It stinks, doesn't it? You're single, and looking for ways not to be distracted by it. Of course all your friends are in adorable relationships, and if you're my age, they're in adorable marriages, having adorable babies. You can't keep it off your mind by avoiding it, because it is unavoidable.
I listen to a lot of podcasts, and the ones about singlehood always catch my eye. And the blog posts that circulate on Facebook. Everyone has something to say about singlehood, and we are all eager to hear what someone else thinks about the issue. But does anyone have something to say that actually makes a difference? I mean, something that really makes it less frustrating, less... painful.
"Use your singlehood for God!" or "Marriage is tougher than you think, enjoy your freedom" and the classic "You're young, you have plenty of time!" Are the standard comments people have to make. I already recognize all of that. I am able to serve (and do serve) in ministries with the free time that I have. I have been in a relationship, and it was nice afterward not to constantly lay aside my preferences and die to self for awhile. And yes... I am only 22, but really. Who wants to wait until they're 28 because guys aren't taking initiative anymore? (pet issue, different topic) I have heard all the quips, but what am I supposed to do with them? I still want to be married.
Aha! "Still want to be married." Why do we want to be married, hmm? Herein lies the answer that I'm going to get to.
What if I told you that you don't really want to be married in the way that you think you want to be married ? I'm ridiculous huh? How could you not know how you want to be married? I'm sure you're pointing to your checklist of the traits that your husband must have, and telling me that you know what you want.
No, you don't really know what you want. Well, maybe some of you do, but what I've learned about singlehood and marriage hasn't come from many blogs or podcasts. A lot of people, even Christians, are missing the point.
What you don't realize is that you want to be married, because God created you to be married to Him someday. He created us to be in union with Him, to be in communion and relationship with Him. That is the whole meaning of our existence. We are beings made to love and glorify God.
How do I know this? Hopefully if you're a child of God, this is a no-brainer. Look no further than the cross, and Christ who is our redemption from the Fall. When we sinned, we fell out of communion with God, and He stopped at nothing to restore us to shalom (peace and reconciliation) with Him - even killing His own Son to pay the punishment for us. Communion with God is a big deal to Him. A really big deal.
This is AWESOME yes?
And what does it have to do with being single? Everything.
Because the image we see, that is marriage, is really the shadow of a consummated marriage yet to come.
What we mistakenly think is going to be our fulfillment, and the epitome of relationship - marriage - is just a taste of the life that is to come in Heaven. God created earthly marriage to be a mirror, a parable, a display. What we think we want is a covenant relationship with a spouse. What we really want is a covenant relationship with Yahweh. We can't see or physically feel that heavenly relationship yet, which is why we have the picture of marriage here on earth.
“The reason God became flesh was so that we might know him; correspondingly, God did not create marriage just to give us a pleasant means of repopulating the world and providing a steady societal institution for the benefit of humanity. He planted marriage among humans as yet another signpost pointing to His own eternal, spiritual existence.” Gary Thomas
Genesis 1:27 // So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
“As God made man in His own image, so He made earthly marriage in the image of His own eternal marriage with His people.” Geoffrey Bromiley
This is HUGE. The institute of marriage means infinitely more than today's culture can fathom. I could write pages and pages of how exciting this is to me, and how mind blowing this is. This means that marriage is intentional, it must be holy and sanctified, it means that it is much more purposeful and beautiful than the "sitcom sewage" that we see all around us.
But that's not exactly the point I'm trying to chase down, so I won't go on for pages and pages.
So, marriage was never meant to be a distraction from God, but a SIGNPOST as Gary Thomas says. Like a billboard that tells you that Disney World is only 10 miles down the road. You're not going to make the mistake that the billboard is really Disney World, and spend a weekend vacation camping out underneath it. No! The real Disney World is what the billboard is telling you about, and trying to get you to. And the real Disney World is not even comparable to a billboard; the enjoyment of one versus the other aren't even in the same categories. Marriage here as we know it is not comparable to the communion with God we will have someday.
Still not tracking, on what this means for singleness? Stay with me.
As Christians, what we have right now is not the "real deal" yet to come, but we have the guarantee of it. And that is our justification in Christ. Because we cannot keep the law perfectly, Jesus kept it perfectly in His life, and made a New Covenant (marital language).
Jeremiah 32:38-40 // And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.
Now we have what the Old Testament Israelites didn't - hearts that desire Him, and the Spirit to enable us to obey.
John 14:16-17 // And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
Basically, our salvation is not the end of the story. It is just the engagement ring. A promise of the ultimate salvation to come.
John 14:2-3 // In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
“The purpose of human marriage is temporary. But it points to something eternal, namely, Christ and the church. And when this age is over, it will vanish into the superior reality to which it points.” John Piper
Revelation 21:2-3 // And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
“The shadow of covenant-keeping between husband and wife gives way to the reality of covenant-keeping between Christ and his glorified Church. Nothing is lost. The music of every pleasure is transposed into an infinitely higher key.” John Piper
Okay. If (1) marriage is only the picture of our heavenly marriage to come, and (2) Christ is the means of making that happen and the Spirit guarantees it, how does that apply to singlehood?
What makes singlehood so hard, is merely our focus. And that is a game that Satan loves to play, he loves to change our focus. We already believe all that I've previously explained, yes? We don't have to reestablish our conviction about salvation, but if we can be distracted from it, we lose grip of its power.
What makes us both single and satisfied, is remembering that human marriage won't satisfy. It wasn't made it satisfy! It was intentionally designed to fall short of the real thing, so that our desires would be directed to the real thing: our Heavenly union with Christ someday. This is the power of "Christ in you: the HOPE OF GLORY"! It is the foretaste of the feast that hasn't happened yet. It gives us hope and makes us persevere, because we have tasted of better things to come.
“The reality never lives up to the expectation. God created us to desire Him, to worship something. Anything less than God will leave us hungry.” John MacArthur
1 Samuel 12:21-22 // And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” C.S. Lewis
To desire marriage with another human so fervently that we lose sight of the big picture, is to become short-sighted. We are tricked, deceived, blinded from realizing what we already have! God offers so much more than what we can see, and we settle for so little. We are cheating ourselves if we think that marriage to another human will make us happy! If you are a child of God, you are already getting ready for an unimaginable wedding day.
And you already have Christ in you!
And you already have Christ in you!
Psalm 16:5-6 // The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Psalm 73:23-26 // Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Lamentations 3:24 // “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
When we look to God and no one else, nothing else, we are SET FREE to enjoy the blessings of singlehood. We are also set free from its pain, because the things we suffer now can't be compared to the rewards to come in Heaven. This makes God look really good! When we find God to be rich and satisfying, He is pleased. He wants to be your sufficiency, and satisfaction.
John Piper says it so appropriately:
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
And guess what? This applies if you're married too. It applies if you're a parent, empty nester, a grandparent, a teenager, middle schooler. It doesn't matter who you are. You don't have to be single to enjoy this satisfaction. You just have to be a child of God. Believe that God is good, believe that He has redeemed your life for better things. Accept the salvation He offers on His terms, and turn your life over to God. It is in the surrender that you will be set free.
How does this work practically? Like any belief we have, we claim it and we adjust our viewpoint and motives and actions by it. Simply keep refocusing on God. Remember that this life is not the end, and set your sights Heavenward. God is completely sufficient, don't be deceived into believing otherwise.