Singles in the Hands of a Manipulative God?


Unless God directs her otherwise, Camerin Courtney plans to keep on praying to be married one day.

Why I'm going to keep on desiring to get married

I read it again recently. The notion that we singles need to surrender our desire to wed as a true Christian posture toward our singleness.

Most recently it was an account by a married woman, a respected author and church leader, writing about her long–ago single years. As a young woman, she'd desired to get married. But as she began to pursue her ministry calling, she felt the need to surrender completely to God her longing for marriage. With much prayer and intentionality, she did.

And of course, a couple years later she met the man who's now her husband of several decades.

I'm not sure she said so in so many words, but there was the implication that God needed to know he had her whole heart before he was willing to let her "share" it with a man. As I read her account, I somehow felt like a lesser Christian for still wanting to get married. I've read this kind of advice in several singles books over the years—always given by now–married individuals who once gave up the desire for their current marital status. And this "theology" of singleness has rubbed me the wrong way. I've always thought it painted God in a manipulative light—intentionally not giving us something when we want it, and then thrusting it upon us once we don't. Like a crafty parent using reverse psychology on his children.

Now, I don't doubt that God does prompt some singles to give up the desire to marry for some specific reason; it's when this advice becomes prescriptive to all that I get a tad squeamish. And of course the desire to marry can become an idol, and the Bible is very clear that we're not to have any "gods" before him (Exodus 20:3). When that's the case, certainly we need to readjust our priorities.

But I have a hard time synching up this conditional distribution of gifts—this idea that we need to achieve a certain mindset before the blessing of marriage will be bestowed upon us—with the God of unconditional love. I love that we have a come–as–you–are God. A God who loved us and sought us when we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). A God who doesn't expect us the clean up our mess before we come to him but who meets us right in the mess. I fear we lose that beautiful reality when we start assigning benchmarks to his blessings. I wonder if some of this thinking comes from our discomfort with longing. In our fast–food, quick–fix culture, longing is rare and feels outdated. And when we long for things—good, God–created things like a spouse and children—and pray for these things and they still don't come to pass, we can begin to wonder if the longing is misplaced or wrong.

While the answer may be "no" in some circumstances, in others it may be "not yet." And in the waiting, it's easy to get all kinds of uncomfortable with our longing. Wrestling with spiritual questions or self–doubt. Wondering if he hears us or if we're just wanting the wrong things.

Thankfully, God isn't uncomfortable with our longing and unmet desires.

I think of the story in Matthew 20:29–34, when Jesus was leaving Jericho and came across two blind men on the roadside, shouting, "Lord, son of David, have mercy on us!" Though the crowd rebuked them, Jesus called, "What do you want me to do for you?"

"Lord," they answered, "we want our sight."

Jesus didn't stop and ask them if they'd given up their desire for sight, if their whole heart was fully focused on him, if they'd made peace with their blindness. No, he "had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him" (v. 34).

This wasn't an unusual occurrence. Many times people approached Jesus with desires and needs, and often his recorded words are similar to this passage: "What do you want me to do for you?"

Not that he's Santa and always grants these wishes. But he wants to hear the desires of our heart. He's comfortable with our longing, our wanting. Especially when we bring it to him. And in the end, I think that's the key. It's what we do with these longings, where we take them that really matters.

When we bring our desire for a spouse to God, we realize there's no guilt in desiring the good things he created. That the God who's all we need, also created us for relationship—and often meets us in the arms and voice and presence of our loves ones and our brothers and sisters in Christ. That there's ample room in our heart for God and  his people here on earth.

So unless God directs me otherwise, I'm going to keep on desiring to get married. And I'm going to keep on taking this desire to him. Confident that he's listening, that he'll correct me if the desire becomes an idol, that I'm no less of a Christian for the wanting, and that he'll meet me in this messy journey of longing.

Written by Camerin Courtney

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