I think I could be good at being married. I’m a good communicator. I’m generous and encouraging and willing to compromise. I stay calm in a crisis and I’m learning to admit when I’m wrong. But I am in my mid- (okay late-) 30s and it has not happened for me so the question, “Does God promise you a spouse?” hits pretty close to home.
Here’s the quick answer: I don’t think he does.
I don’t see God making a lot of promises about what is going to happen to us in this life. (He does promise that we will have trials [John 16:33], but who wants to focus on that?) God talks a lot about what he will do for us, in us, and through us, but there’s no verse that says, “And lo, your life will work out just the way you hoped it would and I promise you will get married.”
The majority of people get married. But not everyone does. That may not be what you want to hear, but it’s the truth. I don’t say this lightly – I know the pain of not having the thing you want the most—, but there is freedom in letting go of false ideas. Underneath our longing for a spouse, there is often a web of lies and false beliefs. If we can unearth those lies and pull them up by the roots, we will find freedom.
Lie No. 1: Single people are incomplete
Sometimes we desperately want to believe that God promises us a spouse because we’ve attached our worth and identity to that maybe-future-relationship. We’re afraid that if we stay unmarried, God is telling us that we’re really not worth that much. It’s like being the very last kid picked for the team, only so much worse.
This is a lie we often feed ourselves. We start to think that God has given this other person a spouse because they met his criteria. They were smart enough, faithful enough, pretty enough, rich enough, thin enough, holy enough. They passed. And so by extension, if I don’t have a spouse, that must mean I failed the test. Marriage means being chosen, so it makes sense that the unmarried can feel like leftovers. But God doesn’t make leftovers, spares, or extras. Married or single, none of us are second-best. We are all God’s first choice.
Refuse to believe the lie that you are anything less than God’s very best work. Refuse to listen when you hear someone whisper, “He’s still not married so you know there must be something wrong with him.” Satan wants you to feel small and unimportant but God’s dreams for you are big, huge, Technicolor dreams. So step up, lean in and stand strong in the knowledge that you are amazing because your Father says so.
Lie No. 2: Living single is unfair (in other words, God owes us)
You have to let go of the idea that being unmarried is unfair. Living single definitely has its challenges, but fairness has very little to do with it. The problem is, we think we’re entitled to certain basic things. We have expectations about how the world works. Everyone gets married. Everyone has kids. Everyone is healthy. But take a look around and you’ll see that’s not the way the world works.
We live in a broken world, where the effects of sin abound. Perfect restoration is coming, but here and now, problems and injustice are part of life. It’s not fair that I get to eat while millions of people starve. It’s not fair that people experience violent crimes every day. It’s not fair that some people go through life missing a leg or their eyesight or the chemicals that would keep their brain quiet.
We live in a world that is not yet the way all it will be. God promises that he will make all things new, but he doesn’t promise that that will happen here on Earth. Fairness is not the point, grace is. Everything we have is a gift from God — every breath, every moment. Cast away the idea that life should be fair and rejoice that we have a God of second chances, new beginnings, and do overs.
Lie No. 3: The Bible says God will give me what I want
So what do we do about Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart”? I wish I knew. I do not think that you can take this verse to mean that God will give you the thing you really, really want if you’re a really, really good Christian. That goes against the message of the Gospel. If we could be good enough on our own, we wouldn’t need grace.
I know men and women who are kind and smart and funny and compassionate and would love to be married. They have prayed and prayed and dated and joined eHarmony and gone on missions trips and gotten involved in church. They long to be married and so far God has said, “No.” Or at least, “Not yet.”
I don’t know why, but I believe that God does.
The one thing God does say about singleness is this:
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs — how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world — how he can please his wife — and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world — how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).
And here’s the really hard part of faith: that has to be enough. Knowing that God sees singleness in a very positive light has to be enough. It’s not faith to say, “God, I totally trust you when I can see what you’re doing.” Or “God, I believe you have good plans for me when I’m getting exactly what I want.” Faith matters most when it hurts, when it breaks, when the thing (or person) we long for doesn’t show up. Faith says, “God, I can’t see where you’re going with this, but I’m still in.”
“Does God promise you a spouse?” is not the question that matters. The question we need to focus on is, “Will you still live full out for God if you never get married?” Will you hold on to your faith if he asks you to live your life single? Will you refuse to believe the lie stating that the single life is less than, or just not as good as, married life?
Stop waiting for your real life to begin.
Sometimes we get so fixated on the thing we’re asking for we miss what God is doing. Don’t focus on a future that might come. Instead, get excited about what God is doing right now. What are you learning? Where have you seen God really show up for you? How is he blessing you? What sort of family is gathered around you now?
Life is happening right now. The choices you’re making count. The work you’re doing is important. It’s time to think about grown-up things like life insurance and retirement savings and mortgages. This is not the prologue. This is your God-given life. Make peace with God’s timing and gently rebuke anyone who tries to suggest that his timing is off.
God has plans for you and they are good plans — never second best or left-behind plans. Be encouraged. You are not forgotten, you are chosen. Let the truth of the words sink in; let it ring out in your heart until you can’t hear the lies any more. You are not forgotten and you are precious in God’s sight.