This previously was a Mark Driscoll article prior to his fall from grace. I remember it making rounds in many of the Christian circles I knew, and it also spawned various articles about how to love single women.
I want to analyze it because it had solid topics… until it goes horribly wrong with the analysis of the actual problems.
There are some single women who remain single for no good reason. I know plenty of them. Some have never married. Some married only to have their husband die. Others have been divorced by a guy who did not appreciate what he had and did not want to invest the energy it takes to make a great marriage. These are women who are friends of Grace and I, people we know well, women who are very godly, actively serving others, and well known in their church community. Of course, the world is also filled with singles who are not mature, godly, or stable, but I’m not talking about them.
As for the godly single women wanting to marry, however, I’m meeting more and more women like this recently. They often ask me for advice on what they should do. Those who are over thirty are sometimes beginning to wonder if their hopes to marry and become a mother will be fulfilled. For some, this leads to near panic. For others, a constant despair with seasons of dark depression lingers like a chronic ache.
Admittedly, I am not the best person to give advice to a single woman about specific ways to navigate the path of holding out hope while being realistic regarding planning for one’s future. But, I am a pastor and a dad. I do love the women in our church, and I love them like a spiritual father. Also, I am the father of two girls whom I absolutely enjoy and adore, the oldest of which is sixteen. So I think about this a lot.
As I have already covered there are some big elephants in the room of Christian dating and marriage. This is not really a new issue. The Church has, for the past few decades, tilted toward 45-55 and 40-60 ratios of men to women in the church. That’s obviously due to a multitude of factors, but it does leave a decently large chunk of single women unmarried.
Obviously, the issue is always reframed that there’s not enough Christian men for Christian women to marry. This reframe means that it is a female problem. However, this problem is only part of the larger problem. The topic and real questions are:
- This is a male problem.
- Why are Christian men leaving the Church?
- Why aren’t Christian men more attractive in general?
- What can be done to help Christian men become strong, confident leaders?
Obviously, those of you reading this blog know all of the answers. Men do not have mentors or discipleship from older men in the Church. The feminization of the church drives men away. Christian single men and women are not counseled on what is attractive (see: personality/masculinity, status, athleticism/talent, looks, and money versus youth and beauty for men and women respectively). Often times they are peddled outright lies.
This is predominantly a male problem. The fact that the church refuses to engage it as a male problem means it will never solve the issue. If it is always reframed as a female problem then men will only be seen as a utility for women and not the strong, confident, and bold heads of marriage that they are called to be in Ephesians 5.
You don’t get a leader by backing men into marriage.
OPTION #1: SIN
You can decide that God has not come through for you, so you take matters into your own hands. You decide to be a gal who parties a lot, casually dates a bunch of guys you’d never marry, sleeps around, moves in with a guy, or does other things that will really hurt the one relationship you have with a great man: Jesus Christ. If you take this path, you will eventually come to feel horrible for what you have done and miserable in the world you live.
So far so good. The hyperbole is a bit much though.
OPTION #2: SURRENDER
You can give up on ever meeting someone worth marrying. You can just stop taking any risks, meeting any people, or trying in any way. Often this is because you are sick of getting your heart broken and would rather lock it away in a vault than take another risk. But when you shut down your heart to life in general, you are not just foregoing marriage but also hope and joy.
Here is where the hyperbole goes off the track. Surrender is important, but it depends on what you are surrendering.
I’ve talked before about my own surrender process that I had to go through in order to make peace with God about my desires and needs. I came to a place where I so strongly wanted to be married that it was becoming an idol to me. However, I needed to lay it down and grapple with God to the point that I wanted, very strongly, to be married but I also knew that if God did not have it in the cards for me I would still be satisfied.
Surrendering is important but it needs to be done in the context of God and not giving into despair.
OPTION #3: SETTLE
You can lower your standards to the point that nearly any guy can meet them. Single men and women are prone to have a list of what they want in a spouse that is way too detailed, long, and unreasonable. But, it is also possible to keep editing your list to the point where “godly man” eventually becomes “believes in a higher power of some sort,” and “I respect him” becomes “I think I can put up with him.” This may get you a man, but not a long-term, joy-filled, God-honoring marriage.
Again, the massive hyperbole. Self examination is important.
For me and my process, it was about examining what are essentials and what are non-essentials. I started out with a much longer list, but I honed it down to approximately 6 things I was looking for a woman. Does that mean I threw out my other preferences? No. But it doesn’t mean it was a deal breaker if they didn’t have them.
It also bears mentioning that settling is all based on expectations. If you’re an average joe blow are you going to marry a supermodel? Extremely highly unlikely unless you won the lottery and even then you won’t want a woman who marries for money anyway. People often have a very poor realistic image of themselves which is why it is important to have brutally honest friends. I know we make jokes about it, but the average Christian woman is probably not going to be marrying the handsome worship band leader.
Expectations both of yourself and the person that you desire need to be realistic.
OPTION #4: SUFFER
You can allow your singleness to become the devastating, discouraging, and defining aspect of your life. You can let it make you feel unwanted, unloved, and unworthy. You can allow it to haunt you, pushing you into shame, isolation, and despair. You can let your singleness be a club for Satan to beat you with over, and over, and over, and over . . .
The hyperbole is starting to get to me guys…
Suffering is THE norm for Christians. Jesus said that all who would follow Him would suffer. Paul says the same thing in Philippians. As I discussed in the purpose of prayer, our hope in suffering is to push us in cycles in Romans 5:
- Positive spiritual cycle: hope in tribulations -> perseverance -> proven character -> hope.
The fact that is frustrating to go after a calling such as marriage is supposed to help refine you and make you into a man or woman that can withstand trials and tribulations. God knows that there are many of those in marriage. Suffering is there to call us higher not to be a hyperbole about singleness to make some sort of morbid point about giving up.
OPTION #5: STRIVE
You can start to obsess over doing literally everything you can to land a husband. You never leave the house without looking like you are ready for a pageant. You count every calorie and spend more time at the gym than the treadmill does. You start an account for every Christian dating site that exists. You attend every church with a decent number of single men, and never miss a singles ministry event at any megachurch within a two-hour drive of your home. The center of your life is no longer Jesus, but some guy you are determined to attract to fill his place.
Can we shove the hyperbole where the sun don’t shine? As I’ve said prior:
“I’ve used the college or job analogy before. It’s been criticized but it generally fits: you don’t sit on your application or resume and wait for acceptance or jobs to come to you. Sure, you could get some, but it’s unlikely that you’ll get many offers unless you are an exceptionally attractive candidate if you get my drift. You write essays, you study, you get tutors if you need to, you jump at every and any opportunity to make yourself more attractive to prospective colleges or employers in hopes that you get interviews.”
As Christians we are called to strive toward the callings that Christ has for us. For some of us that is marriage. There is nothing wrong with striving toward marriage. The main thing is to surrender the desire to God so that it doesn’t become an idol. But that does not absolve us from the responsibility of putting forth effort and working toward the goals that we want to achieve.
OPTION #6: SOLACE
You can take comfort in God’s love for you and that Jesus is the Man in your life who sympathizes with your singleness. You can allow your singleness to explain you but not identify you. You can allow your singleness to be an aspect of your life but not the essence of your life. You can remind yourself that you worship a God who was single, and that the early church was nearly the polar opposite of today’s: singleness was considered a virtuous, preferable life by many in service to God. You can live your life without waiting for someone else to show up and make it worthwhile. You can retain your desire for marriage without drifting into desperation. You can be open to a relationship without putting your entire life on hold until one occurs. You can pour your desires for a family into your extended family and/or church family.
Ah, so this is what the hyperbole was written for.
It doesn’t quite hit the mark as it misses understanding the nature of men. Namely, attraction: Men like young, beautiful virgins. Where is the realism here? True, you can’t control age, but you can control your beauty and virginity. If you don’t have your virginity then you can control your chastity.
To my single sisters wanting to marry, I do not want to discourage you in any way. But, the truth is that it is harder to be a single woman than a single man as a Christian. Every poll I have ever seen says that single women are generally more mature and responsible than single men. Men are waiting until around 30 years old to marry for the first time, if they ever do. And, they are going for younger women, according to the statistics. Across Christianity, there are far more single women than single men, which means that the odds are not in the favor of godly single women. In addition, for theological reasons, many Christian women do not want to be the dating initiator, asking guys out and taking the lead in the relationship.
Sadly, this is false and another reframe of the problem from men to women. As the Church has been increasingly feminized without discipleship and mentors, the atmosphere in the Church is much worse for men. After all, that’s why men are leaving in the first place. The presence of more women in the church is only an indicator of the problem with men rather than an issue of the hardship of women.
Additionally, it is not men who are waiting until 30 years old to marry. I posted the study somewhere on this blog and on Dalrock’s that it is women in their early 20s that are eschewing marriage in greater numbers than men because they want to develop their education and careers first. Surprise: when a woman chooses to opt out of marriage and pursue education and a career then the average age of marriage goes up. Men are still being driven to marry earlier rather than later by our strong sex drives. The only thing that has changed is women wanting to marry later.
The additional support to this is the fact that marriage ages dropped right after World War 2 to around 20 years of age for women from around 22-24 years old. Why is that? Millions of men were killed during the war, so there is a huge shortage of men. When there is a shortage of men, women compete for the single men because they want to get married and have children. Hence, women are more inclined to commit to marry earlier and younger. Men want to have sex, and for Christian men marriage is the only way to have sex. Marriage age is driven by women wanting to marry younger or later for various reasons.
Overall, this article went around and too many people agreed with it. It has huge glaring flaws because of too much hyperbole. It also reinforced the fact that women are to be extremely passive in finding a relationship. That is not good.
6 ways to love single women in your church
As I said before, this article spawned some self-love type of articles from other Christian women such as 6 ways to love single women in your church. As you’ll see, the passivity and victimhood mentality only grows.
1. Do Not Use If/Then Statements:
There may be nothing that irks me more than when I am told, “It’s when you let go and are ok with being single that God brings you someone,” or “Relationships happen when you least expect them”. Where this may have been your experience or your friend’s experience, God doesn’t use reverse psychology on his kids and he certainly doesn’t set up dating formulas for us to figure out and follow. In His grace, He often chooses to not give us our idols because he loves us; but that is not the only reason someone is still single. Let me just state for the record that contentment does not entitle you to blessings. By telling a single person that they need to be cool with being single before they can be married, you have (most likely accidentally) encouraged them to live according to a “works-based” mentality. It’s easy to fall into a manipulative relationship with God at that point, and pursue singularity in Christ so that he will bless you. What is more helpful, is to lovingly encourage a single woman in her relationship with Christ because He’s worthy of being pursued himself. Share with her how He has proven himself enough for you personally (not just you and your spouse) in difficult seasons of life.
Agreed that most if/then statements are bad. However, the followup is more non-sequitur than it is relevant.
This is the problem with the “Jesus is my boyfriend” type of culture. It focuses the issue away from a quality response to solve it to a Jesus is all you need type of thing. Yes, He is all we need, but again that doesn’t absolve us from using Him as a crutch to not critically think about how we can improve in a particular situation.
Instead of focusing it onto solely Jesus, it would be best to self examine in this case. For example, if there are no men asking me out it’s good to ask the question why are no men asking me out? Is it because my personality is bitter toward men? Is it because I need to put more work into being attractive? Is it because of other reasons? Those are some relevant questions to ask.
2. Do Not Assume or Attempt to Fix:
Assumptions about why a person is still single can be very hurtful. Marriage is not a goal, it is a gift. As Pastor Mark said in his article, “There are some single women who remain single for no good reason.” When a single girl comes up to you upset and asking, “Why am I not married?!!!”, the last thing she wants is someone to take a magnifying glass to her heart to diagnose its condition. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. Of course we are all called to sharpen one another and (as the Lord leads) encourage one another toward holiness; but under no circumstance should we try to “fix” each other. There are all kinds of people who are married. There are not those who qualify and those who don’t. The single girl is most likely in a frenzy comparing herself to the married people in her life wondering, “what’s wrong with me?”. What her Father wants her to hear is that she is loved, she has been made worthy by Jesus, and that she has great value just as she is. When others (in an effort to help) fill her head with a lot of “maybe this is why’s”, she will be tempted to psychoanalyze herself rather than rest in God’s sovereignty and love. Trust me, she’s thought through all the reason’s “why not” and Satan likes to beat her with them. Instead, empathize with her and accompany her as she petitions her Lord for the desires of her heart. Pray together that God would provide her a husband, ending the prayer as Jesus does with “Thy will be done”.
The quintessential woman response: “I just want you to listen not fix the problem.” Or rather, it’s not about the nail. The main issue is, if the problem isn’t addressed, then it will never get solved.
That said you can’t help people who don’t want to help themselves. So in a sense, what she is saying is correct. If she doesn’t want help fixing the problem then she can keep on praying about her value in Christ and provision for a husband instead of actually taking steps in life to make it happen. I don’t recommend that though.
Some of this will depend on the personality of the single person in your life, so use discernment…
The single woman probably has a lot of her life that she wishes she could share with another human (especially if she doesn’t live with her family). Something as simple as a quick text, “How was work?” can mean the world to someone who never gets asked that question. It’s easy to feel like no one cares when you don’t have a spouse. When a single person falls on hard times or has a big decision to make, it all falls on their shoulders. There is no one right there to bounce ideas off of or make decisions with. If you are close with a single person, ask them about the day-to-day things in their life. “How was that dinner with your folks?”, “Did you finish that project?”, “So, what are you thinking about such and such?”. Ask these questions not as a controlling parent would, but rather as a friend who loves to hear about every aspect of their friend’s life. When listening to the answers, don’t be a fountain of opinions and solutions (if they share problems) – listen and simply hear. Offer advice only when it has been invited.
I don’t have an issue with this, but what this doesn’t say says more about it than anything. Have a mentor and be discipled by someone stronger in the faith. Sadly, women’s ministries are probably as bad as men’s ministries about and mentoring and discipleship for those who are younger.
Everyone likes to be encouraged. Everyone should be encouraged! Affirming and building one another up is something we are called to do for each other. This is a call that applies to every person you are in relationship with; however let me offer up some specific ways that you can affirm a single woman. Don’t be afraid of her finding her identity in her looks, tell her she looks pretty. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have gotten ready for something and cried at the mirror because I felt sad that my efforts weren’t going to be enjoyed. When a married woman gets all dressed up, often she is giddy with excitement because she knows her husband will delight in her beauty. The single woman will often feel like a waste. God made women beautiful and beauty reveals its full richness when it is partaken of. Single guys in the church community know that it may give the girl the wrong idea if he says she looks pretty, so its unlikely that the single girl feels like her beauties are of any use. Delight in the beauty of the single women in your life. Not, in a sexual or creepy way; but enjoy the things that are lovely about her. Show her through your words that her beauty reminds you of the beauty of Jesus. They are a part of the Bride of Christ, celebrate them as you would celebrate a woman on her wedding day.
As you walk with a single person through their life, affirm their good decisions. When you see them growing in wisdom and making godly choices, say it. Often the singles feel unsure about their decisions because their life lacks immediate validation. She may not have godly parents and feels awkward always asking “Is this ok?”. There is power in “we made the decision”. It takes a lot of faith and guts to make all the calls in your life. If a single person is in your community, be a part of those decisions with them (when invited). Affirm their wisdom when they seek counsel from you.
Again, good. But what isn’t said is more important than what is said. If a woman is overweight or obese and you affirm her as pretty is she going to know she should lose weight to be more attractive? A dress many look pretty, but if it’s on an obese woman I can guarantee that almost all men would not talk about how pretty her dress was. Rather, we would think that it’s not such a flattering dress with her figure.
Tough love is important. It is important to affirm and encourage but it is also important to admonish and rebuke where necessary.
At my church, single people are encouraged to seek wisdom from people a life stage ahead of them. (As a little aside, “ahead of them” feels like a poor choice of words. Yes, statistically most of us will get married; but married people have not achieved something higher than the single person. “Older than” or “In a different stage” is a better choice of words.) I have inserted myself in the lives of married couples and reaped a multitude of blessings by being actively involved in other family’s lives. I’ve learned a ton about marriage and parenting – I highly recommend following this suggestion. The Bible teaches us to disciple one another. For the older women to teach the younger and so on and so forth. Much can be gained from obeying this truth. What I have noticed though is that the pressure is usually put entirely on the younger person to seek the disciple-er out. Where I don’t disagree that we should be doing this, I would like to add that the marrieds and elders should also seek out those whom they can disciple. If you’re married, invite single people into your home and life. Not as though they are a charity case, but as delightful people who you want to spend time with. It honestly feels embarrassing for the single person to feel like they have to invite themselves over. A lot of young single women would love to have you and your family over for dinner to get to know you, but their tiny apartment and roommate prohibit them from making that possible. Sheepishly, they may ask to spend time with you knowing that it’s hard for you to get away from the kids…so they end up offering to babysit which results in them spending time with your kids and not you. It becomes exponentially more awkward when you pay them. Invite them over for dinner and a movie after the kids go to bed. Drink wine with them and make them feel like a grownup, not a 13-year-old.
Very good. Echos some of my other thoughts.
This last point is focused mainly on single women in their late 20’s or early 30’s who live on their own (or at least not with their parents). A fantastic way you can love the singles in your community is by being generous with them. A young single woman with (more than likely) a boat load of student loans, an entry-level job, and no family support is going to struggle financially. She is choosing holiness by not moving in with a guy who will help ease the burden, and she should be encouraged for that. While her newly wed friends are being showered in free furniture and are registering for all their household needs, the younger single girl is eating ramen and can’t even dare to dream about new dinnerware. She has to buy her own blender, her own flowers, her own kitchen table, and her own cookbooks. No one is teaching her how to run a proper household, or cook on budget, or get her whites extra white. That’s why she lives on Pinterest! Most likely the women in her family are saving things they intend to give her when she’s married. Though the sentiment is appreciated, she needs all those things now! You can really bless a single person by giving them things you would normally find on a wedding registry.
Generosity is good. However, it is important to realize the impact of the choices that were made to get you into this position. Student loads? Entry level job? I hope you went to school for a STEM career and not liberal arts. Prioritized education and career over finding a husband? Well, that is a large portion your fault for making such choices.
Rather than covering over potentially poor choices it is important for women to learn from them and deal with the consequences. This allows them to actually learn and grow from them.
I hope this doesn’t come off as the bitter ramblings of a discontented old maid; but rather, I hope you read this and feel better equipped to love the single people in your life. Life is hard for everyone, for married people, for single people… By God’s grace, we are all one body working together for the Kingdom; depending on Jesus for our fulfillment and sense of worth and value.
It’s not really bitter, but it’s passive. After all, the title is 6 ways to love single women in your church. While the Church SHOULD love single women, the passivity bothers me. A better article that could’ve been written is “6 things women SHOULD DO in order to improve their chances of marriage.”
I think part of this is due to Disney and Romance garbage. Prince Charming ultimately comes waltzing in to marry the normal, average girl and save the day. Good thing there are 3.5 billion Prince Charmings.
Women have this expectation that a man is going to ultimately see what is special inside of them and grab hold of it and sweep her off into marriage. This ignores reality. While Jesus represents this because He created us and knows us more than we know ourselves, men are men the way God created us. We are attracted to physical appearance and beauty. This is not shallow. We can’t see your heart. We can only see your attitudes and actions. You need to become a woman that is beautiful on the outside and inside if you want to have a good shot at marriage.
Jesus doesn’t promise us marriage and children in the Scriptures. It’s a goal you have to actively strive for by laying down the need and desire to Him, but also seeking to improve your chances by making the most of every opportunity in the physical world.
This is the confusion that most Christians have when they don’t understand the difference between roles and responsibilities of God in our lives (e.g. filling the God sized hole in our hearts) versus the roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives. If you don’t have proper boundaries between this then you set yourself up to fail before you even begin.