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 Along with this, DO NOT quote Psalm 37:4.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.