Are you exercising godly behavior or are you carrying on a dating relationship in your mind?
My greatest challenge to self-control as a single woman is in the area of speculation about men and marriage. I do not think I am alone in this. I know I am called to wait and trust, but it is so easy for me to do the opposite—to either attempt to manipulate circumstances in my favor or to complain when others are blessed in courtship or marriage.
Over the years, the Lord has done much to kill the sin of self-pity in me regarding deferred hopes for marriage, and one fruit of that is that I now joyfully serve many couples as a wedding planner. But contentment can seem to come and go in my life like waves lapping the shore. Sometimes joy cascades over my soul like waves breaking on the beach. Other times joy seems to seep out of my life like the undertow of receding water. This is not the result of anything other than changing my focus: when the joy seems to be receding, I find myself critically regarding my circumstances rather than beholding the glory of God.
One specific way I do this is by “trying on” men in my mind. Judging from the conversations I have had with many single women, this is a common temptation. We tend to meet godly, attractive single men and immediately head down the path toward marriage, imagining what it would be like to court and wed this man. Having convinced ourselves that this is a possibility, we then read into his every move while hashing and re-hashing each scenario with the “girlfriend network.” A good friend of mine calls this “dating in my mind”—a priceless phrase!
To exercise self-control in this area as single women is to put reasonable limits on the journaling and girlfriend conversations we have about our romantic interests. Talk has a way of making a desire an expectation, which eventually becomes a demand. In my life, I have found that I head into trouble when I record at length in my journal every interaction I have with a single man or when I am discussing this man with a broad range of friends. For me, self-control is to limit these detailed conversations to my accountability partners and to those over me in the Lord, such as my small group leader and his wife or my pastor and his wife. They know how I am weak, and they prayerfully encourage me to keep my focus where it belongs.