Single and Grateful

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Two weeks ago I turned 26. It’s not old enough to put myself on the shelf and bury my hopes of marriage, of course. But it’s old enough to attract all kinds of attention and speculation about my single state, and it’s definitely old enough to take an interest in the articles that come my way talking about the peculiar joys and challenges of the unmarried life.

There’s one genre of article, though, that concerns me deeply, and by “concerns me deeply” I mean “makes me stare in speechless unsympathy.” It’s not always about waiting for a husband; in fact often it’s about something far more dire. Folks I know have waited for children, for work, or for health. And then at some point, they’ve blogged about it.

“What not to say to someone who’s chronically single/ill/out of work/barren.”

“It hurts that when my church celebrates Mother’s Day, all the mothers who’ve had children get gifts and flowers and nobody spares a thought or gesture for those of us who haven’t been able to conceive.”

By Suzannah Rowntree

“I don’t want to hear that the Lord is using this time of singleness to prepare me for marriage. Does that make my husband a good-behaviour-prize?”

“People try to say kind and encouraging things, but if they realised how hurtful and discouraging they were, they’d stop saying them and feel awful about themselves.”

Hello, I am 26 and single. And articles like this have no relation to my world.

I’m not writing this because being single when I’d rather be married is easy for me. I hurt in the same way you’re hurting, and it’s true that people say hurtful things. Sometimes they say wrong and stupid hurtful things, like “Your singleness is a gift—don’t desire or pursue marriage.” Sometimes they say kind and good things that hurt, like “No trial at the time seems joyful, but afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” “Find happiness in pursuing the will of God for you in this season.” Or, “Are you making an idol out of marriage?”

The fact is that no matter what people say, it’s going to hurt.

It hurts every time someone tries to set me up with their brother/son/friend. It hurts when he is a snaggle-toothed unkempt pro video gamer, and it hurts when he is a really good man who isn’t interested in me. It hurts when people joke about setting me up with people. It hurts when people ask me if there’s someone special and even when they ask if I like them asking if there’s someone special. And of course, it also hurts when they don’t ask me if there’s someone special.

Wedding pictures on Facebook make me sad I’m not married. Happy couples walking down the street or wrangling a flock of children into church make me sad I’m not married.

Sitting down with a good book makes me sad I’m not married. Grey clouds and singing magpies make me sad I’m not married. The exchange rate of the rouble makes me sad I’m not married.

Do I have to go on?

No, this isn’t a constant obsession. Like anything humanity waits for, I feel times of patience and times of impatience. But the fact is that no amount of sensitivity, kindness, love, or tact, on anyone’s part, is going to take away my sadness over not being married.

And I’m fine with that.

Again, I’m not writing this because I find it easy. But I have discovered that peace comes from trust, and joy comes from gratitude. If I don’t have peace and joy about my unmarried state, the problem is not well-meaning folks who make ill-judged comments. The problem is me.

Here’s the secret. If you really die a little bit inside every time someone asks, “So…courtship news?”…

…be grateful that when you do have news, you’ll have one more person to rejoice with you.

If it really is that painful when you get back from a trip to find that all your friends have been eagerly speculating about whether you’ve Met Someone…

…enjoy having friends that love you and wish you well.

If a friend wants to set you up with her completely unsuitable relative…take it as the compliment it is. If he’s tall, dark, rich, and Reformed, upgrade the compliment rating and hope that sooner or later, lightning will strike!

I’m not saying that being your church’s Most Eligible Spinster is 100% fun. Au contraire. It’s like coming second in a race. As the man said, “Congratulations! No one lost ahead of you!”

But gratitude and love for your friends will make their comments, speculations, and matchmaking more of a blessing to you than a pain.

One more thing should be said. I don’t have to give up my desires for marriage in order to be grateful for what I have now, and joyful in consequence. The Lord made us to desire marriage because He wants us to be married. This is a good thing, and it’s good to desire it, even (especially) when we are desiring Him. After all, He is the one who tells us that every man should have his own wife, and every woman her own husband. If that is so, then we should want it, and we should feel humbly discontent until we do. As long as marriage remains a good thing, and as long as God has given us a desire for it, it will hurt that we don’t have it.

And the hurt is a good thing. I don’t know that I want it. But I’m glad that I’ve had it. So that I could learn to be grateful, peaceful, and joyful in the midst of it. So that I could overcome my temptations to think of men as wedding licenses on legs, and instead think of them as brothers and precious friends. And so that if the Lord does give me the thing I desire, the joy will be so much greater by comparison.

So don’t stop asking me if there’s a special someone. Don’t stop trying to encourage me with sound, Scriptural counsel. Don’t stop trying to set me up with people, because all these things tell me you care. They affirm that the hurt is worthwhile, that the thing I desire really is desirable. And they encourage me to keep hold of the good desires the Lord has given.

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2 thoughts on “Single and Grateful

  1. This is an excellent article. One remark I want to comment on:

    “I don’t want to hear that the Lord is using this time of singleness to prepare me for marriage. Does that make my husband a good-behaviour-prize?”

    It would help greatly if we could teach specifically that marriage is a gift, not a reward.


  2. This is about the best article on singleness I have ever read, and I read a lot about singleness before getting married at the age of 35. Along the way I came to the conclusion, and told it to some married friends, that there is absolutely nothing “right” you can say to singles. Everything hurts, and we’ll just have to get over it. The best thing singles can do is keep the attitude you mention of “keep giving me Scriptural counsel, and keep setting me up.”
    Also I think friends and family would be more willing to set up their single friends if they realized it is okay if the two don’t hit it off; professional dating services are pretty amazed if even a few “matches” end in marriage!
    After 10 years of marriage, and several challenges, I can say I still far prefer marriage to singleness, and I still wish I had married earlier, but God did use the pain for good in my life.


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