If you haven’t read Part 1 of Singleness and the Church yet, please do so before proceeding. You need context for this. Otherwise, it may seem harsh.
So, how do you as a married (or at least in a serious relationship) person relate to singles who do genuinely long to be married (which, just to reiterate, is not every single adult)?
You cannot tell the human heart to “just be content.” I don’t know if any of the rest of you have ever struggled deeply with something only to have someone say, “Just stop struggling with it!” Not only is it futile exhortation, it’s also very frustrating. Can you say to your heart: Heart, just do this… and it does it? No. It doesn’t work like that! Along with this, DO NOT quote Psalm 37:4. It is not a formula, and it’s not about marriage. For some Bob Newhart help here of what not to do, see this video.
Nor can you promise a person that God has someone out there for them. Quite honestly, marriage is NOT always God’s plan, and He does not promise it to any of us.
And please do not try to gloss over the pain of a single adult who longs to be married with the simple platitude that God loves him or her. It’s true that God loves her, but the immediate response to that is rebellion… “I don’t care that God loves me! What I want is to feel the strong arms of a man around me! I need something tangible!”
Or tell them that if they would just change this behavior or that personality quirk, they might get a date. While it’s true that we should propel one another towards holiness, I just have to say that there are plenty of seriously messed up married people out there. Singles don’t have lack of dates because they’re messed up. Come on, JESUS wasn’t married. I’m not saying singles are perfect, just saying that we’re not supposed to BE perfect before we find Mr. or Miss Right. We’re all messed up people, single or married.
Most of all, please don’t say things like “you’re lucky…you can use this time to be selfish!” Christians are not called to be selfish. Ever. And we certainly don’t need other Believers encouraging us to be selfish – it’s a hard enough battle without encouragement to the flesh! And “this time” could be a year, 10 years, or a lifetime. In fact, Paul encourages singleness BECAUSE, he says, we can be devoted to the Lord without being distracted by the needs of a spouse (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).
Basically, treat a friend who struggles with his or her singleness like you would want pain in your own life to be treated. Pain is always a place where God works the beauty of redemption into the mess of the Fall, and much more so when we open our hearts up to Him and allow Him to work. What that means practically is that as the Body of Christ, we need people to point us to Christ in deep and meaningful ways. So.
Continue to build loving and deep relationship with your single friends. Invite them over for dinner (sometimes the loneliest part of being single is eating meals alone). Go to the deep places of your heart with those who are your same gender. If they are wise, invite them to speak into your life – both male and female. Ask them how God is revealing Himself to them. Give them hugs, especially if they are clearly the affectionate-type (single adults are generally very touch-deprived). Value their wisdom and insight. Encourage them to pursue God. Hang out with them! (Man, I’m realizing I could write a whole other post on the value and beauty of friendship!)
And singles… don’t be shunning your married friends just because their lives are different now. True friendship is not based on stage of life. Deal with your heart before the Lord, love your friends, and allow yourself to be loved by them.
Heart-change is a process in any struggle or unfulfilled dream that we have. It’s a process of submission, of learning to trust God in the daily details of life until we learn that He is, in fact, trustworthy with all things. This means that we must walk closely with Him, give all things over to Him (both big and small), and depend entirely on Him. I say “we” because I am also still very much on this journey.
As we learn these beautiful lessons, we will also learn to find ourselves content in Christ, regardless of our circumstances (as Paul notes in Philippians 4:12-13). And being content, we will be able to rest in who He has made us to be and to witness to the glory of who He is.
July 7, 2010 at 7:48 pm
I saw the link to this piece and its predecessor on Facebook. They’re both excellent–filled with insight and wisdom.
Hope all is well with you,
July 8, 2010 at 3:16 pm
Thanks for your encouragement, Jay! I’m glad you enjoyed them both.
July 7, 2010 at 10:39 pm
Good thoughts, girl. Way to bring in an 80’s movie star. I commit to needing you for as long as we both shall live.
July 8, 2010 at 3:10 pm
I must confess, our professor showed us that video in class the day before I posted this, and I realized that it fit in perfectly with what I’d already written. I couldn’t resist adding it. 🙂 AND, I commit to needing you for as long as we both shall live as well!
July 8, 2010 at 3:19 am
Well said, sister. Here are some thoughts your post(s) have elicited:
1) Do people really say some of these things? Some of them are truly awful, and I apologize on behalf of married church-dom for those, especially the “use this time to be selfish” bit. There is truly nothing in this world that gives me more joy than serving my wife. She says that makes her respect me all the more, which just makes me want to do it more. The selfless love and respect thing is the Biblical and only way to sustain a marriage relationship. There is no place for selfishness in ANY relationship.
2) Though I have not been single in a long time, I truly do find myself thinking about/praying for my single friends. Thank you for clarifying things I can be praying over and for the point that relationships are not just about life stages. I know it’s not exactly the same, but there is also a divide in church communities among “married without kids” and “married with kids.” The married without kids think that all the married with kids will want to talk about is their kids. The married with kids think that maybe there is a reason they haven’t had/can’t have kids, so being around or talking about the kids will make them uncomfortable.
3) And we as the church are so guilty of reinforcing these divides by creating Sunday School classes divided by life stages, etc. I know there is a lot that I can still learn about the Lord from the ways He is moving in my single friends’ lives and from the ways He is moving in my old retired friends’ lives. We should all embrace that diversity of life experiences. I feel like the Lord has more to teach me than I can experience in my one lifetime, so I need to take advantage of the experiences of all those around me, young or old, single or married, kids or not.
July 8, 2010 at 3:15 pm
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Victor! I appreciate your insight, wisdom, and encouragement. And from what I’ve observed, I think you’re totally right about the “married without kids” and “married with kids” divisions.
And yes, people really do say all of those things that I mentioned.
July 8, 2010 at 4:25 pm
Becca you say it wonderfully. Your harshness is like fluffy bunny slippers on plush carpet 🙂 You are so right though. I think a big issue is married Christians feeling sorry for single Christians. It’s as though we are not complete, as though we’re in a waiting phase until we can marry and have kids and our real life can start. This can perpetuate the ache in so many singles to find a mate, just so that they can rid themselves of that mantle of pity. Church singles groups are miserable, and get more miserable the older you get. As one’s friends marry off and join other groups (marrieds, marrieds with kids etc) you are left behind, and that is really where the pain can lie. Christians have such a problem with quoting platitudes and using out of context memory verses. If we would just put ourselves in others’ places and think about how we would like to be treated if we were in their situation, we’d all do a lot better! I love you dearly, Becca, you are my kindred spirit!
August 12, 2010 at 5:09 am
Becca, A really great piece of work (or two)! You are such a joy to know. Look forward to being back soon and seeing you.
August 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm
Thank you, Paul! That means a lot. I’m looking forward to you being back with us!