This is one of those rare personal posts from me. But having written about my singleness here and here, I thought this was a good place to share some more thoughts on the subject, especially given this particular point in my life and the fact that I know I am not alone. There are many like me are in the predicament of desiring marriage yet maintaining contentment in singleness, a task that I have personally found challenging at times.
This is also one of the posts that I would always find myself hating to read. The kind that slaps down lofty ideas of future nuptials, strangles the notion of granted promises and spotlights the idolatrous inclinations of wandering hearts. For many, there is a desire to mate and find that lifelong partner. In our evangelical churches, marriage is touted, promoted and honored and rightly so. But I fear that so much attention can forge existing eagerness into a penetrating need that so grips our being, no other solution would proffer. For sure, I have experienced this.
The bible makes much of marriage and the fact that mating should be endemic in our nature. God saw to it that the first man would not be lonely and created a very special creature just for him, citing the oneness that would be foundational for that marital union (Genesis 2:18-25). The apostle Paul indicates that singleness is a gift not shared by all, inferring that desire. He describes a beautiful parallel of husband and wife with Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Unless one was inclined towards singleness, who would not want that? The author of Hebrews indicates that marriage is to be held in high esteem by all (Hebrews 13:4). And then there is the Song of Songs, but let’s not go there. Yes, it does seem that desires are validated by scripture. I myself have considered these passages to be proof that internal desires matched with prayerful expectation should eventually yield that godly mate I have so desired.
However, the bible also presents scenarios where this is not the case. There are widows and virgins. Paul tells Timothy that widows should focus on fulfilling their duty to their children (1 Timothy 5:4). He also told the church at Corinth that marriage will necessitate divided attention (1 Corinthians 7:32-35) and that one should look to be content in the place where God called them (vv 21-24) . While not explicitly stated, I have to imagine that in the early NT church, there were many who desired marriage or like me, were widowed and freed from unpleasant choices made apart from Christ and desiring a marital scenario that was Christ centered and personally satisfying. Nonetheless, the encouragement is the same – be content in whatever state you find yourselves in.
It is not pleasant when the deepest yearnings of your heart go unfulfilled and especially if we’re surrounded by others who are granted the privilege that we long should fall on us. Proverbs 13:12 has resonated with me quite often, about deferred hope. But that’s where examination must take place, and how tightly desires have wrapped themselves around the heart. Idolatry is an insidious odor in the nostrils of God who longs to breathe sweet sacrifices of worshipful lives devoted to Him. It is not because He withholds, but because what He grants is fitting for his purpose, glory and honor. That might make us earthly losers but precious heavenly winners.
There are no guarantees to the believer in Christ only that they belong to Him and can expect enjoyment with Him forever. My fellow blogger, Daniel Eaton over on Theologica reminded me of that with his post here, that life may not turn out as expected. And that takes us to the place of hard choices, to examine, confront and let go, to say if we have food an clothes, that shall be sufficient. Whatever is gripped tightly has to be held loosely lest the noose of expectation lead to a self-consumed occupation, or worse disastrous decisions that would undermine the very fabric of our Christian life. That prison is a far cry from the freedom that Christ has provided through his sacrificial death and resurrected life. Besides, marriage is not the panacea for discontentment, a fact I’m sure many married couples can attest to.
The bottom line is that I don’t know if God will ever grant my desire, but I do know I should not worry about it any longer. What he has granted must be embraced, Himself, His son, the guaranteed indwelling of the Holy Spirit who provides spiritual gifts to demonstrate what He has provided, His provision and His people. I may not find happiness with a mate but there is sure to be joy with attention paid towards Him. And that is where it behooves us to focus, because God never promised us a mate.