There are lots of hard parts about being single: the lonely Friday nights spent watching Netflix while your roommate floats away on another blissful date, the hours swallowed up by dating apps and analyzing your own profile, the gut-wrenching weeks hiking through Will We/Won’t We territory (Spoiler: We never do!).
But, in my experience, the hardest part of dating and being single comes with being a single Christian.
It seems like mainstream culture has their pick of single lady role models. Women can try their hand at modeling the flirty and promiscuous Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City or be horribly awkward and endearingly clingy and wonderfully flawed like Jessica Day in New Girl. Or they can be anyone in between.
But in evangelical Christian culture, we’re not left with much, if any, positive encouragement that tells single women they can live full, happy lives with or without a husband. In reality, the Church continues to send out messages like “marriage is God’s best for you” or “marriage is a reward for your faithfulness,” or we quietly center our churches on married families and displaced singles quickly learn their place.
After 5 or 10 or 30 years of singleness, these platitudes start to give way to some really difficult questions about God, His goodness, and His unwillingness to provide good things to His children. In some ways, there’s an additional level of pain or spiritual woundedness that can arise when you start asking, “Where is God in all of this?” and you’re met with silence from a church culture that doesn’t always know how to answer that question in a helpful, constructive, or freeing way.
If God’s not withholding a man to make me ready, what is He waiting on? And what does it say about God that He’s keeping a good thing from me, despite my fervent desires? How do I honor and serve a God who has the power to change my circumstances but chooses not to, causing me immense loneliness and pain?
These are my questions, and I don’t have any answers — except to say God is good and God is in control. Some days, those are enough for me to help me nod my head, take a deep breath, and keep plugging along. And some days, they’re not. Some days, those answers leave me throwing my pillow against a wall or weeping into the phone while my brother anxiously tries to decipher my wails and pauses as if they were Morse code.
While being in the Church does seem to make my singleness more difficult at times, being a Christian is what makes it bearable at all. Because at the end of the day, those are the two pillars that hold up my entire faith: God is good. God is in control. And those things will be true, even if I reach the end of my life still longing for a husband and the Church is still telling me I’d be better if I had one.
Check out Joy Beth Smith’s new book, Party of One: Truth, Longing, and the Subtle Art of Singleness.