“Why can’t I get married, God?” we ask.
“Why, it builds character!” God replies.
For many of us, we follow up with another question.
“So how do I know when I have enough character?”
“Oh, I’ll know.”
So we plod through life, wondering what kind of character God expects us to build. We try to surrender to His will a little more and manufacture a little more faith to prove that our character muscles are bulking up. We’re not clear on what constitutes “character,” but we hope that our efforts will speed up the character-building process so that we can get married.
Now consider where this logic could lead. Do married people no longer need to build character? Is marriage some kind of graduation from the character-building school?
“Ah!” We say, laughing at the absurdity of the idea. “Of course character building doesn’t end with marriage. The Bible says that he who is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much. If we prove our faithfulness in singleness, then we are ready to show our faithfulness in marriage. We just move up to the next level of character building.”
Poor apostle Paul! Poor Jesus Christ! It’s a pity that they never reached the next step of character building. Think of all the treasures of faith and character that he missed because they did not marry!
Lie #4: Singleness is a test.
Sometimes we believe that singleness is a test. No, we do not believe that it is a period of probation and we realize that it is not a punishment. That would assume that singleness is bad. Singleness is not bad. It is simply the trying of our faith, to make it shine forth like gold. It is a test of trust; will we trust God with our love stories?
The pitfall to this mindset is the belief that, if we marry, we have proven our trust and that, if we don’t marry, we are not living out trust in our daily lives. If we struggle to trust, we fear that God will continue to withhold marriage. If our trust goes up and down, we panic.
Perhaps, we reason, it is not a test of trust, but a test of perseverance. That thought comes with the weight of despair. We wonder, “How long does God want me to hold out?” This was my thought when my friends began to get married and when I first saw signs that my younger sisters might marry before me. I feared that God was testing the length of my endurance. Could I remain pure and content for an indefinite period of time, no matter what kind of pressure He placed on me? I began to wonder: Why was I singled out for the test? Why couldn’t God test my friends too? What was so special—or so wrong—about me, that He had to expect more from me than from my friends and sisters?
I began to hate the verse “to whom much is given, much is required,” (Luke 12:48) because I believed myself to be singled out for some kind of special purpose. That inflated both my pride and my frustration, because I was always guessing at God’s expectations for me and wondering when the test would be over. And what then? Did my future depend on the results of the test?
Believing my singleness to be a test robbed me of much peace. Singleness is no more a test than life itself is a test. The condition or season of life means nothing in itself, only what we do with the time that God has given to us. Will we spend it trying to figure out God’s agenda, or will we spend it following through the will that He has already revealed in His Word?
Lie #5: We're more useful to God as singles.
The final, and perhaps most destructive, half-truth regarding singleness is the belief that we are single because we are somehow more useful to God as singles, and that people only marry when they outlive the usefulness of their single lives.
To some extent, this belief is true. Singles have unique opportunities of which married people can no longer take advantage. The freedoms of singles make them especially available to serve God in unique ways.
The danger to this way of thinking is that we believe that our lives are measured only in utilitarian terms, and that God will either answer or refuse our requests based on whether the desired thing will result in more usefulness. We resent feeling like pawns and like our desires must always line up with a predetermined agenda before they can be considered. We begin to feel like inanimate tools in God’s hands and forget the joys of a living, personal relationship with Him.
While it is true that we are the clay in the potter’s hands (Romans 9:21) and the servants of the master (Luke 17:10), we are also the children of the father (Romans 8:15). Jesus once asked, if earthly fathers, being evil, know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more does our Father in Heaven? (Matthew 7:9-11) God evaluates according to His measures, but He also genuinely cares about our requests. When King Hezekiah was sick, God sent a prophet to warn him that he should prepare for his death. Weeping, the king prayed for more time. As a result of that prayer, God reversed His warning and gave the king fifteen more years of life. The king prayed, and God heard and answered. (Isaiah 38:1-8)
We are not mere tools in His hands. God genuinely listens and answers. If He says “no” or “wait,” He does not base His decision merely on the “usefulness factor,” but also on His generosity—for our God is, indeed, a generous God.
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.