Struggling with singleness?
One of the biggest myths around relationships centres on that state we call “being single”. Even before you get to high school, there’s this idea that life revolves around finding a romantic relationship. Most popular romantic movies focus on the 'happily ever after' that a relationship appears to bring. Even in your youth group or church (depending on the group), if you’re not getting together with someone romantically, you can feel left out. It seems there’s a bit of a stigma attached to staying unattached.
What’s your attitude to singleness? Try this quick quiz
1. Valentine’s Day comes along. Do you:
a. Ignore it. It’s no big deal.
b. Drop loud hints at lunchtime that you’d be really happy to receive a bunch of roses this year. You’re pretty sure someone will listen.
c. Make a big noise about how stupid Valentine’s Day is, but secretly wish you had an admirer.
d. Retreat into a dark corner to be miserable.
2. It’s Saturday night, and all your friends are busy. How do you feel?
a. Cool. It’s a chance to catch up on those DVDs, or hop online for some XBox Live action.
b. You message everyone you know, saying you’re looking for a party to go to. Someone will come up with an interesting event. It’s under control.
c. Make a big Facebook status update, telling everyone how dumb parties are, and how you’re going to live alone in a house with 42 cats.
d. Sit at home, wondering why people don’t seem to like you.
3. If God asked you to stay single for the rest of your life, would you:
a. Take up the challenge with excitement. There’s a big world out there, and so many awesome things to do. God’s in control.
b. Decide you misheard him. You’ve just met the most gorgeous guy/girl, and even though they don’t follow Jesus, you just know they’re the one for you.
c. Be really angry with him. How could he do that to you? Isn’t he the God of love?
d. Be depressed. You would desperately love to be in a relationship with someone, and it would be really hard to not have that. You want to ask God to reconsider.
(If you answered C & D more than A & B, then it sounds like you might be struggling with singleness).
There are lots of possible attitudes to being single. We can relish it: love the opportunity God gives us to be free to choose where to serve Him and to be available for anything he might offer us. We can love the chance to see the world, to study or go on mission trips. For others, being single is heartbreaking. We might feel doubts, and wonder if God really loves us, or if we’re going to be lonely forever. We might be angry with God, angry with our situation, angry with our friends for deserting us. We might even feel a sense of desperation: that we need a romantic relationship like we need to breathe, and we’ll do whatever we can to get ourselves into one.
Singleness is not a Fail
It’s a total load of garbage that there’s something wrong with being single. Sure, the single life can be trials and hassles, but there are also many God-given opportunities, too. Know this first of all: you are loved by God no matter what your relationship status. You are special to Him, and you have a special identity: you’re part of God’s family. God wants you to love and serve him whatever stage of life you are in. So what about the problems and opportunities?
Singleness can be a trial
Let’s just say it straight up: for a lot of people, being single can be very tough. It gets even tougher when people around you are pairing up, or when events like Valentine’s Day seem to discriminate against people who are single. You can end up doubting yourself: 'Is there something wrong with me?' (The answer to that is “NO!” by the way).
Singleness can be difficult for lots of reasons. One is just because of the way God made us. Back in Genesis, God said “It is not good for the man to be alone,” (Genesis 2:18) and he created woman. God made people to be in relationship with him and with each other. It is human to want to be loved and to love someone in this way. Add to that your hormones kicking in, and you’ve got the potential for major fireworks.
Singleness can be a life-long calling, or a temporary state before marriage. Either way, God will use your circumstances to challenge you, encourage you, and change you to be more like Jesus. When you feel the burden or trial of being single, remember God’s promise:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV)
But if singleness can be a trial, how do you handle the tough times? Too many people panic and decide to go out with the first person who comes along, even if they’re totally wrong. God may ask you the question, “Will you still follow me if that means you stay single?” Too many people answer, “Sorry, God. Being alone is too hard, and a relationship comes first.” So they end up going out with someone who’s nice, but they don’t follow Jesus. Or they go out with someone who turns out to be abusive, unloving, or just out to use people for their own pleasure. Being single can often challenge you about whether you’re worshipping the idea of a relationship more than you’re worshipping the good and loving God who made you.
So how do you deal with singleness if it’s a trial for you?
God doesn’t want to share your worship. If you are treating 'Romance' as an idol, then it’s time to re-evaluate. God is the only one who can fulfil all your desires.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4, NIV).
This doesn’t mean God is a vending machine (“I love you God! Now give me a boyfriend!”). It means that if you turn your focus to how awesome God is, then those problems that seem massive will be easier to handle, because you know God’s big enough to handle it. If God loves you enough to send Jesus for you, then he’s certainly got your relationship status under control.
“No for now” may not be a permanent “No”. Trust God to be in control of your future, and allow him to work in your life to make you more like him today. You’re going to have a far better relationship in the long run if you’re being the person God made you to be. If you’re expecting a romantic relationship to fulfill all your needs, then you’re going to end up using people rather than loving them.
It can be really frustrating, but God teaches us patience by making us wait for things. When you’re at school, you’re not ready for that serious marriage relationship, so the best thing is to wait. Hang out in big groups. Be friends. We often laugh about it, but the “friendzone” isn’t something to fear. Enjoy it. God gives you Christian friends so you can support each other.
If you feel that singleness is too heavy to bear, and if you’re finding yourself distracted, then hand your worries over to God:
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
God loves you! There’s no such thing as a dumb prayer. If you’re worried, talk to God. If you’re struggling, let him know. God answers prayer, but prayer also changes us. It helps us in our journey to trust God and rely on him.
This is a totally radical concept today. Everything fights against the idea of control. Ads on TV encourage you to give in to temptation and buy that stuff you don’t need. Music videos celebrate the awesome party night out where control is a dirty word ("we got kicked out of the club! Yay!"). Friends at school brag about how awesome the party was because they drank so much they can’t remember anything. Control is a foreign concept. It seems crazy to suggest that you shouldn’t just give in to every single urge that you feel.
But the trial of singleness doesn’t have to be a huge, looming Godzilla of a problem for you. You can choose where to focus your thoughts, and that choice can actually make life a lot easier. Are those romance novels/movies making you dream for hours about that hot guy you wish you had? Are you getting hooked on porn because you’re feeding your desire for sex? Think about your choices: you can feed your dissatisfaction, or you can choose more helpful ways to spend your time. Don’t be afraid to see singleness as an opportunity rather than a burden.
Talk to someone
If singleness is really, really, really weighing you down, then talk to a godly leader about it. Is there a youth leader or church leader who you can talk to? Sometimes it can help just knowing there’s someone around who will listen and care.
Singleness can be an opportunity
Ruth* is a friend of mine. She’s in her eighties now, and can’t get around much anymore. She never married. Her whole life is the most amazing testimony of how much God loves and cares for people. She spent a large chunk of her life serving God as a missionary overseas, working as a midwife. She helped to care for thousands of babies and mothers. Through it all, God used her to help people know Jesus, and she helped many to grow in their relationship with him. Even now that her mobility is limited she prays, and her faith in God despite difficult circumstances is an amazing example and testimony to many people.
There were times in her life when being single was a struggle. But she didn’t let that stop her from seeing the opportunity that a single life provided. She made a choice: if God called her to serve him while remaining unmarried, then she would follow wherever he led. Her life followed the Apostle Paul’s example, who also saw the huge opportunities that were available for people outside of a romantic or marriage relationship:
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. (1 Corinthians 7:32-34, NIV)
Being single means you can be free to serve God in so many awesome ways. There are benefits to being in a relationship, but there are also responsibilities: you need to spend time on “relationship maintenance”, for example. When you are single, you can say to God, “I’ll go wherever you need me,” and you have the freedom to be flexible.
There are a huge number of ways we can serve God. Christian charities in most cities spend their weekends helping homeless people, or looking after people who are sick or unable to help themselves. You can start in your own church: are there older people who have trouble looking after their gardens, or need help around the house? Are there kids’ clubs in your local church who would love some committed and faithful Christians to help out? Are there people who are sick and would love someone to visit? Are there families with young children who have forgotten what a movie looks like, and would love some babysitters to give them time out? Are there local nursing homes where residents would love someone to come and read to them?
You can think beyond your church circle: what about a mission trip overseas? Serving God in your gap year with the Year 13 program? Joining a beach mission or urban mission run through SU? Helping out with Christian holiday camps? If you begin to look around at the opportunities, the possibilities are almost endless for someone who is keen to be faithful to God’s call to serve. Again, talking to a youth leader or another godly “older person” can help you to work out where your gifts are, and where God might be calling you to serve.
Singleness is not a failure or deficit. You are not a lesser person for being single any more than you are a better person for being in a relationship. To think that is insulting, and just plain wrong. Yes, there can be difficulties and challenges when you are single. But there are also awesome opportunities open to you. It is possible to feel a whole lot of different emotions about being single: sad, fearful, frustrated, enthusiastic, excited - the list could go on. In the middle of it all, though, remember that God is with you, and he is more concerned with helping you honour and serve him. Will you accept that challenge no matter what “relationship status” you experience?
*Name changed to protect privacy.