By Eric Demeter
Singles Can Thrive, Not Just Survive the Holiday Season
Another holiday season approaches at lightning speed and another opportunity for us singles to brood over why we remain unmarried. Extra time off from work to visit family can certainly be a blessing. At the same time, however, the hiatus can be a stark reminder of our own lack of a spouse and children.
Singleness, for those who desire to be wed, is painful because many of our hopes and dreams of intimacy and family are wrapped in the blanket of marriage. And unfortunately, there’s no magical eggnog to remove the frustration and the loneliness. We must simply go through it.
In the famous children’s book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, a jolly family encounters several obstacles in their adventures. “Oozy mud,” “swirling whirling snowstorm,” and a “big, dark forest” are a few of these. They repeat this mantra at every hurdle:
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
We’ve got to go through it!
Indeed, like the steadfast family, the healthy path is to go through singleness. And sometimes the journey is long and arduous. Patience is a virtue we must obtain through the toil.
Patience doesn’t mean we begrudgingly wait for a spouse to appear under a Christmas tree. Instead, it means we learn endurance and fortitude amidst unwanted circumstances. In fact, the first attribute of love is patience (1 Corinthians 13:4). Waiting, according to Merriam-Webster, means “to stay in a place until an expected event happens.” Patience, on the other hand, is an inner disposition of peace with an active hope in Someone.
How sad it would be for us singles to miss God’s blessings while we incessantly pine-away for a spouse? God designed a process for us to find contentment in all circumstances via His love and grace. If we attempt to skip this development, it will only prompt Him to enroll us in this same school later.
Accepting the struggle of being unmarried is important. We must go through it. This includes admitting and accepting the emotional pain. Singleness certainly can be a loss and it must be grieved. Its frustration and confusion can’t be minimized, medicated, or mollified. In my own life, I’ve struggled extensively. It’s a hard pill to swallow knowing that I’ll be an older husband and father.
Yet everyone experiences their own unique darkness. And hearing pithy Christian slogans like, “It’s all in God’s timing” or “Date Jesus for now” can make your skin crawl.
If we didn’t know the Lord, it’d be easy for pain and angst to be our only reality. A blind faith in some arbitrary happy ending would be our hope. Yet if we know Christ, we believe that He exists far above our circumstances. God can do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
It’s not trite to say that our ultimate hope is in Christ. God’s grace is the same for us singles whether we get married next year, in five years, or a decade from now.
We needn’t fret.
Contentment outside of Christ is simply a perpetual dangling carrot. The Apostle Paul learned this secret. In Philippians 4, he states, “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” (vv. 12-13).
Tremendous fulfillment will be found in marriage. At the same time, if our heart’s foundation isn’t built on Christ, then all of our relationships are vulnerable to disaster (see Matthew 7:24-29).
Here’s a poignant story to illustrate this: My friend Courtney was a cute, vivacious, and intelligent woman in her early thirties. She was raised by solid Christian parents and even attended seminary. Like many of us, she ardently strived to be married. Courtney believed that if she found a Christian husband, she’d find contentment.
Courtney took initiative and created an online profile. Soon thereafter, she met a Christian doctor and was married. Yet, to her surprise, she still felt wistful.
Courtney was now convinced that if she had a child she’d find contentment. She became pregnant and gave birth to a healthy baby. But then, her husband wasn’t attentive to the newborn. Now she thought that if he became a better father then she’d be satisfied.
And on and on…
Maybe you’d like to back Courtney into a corner and not-so-gently remind her of all of her blessings! Or, perhaps you’d want her or her husband’s life and would gladly trade places with either of them.
From the outside, my friend looked like she had it all. Yet clearly, her hopes for a “perfect life” were insatiable. She had a God-sized hole that no human could fix or fill. Finding peace, joy, and contentment are to be found in Christ and Christ alone, in the here and now. Contentment only works in the present, never in the future.
How do we get there?
Put God first in your heart. The Lord has no desire to be second in our lives and share His throne with a future husband or wife. Spouses make horrible saviors. We can also thrive in singleness by thanking Him for the extra time to serve Him and others.
I was a mentor to an underprivileged teenager whose father was in prison. For four years I regularly met with him and spoke to him about Jesus. I deeply cherish the memory of finally praying with him to receive Christ.
Today when I get discouraged, I love to impromptu text all my single friends with words of encouragement. If you’re lonely like me at times, find someone lonelier than you and go love them. Do you need a friend? Be one. Are you frustrated? Be an ear for someone else’s struggles.
Giving won’t ever tip God’s scales to merit a spouse, but it will set our hearts on Him who ultimately satisfies. God invented marriage; let Him write your story. He is for you, not against you.
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
Be real with your frustration but also give yourself permission to hope. We can’t go around singleness but we can go through it well. Maybe the real Christmas gift this year will be receiving again the One whom you already know.
Eric Demeter is an entrepreneur at heart. He has the desire to change hearts towards Christ through Bible-centric teaching and to create opportunities for the marginalized. He has traveled around the world several times and has a master’s degree in theological studies. See more at www.ericdemeter.org and on Twitter at @ericdemeter