We were all single at some point. But sometimes it seems as though we fail to remember that period of our lives when we interact with our single friends. We say stupid things and give advice from our experiences as we try to help our single friends figure out how to live life well and of course, find a spouse. I’ve heard these conversations and you probably have, too. And we all have probably said unhelpful things to single people at one point. So for the purpose of being helpful to the unmarried people we love, let’s think through some of the commonly voiced but untrue ideas about singleness.
Misconception #1: When you are content, then the Lord will bring your spouse.
Reality: We don’t know that this “if. . .then” statement is true because the Bible never says it. What we do know about God is “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut 29:29). Only the Lord knows if someone's going to get married.
I know a lot of people who were discontent before they were married and are still discontent in marriage. Figuring out contentment is not some formula to get married; being content is about finding your delight in the Lord and craving him above all else. This is a life-long endeavor for all of us—married and unmarried—that we will never master this side of heaven.
Misconception #2: If a person really wants to get married and also loves Jesus, he/she is someone your single friend has to meet.
Reality: While it is an absolute scriptural truth that a believer should be dating and marrying another believer, just because a man, for example loves the Lord doesn’t mean that you, as a single woman who loves the Lord, has to be in love with that man and marry him. I’m so thankful a guy friend was willing to tell me this a few years ago. I was dating a great guy who did love the Lord . . . but that was all we had in common.
Can relationships work based on shared faith alone? Absolutely. But sometimes we become too Reformed in our dating and act like God desires us to settle for the believers in front of us (regardless of how we may feel about them) as a mark of wisdom. Yes, God is sovereign, but if you are not excited about the person you are dating and are having to convince yourself that you like that person, dating and marriage are most likely not going to be an easy road. God is good and desires good for us. So just because someone near you loves God and really wants to get married too doesn’t mean you, by proximity have to be “the one” for that person.
Misconception #3: You’ll really be able to be friends with the opposite gender—either women or men—when you’re married.
Reality: If as a single person, you are unable to relate to a member of the opposite sex now it’s not going to magically get better once you are married. Learn now to be friends with the opposite sex. As single brothers and sisters in Christ, it is possible to just be friends with one another within boundaries and honor each other at the same time.
Misconception #4: If you desire to get married you should definitely do online dating.
Reality: I have several friends who have done online dating and it’s turned out great for them and the spouse they found. But the truth is, how we should handle dating—let alone online dating—is a real gray area as neither dating nor the internet are mentioned in the Bible. When single people around us are not finding prospects in their immediate community, we can’t with certainty say that online dating is the best solution. We do know that God is bigger than dating and the internet. Desiring to be married is a God-given desire. For those who do consider online dating, however, there are some points of wisdom that can help along the way: be honest in your profile, have people in your community and church meet the other person and above all else, continue to trust the Lord.
Misconception #5: If you are single, it’s because you must be doing something wrong.
Reality: This one might be the worst of all untrue attitudes around singleness. At its heart, this false assumption reveals the truth of how people view singleness. Just because someone is single doesn’t necessarily mean that he/she is single because he/she is doing something wrong. It also doesn’t mean there is necessarily “something wrong” with him/her. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7 that he thought it was good for a person to remain single. So we know at least for some people, singleness can be good. When someone is single it’s because God has ordained it, maybe for a season or maybe for eternity.
In a culture where half of the people are pushing towards marriage and the other half are putting it off, it’s not easy to be single. If you have friends who are single and desire to be married, a good place to start loving them well is to listen to them. Honor them and their unique experience by speaking truth to them from Scripture. Sharing your story of finding a spouse or handling singleness can definitely be encouraging to single friends, but don’t give advice from your experience as if the outcomes you found will be true for them, too. To love our unmarried friends well, we need to resist the temptation to “fix” them in their singleness, but instead encourage them towards a life of pursuing the Lord and living for his glory.