“Thinking Through Singlehood” – A Conversation Over Coffee
Hannah Lau and Joanie Yeung
Catching up with my friend, Hannah, recently, we chatted about singlehood and its misconceptions when viewed through the Christian faith. She shared her answers to commonly asked questions on the topic. Perhaps our conversation might be an interest to other readers on their journey.
Hannah Lau was born and raised in Canada but has spent her adult life in Asia, beginning in China as a tentmaking worker. As the author of Wherever You Go: A Conversation About Life, Faith, and Courage and a public speaker, she’s passionate about people, their stories, and how Christ can be an active part of the adventure.
Q: What would you say are the most common views about singlehood within the Christian community which may not be true?
A: Wow, there are sadly so many. To boil it down, I would say the biggest misconception, which manifests itself in many smaller inaccuracies, is the wrongful positioning of singlehood in people’s minds. Marriage and singlehood are two sides of the same coin. Wrong thinking about one will also mean erroneous understanding about the other.
For example, you often hear people say:
“The other person will complete me.”
“I want to get married because the loneliness is too painful.”
“I was made to be married.”
“I’m not strong enough to be single.”
“Being married is better than being single.”
All of these statements are based on an idea that marriage is bigger, more powerful, and more fulfilling than it’s meant to be; making singlehood out to be smaller, more debilitating, and less fulfilling than it is. These statements make false assumptions about who God is, who we’re made to be, and what we feel we deserve. By glorifying marriage, we diminish singlehood. The reverse is also true.
Societal norms, trends, and pressures have done a solid job of warping our expectations (and definitions) of marital status but as Christians, we need to be clear about God’s truth and stand strong in what He intended.
Once we view marriage and singlehood with the right perspective, the expectations we have for both will be healthier, more appropriate, and God-honouring.
“Those who are most ready for marriage are those who need it the least. The point is that those who find everything they need in Christ are least likely to suffocate their spouses through their neediness.
The world needs more individuals who are content in Christ and organize their lives around His kingdom. We pray that when those people get married it will only lead to greater fruitfulness.”
– Francis Chan, pastor, author
Q: The one I hear often is, ‘being married is better than being single’. Although leaders and elders do not explicitly say it, it is often implied in their teachings. How does this affect the Christian community?
A: This belief can be a huge detriment to the Christian community. Married people who believe this will be unwisely motivated to ‘rescue’ their single friends. Singles who believe this will be unwisely motivated to secure a spot on the other side.
The statement is simply untrue. Biblically, there will be those that quote Genesis 2:18 to say that marriage is better because ‘it is not good for man to be alone’. But then Apostle Paul also brings up valid points for singlehood (1 Corinthians 7). Both marriage and singlehood are acceptable before God, it comes down to God’s calling for you. There are pros and cons to each and therefore one is not better than the other.
In its rightful place, marital status is a vehicle with which to travel through life, it is not the destination of life itself. Our life’s purpose is to become more Christ-like and bless others in the process. Some will fulfill this purpose as a single person, some as a married person, or at different seasons of life, a mix of both. At no point, should the vehicle become the destination.
Q: If both singlehood and marriage are acceptable to God, how do you know if God wants you to be single or married?
A: Well, what does it mean to ‘know’? And even if you know now, can you know forever? Some are married, then become single (lose their spouse), and some may experience this more than once. Some are single for a very long time and then marry in their 70’s.
Marital status can change over seasons of life through circumstances beyond our control. The covenant of marriage is forever but a lifetime spent with your spouse is not guaranteed. God has a plan for each season and a calling for our part to play in it. Our job is to discern what He has called us to and respond in obedience.
Q: Many singles who feel called to marriage are looking for ‘the one’. Do you believe in that?
A: I don’t. It’s a ‘silver bullet’ mentality, a dangerous premise that sets both the person and their understanding of God up for failure. Our standards and expectations become unrealistically high and we paralyze ourselves with the fear of choosing the wrong one.
If we assume there is only one person we are meant to marry, is there also only one vocation/job to work in, one city to live in, one type of ministry to serve in? This type of thinking leads us to see God as having a narrow, specific ‘right answer’. As if He’s testing us and we better get it right, lest He smite us. This thinking misconstrues Him as a ‘sneaky God’, as Kevin DeYoung says in Just Do Something, and that’s not who God is.
It comes down to sovereignty and free choice. Within God-ordained boundaries, He has given us choice. There are certainly better and worse candidates when it comes to preferences and personalities but even within the ‘better’ category, there is more than one person that you could have a God-honouring, enjoyable relationship with.
Assuming that there is one person for you to marry would bring us back to the original issue of making marriage (and selecting a spouse) more than it is. In its intended role, your spouse is not someone you expect to be perfect, solve all your problems, and make your life awesome. You’re choosing a partner for the journey. Every partner will have strengths and weaknesses and we are simply choosing what we want to accept and commit to. If marriage is a vehicle, a way in which to arrive at the destination, and not the destination itself, there needn’t be so much pressure on who you choose.
It’s been said that the dating tip for Christians is, “Run as fast as you can towards God, and if someone keeps up, introduce yourself.”
Q: Are there any books on singlehood that you would recommend?
A: Here are my top 3 on the topic, for both singles and marrieds. It’s just as important for married people as it is for singles to have a right understanding about what God has intended on this matter.