What Are the True Longings in Singleness and Marriage?

If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be single at 29, I would have been sad, discouraged, and scared. For girls especially, growing up in a Christian community often comes with the implicit expectation that you’ll get married and start a family, and that it will happen sooner rather than later. 

It’s hard to say whether that expectation comes from the context of the church where most adults are married with kids, or from secular society which commercializes romantic relationships, or simply from our own natural desire for companionship and children.

All I know is that I was not prepared for a long season of singleness. 

Why is Singleness So Hard?

In part, I wasn’t ready for 10 years of singleness because I didn’t ever expect to be single that long. I hoped to get married shortly after high school or college, as many of my friends have done. 

There are very few models of singleness in the church, and when those men and women eventually do marry, there is often a sigh of relief from their church family. Long-term singleness is referred to as a disappointment, and I’ve been told a thousand times, “Your turn is coming!” as though marriage is an expectation.

Marriage is not only set up as an expectation, but also as the highest calling for a woman, the greatest reward, a benchmark of success and a validation of her good character. Verses from Proverbs 31 get thrown around so much at Bible studies and youth programs for girls, it’s no wonder many of us begin to think our spiritual walk is more about marriage than our relationship to Christ. 

So imagine my ongoing disappointment as the years rolled by without any indication that God had such a blessing in store for me. 

Struggling, Single or Married

If you think the singles in your church are only suffering from loneliness, you might be mistaken. Some of us have felt acutely the lie that God’s portion of singleness for us is a lesser blessing. Some struggle to find a place in churches that cater mostly to families and youth. We’re burdened by a sense of purposelessness, starved of fellowship as our married brothers and sisters so often become understandably occupied with their growing families, and haunted by unmet desires to be known and loved. 

What I didn’t realize, however, is that many of my friends, now several years into their own marriages and family building, find themselves struggling as well. 

“Marriage is hard,” the married saints will tell us, keeping details private but offering the platitude generously. Marriage doesn’t fulfill your need to be known, nor does it necessarily bring contentment, joy, peace, or feelings of purpose. It doesn’t always quell loneliness or hush an unsettled spirit. 

No marriage is without difficulties–internal or external–and my married friends are now facing the same questions I have faced as a single person: Where do we find contentment, joy, and value?

Preparing for Singleness or Marriage

We long for peace so we search for quiet. We desire to be known, so we seek companionship. Our arms are full of love, so we wish for children. Our hearts long for purpose, so we set to work in the hopes of finding some measure of value in ourselves.

Whether our search leads us through singleness or marriage, or winds providentially between the two, if we’re not looking towards Christ, the search will be in vain. Rather than preparing ourselves and each other for marriage or singleness, we ought to concentrate our efforts in building up our foundations on God’s promises:

Do you long for peace? You’ll find it in Christ, and it will transcend the tumult in which you find yourself (Phil. 4:7).

Do you desire to be known? You’re already known completely, from the number of hairs on your head to the words not yet on your tongue (Ps. 139). 

Do you have love to give and ready hands to serve? Good! God has prepared good works for you to do! (Eph. 2:10)

I wish someone had told me 10 years ago that the fullness of life wouldn’t come from a perfect husband, a beautiful marriage, or wonderful children (although I still desire all those things). I wish someone had come alongside me and helped me fix my eyes on the kingdom and its King so that I could be equipped to weather these “light and momentary troubles” with hope in the eternal (see 2 Cor. 4:17-18). 

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Mary York

Mary York is a journalist, writer and junior high teacher. She is currently working on her M.A. in Theological Studies at Westminster Seminary California and pursuing certification in biblical counselling. A San Diego native, she is one of seven siblings and currently in a close race to be the world's OKest aunt. Come talk to her about practical theology and comma placements on Twitter at @agirlnamedmary.

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