By Fern Horst
In Part I, we looked at five false assumptions we tend to have regarding marriage and singleness. We stated, “If our expectations for marriage are based on false assumptions, they will become a tyrant in our lives, controlling our emotions, coloring our perspective, and eventually leaving us disillusioned, disappointed, and — worst of all — ineffective in fulfilling God’s purposes for us.” The first five False Assumptions were:
- If we reach a state of contentment and acceptance of our singleness, God will give us marriage;
- Marriage is the reward of being the “right” person and doing the “right” thing;
- If God wants us to remain single, He will remove our desire to be married;
- Since God promises to give us the desires of our heart, then anyone who desires to get married will eventually marry;
- Since God wants me to be happy, He will provide a mate for me.
We looked at the reasons each of these False Assumptions are false, and what God’s truth is regarding each one. We will continue in Part II with five more False Assumptions.
False Assumption #6: If a young person prepares well for marriage, God will give them a spouse.
Marriage does not automatically happen just because someone is well prepared for marriage. And just because someone marries, does not mean they were well prepared for marriage. Our focus and the purpose of our lives should be to live a pure and holy life for the Lord. If a spouse enters the picture at some point, we will be well prepared for marriage. But marriage is not the primary aspect we should be preparing for in life, nor should it be the primary reason we live a pure and holy life. We need to prepare first and foremost to serve the Lord, and live pure lives out of obedience to Him. We need to be absolutely sure that God gets our primary focus, not our desire for marriage or anything else.
There are many singles who would make excellent spouses and parents. However, many of the characteristics that make individuals good spouses and parents also make them valuable in other roles as well. God may purpose for some of these gifted individuals to be single so that they touch more people’s lives than is possible within a family setting.
False Assumption #7: Everyone who marries has been given that spouse from the Lord.
While every good gift is from the Lord, God has also created us with a free will. We choose to marry or not marry, and those choices are not always what the Lord would have led us to choose. Someone wanting to marry us is no more indication that the Lord provided that person for us than someone agreeing to be partners with us in crime is indication that God provided that person to assist us in crime. Our feelings for someone or something are not an indicator in and of themselves of what the Lord wants to give us.
It is important that we consider carefully those who show an interest in us (or those we take an interest in), rather than just assuming that because they are available God has put them in our path for us to marry. God may very well have put them in our lives for a reason, but not necessarily for marriage. God provides many relationships in our lives both for our benefit and theirs, and we need to learn to value each one for what they are, not look at each one as a potential life mate.
False Assumption #8: God has someone picked out for each person to marry
This is obviously not true just in light of the fact that there is not an equal number of men and women on the face of the earth at one time. Add to that the requirement for us as Christians to “marry in the Lord” and to not be “unequally yoked” and the right options for marriage get slimmer. But more than that, both Jesus and the Apostle Paul indicated that God desires for some of His chosen to be single in order that we focus primarily on Him and His work without the distraction of marriage.
Many people quote Genesis 2:24, “It is not good for man to be alone” to claim as God’s promise that He intends for everyone to be married. However, none of us today are in Adam’s situation where he was the only human being on the face of the earth. Companionship with other humans is available to us in various forms that were not available to Adam. God made us as people to need each other, but that doesn’t mean that we need to be married in order to not be alone or to be a support and helpmeet to each other.
False Assumption #9: if I pray and ask Him, God will tell me whether or not I am to marry, and who I am to marry.
Many people have thought that God told them they would marry, or that they would marry a certain person, only to be disappointed. Feelings are extremely fickle. It is easy to imagine that God “told” us something when it is only our own wishful thinking.
We may wish that God would just tell us whether or not we will some day marry. But He doesn’t reveal information just to satisfy our curiosity. In rare situations He reveals information about the future when He knows that an individual needs additional information in order to make a specific decision.
But generally we need to make our decisions based on the information we have now, and not make assumptions about the future that are not guaranteed. Looking for a guarantee or special revelation from the Lord when He has not chosen to give it to us can be disastrous. We can read into all kinds of things messages from the Lord that are only our wishful thoughts.
It is important that we not put our lives on hold because marriage isn’t currently a viable choice. We need to commit our future to God and make decisions according to what we know now, not what we wish for the future.
False Assumption #10: If a person is going to be single for the rest of their lives, they will know that they are “called” to celibacy and singleness.
This may be true in certain circumstances, but not most. Actually, those who know they will be single the rest of their lives are those who have chosen celibacy in light of who God has created them to be and do in His Kingdom. I have heard numerous lifelong singles say that they never felt called to singleness. However, as they went through life concentrating on what God had given them to do, they slowly came to realize that singleness was the best state in which to accomplish these tasks, and that marriage would have been a hindrance in that regard.
Many singles waste their lives away being sure that marriage is just around the corner because they haven’t yet “felt called” to singleness. The truth of the matter is that if we are single, then singleness is our calling at least for now. Marriage may be our calling tomorrow, but for today it is singleness.
Why We Are Single
The reality of life is that the answer to why some marry and some remain single (even when they would prefer marriage) is elusive. There is no one answer that fits every situation. The reason someone is single is usually complex, involving more than just one reason. A quest for why we are not married is usually counterproductive. The most important thing is to not try and figure out what the magical solution is that will cause God to do what we want, or even to try and second guess what our futures may hold. We need to make the most of living for Christ in the situation we are in, whether we are married or single, realizing that each one is equally important for serving the Lord
So no matter the reason for our singleness, it is much more important that we grasp hold of the opportunities available to us in our singleness, than it is to try and figure out why we are single or why we can’t find someone to marry. Often times the answers to our questions come as we live life, not as we sit and analyze ourselves to death.
Adjusting our False Assumptions with Truth
In order to avoid disillusionment with ourselves and with God, we need to replace our false assumptions with His truth. These truths need to be at the heart of what we believe about God, about ourselves, and about His working in our lives.
In order to have realistic expectations that do not become tyrants to our minds and emotions, they need to be placed under the Lordship of Christ and be in keeping with His purposes for our lives. The first step in doing this is realizing who is Lord and who is the servant. It is when we get these roles turned around, and assume that God exists to make us happy, that we become bitter and angry people.
Our whole expectation for fullness of life should be placed directly in the Lord Himself. We should take as our example the Psalmist who said, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him” (Psalms 62:5). God wants us to acknowledge our desires to Him, and to ask Him to fulfill them if He sees best. But in the end our expectation should be in Him, not in the fulfillment of our request. When our expectations are in Him, we can then treasure what He gives us because it is from Him.
God does not guarantee to grant our expectations and desires if they are not in line with His desires. We don’t always know what His desires are; what may seem good to us may be detrimental in ways we are unable to see right now. Those desires which we don’t know whether He wants to fulfill or not must be held lightly, offered up to Him, and willing to be completely sacrificed if we realize they are contrary to His desires for us.
The desires which we know are His will for us, and which we can ask for in confidence include a closer walk with Him, being used in His Kingdom and service, a deeper sense of His love, knowing our significance in Him, finding our security in Him, the ability to share Him with others, etc. God will give us His best, there’s no doubt about that, if we are open and willing to receive it. He has promised His best, and to not expect it is to doubt who He is and what He says. When we tell Him what is best for us and demand it, we are setting ourselves over Him in thinking we know better than He does. We are worthy of nothing from Him, but because He loves us and because we are His children, we can be sure that He will give us all that we need and more. Unless we see our unworthiness and His worthiness, His Lordship and our servanthood, we will become resentful when life doesn’t serve up what we had wished.
The blessing in my life has come from not holding onto a “promise” that God will someday fulfill my desires for marriage and a family, but that He will fulfill His purposes for me and that heaven will be the place and the time when all my deepest desires and longings will be fulfilled. I can live with unfulfilled longings here, knowing that it is temporary, and that heaven is my true home where I will lack nothing. Therefore it is not a tragedy to not have certain desires met here. Often God has a purpose for unfulfilled desires, perhaps in making us better able to understand others and minister to them.
Living life well in any case is learning a balance — and in the case of singles desiring to be married but with no opportunities in sight, the balance is often a difficult one. It means learning to hold blessing and pain in our hands at the same time, desire and unfulfillment, joy and sorrow, life and death, and so on—and being content in the process.
Learning to say, “Yes, Lord!”
I wonder if, after hearing all that we have to say to Him, the sweetest words to our Heavenly Father are perhaps the simplest ones: “Yes, Lord.” After years of telling the Lord (and sometimes in a rather demanding way) the deepest desires of my heart, I have found that it is those very words of surrender that have in the end brought me closest to the heart of my Heavenly Father. He understands the depths of my longings better than I do myself; but the comfort He gives is most receptive on my part when I simply accept what He’s given me now, with no expectations for what He may give differently in the future.