Before God led me to find a godly husband and return the gift of singleness, I was a Christian single woman over the age of 30 who wanted to be married. But I wasn’t meeting anybody right for me or even dating. Yet, I was doing everything correctly, according to Christian courtship books.
In this post:
Rules That I Thought Would Guarantee Me a Great Love Story
Harmful Christian Teachings about Singleness and the Desire For Marriage
Sanctified Passivity: the False Teaching That It’s More Godly To Do Nothing to Achieve a Goal
The One Big Change That Led Me to Mr. Right
Rules That I Thought Would Guarantee Me a Great Love Story:
1. I trusted that I didn’t have to do anything about my lack of love life, and that God would send me a godly husband at the perfect time.
2. I saved myself for marriage, didn’t date, didn’t kiss, and “guarded my heart” as best I could (but I still got the occasional crush). I was single, satisfied, and waiting on the Lord.
3. I was content in my singleness and very happy the great majority of the time, with only occasional bouts of loneliness.
4. My source of significance and meaning was found in the Lord. I loved God and was in the Word.
5. A godly older woman mentored me in my walk with Christ.
6. My closest friends were very sanctified Christians, and I was involved in various ministries.
7. I supported missions and personally evangelized the lost
8. My wardrobe consisted of modest feminine outfits.
(I followed many more rules, but for brevity’s sake I’m omitting them.)
My motivation for keeping these rules was to live a God-honoring life, regardless of whether I got married. But the books I read taught that living like this would prepare me for and nearly guarantee a great love story with the future husband God had handpicked for me.
So, like many Christian girls in courtship culture, I believed that if I followed these rules God would send a man perfect for me.
However, a scenario that I’d never anticipated came about: As year after year of mostly contented singleness passed, I turned 30, then 31, then 32, 33, etc., and found myself still single! God still hadn’t delivered Mr. Right to me, unlike what Christian singleness books led me to expect.
I wasn’t struggling with singleness when I was in my twenties, because I held to the promise implied by courtship books: God would write my love story any moment now.
But in my mid-thirties, being content in singleness became challenging. I began to lose hope. The question “Will I ever get married?” crossed my mind often. I didn’t choose to be single. I didn’t want to be single. But there I was, single.
Why? What happened? What did I do wrong? I’d followed all the rules!
In my case, which is the case for thousands upon thousands of single women stuck in a situation like mine, this is what had happened:
I was taught popular concepts that kept me stuck firmly in singleness. You’ll find some of these concepts taught in blogs, ministries, articles, magazines, conferences, books, videos, and sermons directed at Christian singles.
These teachings have major consequences. They discourage singles from pursuing marriage and bring about a sense of guilt for wanting a spouse, thus perpetuating more singleness.
Harmful Christian Teachings about Singleness and the Desire For Marriage:
1. “Stop looking for love and he will appear.”
That makes as little sense as, “Stop looking for a job and you’ll get one.”
Yes, some people might get a job around the time they stop looking for one, but such exceptions are not to be turned into a principle to discourage job-seekers. Imagine how unemployment would skyrocket among Christians if they were taught that it’s ungodly to look for jobs.
If we don’t look for a job, we’re more likely to prolong our season of joblessness. Likewise, if we don’t look for a spouse, we’re more likely to prolong our season of singleness.
If singles are made to feel guilty when they want to look for love, then it’s not surprising that prolonged singleness is the result.
2. “God will not give you a husband until you stop wanting one.”
It didn’t occur to me that no Bible verse in its proper context teaches that. It’s as illogical as saying, “God will not give you a job until you stop wanting one.”
Can you imagine a mother holding a birthday cake for her son and telling him, “I won’t give you any of this cake because you want it, you bad boy! When you become a nice boy and stop wanting to eat the cake, then I’ll give you a slice.” But many Christian singles believe that the almighty God withholds a spouse from them until they’re content to be without one for life.
In some churches, any single who expresses a normal strong desire for marriage (God wired most of us for marriage, not lifelong singleness/loneliness with no outlet for the sexual drive) is immediately put down as being unspiritual. Yet, you don’t see unemployed folk who strongly want a job being criticized that way. Nor do you see sadly childless couples being told that they ought be content in their childlessness.
3. “You don’t need an earthly husband, all you need is Jesus. Jesus is your Heavenly Husband. As a single, you have more time to serve God. So be content.”
It’s as cruel as telling a despondent orphan, “You don’t need parents; God is your Heavenly Father.”
Imagine telling an infertile woman, “You don’t need to have a child; all you need is Jesus. As a childless woman you have more time to serve God. So be content in your infertility.”
Sayings like that dismiss the person’s pain and basically tell singles, “Your romantic frustrations, your sexual frustrations, your loneliness, your fear of growing old alone without ever having a husband or children, those things don’t and shouldn’t matter. As a single person you have more time to serve God. So be content already.”
But—and I write this reverently—Jesus is not enough to meet certain PRACTICAL needs. We have to stop over-spiritualizing things. I need my husband to drive me to the store when the roads are ice-covered because I don’t know how to drive on ice. Jesus won’t drive me to the store. In that sense, Jesus cannot replace my husband.
Jesus doesn’t carry forty pounds of groceries up the flight of stairs for me. My husband does.
I remember when I was single and sick with horrible flu-like symptoms. In the middle of the night, I awoke with terrible coughing, extreme physical weakness, and had no one to nurse me. Jesus didn’t go to the pharmacy to pick up medicine, and He didn’t make soup for me. But my husband does when I’m sick.
When I’m in need of physical affection, Jesus doesn’t provide any. But my husband holds me in his loving arms, kisses me, and cuddles me.
My husband cannot save me from my sins. My husband cannot pay the insurmountable moral debt I owe to God the Father. Jesus alone is Lord and Savior. Likewise, Jesus cannot be my husband in the legal sense of the word, only my husband can.
I need Jesus, and I need my husband. It is not sinful to need both for different needs. (Albeit I need the Lord Jesus Christ immeasurably more than I’ll ever need my husband.)
People who tell single women, “You don’t need a husband; you have Jesus” are not thinking about practical needs.
4. “The reason you’re single is because you don’t love God enough.”
Sometimes, well-meaning people use verses out of context like, “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
These people imply that if you delight in the Lord, then everything you desire in your heart will be granted, including marriage. So if you’re not married, it’s because your full delight is not in the LORD.
But if that’s true, then why don’t we quote Psalm 37:4 to parents whose child is dying, or to a husband whose wife is in the terminal stage of cancer? We don’t because we have enough sense to know that the verse doesn’t mean we’ll get all the desires of our heart. It would be cruel to use that verse that way. Yet its cruel misuse in singles ministries can make singles wonder if God is withholding marriage from them because they don’t delight in Him enough.
5. “Even if you live on a deserted island, if God wants you to marry, He’ll bring a husband to you. Don’t you trust that God is big enough to be able to do that?”
The deserted island illustration is meant to discourage singles from doing anything to find love. Of course God is big enough, but He isn’t obligated to do it. God is big enough to cook my dinner too. It’s an easy task. Yet I don’t feel entitled to Him cooking my dinner. I’m going to cook my own dinner, and it doesn’t mean that I’m not trusting God.
In my experience, the irrational deserted island illustration is often applied only to marriage, as if, for some reason, marriage is singled out for attacks disguised as inspirational sayings. I’ve never heard someone say to another, “I know you have cancer, but wait on the Lord. If God wants you to live, He’ll heal you, even if you were on a deserted island and didn’t get any treatment. Don’t you have faith? If you seek treatment it means you’re impatient and not trusting God.”
When singles take practical steps to find someone to marry, they’re often accused of not having enough faith in God, being impatient, or making marriage into an idol. (And we wonder why older singles feel the church does a poor job ministering to them.)
To tell singles, “You shouldn’t look for a spouse. Let God be your matchmaker” is like saying, “You shouldn’t go to the hospital. Let God be your Healer. Don’t you trust Him?”
Yes, I trust God for my salvation and for my ultimate healing, but I’m still going to the hospital if I break my leg and need a cast. God works through normal everyday means most of the time, and it’s dangerously irresponsible to reject those means to prove one’s faith.
Sanctified Passivity: the False Teaching That It’s More Godly To Do Nothing to Achieve a Goal
I was waiting on God for a spouse because popular Christian teachers on the topic of singleness told singles to be passive about marriage. For everything else, we were instructed to work toward our goals and not be lazy about them. But being lazy in one’s love life was considered a sign of trust in God. Back then, I didn’t catch that inconsistency.
I was taught a form of fatalism, that it didn’t matter that I didn’t do anything to find love because God was in control and what He wanted to do would come to pass. So I might as well sit back and wait instead of trying to achieve any love goal.
I endured years of Valentine’s Days wondering when my turn would come, all because I thought passivity was a sign of sanctification (hence the term “sanctified passivity”). Supposedly I’d mess up my love life for sure if I did anything about it, so I was required to do nothing but wait, and wait, and wait.
But by following all these rules and concepts, I didn’t end up with “God’s best”; I didn’t even end up with a consolation prize. I ended up with nothing.
Well-meaning authors who write books full of unbiblical romantic promises have no idea how marriage-destroying their false teaching of sanctified passivity is. Because of it, many singles sit around waiting for a spouse to drop into their lives out of midair. Only God knows how many thousands of singles never marry as a result, or marry too late to have children.
Some singles do get married without being proactive, just as some people get jobs without looking for one. But those exceptions are not to be made into a rule. And it’s unbiblical to teach that it’s sinful to take non-sinful action to change one’s circumstances for the better. Otherwise, we end up with a lot of Christian singles in their 30s and 40s and 50s waiting … and waiting … and waiting.
In Today’s Christian Woman’s (TCW) article Praying for Mr. Right: What is the Christian way to find the partner that God has for me? a reader wrote:
“Q: I’m a 25-year-old single woman who loves the Lord. Lately I’ve been very confused about how to find the right partner. In my church, dating is viewed almost as a sin. They believe in the praying method—that God will show you the right person when he’s ready.”
The TCW writer replied:
“A: The way your church is telling people to seek a mate reminds me of the joke about a man clinging to his rooftop during a flood. . . . It sounds like your church is telling people to expect a miraculous sign to direct them to their mate, rather than the more ordinary means he usually uses. God has given us his Word, our own intelligence, friends and family, and the example of believers before us as a guide. All these elements can work in concert when we are praying for discernment, about a mate or any other matter. The first step, then, is to ask God to guide you. Then begin to keep your eyes open for that raft or rowboat.”
The One Big Change That Led Me to Mr. Right
After a series of events orchestrated by God to open my eyes, I realized that many of the concepts I believed and followed were lies not found in the Bible.
I had mistaken men’s traditions for biblical truth. I finally understood that God’s sovereignty was no excuse for passivity or fatalism, and that my actions or lack of action had consequences.
God is the provider, but I still need to go grocery shopping lest I end up with an empty fridge. It’s God who prospers people, but I still need to work to earn money to buy the groceries. In the same way, God blesses people with marriage, but I still needed to do what I was equipped to do to find a suitable husband.
I don’t wait for God to bless me with a job without any effort on my part. I don’t think, “If I work hard at finding a job, it means I don’t trust God.”
The insight that God’s sovereignty was no excuse for passivity, that I didn’t need to be passive to prove my faith, and that God was pleased with honest work toward a godly goal, gave me permission to take action in my love life.
Looking for a godly spouse is no more sinful than looking for an honest job, and it doesn’t mean that one doesn’t trust God. I was free from bondage to these false beliefs and needless guilt trips.
My complete change of outlook happened in stages:
Before: I CAN’T look for love, because it’s sinful to do that.
After: I CAN look for love, because it’s not sinful to do that.
Later: I WILL search for my future husband, because it pleases God when I pursue godly goals. My desire for marriage is a good desire God placed in my heart.
This was the one big change that enabled me to find the love of my life: I pursued marriage the same guilt-free way I pursue employment when I’m unemployed.
I was 34 years old and wanted to get married at age 35. In sixteen months I would turn 36, so I had sixteen months to achieve my dream, trusting God to help me in this endeavor as long as I didn’t go against His moral principles.
So, how to find a godly husband when you’re over the age of 30?
“Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). I asked for wise counselors. My pastor and his wife took my hand, counseled, and guided me. They reassured me that it was not at all displeasing to God or unspiritual to search for a future husband, and that they would help me. (I wish all pastors and pastor’s wives were that compassionate toward singles.)
Finding a godly husband in sixteen months shouldn’t be too hard, right? Read the rest of the story in Return the Gift of Singleness Part II.
Bless others: Do you have two single girlfriends who would be encouraged and blessed by this post? Share it with them, and bring a smile to their day!
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