Love Is Looking for You
At least part of what makes singleness so lonely and miserable is that we have such a hard time believing someone like God could really, genuinely love someone like us. Some of us have experienced so little love in this life that we don’t have categories for what that would even feel like. We’ve been abandoned by parents, betrayed by friends, or left behind by another boyfriend or girlfriend. Marriage feels like one last-ditch effort to find love, but deep inside we’re terrified we’ll just find more of the same. We simply cannot imagine being truly, deeply, and consistently loved. And then God says, “I love you.” Really?
God does love you. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). We are prized sons and daughters. God loved us even though we never deserved his love (Rom. 5:8). You and I were dead without Christ—not wrong, not sick, not stupid, but dead. “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (Eph. 2:1–2). We were absolutely, stubbornly unlovable. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (vv. 4–5). God found you dead in your sin, in full rebellion against him, utterly hopeless, and he loved you to life and made you his own. He was willing to send his Son to a cross for you to show you what real love looks like and to give you a reason to believe in love, again.
This love will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). He will never call to break up with you. He will never walk out on you like your dad walked out on your family. He never lies, and he will never die, leaving you behind and alone.
Single, Satisfied, and Sent
Remember that true greatness will often look like weakness. When Jesus finally explained to his disciples just what kind of king he was—just what it meant to be truly, deeply, lastingly great—he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise” (Mark 9:31). How did they respond? They walked away arguing over which one of them was the greatest—the chief among the otherwise forgettable fishermen (Mark 9:34). Instead of hearing Jesus talk about his death and redefining greatness in terms of sacrifice—in terms of coming in last for the sake of love—they fought to be first. According to Jesus, the greatest won’t look all that great. In fact, true greatness will often look like weakness, surrender, defeat, and even death.
Notice the people God has already put around you.
God has put you on the planet and in your neighborhood so that you and all the people in your life might seek him. That’s God’s mission statement for your campus, your apartment building, your block—wherever you live, study, or work. Paul says that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26–27).
God has determined our dwelling place today—our distinct home, in our particular neighborhood, in our specific city—so that we would seek him and help others do the same. It’s not beyond God to use us to convert someone through a random, brief interaction with a stranger at the gym or a coffee shop. But friendships are the front lines of disciple making, and friendship requires some shared interest, hobby, or space—a place where paths cross.
Practice selflessness while you’re still single.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3–4). That will only get harder in marriage, so practice now. We should think of a few people or families for whom we could lay down our single life. No one is expecting you to care for and provide for others right now—no one, that is, except for God. Let’s be mindful of the needs of others, especially those in the church, and consider contributing. It could be money or food, or just time and energy. Maybe especially time and energy.
Regardless of our paycheck, we have been given much. We should spend it wisely and liberally on the needs of others. Financially, you’re supporting just one person. Sure, save modestly for days when you’ll need more, but while you wait, look for ways to provide for others. While you’re not buying groceries for five, dinner for two, or endless diapers, budget to bless, and develop attitudes and habits of sacrifice for others. Those habits will serve your future spouse immensely and make Jesus shine beautifully to those around you in the meantime.
Say yes to the spontaneous.
It’s just a fact—marriage murders spontaneity, not entirely but massively. One of your greatest spiritual gifts as a single person is your yes. Yes to a random phone conversation. Yes to coffee. Yes to help with the move. Yes to stepping in when someone’s sick. Yes to a late-night movie or the special event downtown. You have the unbelievable freedom to say yes when married people can’t even ask the question. When the spouse doesn’t exist yet, you cannot hurt him or her with the selfless, impulsive decisions you make to serve others. If you get married, you will not always have the same freedom. Be willing to say yes and be a blessing to others, even when you don’t always feel like it.
Do radical, time-consuming things for God.
Just as you are free to say yes to spontaneous things, you’re also able to say yes to things that require more of you than a married person can afford. Dream bigger, more costly dreams. Start a daily prayer meeting or some regular outreach. Commit to mentor and disciple several men or women younger than you. Organize a new Christ-centered community service project. Do all of the above. You’d be surprised, with God’s Spirit in you and a resolve to spend your singleness well, how much you and your not-yet-married friends are truly capable of, especially when you dream and work together. Be radical but not reckless. The idea is not to spread yourself dangerously thin, so make decisions prayerfully and in community with people who love you and can tell you no.
Love the Life You Never Wanted
Is the life you’re currently living the one you always wanted for yourself? Did you think you’d be married by now? What about your job—not what you hoped for? Do you feel like your gifts are being wasted? Do you dream about doing something different with your life? Maybe you wish you were living somewhere else. You long to be closer to home (or farther away).
The reality is that all of us can imagine something better for ourselves than our circumstances today. The greater reality is that if you love and follow Jesus, God always writes a better story for you than you would write for yourself. The “better” is based on this: God himself is the best, most satisfying thing you could ever have or experience, and, therefore, fullness of life is ultimately found not in any earthly success, relationship, or accomplishment but in your proximity to God through faith.
The dark side of this good news is that you may have to walk through pain, disappointment, rejection, and suffering for seven or eight (or seventy or eighty) years. The brighter (and prevailing) side says God never makes a mistake in choosing good for you. Everything you experience—expected or unexpected, wanted or unwanted, pleasing or painful—is God’s good plan to make you his own (John 10:27–29), to give you himself forever (Ps. 16:11), and to use your life to reveal himself and his glory to the world around you (Isa. 43:25; 1 Cor. 10:31).
What is the secret of joy and contentment in the face of whatever pain and disappointment life brings? It’s centering and anchoring our joy and contentment in Christ rather than in marriage or anything else in this life.