Content But Not Complete
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which won’t change your price.
How do you feel about singleness? More importantly, how do you feel about marriage? If you are getting a little older, you may also be getting a little discouraged. Perhaps you’ve experienced a broken dream or relationship. Probably many of your friends are married and having children. We single girls can get caught in the middle. On one hand, we have the intense (and growing!) desire to get married and have children ourselves, but nothing is happening. On the other hand, we’re constantly told to relinquish those desires and embrace the gift of singleness. We try so hard to let go, to turn away from our deep desires, and yet they remain. We think, “Surely there are other aspects to life” – but marriage remains our focal point and the setting of our most intense struggles.
What is wrong? Why the endless struggle? I believe part of the problem stems from our attitude about marriage. Although nearly all of us long for a husband, few of us dare to admit how much. Within our Christian-homeschooling-courtship subculture, honestly expressing the depth of that desire has become somewhat taboo. Instead, singleness has been elevated and marriage regulated to dreams of “someday,” even for those of us in our mid to late twenties. And we single girls have done our part, insisting that we’re capable of being perfectly content and fulfilled right where we are (this may be in part a defense mechanism). “If God wants me to stay here in Dad’s home, and serve my family for the rest of my life, that’s fine with me!” we say glibly – then wonder why that wedding invitation gave us such a pang.
I’d like to offer an alternative to the way we’ve been looking at the whole issue of marriage and singleness, at least from a single’s perspective. Let me say right up front that this radical idea did not originate with me. I’ve run across bits and pieces of it in many diverse places, woven like threads of light through books and articles. What I hope to do in this article is to pull those threads together into a banner of hope for all my struggling single sisters.
Called To Be Single
I’ve heard many girls say, “Well, maybe I’m just called to be single.” When no boyfriend is appearing on the scene (especially once you pass the early twenties), it’s tempting to say that! I’ll admit I’ve said it more than a few times myself. But I think we need to examine that phrase a little more closely – after all, “called” is a word with a lot of meaning to a Christian.
So what do we mean by “called to be single”? When you say that lightly to a girlfriend, are you saying the following? “I believe God has a special calling on my life. I am prepared to live a life of celibacy, never experiencing the emotional and physical intimacy of marriage, never having children, and serving God in an unusual way.” As Boundless writer Alex Chediak has pointed out, that kind of calling is fairly rare. God does not call many of His children to that kind of service. If that is your calling, He will give you assurance of that and the grace you need to fulfill it. But for the vast majority of us, that’s simply not what He’s asking for. Often when He doesn’t move as fast as we think He should, we don’t have the patience for Him to guide us to His will. Instead, we throw up our hands and say, “Fine! I guess I’ll just be single!” – perhaps in doing so, turning aside (even temporarily) from the pursuit of our true calling.
But I’m not married today. So today I am called to be single. Today my responsibility is to glorify God through my willing acceptance of my singleness. We need to learn to embrace the temporary as temporary, neither fretting at our current state nor stubbornly deciding it will never change. Because it probably will change, putting us in the place God designed for women from our creation – by a man’s side.
Created For Marriage
Why do we have the desire to be married? The answer goes back to the very beginning, to Genesis 2:18-24:
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
The reason God gives for creating woman in the first place is to be a helper for man. We are the completer of the man – his “other half.” That’s so much more than a cute phrase! It really gets to the root of why we want to be married. We want to be joined to our other half! It’s not okay to desire marriage. It’s more than okay – it’s good and right and pleasing to God. He is glorified when His creatures fill the places for which He created them. When you long for marriage, part of that desire is the longing to fill your appointed place in the universe. Rejoice that you have that desire!
Jesus Or A Husband?
Have you ever heard or read something along these lines? “You need to just take all the love that you would give a husband and transfer it to Jesus. He is the only one worthy of your love anyway, and He can fulfill all your longings. If you love Him, you don’t even need a husband.”
This kind of thinking is misleading. Yes, Jesus is to have our hearts. Loving Him is the most important thing in our lives! But He’s not your boyfriend or husband. God has chosen to give us several different kinds of love. Our love for God is not the same kind of love that we would give a husband. When God looked on all His creation in the garden of Eden, He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen.2:18). Remember that Adam had perfect fellowship with God at this point – there had been no sin. He could communicate with God more fully and completely than any of us have been able to since! And yet God said he was alone. God created mankind with the need for other humans – and more specifically, with a need for a spouse. He didn’t say, “The man is alone so I will bring him another man to be his friend.” It pleased Him to create a woman, and to institute marriage right from the beginning! So to say that we can just love Jesus is obviously missing part of what God intended. Loving Jesus is different than loving a husband.
Substituting Jesus for a “significant other” is not the answer. If we could see Him in all His kingly glory, the idea would be unthinkable.
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:11-16).
Your boyfriend? I don’t think so.
The Gift of Singleness
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard or read that singleness is a gift and a blessing, I’d be able to buy all the books on my wish list – and believe me, it’s long! It seems like it’s usually married people who speak of the gift of singleness. [Note: I am not referring to the calling to remain single, but the gift of the single season.] When I was in my early teens, it was easy to think of singleness as a special season to be welcomed and enjoyed. Ten-plus years later, it doesn’t seem so special. I’m getting quite tired of it, in fact. Is singleness really a gift?The answer is both yes and no. We’ll do “yes” first. Singleness is a gift in the sense that every circumstance in our lives is a gift. It’s a means by which our infinitely wise and loving Father reveals His care for us. To our human eyes, some gifts appear better than others – being supplied with a new car might look more like a gift than totaling your only vehicle – but we know from Scripture that “. . . all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Unwanted singleness is indeed a gift, and if it has lost its shine over the years, we can still be grateful for it as a “gift of suffering” that helps sanctify us.But in some ways, singleness is not a gift – at least not one that we want to keep indefinitely. For most of us, it’s a temporary time of preparation for our destiny, marriage. Historically, singleness has not been viewed as desirable – rather, it was seen as a stage of life that should not be unduly prolonged. Boundless writers Danielle Crittenden and Debbie Maken have both written excellent articles on this subject, and I highly recommend reading them. The gift of singleness is a little like the gift of a toothache – something given to us by God for a time to refine us, but not something to hold forever.
Yearning For Marriage
Before I go any further, let’s balance the equation. Is it possible to long for marriage too much? Absolutely! A healthy desire for marriage is good, but if our desires start turning into rejection of God’s current plans for our lives, it can become idolatry.Keep in mind 2 Corinthians 10:5: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” We can’t put anything, including our God-given desires, ahead of obedience to God’s immediate will for us. We need to cultivate a healthy view of marriage, neither rejecting it in bitterness or elevating it to the point of idolatry. The little book Believing God for His Best by Bill Thrasher does a great job of promoting such an attitude.
Contentment While Single
Yes, it is possible! Not easy, but possible. Of course, the biggest reason we singles struggle with contentment is the same reason everyone does: it’s our sin nature. We all want things we don’t have. This is apparently true for married people, too! Everyone has the ability, through Christ’s strength, to be content (Philippians 4:11: “. . . for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”). It does seem especially hard to be content while waiting for marriage, however.I think one problem is that we fail to understand the difference between contentment and completeness. In some senses, we will never be complete until we reach Heaven. But we singles have a special kind of “incompleteness” because half of us – our spouse – is missing. And when we fail to recognize that and separate the two ideas, we get frustrated because contentment seems to elude us. We still feel that something is missing. My personal analogy for this idea is a man who is blind. This man, through God’s grace, can be content, and can learn to live without sight. Other senses can compensate to a great extent – yet none of us would try to tell him that he is physically complete. It’s obvious that he is missing something he should have!
Singleness is a similar form of incompleteness. We were created to complement each other, and to become one flesh (Matt.19:4-6). If it is God’s will for us to remain single, He will give us the grace to live with that “incompleteness,” but we shouldn’t pretend it isn’t there. I believe that a single person is complete spiritually. It is not necessary for us to be married in order to be saved, sanctified, or blessed by God. But in some way – perhaps emotionally? I don’t know – we are incomplete until marriage. It seems to me that God’s original plan, now spoiled by sin, was for every man and woman to have a mate.
It’s okay to want what you were meant to have, but we must also live joyfully and contentedly in the present reality. This contentment while still reaching for something better is one of the paradoxes of the Christian life that is hard to grasp. But it is vital for us to learn to be content while waiting in order to live the way God has called us to. As Jim Elliot wrote to his future bride, “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living” (Passion and Purity, pg. 160).
So how do we get from singleness to marriage? The number one answer is, “Pray for a husband!” I’ve been convicted over the past year that I don’t pray boldly enough. The tenor of my prayers is usually, “Help me to be content, to wait patiently, and to trust You. I accept Your will even if it means a life of singleness.” Sound like a good prayer? My real request is missing! I’m not asking for a husband. Philippians 4:6 says “. . . in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
And Matthew 7:7-11 is even more specific: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
God wants to hear our heart’s desires. We have to say “Thy will be done,” but don’t stop there! Pray boldly and with faith, believing that He is abundantly able to bring you a mate. The request for a husband is a godly one. Don’t be ashamed to pray specifically!
Finally, My Sisters. . .
. . . Be of good courage. It’s all too easy to become cynical about marriage as time continues to pass with no changes in our single state. But despising marriage or exalting singleness beyond its place is not the answer. Instead, let’s strive for contentment now, with hope for the future. Singleness can be a means by which we are drawn into increasing fellowship with our Lord as we learn to take up our cross daily and follow Him.
I hope this series of articles has been encouraging to you. It may have opened up some new ways of thinking about marriage in general, or you may have disagreed with things I have said. I don’t claim to have all the answers, or even most of them! My goal is just to encourage you, and I’d be happy to have you contact me if you have questions or comments. If there is a lot of interest, I may follow up with more articles. May God bless you as you continue to serve Him in marriage or singleness!
Photography: JenniMarie Photography
Gracias x este articulo tan oportuno!! Saludos desde Perú! 🙂
Thanks so much for this series! You have no idea how much I’ve been struggling with this lately, especially with the whole thing of being content where I am, living a life of purpose with my “gift of singleness” and the strong desire for a husband. I also love how you look at praying for a husband…It is something that I have had questions about many times, and I feel like you really hit the nail on the head with this. Just last night I was struggling so much with giving my desires for marriage to God (yet again), and feeling like I never win! I asked that God would help me find a way to fight this battle, and I think He has! Again, thanks so much.
Looking forward to reading the rest… 🙂
I tend to kind of lean towards the Apostle Paul’s view. From my 17-year-old perspective it’s much less trouble to stay single! 😉 That may change some day but for now I’m sticking to what Paul said when speaking of marriage he said,
1Cr 7:17 Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk.
1Cr 7:27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.
Or husband as the case may be…. 😉
Thank you for the encouraging article! I see my situation right now as: The Lord knows what’s best for me… obviously He can better use me single now than if I were married. If marriage was/is the Lord’s best, He will bring it about in His good timing. Be therefore content, in whatsoever state. Amen! To Him be all the glory!
A friend sent me the link to this series earlier this evening, and it really blessed me. I’ve struggled with my singleness for a long time, though it has especially bothered me now that I am into my 30’s. The Lord has been working on me lately, and your articles were a great help!
Thank you. 🙂
I was totally encouraged by this article! I have a question though. How do you deal with potential suitors who are not…your “type.” My point is that as bad as I would like to be married I am believing God for my hearts desire including a man I am actually attracted too.
I just wanted you ladies opinion on that doodle.
Hello! I only just read this article (obviously it was written and published quite a while ago!) but I wanted to thank you, Jeannie, for taking the time and putting forth the effort to write such an encouraging, God-glorifying article! Praise the Lord for laying it on your heart! It blessed me very much, and how glad I am that you wrote it! Also, thank you, YLCF, for what you are accomplishing through this site. This is the second time I’ve been on here, and I’m excited to read more! Having no sisters (no biological sisters, that is. I have a great many “sisters” in Christ!), I must say I GREATLY appreciate the opportunity provided to fellowship with other young ladies of similar mindsets! – THANK YOU SO MUCH!
Forgive me, but i’m not sure I agree with what you said- that singleness is another form of incompleteness. I do believe that there are some people who long to be married and have longed to be married for the longest time, and those are the people that need to be married. But I do not believe that just because a person is single, they are incomplete. There have been some people, historically, in the Bible, such as Jeremiah, and some people have debated about whether Paul was, who were single, but it never says that they were unhappy about their single state. Some people are single for a season, granted,but some are single for a lifetime. Take Corrie Ten Boom, for instance. God gives some the gift of marriage, some the gift (I should say the GRACE =) of singleness, and some He asks to remain single for His purposes. Yes, it is rare, but God’s ways are higher than our ways. I admit I have struggled with the grace that’s been given to me of singleness, at times, but it doesn’t mean that I am incomplete. In God’s word it says, that we are “complete in Christ.” Thank you for taking time to read this.
We’re glad this has been your experience. Jeannie’s thoughts are based on the almost universal assumption that most people are destined for the ‘completion’ of marriage, a completion which illustrates our completeness in Christ.
What you said about praying… God has really been showing me the importance of that in the past few weeks. He has showed me that it is important to pray boldly in faith and specifically – it is so much better that way!
I really like the point you brought out about Adam being sinless at this point, but there was still this need in his life.
Love the truths in this article, well articulated!
I have an older-mother figure type in my life who recently gave me this key insight into the idea of marriage fixing things: “marriage never fixes anything; if anything, it brings out more in both husband and wife which they will need to work through.” In essence, marriage never made anyone’s life easier.
I am only 21, but my girlish dreams ten years ago envisioned myself married by this age with a child or two on my lap. I cannot imagine how dramatically different my life would be if I was married now. After surrendering my life to God, He has used me in huge ways as I minister to the sisters-in-Christ who I live with, and the young women who attend my church. When anyone offers their life to God, He will use them in huge ways for His kingdom.
When I started realizing how effectively God was using me as an unmarried woman, my focus became more on sharing the gospel and disciplining girls, than on getting married someday. Do I still have a desire to get married? Yes; but it is overshadowed by the desire I have to see more people accept Jesus Christ.
This was a long and difficult process to get to this point in my life, but with God’s help it is possible. I am sure the wait is well worth it!
I’m in the middle of a series on my blog right now on marriage and singleness, so this is timely reading. 🙂
I still love this article and have since adopted that motto “Content but not complete”. I’ve found it keeps me in the right perspective, being called to be single for today, and yet still not complete.
Wow!! Well said, thank you for what you have said and reminded us of! Oh how the Lord used you to bring comfort, peace and joy to my heart! Thank you so much!
Thank you for this reminder that we need to love God more then anything, but we do not love Him the same as we would love a husband! He deserves to be loved and adored so much more then we would our husbands! Thank you again!
This is well-written. It is great for women to be writing and talking to other women about this issue.
Thank you so much for writing these articles! A year or two ago I would have really needed to hear these things. I still do find them helfpful, as I’m sure many of you do. But today I am a testmony to the fact that yes you can be content while still having that God given desire for a mate. Being content is such a blessed, and peaceful place to be! I used to absoluly consumed with the desire to be married. I think back now to what an unhealthy state of mind that is! When you get to that point of be discontent, I think your probibility of pairing yourself off meantally and giving part of your heart away is just too dangerously high. Praise the Lord that He is there for us single girls to help us through our rough patches!
Thanks again, and God Bless!
Thank you ever so much for this!!
I’m single with no future relationship in sight and I’m 21 1/2. I know exactly what you mean about the intense and growing desire to get married and have children ourselves…… I feel that way moreso every year!
Sometimes it’s discouraging to think of being “30” and still single. But if I remind myself that the Lord is in control of my life and He has the perfect plan for me…. I have a feeling of Peace and I know it’s from Him. I definitely want Him to orchestrate my life and not worry too much about the future. I know He has put this desire in me to have a family of my own and He’ll work it all out in His timing and in His Way.
“We need to learn to embrace the temporary as temporary, neither fretting at our current state nor stubbornly deciding it will never change. Because it probably will change, putting us in the place God designed for women from our creation – by a man’s side.”
Amen!!! I couldn’t agree more!
Hey! Don’t stop!! This series has been an incredible blessing to me, I wish it would keep going.
Thanks so much Jennie!
Jesus is and always will be the greatest Lover of my soul!!!
Loved your series, Jeannie, this last one espcially! Wise musings.
Instead, let’s strive for contentment now, with hope for the future. Amen! that is what I have been trying to do/keep that perspective.
A friend last year mentioned to me the same thing…about praying boldly! I want to strive to do this as well, I know that my prayers often run along the same lines as yours.
Your posts come at a very good time for me, I so needed to read all that you read. To help confirm some things I’ve been feelings, push me to new territory, and draw me closer to the Lord.
Thank you Jeannie!
~Jaclynn Psalms 37:4-5
Jeannie, thank you so much for this series of articles. It is just what I have been needing to hear. So often I feel like people tell me basically to “just get over it” and be happy being single. But I feel that God has something great in store for me, and I believe with all of my heart that that includes marriage. I know I can trust Him with it, and I can be content in that. Thank you for the realistic encouragement!
It is so good to hear someone say “it’s not wrong to pray for a husband!” This is something the Lord had to reveal to me…and it opened up such a new understanding of His character to me. I was actually praying He would give me a certain specific man! And I might add…He did. (Though I wouldn’t condone doing that all the time!) I prayed long and hard about my feelings for this man before ever asking…but when I finally asked, I was SO at peace with whatever He decided to do…and He gave me the desire of my heart!
You hit the nail on the head. Wish I could have read your series when I was a single. Thank you for writing something I can share with single friends.
Thank you, Jeannie, for your articles on the subject of singleness. I have found them of enormous benefit. So often, single women are treated rather insensitively by those who are married, in particular by fellow Christians. They are told – in order to either console or justify – that singleness is a gift, without such people truly thinking about what they are saying, and that if they were in the same situation how awful they would feel. It can be so difficult for a single woman when a friend marries and subsequently completely forgets the struggles and trials of singleness, and then have her newly-married friend continuously laud married life!!
I know the above may sound very negative, but I feel singleness is made more acute by the attitudes of other Christians. I find it so much easier to be single amongst my non-Christian friends than amongst my Christian friends, and that is something I find rather sad.
Those of us who are single must continue to wait in faith and with hope, keeping our eyes fixed firmly on Him …………….
Thank you so much for this excellent series! Your words were so challenging, encouraging, and refreshing. I am going to print them out so that I can come back to them again and again! May God bless you!
Thank you for this series, Jeannie. It has helped me more than you know.
“Contentment now, with hope for the future.”
That’s a great motto!!
Jeannie, I just LOVE this post. Something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately as I’ve observed dear girls who struggle with keeping their hearts, and therefore deny the existence of their desires. Such a beautiful balance here, that seems to be really hard to find these days. Thanks so much for sharing this!!!
I think of Elisabeth Elliot’s insight on how gifts are often given for a season, and the gift of singleness is present as long as a person is single.
I can’t say that I don’t have the gift of singleness as long as I am single – for He gives the gift and the grace.
Thank you for your thoughts Jeannie! God bless you! 🙂
You really have a gift for writing, and you choose a topic that has really needed addressing. Thank you for the encouragment. You put singleness in it’s rightful place. Looking forward to the next post! 🙂
Your articles are SO timely! Thank you so much.
Awesome, Jeannie. You hit the main points that willhelp us single in our journey onward with the King. I really think singleness is a time to spiritually mature and draw closer to the Lord while we don’t have a spouse to worry about~
Jeannie – this post was extremely refreshing. I find the idea of equating Jesus with a lover/boyfriend/husband very disturbing, and I’m glad you shared your views on this subject.
Thank you for the thought-provoking post. I think all too often we create similarities (Jesus and boyfriend) that are unbiblical. Even if those were well-intended, somewhere in the mix of those we lose sight of reverence and awe, like Rev. 19 reveals about Him. Thanks:-)
I was once given a bit of very good advice. Instead of worrying about ‘finding’ a husband, getting married, being single, etc…Love God and others so much till there is no room for loneliness, bitterness, discontent, or doubt about your single state to creep in. There are so many people who need help(widows, orphans, the elderly, the lonely & sad) till we singles have enough to do without worrying about marriage. If marriage is His plan for you, it will come in His time, not yours. God blessed us with hearts that never run out of room in their love for others and hands to help the sick and needy. As the Bible says, “Whatsoever thy hand finds to do, do it with all thy might.”
Your piece refreshed me so much! It’s one of those occasions where it seems to be just for me.
You are so honest, and so ‘right on’!
Thankyou a thousand times,
I think this subject is ignored far too often. I’m looking forward to what you will write for us, Jeannie.
(Lovely picture, by the way. :-))
Thanks so much Jeannie. I’m one of those single ladies past the early 20s. All of my friends are married. Most of them have children. I’ve been learning a lot lately about being “called to be single.” At least I know that is what I am called to right now. I wish that I had come to that realization a lot sooner. I feel like I wasted the last few years waiting around… I’m so anxious to read the rest of what you have to say. Thanks for talking about this!!!!!
Great article!! Thank you!! In the depths of my heart, I believe God is calling me to marriage– to serve a husband and children– but sometimes when I feel discouraged, I do what you said: stubbornly and frustratedly throw up my hands in fear, hurt, and confusion. Thanks for the reminder to embrace my singleness today, but to still hold hope that it is temporary. 🙂 Life’s such a balance sometimes, isn’t it? Balancing our attitudes without becoming lukewarm. 😉
Wow Jeannie! I have read the article in Boundless before, and it totally changed my mind about singleness and marriage.
I am so happy you are writing about this subject. So many women today take the “easy road” of claiming a life long calling to singleness, simply because they havent enough gumption to admit how deeply they do truly want marriage.
Its time to break the myths that surround singleness, and open the door to serving Christ in whatever season of life you’re in with a grateful and content heart!
I’d highly recommend any women (whether single or not) visit http://www.reviveourhearts.com. Its a radio ministry that focuses on womens issues, and the host Nancy Leigh Demoss is a single women herself. Her teachings have inspired me greatly (although I’m not single)!