Five Things Singles Wish Married Couples Knew
As we’ve been going through 1 Corinthians, we’ve talked a lot about marriage and singleness. Ever since we looked at 1 Corinthians 7, I’ve had really interesting conversations with my single and married friends, and thought it might be helpful to share a few things singles wish married couples knew, along with bits of my own story.
1. God settles the solitary in a family—and it might be your family.
Yes, as Psalm 68:6 says, God settles the solitary in a home, but he does it through the church. God creates homes not only from biological families with parents and children, but also through beautiful friendships that become like family.
The first time I dealt with the difficulty of being single, my Community Group leader noticed that I was struggling, and we talked about it. But it wasn't our conversation that helped me most—it was being a part of her family. It was celebrating birthdays and holidays with them, going to dinner with them, spending time with their children, and generally loving and being loved by them. They were and will always be family to me.
So I encourage you to to make your single friends a part of your life and a part of your family. Don't assume we're too busy to have dinner with you and your kids on a Friday or Saturday night. We love your kids! (Babysitting doesn't count! Your single friend is not your babysitter.)
2. Marriage is sanctifying, but so is singleness.
Marriage is hard, and you grow a lot through it. Nobody doubts that. But singleness is also hard, and you grow a lot through it. Marriage paints a picture of Christ’s love for the church, and singleness paints a picture of the sufficiency of Christ and the joy of a life that serves and accepts the Father's will, as Jesus did when he prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
In my singleness, I’ve had to learn and relearn that I will not be ashamed for trusting God with my life (Psalm 25:1-3). I’ve needed reminders that I’m not trying to have my best life now or to make my expectations line up with reality. No, I need to live and serve with my eyes on the happiness that awaits in heaven. My desires may or may not be partially fulfilled in my life now, but all my desires will be completely fulfilled when I am in the presence of Christ.
Let’s acknowledge that God is growing and sanctifying all of us all of the time. Want to know what’s most sanctifying? Wherever God has placed you right now! Sanctification comes from God regardless of our life stages.
3. Our singleness doesn't define us, and you can help us remember that.
Think of a time that you felt like the only person who didn’t fit in with the crowd. What felt true (even if it wasn’t actually true)? How did you try to make up for your nonconformity? Did you feel defined by the one thing that made you feel different?
Welcome to the life of Christian singles in the south. Most Christians in our area get married in their 20s, and while we who aren’t in our 20s are happy for them, it makes us feel like we stick out. When I'm surrounded by people who lives don’t look like mine, I tend to either try to fit in or to make my differences a bigger deal than they are. Either way, I allow my life to be defined by that one detail.
All of us, not just singles, need to remember that we aren’t defined by our work or details about our lives, but by our identity as children of God who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Because of our common identity, we all have more in common than we have differences, regardless of our age, marital status, or ethnicity.
4. Culture lies to us a lot.
The world’s culture and Christian culture send a lot of mixed messages. The world tells us that you're not living to the full unless you're both independent and pursuing sexual intimacy outside of marriage. Christian culture, though well-meaning, sometimes tells us that if we are content enough, or if we stop looking for a spouse, then God will finally pull back the curtain in dramatic fashion to reveal the spouse he hand-crafted for you in particular. (Seriously. People say things like that.) Both the world and Christian culture tend to assume that being single is nonstop fun, and that anyone whose social calendar isn’t full is failing at being single. (Singles in their young 20s may have lots of fun and full calendars, but the older you get, the harder you have to work to have evening and weekend plans.)
All of these messages are focused on ourselves—how we should improve or how we should do better. What we really need to do is to look to God, to believe that he is good to us and in control of all that happens. Only then can we begin to trust that what God plans is best. Suggestions about why God hasn't given marriage are empty, but resting in God brings fullness and joy (Psalm 16:11).
5. Don’t expect all your single friends to get married.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve never met a single person who didn’t want to get married. But marriage isn’t a quick fix, because part of being human is that we will always want what we don’t have. Desire for marriage is a good, God-given thing, but it's a terrible expectation.
Let’s think of it in these terms: desire, expectation, and hope. A desire is something you want that's typically a good thing, such as marriage or friendship. Desire grows into either expectation or hope. An expectation is an idol, or a desire that turns into a must-have that rules your life, one of those “I need right now” things. The only cure for an expectation is true hope in the God who knows and loves his children (that’s us!), who gives them what is best (that’s him!), and exercises both his complete goodness and his control over the universe in relation to each of us.
Hope says, “God knows what I desire, and for some reason I don’t know, he hasn’t given it to me. But I know that he is good, he hasn’t forgotten me, and when I am with him in heaven, he will fulfill all my desires far better than I could have imagined.” (See 1 John 3:1-3, Romans 8:23-25, Psalm 33:18.)
I encourage you to ask your single friends about what being single means to them. Try to understand their experiences, and be a safe person to talk to about their singleness. This means not treating them like their singleness is a problem to be fixed or using them because it’s convenient.
In my experience, I don’t talk much about my singleness for a host of reasons, including protecting myself from unhelpful opinions, trying not to be the token single person, and sometimes it feels like pushing on a bruise. But when someone who is truly a friend brings up singleness, it’s much easier for me to feel like I can be honest with them, and their understanding reminds me of God’s love and attention toward me. So give it a shot! Your single friends will thank you for it!