I have been talking quite a bit recently about submission, being a godly wife, biblical marriage, and the dangers of purity culture. I have spent a lot of time on these issues as they relate to married women. But in doing so, I must also recognize that not all women will marry and that not all women who will be married are currently married. As I have written and published these posts on marriage, purity, and submission, I have thought to myself, “Just hold on, single women. Your post is coming.”
I did not get married until the age of 23. For some, this might seem relatively young, while for others it might seem old. In my circles, in my world, it was old. My brother’s wife was nineteen when they got married. My two closest friends were both twenty-one when they each had their weddings. My parents were twenty on their wedding day. And countless other friends and people I have met since were married by twenty-one or earlier. So for me, twenty-three is old. We started dating after I turned twenty-two, and got married a year and two weeks later.
Those years before dating and marrying my husband were hard. I had a couple of relationships, but none that lasted very long (obviously). It was hard watching all of my friends find their “person,” while all I had was my books and studies. Don’t get me wrong – I am thankful for the time I had to focus on my studies uninhibited. But being alone was hard. And it seemed like everywhere I turned, people were talking about love and marriage. I constantly heard messages that told me I just had to be content enough and then I’d find a husband, or I just needed to use this time to prepare to be a good wife, or God had great plans for me and he was going to bring me the perfect man so soon.
I clung to these messages for a while. I ate up stories about girls who finally gave everything to God and then the next day met their husbands. I cherished hearing about women who were meek and quiet very good girls™ who got noticed by that one really special guy. But soon, all of these stories and encouragements began to feel stale. I learned that contentment was not always a continuous state – and felt guilty every time I wished for a husband. I went through periods where I was perfectly happy and content being single. And I would go through times where being single was so very painful, and I struggled to be okay with my situation. I questioned the classic definition of a Good Girl™, especially once my personality seemed to conflict with that. I liked t-shirts and pencil skirts, wasn’t very neat, and while introverted was also not afraid to question and debate. I was anything but what you would expect from a classic 50s housewife-to-be.
I began to wonder about my identity as a single woman, especially when it came to the kingdom of God. Was I just a lady-in-waiting, wondering when her husband would come and make her whole? Or was my identity more than that? When answering these questions, it is important to look at what the Bible has to say about singleness, and how it addresses single women. Singleness is not a curse that needs to be cured. Those who are unmarried are not lesser, and they certainly not unable to live full and meaningful lives.
When I think of singleness and Scripture, I think of numerous people. First and foremost, Jesus was single. He never married, never had a romantic relationship. It is also worth noting that since Jesus is God, there are bigger, more obvious reasons why he remained unmarried than that he simply never “found someone.” But his singleness is worth mentioning. Jesus lived a full life and had a full ministry, all without getting married. Next, I think of three key women who were devoted followers of Jesus: Martha, her sister Mary, and Mary Magdalene. These three women are never mentioned (with certainty) alongside husbands. Some have speculated that Martha was the wife of Simon the Leper, but I don’t see any concrete evidence for this. These three women, Mary, Martha, and Mary Magdalene, have been remembered for two thousand years as women who followed Jesus and served him. Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven demons until Jesus cast them out and she joined his disciples. Talk about a darkness to light testimony! Martha is remembered for her love of serving, her sister Mary for her simple devotion to Jesus to the point where she sacrifices expensive ointment to anoint Jesus with it when he was at her home in Bethany.
The Bible never says anything about their singleness. It never makes their status as unmarried women their identity. Their identity – over and over and over again – is placed in their relationship with Jesus Christ. This is how they are remembered. Not for being content with not having a husband, not for spending their lives preparing themselves for a husband who did not come, and definitely not for catching a single disciple’s eye for being the precursor to the classic 1950s housewife. They are remembered for their love for and devotion to Jesus. This is important.
Being single is hard. Being married is hard. Being a human being is hard. Every relational circumstance comes with its challenges and its perks. Paul, another biblical single person, talks about the joys of being unmarried. He says in 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 that it is good to be as he is, that is, unmarried. He says that each of us has our own gift from God. I think this is where a lot of people get the concept of the “gift of singleness,” as if being single is a spiritual gift (spoiler alert: it’s not). In this passage, Paul is talking about our state in life as a gift from God. Whatever our circumstances, we can rejoice, knowing that life itself is gift from God, in which we are meant to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
No matter our lot, no matter our circumstance, we have been given a gift in that we are alive! Our identity then is not in whether or not we are married, whether or not we have children, if we have found our dream job, if we even know what our dream job would be, what we look like, or if we have reached a certain amount in our bank account. Our identity is in Christ. Our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Everything else is just extra.
Single woman, the world and well-meaning-but-misled fellow believers will tell you countless lies about your marital status. You will be told you have to be a certain way so that a man will find you appealing, or you must not be content enough or obedient enough or God would have given you a husband by now, or that men only like a woman who (fill in the blank). These are lies. God is not a vending machine that requires a certain code to get the treat you want. He is not a genie that must be coerced into giving us our exact wishes.
God is God. He is sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing, never-changing, fully-trustworthy, and gives to each of his children what they need, when they need it. This quote by Spurgeon is one of my favorites, and I come back to it over and over again throughout the years. God is not an oblivious sitcom dad who blunders through life and somehow in the end remembers to do what he should have done a long time ago, but it’s all good because he’s good old Dad and you love him despite his shortcomings. Our God is the God of the universe! He hung the planets in space, set the world in motion, he spoke and life came into existence. He handmade men from dust and women from a rib, breathing into us the breath of life. He sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins – separating God from God as the Father’s wrath was poured out on the Son as the Son hung on the cross, bearing our sin and shame. So that we could be redeemed, saved from our own sin! This is love. This is the kind of God we serve.
No matter if you get married one day or remain single for the rest of your life, you can rest in the knowledge that God did not make a mistake. When the single life gets rough, cling to him. Take comfort in his love for you. When the single life is easy, cling to him. In all things, cling to God. This is where your identity lies. Not in your marital status. Not in your education. Not in your looks, wealth, social status, Instagram following, or visibility in the church.
In the end, what matters most is not whether or not you got married. What matters is if you lived a life that recognized why we are even here: to glorify God and enjoy him forever. On this, all of life hangs. This is your purpose. This is your calling. This is your identity. And it is good.