Will I get married? Please, God, promise me I’ll get married!
Do you remember praying those prayers? I certainly do! And today I want to talk to the women who are still in the midst of that wondering–wondering if they’ll find a husband, wondering if they’ll get married, worrying that marriage will pass them by.
May 25, 1991. Tears were streaming down my face as I handed the ring back to Keith. He had proposed eight months earlier, and everything was set for our wedding in August. But his doubts wouldn’t go away.
“Are you telling me you actually don’t want to go through with it?” I had asked. He hadn’t said anything. And suddenly it dawned on me. He wasn’t just wondering how to fix our relationship. He wanted to end it.
I yelled at God a lot that summer. “Don’t you want me to be happy, God?” “Why would you do this to me?” And, when I was a little calmer, the real fear came out. “Will I get married? Ever?”
I wanted to be married. I was desperate to be married. I just wanted to be loved by someone who wouldn’t leave. And as I struggled through that desire over those tough weeks, God asked me an important question.
Am I enough, Sheila? If he never comes back, am I enough for you?
I didn’t like that question. Was God enough? Certainly I loved God, but I really wanted to be married. And one day, on the floor of my living room, I was weeping as I finally surrendered. “Okay, God. Even if I’m alone for the rest of my life, you will be enough for me. Because no one else can love me perfectly, and I’ve been looking for someone else to fill the whole in my heart, and only you can do that.”
That was an important moment to go through. That breakup still affected me, but it did send me into the arms of Jesus, and it did make me realize that my life could not be based on my husband.
I’m thankful, of course, that that guy did come back and we did get married–just a few months after we were supposed to. But it was one of the toughest summers of my life, as I had to struggle with that question–if I never get married, am I going to be all right?
So many of us put our hopes in marriage rather than in Jesus. We think a man will solve our longings for love and purpose and belonging. Recently a young woman sent me her story, and it’s an important one, so I’m going to share it here. She’d like to remain anonymous, but here’s what she wrote about growing up always assuming that marriage would come early, and that marriage was her main focus. Here she is:
I thought it would be different.
I honestly thought that at 21 years old, my life would be headed in a different direction than it currently is. Having spent my high school years within the homeschooling community where young marriage is fairly typical (and is the goal that many conservative, homeschooling parents have for their children), and having several friends who married young, I believed that it would be the same for me. I didn’t really give much thought to the nagging voice that said, “This may not be the case for you”; I just continued to dream.
Now, I realize that I am still probably categorized as “young”, but I also know that by the time I meet, get to know, date, and get engaged to a man, and then plan our wedding and finally walk down the aisle to him, I’ll probably be two to four years older than I am now. And marrying at 24 or so isn’t really marrying “young”; it’s just marrying.
That all said, I know something now that I wish I had known three or four years ago:
Your life’s purpose, your vision for the future, and your personal contentment should only be tied to loving and following Jesus.
When you place that purpose and vision on anything else, you create an idol. The truth is that I placed way too much emphasis on a “future husband”, and the dream of marriage than I should have. There is nothing inherently wrong with dreaming. There isn’t even anything wrong with hoping to marry young. Marriage is a beautiful thing! It’s not wrong to desire it. But when those dreams and desires become an idol—when we stake our happiness and trust on something other than God—we encounter problems.
The reality is that I basically banked on marrying young, and as a result, I didn’t prepare for the possibility of a future without a husband as well as I should have (which I’m making up for now, thanks to God’s help). I also didn’t learn to find my happiness, purpose, or identity primarily in God. As a result, whenever I was exposed to the bliss of a married couple, fictional or real, I felt completely miserable. I was left asking, “when will it be my turn?” and, “what is wrong with me that I’m still single?” I felt lonely, insecure, and nearly bitter when I focused on what others had that I didn’t.
Thankfully, God used many things—friends and family, sermons, books, Scripture, and the voice of His Holy Spirit—to speak the truth into my life and set me free from the idol I had created. Do I still hope to marry one day? Sure. But, am I just as happy to remain single? Yes, because I know that God will always be with me. He will never leave me nor forsake me, and He will always give me joy and fulfillment.
My purpose, confidence, and identity is found in Him. Not in marriage.
Because of this, I no longer have to feel that my life begins when a man enters it. I can live with purpose and make a difference NOW because I’m living for the Kingdom of God, not my castles in the sky.
If you are single and feel as though you’ve fallen into the same trap of idolatry as I did, I would encourage you to realize that your life—not just your present, but your future—should be completely centered upon God. Yes, you can dream! But ultimately you must surrender those dreams to God and come to the place where you’re happy even if they don’t come to pass. You must find contentment in Christ alone, not in “dreams come true.”
Thank you for that story, my friend.
I know many of my friends are married, and this may not apply to you. But I think all of us have the danger of making marriage into our idol. And sometimes that makes us make really poor decisions about who to marry. We spend so much effort trying to find someone to walk down the aisle with us that we never figure out if he’d even be a good husband. We don’t spend enough time preparing for marriage; only dreaming about the wedding. Or we focus so much on getting married that we don’t let our faith in God deepen.
So I just want to encourage single women on this blog today. I know what you’re going through. I really do. And it is hard. But remember:
So maybe you could all chime in down in the comments and leave some encouragement to some single women who are reading this blog: how do you come to terms with putting your hope in God, rather than in a husband? How do you handle it when you are desperate to get married? Let’s talk about it!