If you are single past the age of 25, there is a chance you have spent some time asking yourself, your close friends or family, and even God if you’ll “really be single forever.” With the beginning of each new year, there is a hope that maybe this year will finally be the year God crosses your path with the man or woman He has for you to walk with through this life. At the heart of this question there is a deeper one that we are probably almost afraid to ask out loud.
Does God want me to be single forever?
There are many directions one can take to start to answer this question. We could dive into the theology of the word “forever,” and the reality of this path is that the answer to this question is a definite no in terms of eternity. Whether you’re single or married for decades here on earth, all of us are the bride of Christ. So, when we leave this world, we shed these earthly relational titles and arrive in a space where we are known more fully than we could ever imagine and more loved than we deserve on our own merits. In the new heaven and the new earth, we will not need the titles: mother, father, sister, brother, wife, husband, or even friend to define levels of relationship.
Though true, this answer does not get to the heart of what is being asked. The hope and comforts of heaven and eternity, as wonderful as they are, do not remove us from the daily struggles of this life. So, the real question that remains is: “Does God want me to be single for the rest of my life?” The answer to this question is maybe.
God created us with intention and purpose. According to Psalm 139, the same God who created everything we see and executed a plan for our redemption not only “knit us together in our mother’s womb” but also wrote down every day we will live before we were even conceived. We have not been left out or forgotten by some mistake or possible oversight. Even though “single” feels like an inferior status, the truth is that God knows our days and knows how we are to live our best lives for Him. He walks with us daily and gives us exactly what we need and perfect gifts beyond what our earthly fathers can provide us with.
The fact is, we know this to be true even if we do not want it to be the answer. If you read the Bible, you know that marriage is not promised to anyone other than children, wealth, or health. Paul, it seems, was never married, and for that matter, neither was Jesus. So, evidence should conclude that marriage is not a “necessity” or even a “better” way to live one’s life. Paul even admonishes the Church that remaining single leaves one “undivided” in their pursuit and passion for Christ and our work for His kingdom. While we may understand these truths and trust God’s plans for our lives, it is sometimes hard to imagine that remaining single can be a valuable, fulfilling, and God-given way to spend its entirety.
Thankfully, whether we are single “just for now” or for the rest of our lives, we do not need to know the answer to this today. We all can only take our journeys one day at a time. While there are many things we can try to change, new tactics we can adopt, or new apps we can download, it will still lay outside of our control if or when the right life partner comes our way. Can we find the balance between contentment with what God has given us and our hope for something different?
For many of us, being single “forever” or “longer than we anticipated” means we will learn to navigate the stages of life differently from those around us who follow a different path; the path of college, engagement, marriage, and raising small children through empty-nesting and grandparenting. The benchmarks that much of the planet uses to mark the passing of time don’t apply the same way to those who remain a party of one. We will attend weddings, baby showers, and reunions on our own and wish the best for our friends and family who attain these new statuses.
It also means we will be responsible for working our jobs, keeping our house, managing our finances, and maintaining connections with family and friends all on our own. While we may have fewer people with immediate demands on our time, we also have no one to share the duties or rely on to carry part of the load that adulting can bring. Being half of a couple does not mean the workload is only half. We will deal with the dreaded even number of seats per table at a wedding reception and the obnoxious Singles Supplement for every vacation we take.
While remaining single means many different things to each of us, one thing that it does not mean for any of us - we are told to walk through life alone. God created us for the community. God in Himself is community. God never leaves us or forsakes us, but He also promises to “set the lonely in families.” (Psalm 68:6) While our friendships and family roles may change over time, we were made to live in a community and be a community for others never changes. Have you ever noticed how some of the verses most quoted at weddings have nothing to do with being married? When Ruth entreats Naomi not to “urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay”, it is about two women met with an impossible set of unmet expectations. They chose a relationship.
We may get to be the cool aunts and uncles instead of parents, but that does not mean we cannot play a “parenting” role in the lives of others. Our parents may remain our closest immediate family for the rest of their lives, but being single also means our friends become more like our family. We have space in our lives and discretionary time in our schedules that our married friends often do not. We can go “all in” with relationships and be the middle-of-the-night emergency calls or the last-minute night-out companions. While we long to be in a community and have deep relationships, we can also learn to become the type of close friends with others we desire for ourselves.
Being single past your 20s comes with a learning curve, and sadly there are not a lot of resources that prepare you for this unexpected perpetual life stage. There will be days you see the opportunities it affords, and other days you will grieve the passing of time and the things you dreamed these days would hold. And both of these are part of the journey. Hold your future and the possibility of marriage with open hands. Trust that the God of the universe loves you too much to keep this from you should it be something He intends to use in your life, but He also loves you enough to give you the strength to walk each day on your own and not compromise your future for something you think you cannot live without.
Take your “forever” one day at a time.
If you happen to be married and reading this article, seek out the richness of having single friends in your life. Maybe the Lord has “set you in a family” to be family to others. Let them into your crazy weeks, holiday meals, or Saturday soccer schedules. Lean on them when you need help, and let them be with you. Please talk with them about the realities of life in a setting they have not yet experienced and learn from us as we navigate this life we never expected. I believe we are all the better at doing life together and encouraging each other on whatever path God has placed us.