By Kathleen Trissel
The blessing of singleness is not always seen—but on the other side of the struggle with the status of being single lays a contentment that is rich with joy.
As a young believer, when I read the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:12, they stuck in my heart. Jesus spoke of singleness and encouraged those who could to receive his message. Now, at 53 years old, never having married, the words are more intimate in my relationship with Christ than they were at first.
Comparing with Others
As a younger woman I looked around and saw other women who were in promising relationships with men, and I longed to have the same. I fell in love with one man from a distance. He worked at the church, and I sent him cards to encourage him. But it backfired, and he angrily confronted me, saying that if I loved him, I’d stop sending him cards. I was crushed; I really did care for him. Count me a little old-fashioned, but I now believe the man should take the initiative. Elisabeth Elliot, the widow of martyred missionary Jim Elliot, agrees with this. I suppose there are differences in opinion.
I continued to hope that God had a person for me, but deep in my spirit, I didn’t think so. I related to Corrie Ten Boom’s story in The Hiding Place. She told of falling in love with a young man who visited her family home, until one day he stopped by with his fiancée. Tears streamed down her face with devastation, as she threw herself on her bed. She wrote that even though her father encouraged her by telling her there’d be another man that God had for her, she said she knew there would not be another man. I know how she felt.
Looking at the good marriages others had only made it worse. I longed to share my life with a godly man. I imagined what it would be like to have a husband with whom I could pray and share intimate conversation. Though this served only to torment.
Traps to Avoid
I’ve seen women who are desperate for a man. The resulting blindness prevents them from seeing the warning signs because they’re looking through rose-colored glasses. Some Christians settle for spouses who are not believers. This happens because it’s difficult to wait on the Lord in an area of life that’s so deeply personal. Remember Sarah who couldn’t wait to have a son. She manipulated the situation to get what she wanted, and from it she experienced a heartache she didn’t count on (Genesis 16). It’s the same for us.
I saw this firsthand when I worked as a professional counselor with domestic violence victims. I often heard stories about how they saw the warning signals but chose to ignore them because they were desperate for marriage.
I found a quote by James McDonald that relates well: “Beware of begging God for non-essentials; in time, you may come to hate what you thought you had to have.” Numbers 11:19, 20 illustrates this point also. The people longed to have meat to eat, and God gave them their desire, but we’re told they came to hate it.
Running from your place of singleness by filling time with endless activity is unhealthy and won’t bring the peace and contentment desired. It will leave you feeling empty, as though something is missing. Something is missing, but it’s not the man or woman you long to have in your life. It might be emotional intimacy with Christ that’s missing.
When we’re so focused in one direction, it consumes our thoughts, making it difficult to think about the things of Christ and our role in his purpose on earth. It’s important to develop godly relationships with others; otherwise it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling sorry for ourselves. I go to a singles Sunday school class for this reason.
I feel the pressure of singleness the most when I’m seeking counsel for a difficult decision, and a married person says, “The Lord will speak to you personally rather than hearing from me.” I know the Lord will speak to me personally, but Scripture teaches us to seek wise counsel from others too. Married people have each other to talk to when making decisions. I have to remember married people may not understand what it’s like to live the single life—or they’ve forgotten.
Peace and Contentment
Singleness settled in my heart when I went to a conference where Brennan Manning spoke. I don’t remember what he talked about, but I do remember my encounter with the Lord.
Caught up in worship, tears flowing, and not even thinking about the desire to marry, the Lord flooded my heart with a message: he didn’t want to give me away; he wanted me for himself. The verse in Isaiah 54:5 filled my mind: “For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name.” I came away emotionally exhausted but at peace.
It’s humorous to me now, but when I watch Love It or List It on HGTV, I think of how God spared me the trouble in the flesh that is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 7:25-40. I don’t have to deal with the arguments that are a part of any marital relationship. To someone amid the struggle, however, it’s not funny.
Contentment also comes with the idea that God hasn’t given me marriage. At this stage in my life, I’m obviously not called to it. It allows me to relish and rejoice in what God has given me.
Trusting that our Father knows best helps us grow in contentment, along with catching ourselves when we start to compare our lives with others. It’s not that we won’t play the comparison game, but it’s stopping it when we become aware. Comparing ourselves to others and to what they have only serves to prevent us from enjoying what God has given to us.
God’s Purpose in Singleness
As an unmarried woman I can focus on the Lord, and I have a passion for people to come to know Christ. During the times in which I thought there might be a man for me, my attention turned toward that person. Marriage creates a larger context of family and possibly children to care for, and rightly so; this must be the focus of attention.
As a single person I’m obligated to the Lord, not to a spouse. I can be completely his. In fact, we are all complete in him. It’s not scriptural to think marriage completes us. Knowing the blessedness of completeness in Christ frees us to engage in his work, whatever that may be, as a whole person. Whether single or married, the call to each one of us is to not entangle ourselves with the things of this world (2 Timothy 2:4).
The journey to finding God’s purpose for you is to allow yourself to struggle. Don’t seek to medicate your struggle with empty busyness. It will rob you of the joy that could be yours if you’d only allowed yourself to have that divine wrestling match. Jacob wrested with God, and it changed his life (Genesis 32:22-32). It changes our lives too.
Singleness by itself doesn’t mean that a person will be kingdom minded. This must be cultivated so we learn to hear the whispers of the Spirit. Cherishing time in prayer and in his Word gives clarity to our purpose as single people.
Building healthy friendships will help to cultivate relationships with those whose counsel we can seek, whether that is another single person or a married couple.
Now after many years of living as a single person, I know peace, contentment, joy, and purpose in my life. I get twitches of wishing I had someone, but it doesn’t last. I know intimacy with Christ, which I may not have known if I were married. Only God knows, and I can trust him fully.
Kathleen Trissel is a freelance writer in Canton, Ohio.