A recurring theme throughout in the emails I receive is the unanswered question: How do I know if I’m called to singleness? It’s this persistent query that plagues many Christian young women. The fear of long-term singleness is a real issue. It’s what limits our dreams, drags us into discontent, and burdens our relationship with God.
I’m not going to deny the validity of the question. We certainly aren’t guaranteed a future spouse, just as we aren’t guaranteed a dream job or children or any other mortal, material thing. But this question has only one source: Fear.
Am I Called to Singleness?
The “what if…?” question belies a search for a fallback. It’s an effort to find a Plan B, with Plan A being trust in God’s will and timing. It is an unspoken reach for a way out from the difficult practice of trusting God. It’s the fear that trusting God will only end in loneliness and misery.
But it also includes a second question. This question asks, “Should I be living my life differently in case I never marry?” While asking “What if…?” does contain the fear factor, it is also asking, “How should I be living when I don’t know what the future holds?” Fortunately for us, God answers that in His Word, and it’s really quite simple.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” – Mark 12:30
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
“… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
We were created with a purpose: to have a relationship with God. This is why the greatest commandment Jesus ever spoke to us was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”. That is our first responsibility.
Our second responsibility is to prove our love for God by reflecting that love to others. Our relationship with God inspires us to “do justice, love kindness” and “let our light shine before others”. The purpose, once again, is to point back to the grace of God and that primary relationship we have with Him.
This is your purpose whether you are single or married, now or later.
Live Your Purpose NOW
Now, this purpose is inexplicably broad. Some women will work out their purpose in different ways than others. I work out my purpose through my job, my community, and this blog. I know other women who work out their purpose by leading Bible studies, becoming missionaries, or coaching other women to better health and fitness.
The key here is that these women aren’t waiting to see if they’ll get married before fulfilling their purpose on earth. They aren’t putting God in a box.
I think of my friend Carolina as I write this. Carolina has a deep passion for missions. At the time this post is written, she is single. She could worry about how traveling nation to nation could keep her from meeting the “right one” and hesitate to give herself fully to her purpose. Instead, she boldly goes to Thailand, India, and Hawaii. She’s not safeguarding herself from the plans God has for her out of fear He doesn’t have her best interest at heart; she trusts God’s will and timing.
Carolina’s trust level is directly related to her love level. This is because a fear problem is really a love problem.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)
The fear that God is calling you to singleness belies an underlying lie: the lie that God may “punish” us with perpetual singleness. Like most fears, it contains several other mini-fears:
- Fear that singleness will be unfulfilling
- Fear that God will penalize you for past sins
- Fear that you won’t be able to fully serve God without a husband and/or children
- Fear that God doesn’t really understand the desires of your heart
- Fear that God is not really as good as He says He is
All of these fears come from a shallow love for our Savior. While all of us – regardless of spiritual maturity – will have seasons of doubt, a life marked by continual fear is a life of imperfect love. This is because love and trust are bound tightly together; so tightly they are completely necessary to one another. You cannot love God if you do not trust Him, and fear is evidence of lack of trust.
Many girls say, “If I only knew for sure that I’d get married one day, I could trust God completely!” Well, sure you could! But then it wouldn’t take any faith. And as Christians, we tend to have faith in God for the most momentous decision of our existence – our eternal destiny – while refusing to place faith in His goodness for what tomorrow brings. If God is good enough to bridge the gap for our eternal future, don’t you think He has your earthly future in hand, too?
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)
“So do NOT worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:34)
“Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Prove. 3:5-6)
There are a couple principles at play in the verses above, and I want you to take note. In Philippians, Paul writes that God will supply all your needs. Our needs fluctuate as our circumstances change. God sees them and takes care of them. Paul did NOT say “God will supply all your wants”. Discontentment is the confusion of wants with needs. Just because we might want a relationship does not mean that a relationship is the best for us in this season. God knows that. So He supplies what you need for that season – though not always exactly what you want.
Secondly, Jesus counseled us not to worry about tomorrow. Or the tomorrow after tomorrow. Or anytime in the future, ever. Why? Because worrying about the future robs the present of its power. When we worry about whether or not Prince Charming is coming, we are expending precious mental energy that could be used to fulfill our present purpose. When we are consumed with a “want” that we see as a “need”, we forget about the reality of the needs around us! We miss the point of our mission in this world.
Finally, Solomon wisely counsels us in Proverbs not to lean on our own understanding. This means we don’t use cultural norms as the measure of our success. So what if “most” people get married by age 27? Thirty years ago “most” people were married by age 22. Cultural norms change, but they don’t change your purpose. Don’t let them dictate your trust in God.
You Cheat Yourself By Living Safely
Earlier I said the “What if I’m called to singleness?” question limits women in their effectiveness. That’s true. I know because I’ve been there. I lived several of my single years hedging my bets and making short-term plans “just in case” the right guy came along. I don’t know when I realized it, but eventually it hit me: I was living as if God were powerless. I was limiting Him. I was living as if God couldn’t bring the right person into my life in the midst of following His plan for me.
So I asked myself, “What would I do if I never married?” I made a list. And then I did the things on the list. I moved 800 miles away from my family and took a new job. I made new friends, I joined new studies, tried new things, and learned new skills. And in the middle of following God, I met my husband.
I don’t want you to read my story and immediately come away with the equation, “me + God = husband”. God is not your puppet, and His timing will still dictate the outcome of your life. Your story will be different from mine. But I can promise you one thing: following Him with abandon will give you the fulfillment you lack while living safely.
You can’t know without a doubt that you’ll get married someday. You can’t get a guarantee that you’ll one day marry (though most people do). But to the woman who follows God with abandon, those questions aren’t being asked. The question isn’t “What if he never comes?” but “What can I do NOW in case he does?” The reality is that marriage and children bring with them an enormous responsibility, and while these responsibilities have their benefits and their joys, they are a ministry in and of themselves. If you refuse to accept the ministry God has laid before you now, how will you be ready for the ministry of marriage?
And if marriage were not, in fact, a part of God’s plan for you, would you rather look back on years of fruitful living, or wasted days spent in discontent?
God has laid out your purpose in this world. He has chosen you, for such a time as this, to love Him will all that you are and to actively pour that love into the people around you. He has called you not to a life of limiting fear but to a life of reckless love.
So don’t worry about tomorrow. Fix your thoughts on what is “true, honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable… keep putting into practice all the things you have learned and received…Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8-9)