I got engaged earlier this month. I surprised Denise on vacation in Florida with a ring and the question and she said “yes.” We’re months away from our wedding day, and we’re both overflowing with joy. The Proverb is true: “A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul” (Proverbs 13:19).
But it wasn’t always this way.
For the first 26 years of my life, I was single.
No date nights.
Some might say, “But you’re getting married in your mid-to-late twenties. Relax. You didn’t wait forever!”
You’re right. But when desires go unfulfilled without answers, even a few years can seem like forever.
When I was single, I noticed how easy it was to believe lies. And after talking with dozens and dozens of other single Christians over the years, it seems that there’s a few lies that singles are prone to believing.
What are they?
Before I get married and forget what it’s like to be single, and while these lessons and conversations and memories over the years are still fresh in my head, here’s a few lies that I think single Christians tend to believe.
1. I deserve a spouse because I have a desire for marriage.
Desire is a tricky thing, isn’t it?
In one sense, desire is good. You should desire to love God, you should desire to love people, you should desire to pursue holiness. These are good desires. But desires can change quickly. And when your desires become demands, idolatry is near.
Do you desire a spouse? Or do you demand that God give you one?
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
For years, I thought this verse was simple. I thought it meant that if I rejoiced in the Lord, then he’d give me the stuff I wanted. But what this verse really means is that when you delight yourself in the Lord, the Lord will shape your desires, and your desires will align with his will. His desires become your desires.
John Piper says:
“I think delighting yourself in the Lord is what shapes the desires of your heart so that it will be good for you for God to grant them. In other words, there are a lot of desires in our hearts that are impure and unwise, and this is not a promise that, if you delight in God, then you get all those evil desires in your heart. And the best way to bring the desires of our hearts into conformity with God is to put all of our energy and all of our effort into enjoying God himself. When we enjoy God, not just his gifts, but God himself, then the desires of our heart are shaped, are defined and created, in accord with our delight in him.”
“The reason those who delight themselves in the Lord receive the desires of their heart is not just because of one causes the other, but because one shapes the other. Delighting in God supremely determines, shapes the kinds of desires that we have in our heart.”
That doesn’t mean that your desire for marriage will go away if you rejoice in the Lord, or that your previous desire (or current one) is evil. God is sovereign over everything, and you must trust that as you rejoice in him, his plan will be fulfilled for your life, whether you marry or not.
Part of living in this fallen world is that reality of knowing that some desires and dreams and ambitions don’t come true.
But also part of living in this fallen world, for those who belong to Christ, is the hopeful promise of heaven, a place where there will be no more sin or suffering or sickness and no longer will desires go unfulfilled.
2. I deserve a spouse because of my obedience.
This was my struggle. I knew a lot of guys who God granted wives and yet they were addicted to pornography. Because I didn’t sin in the same way they did, or because I thought my sin issues were less significant, I became self-righteous and proud.
“God, I don’t do the horrible things they do. Why did you bless them and not me?”
Slowly, God began to reveal my pharisaical tendencies. Waiting on God exposed the ugliness in my heart.
While painful at the time, I’m glad God made me wait. It was his way of sanctifying me and showing me that while he does indeed command my obedience, that doesn’t mean that I will always get what I want when I obey him.
Whenever we use the word “deserving” in the Christian life we usually aren’t far away from a contradiction.
What about you?
Maybe you notice some married women who are less godly than you. Or maybe you’re a guy and you think that you can be a much better husband than that guy.
Whatever your situation, remember: Your aim for obedience should be to please and glorify God, not to get his stuff.
3. God will bring me a spouse when I’m least expecting it.
Many married Christian folk in the church tell this to singles all the time. And I really wish they wouldn’t.
I was content in Christ and wasn’t expecting a spouse for many years . . . and nothing happened.
It’s true: sometimes God withholds things to teach you lessons. He wants you to be content and satisfied in him. He wants you to put his Kingdom first and trust that he’ll protect and provide for your every need. But just because you aren’t looking doesn’t automatically mean that God will send someone your way.
We don’t need to speak and counsel people in such formulaic terms. “If you do this, then that will happen.” That’s sometimes true; but other times . . . it’s not.
When we promise spouses to Christians if they follow Jesus or if they do certain things, we’re implementing a form of prosperity gospel teaching without even knowing it.
4. God is holding out on me.
When I say “holding out” what I mean is deprivation.
In other words, you believe God is withholding something good from you. You desire to be married, you know a spouse is a good thing and, because you don’t have it, you declare that God must be holding out on you.
If you’re honest, you sometimes flat out believe that God is evil.
Psalm 84:11 says, “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
Paul reminds us, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
When God makes you wait for things, it’s not his way of depriving you; it’s his way of changing you. He’s making you more like Jesus, the single, suffering servant. As C.S. Lewis once said, “God would not have anyone waiting unless he saw it was good for them to wait.”
I don’t know why God does some of the things that he does. I don’t know why you’re still single. I’m not sure what’s next for you in this season of life. There’s a lot of things I don’t know, but I know this: Our God is faithful and he takes care of his children.
God is not holding out on you. He may give you a spouse, but even if he doesn’t, he’s already given you something better — namely, himself.
5. God has forgotten about me.
Worse of all, you think that God has forgotten about you.
If someone asked you, “Do you believe that God is all-knowing?” You’d be quick to say “yes.”
But sometimes you question if that’s true.
I’m always amazed by a little verse in Genesis about the life of Joseph. After Joseph successfully interprets the cupbearer’s dream for him, he asks a favor: to mention his situation to Pharaoh in hopes of being released from prison.
But that didn’t happen.
“Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him” (Genesis 40:23).
We tend to think that God will treat us like the cupbearer and leave us in prison longer than we want. But God is unlike sinful man in so many ways and never forgets to fulfill his promises for those who belong to him.
John Owen said, “The greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that he loves you.”
You can trust that even when it feels like he’s working all things out for bad, he’s actually working out all things for good — and it’s impossible for omniscience to forget you.
You know, I really hope that God blesses you with a significant other. I really do. I hope the wedding day, honeymoon, and life you envision becomes a reality. But even if it doesn’t, there’s something better: Christ crucified.
And through the strength and joy that Jesus provides, you, single Christian, can live a joyful, meaningful, and satisfied life for the One who bled on your behalf. Don’t wait for a spouse to love Jesus more because, as Tim Keller says, “If single Christians don’t develop a deeply fulfilling love relationship with Jesus, then they will put too much pressure on their dream of marriage.”
This article was originally published at gospelrelevance.com. Used with permission.
Publication date: August 16, 2016