We’re going through a three part series called Rediscovering Sex and Relationships. It’s proving to be a difficult topic to address in our city because our people come from a variety of cultural and family upbringing. But it’s perhaps the most pressing issue to address because we derive so much of our identity from sex and relationships.
I’ve ministered to singles in the last decade as a youth pastor, college/young adults pastor, and now a pastor in a city filled with single, single-again, and single-for-life people. And I want to share with you what I’ve learned over the years counseling people who are in pursuit, in the midst of a break-up, or recovering from a former relationship.
These are five ignorant statements that I avoid saying to singles:
- Your standards are too high/low
This is usually said to someone who seems too picky or has passed up some potential mate. Paul says in Romans 5:8 that God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. The Gospel humbles us and reminds us that we are not TOO LOW that we should settle and compromise our values and identity, but it also reminds us that we are not TOO HIGH that we neglect potential mates in the making all around us.
- It’s not you
The truth is sometimes it’s you! Have the courage to ask your close friends/mentors who love you what they notice about you that’s hindering you from building intimate and healthy relationships. Have the courage to deal with sin in your life so that God can redeem it not only for a romantic relationship, but for a relationship with Him and for His eternal purpose.
- God has the perfect one waiting for you
Our idea of “perfect” is fleeting and the idea that everyone will marry is naive. Too much wishful thinking can lead to a lot of anxiety and a feeling of lack of wholeness because you haven’t found MR/MRS. RIGHT. The Perfect One has indeed come and you don’t have to wait to cultivate a thriving relationship with Him. In fact, people who cultivate a relationship with Jesus just to have Him as opposed to using Him for some other gain find greater perspective in their dating/marriage relationship.
- You have the “gift” of singleness
I thought this was the case for one of my best childhood friends, but then he got married! Most people who have it probably aren’t the ones sitting in your office crying over being single or crying about their second break-up this year. Most people who have it don’t make a big deal about it. In fact, many who are called to a single life seldom think of it in terms of giftednes. One person explained to me that it’s like giving up smoking. Initially there’s desire for it, but eventually your body is used to not craving it anymore and you’re able to concentrate on other things.
- “Just get married” or “Just wait it out – the loneliness will eventually stop”
Loneliness is something you discover in your singleness and you carry it with you into your marriage. The amount of loneliness you experience as a single person sometimes is amplified in your married life. In some ways, it’s not a bad thing to feel lonely because it’s a constant pointer that you are to seek God’s goodness in a fresh new way everyday. But you’re naive if you think marriage cures loneliness. Yes, it does provide companionship and a soul connection. But the greatest form of loneliness is divine in origin. That loneliness can’t be shaken even with an incredible spouse. Believe me, my spouse is fantastic and I still find myself dealing with loneliness.
Here’s a great quote from Tim Keller that I’d like to encourage single folks with, “I am not single because I am too spiritually unstable to possibly deserve a husband, nor because I am too spiritually mature to possibly need one. I am single because God is so abundantly good to me, because this is his best for me.” (Keller, Timothy (2011-11-01). The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (p. 189). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.)