QUESTION FROM A SINGLE MAN: I have a question that has plagued me for about 31 years. Why is it that most, if not all, singles advice is addressed to women? Do men not have the right to struggle with singleness? Not that I haven't actively sought a mate. It's just that as soon as a Christian lady sees my cane and scoliosis, and then hears my deviated septum, I'm automatically put in that “friend” category. What to do?
ANSWER: I have observed the same trend about singles advice. I have a theory as to why, though it’s just a theory. First, women tend to be more verbal than men, so it’s no surprise that many women, such as myself, write books. Women also buy more books than men do, according to recent Christian retailing statistics, so it is a lucrative business to have women writing for women. Second, observable evidence would show that there are more single women in the church than men, which feeds the above theory. However, there are some good materials out there for single men written by men. My top recommendation is The Rich Single Life by Andrew Farmer.
As for the rest of your question, I want to preface it by saying I always encourage men to disciple other men as I believe this is Scriptural and fruitful. So in offering the following thoughts, I am framing them as counsel for your consideration but would encourage you to take these ideas to your pastor or another mature man for further discussion. I trust, though, that these ideas may serve you in some way.
Let’s start by looking at the “right” to struggle with singleness. I would like to gently suggest a new phrase. As Christians, we do better not to discuss “rights,” but to focus on all that we have received in Christ. With that kind of focus, the idea of “rights” fades into the background. What we rightly deserve is eternal condemnation for our sin and lack of gratitude before our Creator. As Christians, what we’ve received is outrageous mercy. Everything else we receive in addition to salvation is just grace upon grace.
So though we won’t speak of a “right” to struggle with singleness, I do think it is not uncommon to do so – both for men and women. Marriage is assumed to be the norm in Scripture and common sense would tell us that we need more married people than single people if we want to be able to proclaim God’s goodness to the next generation. But in 1 Corinthians 7:7, the apostle Paul calls both marriage and singleness a charisma (gift, or gracious endowment) of God. In verse 17, he encourages a peaceful attitude toward what gift or assignment God has given us: “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (ESV). Why? Because these gifts are sovereignly assigned to us for our good and God’s glory. Though there can be a tension between our assigned charisma (which can change in the course of our lives) and our desire, all the evidence we have at the Cross of Calvary tells us that God is worthy of our trust when we can’t see the full picture of what He is doing in and through us.
As for your particular situation, I want to encourage you. Just last year, the Lord brought a beautiful woman (inside and out) to a friend of mine with a similar disability. They got married last fall and are doing quite well. What drew this woman to this man was his engaging intellect, his zest for life, his servant’s heart and love for the local church, and the way he cares for others. What drew this man to this woman was her spunky outlook, her kindness, her curious mind, and her servant’s heart and love for the local church. So while it is tempting for any of us to view our own flaws (height, weight, age, abilities) and write off God’s ability to provide a mate, may I kindly suggest that the voice of doubt fueling those thoughts is the same one that impugned God’s generosity in the Garden of Eden? I know it’s tempting to look at our personal experience and extrapolate from there, but it’s just not safe to do so. Our feelings and experiences are not the sum total of Truth. God’s Word is Truth and we need to cling to that when what we can observe tells us otherwise.
Finally, while we singles who desire to get married can denigrate friendship, this too is a gift from God. Through our friends, we can receive God’s care. Our godly friends will always remind us of the Lord’s faithfulness as they walk with us through life. It is no small thing to have the friendship of another, even if we would desire something more intimate.
QUESTION FROM A SINGLE WOMAN: What should a woman do in preparation for becoming a wife before she meets her future husband?
ANSWER: Wow. That answer deserves an entire book – and in fact, I did write an entire book on it! Despite its (admittedly) ominous title, Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred, is about the biblical role model we find for all seasons of a woman’s life. This is the famous Proverbs 31 woman. It is found at the end of the book of wisdom, Proverbs, as a summation of what godly wisdom looks like in a woman’s life. It is the teaching of a mother to her young son, set in a Hebrew acrostic. So while this young man was learning his Hebrew alphabet, he was also memorizing the qualities of a woman who would make an excellent wife.
We all want to aspire to be women who reflect well upon our Lord and Savior, and that’s why the Proverbs 31 woman transcends marital status. She is a well-rounded woman who is savvy in business, a hard worker, hospitable, kind in speech, wise in instruction, considerate of others, skilled in homemaking , and fruitful in the eyes of her community. By following her example, we can prepare to be a blessing in any season of our lives.
That’s the big picture. There are also some practical things we can do. I think the most important is to pray to be conformed to the image of Christ and to be made into a suitable helpmate and wife for any future husband. I know it is tempting to always pray the prayer of provision (“Oh, dear God, please send me my husband soon!”), but I think it is wiser to pray to be prepared ourselves. Second, I think it is profitable to read good books about marriage. Not necessarily the “rekindling the romance” books, but the ones about glorifying God in marriage. I have listed a number of such books in the sidebar of my blog, but one that profoundly affected me was Carolyn Mahaney’s Feminine Appeal. I highly recommend it!
Carolyn McCulley works for Sovereign Grace Ministries in church and ministry relations. She is also an author ( Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred) and blogger (solofemininity.blogs.com). Carolyn is also a member of Covenant Life Church where one of her favorite ministries is the single women's discipleship program. She highly recommends the resources for singles from the New Attitude conference and blog.