Not placing my worth in my relationship status is a constant struggle in my life.
Growing up on a (sometimes rather unhealthy) diet of Disney movies, dramas and romance novels made me a hopeless romantic.
I was most vulnerable to loneliness when I went through valleys, or when I was physically sick or discouraged. I’d catch myself thinking: “If only I had a partner to go through these with me.”
Singleness sometimes felt more like a curse, rather than a gift.
Through the cutting, pruning and revealing process of waiting, Paul’s words spoke to me time and again.
Paul, of all people, had every reason to complain and be bitter with God. He went through the worst of circumstances yet he remained steadfast, walking in obedience to his Lord and Saviour.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Paul knew God to be One who provides for his needs in every situation. This is aptly summed up by Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of martyred missionary Jim Elliot.
“The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”
It was a daily act of reflection, surrender and allowing the Holy Spirit to remind me of God’s truth.
I realised I had an unhealthy view of being in a relationship, as though being in one would somehow “magically” save me from the struggles of life around me or ugliness of sin within me.
Another thing I had to deal with was the lie that because I served so hard, God somehow “owed” me a life partner.
But walking with God was never a transaction – as though our obedience to Him twists His arm and He must give us what we want, when we want it or else…
Yet God has already given us the greatest gift of Christ. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He redeemed us at our worst and loved us at our darkest when we drowned in sin.
This love from God is a redemptive love that no human relationship or anything could ever satisfy or fill. We are complete in Christ, even as singles.
Jesus never married — our Lord was certainly not incomplete or inferior.
Being married and not being married are both good conditions to be in.
Interacting closely with singles, courting couples and married couples within the community burst my bubble as well.
While marriage is desirable, I realised it comes with its fair share of struggles and challenges. If anything, marriage is glorious but hard.
While it brings joy and adds strength when Christ anchors the relationship, it also contains much blood, sweat and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories.
It is a journey of learning to consider someone better than yourself, a daily dying to self, of placing his or her needs above your own. It is dispensing grace to and receiving grace from a fellow broken and sinful human being.
Meanwhile, I also saw how singles around me lived with great joy and purpose. Some were single by circumstances rather than by choice, but some taught me that there is nothing inherently wrong or inferior with singleness.
These singles experienced the joys of intimate relationships through the Church, through couples who invited them into their lives as part of an amazing spiritual family.
By God’s grace, I grew to have a balanced perspective of marriage and singleness. Being married and not being married are both good conditions to be in.
That being said, emo nights were occasionally still a thing. Yet God was graciously uprooting this idol in my life.
I appreciated honest conversations with fellow singles, who trusted me enough to give me a glimpse of their journey as we navigated this season together with God. These chats reminded me to speak to those who are also struggling like me with empathy, truth and love.
I came to treasure the gift of singleness, relishing in the joys of independence and freedom. It was a season that gave me the availability to pursue what mattered to me and what God placed in my heart.
It was also a cherished season where I questioned who I am in Him and why I do what I do.
At the same time, I knew deep down that companionship with someone sharing the same convictions in God was something I valued.
Around this time, I was studying at ACTS College on my own accord. There I met Edmund, an acquaintance from the same church whom I hardly interacted with as we were from different congregations.
Unbeknown to me, the people at ACTS were creating opportunities for both of us to interact.
As we got to know each other as friends, one of the things that stood out to me was Edmund’s dedication and commitment to God, demonstrated in his decisions to walk in obedience and surrender.
While he had his fair share of weaknesses and failings (as I did), he had a genuine desire to yield to the Holy Spirit’s leading in his life.
We shared a common love for the Word (cue his geeky Greek jokes #facepalm) and a genuine desire to orientate our lives around His call.
Our conversations revolved around our convictions and God-given burdens. We didn’t let each other settle for less, and sometimes our talks frustrated me because he would call me out on my pride (ouch).
When we were fasting and praying about the possibility of entering into a relationship, I shared my fears and concerns with someone who knew both of us.
As we talked, he asked me whether Edmund’s humble abandonment to God and willingness to yield to His call counted for something. It became apparent to me that it did.
I was still sad and needed time to mourn the end of my singleness. I was accustomed to enjoying my freedom, autonomy and personal fulfilment as a single. Yet I knew that being in a relationship meant a certain loss of all three.
I read The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, which paints a beautiful picture of marriage and the gospel.
“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us.
“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.”
It reminded me of His unfailing mercy and grace, which was sufficient for me in my singleness and will continue to be in our relationship to come.
So yes, my eventual answer to Edmund was a “yes”.
I should clarify that the point of my long-winded writing is not “serve God, enjoy singleness, be content and Mr or Mrs Right will come along sooner or later”.
I think we have enough testimonies like those. While they are beautiful in their own way, it still subtly advocates that if you wait patiently and grow yourself in Him, you will bid this awful curse of singleness goodbye.
But that was never a promise. What if God has His sovereign plan and purpose for us to be single, whether for a season or longer?
The point is that we should be neither overly elated by getting attached nor overly disappointed by not being so – because Christ is the only spouse that can truly fulfil us, and God’s family is the only family that will truly embrace and satisfy us (as grossly imperfect as the Church is).
The same idolatry of marriage that distorts our singleness will eventually distort our married lives. Our spouse was never made to fill our deepest needs nor heal our brokenness. That is what the gospel does.
Whatever season we’re in, whatever our relationship status, He is teaching us precious lessons and moulding us in Christlikeness.
If you endured my long-windedness until here, I pray that you will learn to value and cherish whichever season you’re in – single, attached or married.
The God we love and worship is One who values our holiness above our happiness, and who loves us as a Father and desires us to grow in Christlikeness.
- What are some unhealthy views you might have towards dating and marriage?
- How can you learn to cherish the season you’re in?
- What does Christ’s love mean to you?