This phrase is said a lot in Christian circles. It does reveal an important Biblical teaching, but for some single people it can sound like a harsh rebuke. Knowing what this phrase is meant to communicate, and the correct context for it, can help us to know when saying it will help or hurt someone we’re trying to support.
‘If you’re single, going to church and finding it a bit hard, you’re not the only one. It can be difficult in an often family orientated context and culture. It’s okay to say it’s a struggle sometimes.’
‘And wanting to get married isn’t wrong. You’re allowed to want a husband or wife. You can be single, love God, be seeking him, and want to get married. One doesn’t automatically cancel out the other.’
You’re allowed to want to get married
These were some of the words I said at a recent talk. I could see on people’s faces a sense of relief. To hear someone say on stage that if you’re single, you’re allowed to want to get married and you may struggle a bit in church, clearly meant a lot.
And I believe all of this is true and not said enough, but it isn’t the full picture either.
I said these words after an earlier talk, in which someone said you need to ‘be content with singleness’ and find peace in God.
And I couldn’t agree more.
If we’re single, (or married, or dating,) we’re told to trust God and depend on him. Our relationship status doesn’t change the fact we should be rooted and ultimately fulfilled in God.
But does this mean there’s a contradiction? Does that make me or the other speaker wrong? Or is it a bit more complicated?
Context is Key
The thing is, I’ve spoken to single people in church who fully love God. They do find peace in him and are pursuing him with a passion. But they still want to find someone, and date, and get married. They are content in God, but that doesn’t take away the struggles of life.
When they hear the phrase, ‘be content with singleness’, it’s like a slap in the face. They are truly seeking God and loving him, and just need help and support in this important area of life from others. Maybe a bit of guidance when it comes to dating, or a bit of help overcoming some of the fears that surround it.
It doesn’t automatically mean they are taking their eyes off God
It’s like saying to a dedicated worship leader who is wanting singing lessons to improve some habits, that they should just focus on God and not learn new skills. Just because they need help and support to affect a situation, it doesn’t automatically mean they are taking their eyes off God.
Having said that, I’ve also chatted to single people who admit that they’ve focused so much on finding someone that they’ve stopped finding peace in God. They forget to rely on him and find peace in him.
They also say being reminded about ‘being content with singleness’ is helpful. Remembering that even if they’re not in the position they want to be in, God is still good and still using them to build his kingdom and is with them through it all.
We may relate to one of these situations, or know someone who does. Or we may have said something to someone at the wrong time in the past and caused a bit of hurt.
I do think there are some things to think about, which can remind ourselves and each other that we need to ‘be content with singleness’, but that doesn’t mean our desire for marriage and seeking support in our romantic search is wrong. Namely:
- There’s Not A Single ‘Singles’ Category
- Actively Give Good Dating Advice
- What’s The 5 Year Plan?
There’s Not A Single Category
Firstly, not all single people can be put into a ‘single’ category. Some people have never married, some are widowed, some are divorced. Some are old and some are young. All these situations bring different challenges, opportunities, and experiences.
Whether we’re single, dating or married, we cannot just assume one ‘magic phrase’ can be applicable to every single person and their context. (Read What The Bible Actually Says About Singleness and 4 Trends That Characterises Singleness In Our 20s, 30s, and 40s)
Good Dating Advice
Equipping single people/ourselves with good advice is important. Helping each other to think through healthy God-centred dating doesn’t mean our fulfilment will stop coming from God. It just means we can do it with God instead of feeling frustrated with our situation. Single people in church often feel overwhelmed by dating. So getting some practical tips can help bring God into this area. (Read 4 Strategies For Overcoming Our Biggest Dating Fears).
What’s The 5 Year Plan?
Another good thing to do would be to ask each other the question: ‘How do you want your life to change in 5 years?’
If we’re only focused on finding someone and settling down, we’ve missed something. God’s plan for us is bigger than our relationship status. What business ideas, hobbies, ministry, friendships do we want to grow and improve? What is God calling us to do?
Being content in singleness can still mean pursuing someone to fall in love with
Being content in singleness can still mean pursuing someone to fall in love with, but it should involve pursuing many other things besides just one person.
Imagine if we remembered that God is ultimately where we find peace and fulfilment. He’s the one we should be seeking no matter our situation. But this doesn’t mean we can’t be honest about the struggles and seek support and help.
I hope we can remind ourselves, and each other, that ‘being content with singleness’ is an important principle, but it doesn’t discount pursuing marriage or romance. When we give this advice, we need to be aware of the context, and remember that: There’s Not A Single ‘Singles’ Category, Actively Give Good Dating Advice, What’s The 5 Year Plan? (Read Being Cautious Vs Jumping In: Which Dating Habit Is Best?)
Are there any other good phrases, that are unintentionally said in the wrong context? Comments welcome below.