Unfortunately, many people view their singleness as a period of probation or parole. They believe that God is like a probation officer, sternly supervising all of their activities and withholding marriage until they have demonstrated trustworthiness for a certain period of time. They hope that, by being good, they will earn their way out of singleness and into the freedom of marriage.
Think about this for a moment. This way of thinking assumes that married people have passed God’s probationary period and have demonstrated a level of trustworthiness that merits marriage. But are all married people strong believers? Do all demonstrate trustworthiness and faithfulness at a more advanced level than single people show? Of course not! Married people have not graduated to a new level of faith. They simply carry out the same mission of faith in a different context than single people.
God does not answer our prayers according to what we have earned by being good. We are not good, and all of our gifts are a result of His grace, His undeserved favor. He knows that we do not deserve or merit any good thing, but He is delights in giving us good gifts anyway. By viewing singleness as probation, we fall into the trap of believing that we must do more to earn God’s favor, but it cannot be earned. Jesus earned God’s favor on our behalf through His death; pleasing God, therefore, is only a matter of accepting Jesus’ substitution.
Furthermore, by assuming that marriage is a sign that our probationary period is over, we assume that marriage is the only good gift which God has to offer to those who please Him. Nothing could be further from the truth! Singleness is not a period of probation, but a period of rich treasures, if only we will cease to fix our eyes on the future and will delight in the present season.
2. Singlenesss is a punishment.
A girl desperately wants to go to an amusement park. Her father tells her that if she is consistent with her chores, she can go to an amusement park at the end of the summer. The girl begins with good intentions, but one day she forgets. She tries to make up for her inconsistency by trying harder and, for a while, all goes well. Then she skips a few days, and eventually, over the course of the summer, her good intentions crumble and she becomes no more consistent at her chores than before she made the deal with her father. At the end of the summer, her father pronounces the sentence: She did not demonstrate diligence in her chores as agreed upon, and therefore, she may not go to the amusement park. Perhaps she can try again next summer, but for this summer, the punishment stands.
Sometimes we believe that, in the same way that the father withheld his daughter’s desire because of her failure to live up to the agreement, God withholds marriage from us because of our failure to keep His laws. Our sin stands between us and marriage, and our singleness is a period of punishment. We worry ourselves, wondering what we could do to get back into God’s good graces and despairing that we will ever measure up. We wish that we had a guidebook by which we could know the criteria He uses to evaluate us. Is it enough to abstain from a certain sin for six weeks—or should it be six months? Do we have to be involved in a ministry for a year? What does God expect from us, and how much is enough?
By viewing singleness as a punishment, we assume that marriage is a reward. The danger to this is that many young women find that their “reward,” rather than relieving them of the burden of singleness, carries a burden of its own. They are surprised that marriage takes just as much work as singleness, just in different ways. If marriage is not the great romantic fairytale that we have envisioned for ourselves or feel that we have earned, we begin to wonder if our marital struggles are just an extension of our punishment. When does the punishment end?
In reality, singleness is not a punishment and marriage is not a reward. It is a lie to believe that all singles are in God’s disfavor and all married people are pleasing God. God is not a cosmic scorekeeper. He does not tally up our lack of sin or our good deeds to see if we have earned marriage. Only our attitude toward singleness determines if it is a punishment or reward. If we believe singleness is a punishment, then it will be miserable. If we believe that singleness is a gift from God, then we will delight in it.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.