, is that we would be women who love Jesus, are wholly satisfied in Him, and are fulfilling His plan for our lives.

I remember vividly the day I heard someone say that the ultimate purpose for marriage is God’s glory. I had never thought about that and as I wrestled with this truth, it changed the way I viewed marriage and singleness as a result. Marriage is not designed to meet our desires, or to make us happy. It is designed to display His glory. As John Piper wrote in This Momentary Marriage, “The meaning of marriage is the display of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people.” Marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church, and its purpose is to display the gospel.

As these truths took root in my heart, it confronted my longing to be married. I wanted to be married because I did not want to be alone forever. I wanted a loving husband who would provide for me. I wanted companionship. I wanted someone to hold my hand and do life with. Again, let me emphasize, it is not wrong to desire marriage. But I had to ask myself, what is my greatest desire? Is it for myself, or is it for God to be glorified and put on display? I began to see that I could not demand marriage from God anymore. My heart’s longing became for His plan for my life so He could receive the most glory. Preparing to be married is a profitable discipline, even if singleness is our only “relationship status” in life. Following are some areas we need to consider, whether we ever marry or not:

  • Pursue being a Proverbs 31 women. She most certainly did not become who she was overnight, or as soon as she was married; she was already that woman. She disciplined herself and surpassed many women who had done excellently. She feared the Lord, and her life works flowed from that. Let us be women who emulate her, fearing the Lord and pleasing Him alone. An encouraging book in this pursuit is Becoming a Woman Who Pleases the Lord by Ennis and Tatlock.
  • Guard your heart. Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” As women, our thoughts can run far and fast. It is easy to let our minds wander and soon we are imagining life with this guy or that guy. We must discipline our minds to think on truth and to fight wandering. Our thoughts will direct our emotions, so let us fight for truth. Memorize scripture so that when those moments of fantasy come, you can stop them with the Word. Guard your heart from the desire to pursue a man. That is not your role. Remind yourself that if he is not pursuing you, he is most likely not interested in you. It is our job to wait for the Lord to work and move his heart.
  • Do him good now. Proverbs 31:12 “She does him good, and not harm, ALL the days of her life.” If you look at the single guys around you and wonder which one is “the One” or look at each as a potential mate, you are cultivating wandering eyes and a wandering heart. Once you get married, this will be a hard habit to break! Instead, cultivate a heart that considers all guys as brothers in Christ. And treat them as such. Unless you are engaged or married, you probably do not know who your future husband is. All other men are intended for another woman. Are you treating guys in a way that you would not be ashamed if your best friend married one of them? Are you treating them in a way that your actions today will not hurt your future husband? Are you looking at guys like you would want your future husband looking at other women?
  • Be submissive to the authority in your life. Usually, this is your father. If your father is not saved, the Bible says you are still to honor him. There is promised blessing in honoring our fathers. Do not takeyourself out from under that blessing. If your father is unable to give you wise counsel when it comes to a future husband, cultivate a relationship with an elder or pastor who can be by your side. It is easy as a single woman to live independently and more so as the years progress. I fight this temptation by seeking my father’s wisdom in big and small issues.
  • Develop a heart of contentment. We have discussed this before, but if you are discontent now with singleness (or anything else) you will take this into marriage. You will have expectations of your husband (and then kids, and then…) that he cannot fulfill. Seek the Lord as your only satisfaction; cultivate a heart of contentment in Him alone.

Singles: Desire marriage, but desire God’s will the most. John Piper encourages us, “God calls you to display, by the Christ-exalting devotion of your singleness, the truths about Christ and his kingdom that shine through singleness.”

Marrieds: Pray for future husbands for the singles in your lives. That is a huge encouragement to us, so tell us! Then also encourage us in our pursuit of living contentedly, pursuing God’s plan for our lives.