The growing number of single women in our world today have more freedoms and opportunities than this demographic ever has experienced. But that doesn't mean they aren't occasionally hounded by struggles—or haunted by tough questions. For example, why is this such a growing demographic? And what are they supposed to do with occasional lonely feelings—year after year?
For answers to some of the most challenging of these queries, we turned to Virginia McInerney, a single woman who's a regular speaker at her megachurch in Ohio, and who wrote Single Not Separate (Charisma House), which tackles these and many other difficult singleness issues head-on. Here's her frank, insightful take on five of the toughest questions singles ask:
1. What do I do if I'm angry with God because he hasn't given me a spouse?
A while ago the Lord began to deal with me about my own anger toward him over my singleness. Frustration had been building inside me, and I wanted to blame God. After all, in his sovereignty, this was what he'd chosen, or allowed, for me—and I didn't like it. I knew I had to admit to my anger, but I was afraid to do so. I thought, I can't express that to God … I mean, this is God we're talking about! I can't yell at him.
But then one day several things in my life went wrong in rapid succession, and I blew up. As I drove to a church seminar, of all things, I started to yell at God. Between my angry words, I apologized, "I'm sorry I feel this way. You have every right to strike me with a bolt of lightning. But this is how I feel."
The Bible says God desires truth in our innermost being (Psalm 51:6). Finally I was telling God the truth about how I felt. Even though I was seeing the situation in a wrong light, it had to come up and out, since God is the only one who could right my thinking and diffuse my anger. By stuffing my anger inside, I'd really been turning my back on him.
I'm not condoning anger with God. But we can't just pretend it isn't there. We can't make it go away by a sheer act of will. Acknowledging it by being honest is the starting point. Confession follows. Then God forgives us and cleanses us (1 John 1:9).
Great people of faith—such as Moses, Job, and David—experienced anger toward God, too. Thankfully, he understands our humanity, and he's merciful.
2. How do I deal with haunting, sometimes unanswerable questions such as "Is there something wrong with me?" or "Am I not married because of past mistakes?"
All of us, married and single, have questions that may not be answered this side of heaven. Still, Jesus welcomes our queries. Many times he answers our questions; sometimes, for reasons we don't understand, he doesn't. But in either case, it all comes down to faith.
When we don't sense God answering these questions, we need to believe:
- God has his reasons for not answering.
- He is good even if his apparent lack of response makes it seem as though he isn't.
- What the Bible says about God and about us is true even when our experience seems contradictory.
- If God truly wants us to know the answer to the question, he'll tell us at a later time.
Believing what's true about God's character ultimately resolves our questions, even if we don't get answers. We know God loves us. Consequently, we can rest in knowing he has a good plan for our lives. Romans 8:28 says he works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. This means even without knowing the answer to our questions, we can rest in the knowledge God can make everything turn out all right in the end. Even if the reason you currently aren't married happens to be because of past mistakes, God can redeem those mistakes, turning them into something good.
As for the question about there being something wrong with you—well, ultimately the answer to that question doesn't matter. There's something wrong with everyone, married or single. "For all have sinned … " (Romans 3:23). If there's something about you that's a hindrance to marriage, God can take care of it, no matter what it is. Ask him to address any issue that may be standing in the way. Then yield to him when he does. True peace and contentment come when we focus our attention on God's ability to resolve problems more than on our tough questions.
3. If God is all I really need, why do I still yearn for something more?
While it's certainly true Jesus is the ultimate source through which all our needs, relational and otherwise, are met, he meets those needs in diverse ways. Sometimes he does so directly, but often he does so indirectly through people and circumstances.
Many Scriptures—such as Genesis 2:18 and Ecclesiastes 4:9-12—point to the necessity of human companionship. In the Epistles alone there are more than 50 references to "one another": "love one another" (1 Thessalonians 4:9); "forgive one another" (Ephesians 4:32); "serve one another" (Galatians 5:13). God places great value on our relationships. While our relationship with God is primary, we need each other, too.
Unfortunately, a lot of false guilt can stem from a failure to grasp this truth. Here's what can happen. Let's say someone counsels "Mary" to find total relational satisfaction in Jesus. She earnestly tries, but because God designed us for relationship, she fails. She then begins to wonder what's wrong with her, why she can't get close enough to God to satisfy her unmet relational needs. Now she's left with a false belief that her relationship with God is flawed. So poor Mary feels like a failure at human relationships (presumably because she isn't married) and a failure at her relationship with God. We need to work hard to set singles free from this unhealthy, untruthful cycle.
4. How active should I be in the process of finding a spouse — or should I leave it all up to God?
This question makes me think of a recent job search I did when I first moved to Ohio. I worked hard to find employment because I didn't assume a job was going to fall in my lap simply because I needed one. While I asked God to open the right doors and shut the wrong doors, I also acted responsibly by doing the normal things one does when looking for work.
There's a biblical basis for this dual approach—of allowing God to work and taking action—in the Old Testament account of how God brought together Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 2-4). I often wonder if Satan is deceiving some singles whom God has called to a role of action into thinking this is one area where they can be passive and simply wait for a spouse to show up one day on their doorstep.
On the other hand, I know people whom God instructed to continue doing the things to which he's called them. They had an assurance from God that meeting a spouse just would happen. Certainly, for many people, God simply puts them in the right place at the right time. We see this in the account of God providing a bride for Isaac (Genesis 24).
For those who do actively seek a spouse, when are they going too far? When are they taking matters into their own hands? I think we go too far when we get impatient and try to force things to happen by our own doing. While it's important to do our part, we also need to keep our hearts soft toward God, even in a long wait. The bottom line is, we need to discern what God is directing us to do, then trust and obey God.
5. Does being content mean I've relinquished my desire to marry?
Being content isn't the same as saying, "I have no desire to marry." But it's easy for people to invert those two concepts so being discontent is equal to saying, "I desire to marry." And since we know discontentment is a negative thing, that puts that desire in a negative light, as if there's something wrong with wanting to get married. This trips us up, making us feel as if we have to give up our desire in order to achieve contentment. But it is possible for a person to be content and simultaneously desire to marry. These aren't mutually exclusive.
Throughout life, all of us—whether married or single—are bound to experience ebbs and flows in our level of contentment. Various factors influence this. For example, I've had instances where, within a short time, several friends got engaged, married, or had babies. At times such as these, I may become discontented and desperately want to marry. There are other times when I can say, as the apostle Paul did in Philippians 4:11, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Yes, I'd love to marry, but I'm OK being single.
Christian singles know we're supposed to live on the contentment end of life's continuum, but it's much easier said than done. Thankfully we can take hope in the apostle Paul's words in Philippians 3:12-16, where he tells us that although we've not laid hold of perfection, we should press on and peacefully trust God will, without condemnation, show us where we're off the mark. As with many things in the Christian life, we're striving toward the right goal; yet in reality, we're not always there. However, if God isn't condemning us, let's not condemn one another. Let's encourage each other instead!
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