Embracing Uncertainty and Supporting Singles in Ministry
As you minister to singles in the pain of not knowing if marriage is on the horizon or not, it can be tempting to offer well-intended encouragement or hope that is actually not consistent with Scripture.
I recall people in my church responding to my fears by saying, "It will happen when you least expect it." Although that may be true for some, it is far from universally the case.
Another common response singles might hear is "You're so great, God will have someone for you soon." Despite the good intentions, the notion that someone's "greatness" necessitates that God will have a spouse for them is not found in Scripture, nor supported by the lives of awesome singles who desired marriage and died never having married.
There is no formula that God sets forth whereby He will grant longed-for partners, and our advice and counsel should be consistent with that fact.
Getting married is not a straightforward consequence of one's emotional or spiritual maturity, attractiveness, charisma, or character.
If you ever do discern that God has told you that He is going to bring a spouse to a single person, you may want to consider if it's best for you to share it with the single person as receiving this type of message will heighten the single person's hope in a way that can heighten ambiguity. Should you have erroneously heard from God, this error will very likely be quite painful as hope deferred makes the heart sick.
When single, I clearly remember two occasions of people telling me they believed God would have someone for me "soon." God brought my husband into my life six years after one of these conversations and nine years after the other. In no way did I experience this as "soon!"
Don't minimize the difficulty of not knowing whether singles who desire marriage will ever find a partner. They need to know that you understand that they face significant uncertainty.
An Alternative Response
What can you say that is helpful? Offering, "I don't know when or if God has a spouse for you or not, but I'm committed to praying that God answers this desire of your heart," validates the reality of their struggle and gives them a sense that you grasp the uncertainty of their plight. Once when I was struggling intensely with the pain of singleness and not knowing if I would ever have a spouse, a friend told me, "I'll hold hope for you."
Her words demonstrated that she understood what a struggle it is to keep hoping in the midst of ongoing uncertainty. I felt so cared for.
Also, you may want to ask a single person who is struggling if he would like you to help him devise a plan for getting un-single. Channeling fear and concerns toward action can be emotionally helpful and practically productive.
For helpful suggestions about ministering to singles and for research on singleness, download our free RelateStrong | Leadership Series eBook.