When we are willing to allow God to use this season of our lives for His purposes, we discover an incredible truth: Singleness doesn't have to be a time of passive and futile waiting. Instead it can be an exciting adventure of active preparation. Let's look at some of the ways God may be using singleness to mold us into His likeness and prepare us for a future relationship.

1. Singleness can strengthen our inward character qualities.

Godly Contentment

I remember learning a great lesson from the movie Cool Runnings. It's a story about a young Jamaican athlete who has a lifelong dream of winning a gold medal at the Olympics. After a series of events, he finally makes it to the Olympics, his heart set on winning. But just before the competition, his coach gives him an important piece of advice: "Listen, kid. A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you aren't enough without it, believe me, you'll never be enough with it."

Tyler, a 25-year-old single musician, points out that the biggest struggle most singles seem to have, himself included, is assuming that once a relationship comes into your life it will make everything perfect.

"I don't want to put off living," he told us with sincerity in his baby-blue eyes. "My life doesn't start once I finally get married; my life has already started. I want to soak up every day for all it's worth, not just wait around for things to be perfect. I want to enjoy each year of my life to the fullest."

A relationship is not meant to make us into a whole person-only Jesus Christ can make us a whole person. Marriage should never become that gold medal we strive for that will finally make us "enough." We must learn to be "enough" right now, just as we are, in Christ alone.

While getting married someday may bring us great joy, we truly do have a reason to be happy and content no matter what season of life we are in-because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. True contentment can only be found in an intimate love relationship with the Lord, not in anything else, including a romantic love story. Singleness can teach us this contentment. In this season we can learn what is means to have peace and joy in Christ, no matter what our circumstances may be. And in a culture that is always longing for something more, "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6, NIV).

Gaining the Strength to Stand Alone

Sometime ago Elisabeth Elliot made this profound statement: "Loneliness is a required course for leadership."

During a time when I was single, I felt completely alone-away from friends and family, away from Eric, away from anyone who really knew me-and these simple words gave me perspective on the purpose for my loneliness. God was using the loneliness to teach me complete dependence upon Him. I could no longer look to other people for my confidence. I had no choice but to find my courage and hope in Him. This kind of total dependence on the Lord was preparing me to become more effective for His kingdom. I was gaining the inward strength of character I would need to become a leader for Him.

A true leader must have enough backbone to stand alone, even when the crowd wants to take the easy road home. A true leader cannot be dependent on companionship for his or her security, but must learn to trust in God alone. Singleness can give us this kind of backbone-courage, confidence, and leadership skills that any effective Christian must learn.

Discovering His Gentle Arms of Love

Many years ago Amy Grant used to sing, "I love a lonely day...it chases me to You."3
Years later I often heard those words echoing back through my mind during times of feeling alone. We can let the inward ache drive us into His ready arms, or simply try to bear it alone in agony.

Eric went through a time of profound loneliness while he was taking a semester off from college. He had just come from a busy schedule at school that included sports, study, and an active social life. He had been surrounded constantly by his good friends. But now, back at home with an empty schedule, while all his buddies were still at school and his family was occupied with their own lives, he felt an intense inward pain as he'd never before known. One day he found himself on his knees, weeping into the fabric of the sofa. The loneliness had become too much to handle. As he cried out to his Lord, he suddenly felt a tremendous peace wash over him. It was almost as if Jesus Himself were kneeling beside Eric, wrapping a tender arm around his shoulder and whispering words of love and comfort to his soul.

That afternoon Eric sat at the piano and wrote the lyrics to what is one of our favorite songs to this day:

I am like a deer, You are like the water.
I run to You, like a son to his Father.
I felt so alone, like a moth without a flame,
But You ignited, and to You I came,
And that's forever.

I felt so alone like a ship without a sea.
But You gave me water,
You took my hand and said to me,
"This is for eternity."

I'll never be lonely,
I'll never be lonely with You.
I've got this feeling that You're here to stay,
And I know I'll never be lonely with You.

It's so exciting to know that though we may be singing a solo in life, we are never truly alone! Singleness is an opportunity to allow Christ's gentle arms to encircle our hearts and discover how very much He loves us.

2. Singleness allows time to focus on practical preparation.

Discovering and Developing Talents and Life Skills

God has created us each with unique gifts, abilities, and heart desires. He has a master plan for each of our lives. Singleness is a time to seek Him with an undivided, undistracted heart. When a relationship comes into our life, often who we are as an individual gets swallowed up, and our identity becomes wrapped up in that other person. Being single is an opportunity to discover who God has made us to be and what He has called us to in this life.

Before Eric and I started our relationship, I went through a time where it seemed that opportunities for me to minister to young women were flooding into my life. As a single person, I had the time and energy to focus on this "informal" ministry. I loved every minute spending time with these girls. I spent hours responding to letters, taking them out to lunch, or seeking to encourage them over the phone. I realized through this experience that the Lord was showing me one of the forms of ministry for which He had created me. If I had been in a relationship, focused entirely on getting married, most likely I wouldn't have had the time or energy to discover or pursue this call in my life. The skills I developed during that time helped prepare me for the ministry God later called Eric and me to as a team.

Ann, from chapter 8, is using this season of singleness to hone her natural talents and God-given desires. She has been able to grow in areas such as music, writing, and public speaking skills.

"With a relationship in my life," she told me, "I would probably never be able to give these areas the time and attention needed to really blossom them into useful skills. I value the chance to focus on pursuing these desires."

One of my closest friends is Molly, a bubbly, attractive blonde with a great sense of humor. At twenty-one, she is using this season of solo in her life to broaden her horizons with things she's always wanted to do. During the week, she works for a corporation as an administrative assistant. In her free time, she is studying voice and developing her skills as a musician. She is also taking time to serve others.

"I may never be this free in my life again," she reasons, "so I want to use it to bless others as much as possible."

Molly took a counselor's training course at her local crisis pregnancy center and now volunteers weekly as a counselor to the center's clients.

Kyle, a 22-year-old single from New Zealand, is using this time in his life to experience the mission field through short-term mission trips. He has been to several countries to serve needy people and share the Gospel. It's an experience that has changed his life, broadened his horizons, led him closer to the Lord, and helped him discover the areas where he is most gifted. He is learning how to use his unique gifts for God's glory.

What are the desires of your heart? To train as a musician or athlete? To pursue a college education? To backpack across the country? To go into missionary work? Maybe it's even to simply spend a season at home serving your own family and community in practical ways. Singleness can be the perfect time for developing life skills and discovering how to use your talents for the Lord.

 
Excerpted from When God Writes Your Love Story © 1999. 2004 by Winston and Brooks, Inc.  Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.  Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.