Before I begin, let me say that I write this on the journey, having not reached its end and speaking as much to myself as to anyone who might read what follows. The words below have never been easy for me to apply in my own life, and thus, I do not write them flippantly or minimize the incline of the journey where you may find yourself presently. Nevertheless, let the Word of God speak and may the Spirit enable us to “do all things through Him who strengthens [us]” (Philippians 4:13).
In the beginning, God created man alone (Genesis 2:7); but before the sun had set on the very day He created him, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18). Thus, the Lord clearly set forth an example of companionship and marriage amongst men and women. As we know, though, He doesn’t always bring that union into our lives early in our lives or as soon as we might desire it. So, in the words of Francis Schaeffer, “how should we then live?” (while we are yet single).
Let me break down the question, and therefore the answer, into two parts of the road of singleness. First, we have the portion of complete faith where the Lord has not revealed the person to whom it seems He has planned to unite you. Second, we will look at the stretch of road where faith is becoming sight and it appears that the journey is drawing to a joyous destination.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). In this first part of the journey (which may well extend many years from the day you realized that the other gender doesn’t have cooties, but is rather quite wonderful), we live on complete, relational faith that the Lord has a plan for our lives and that His good is indeed prevailing even though we cannot see how far or near the relationship we seek lies ahead. During this time, it is easy to doubt, to wonder if the day will ever come, and to be tempted by “passing pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25) rather than hope in the “greater riches” (11:26) of Christ.
So what do we do with the time that the Lord has given us in this stage of life? Surely neither discontentment nor despair are what He wants for “those who love God [and] are called according to His purpose”, when He has promised “good” to them (Romans 8:28). On the contrary, 1 Corinthians 7:32 and 34 says that the unmarried are to be “concerned about the things of the Lord” and to “be holy both in body and spirit”. Again, these are not easy words to hear or make effective in our lives, but they are true just the same. When loneliness comes, draw near to the Lord — sing with all the energy pent up within you and pour out your heart to Him in prayer. When community surrounds you and your lack of companionship is less noticeable, rejoice in God’s goodness and serve wholeheartedly. If the temptation to doubt or worry is prevalent in your mind, use it as if it was a string on your finger to remind you to pray for the church, the lost, and even that future someone (prioritize the first two and be careful that you do not set up the third as an idol under the mantel of prayer). As you make your way along the road, constantly seek out accountability and the fellowship of believers (preferably of your same gender) and “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
In the second part of the journey, the joy of what is becoming visible is likely to wash away the doubt that existed while operating in the complete-faith segment, which is an opportunity for praising God for His grace in spite of our doubting. However, most of the principles of the earlier journey still remain. Remember, dating is not marriage — you are still single — and if anything, the call to “be holy” (1 Cor. 7:34; 1 Pet. 1:16) is even more ardent as the Enemy may try to use love as a means of temptation and sin. Also, while the revelation of the love of your life becomes clearer, take care that it does not supplant your First Love — the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the case with the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:2-7. Read of all the good they were doing — toiling and persevering, not tolerating evil men, testing false apostles to reveal their deceit, and enduring for His name’s sake — yet they had replaced the very best, Jesus Christ. So it can be with the “good” of an amazing relationship if your eyes are removed from Christ above all. To that end, when stress, worry, joy, or exhilaration in the relationship attempts to overtake you, convert it into an instrument and reminder to seek the Lord, pray fervently (James 5:16b), and “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16).
I pray that these words are an encouragement to you and that they resonate during this time of life. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One [Christ Jesus] who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). To God be the glory!