By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
It's probably one of the most hurtful things you could say to a single Christian. "If you pursue God more, he'll provide a spouse."
First of all, no.
Second of all, we'll dive into the reasons why this is not only anti-biblical, but it can cause a single Christian to question their faith. In fact, it begs the question as to whether the single person has enough faith to begin with since God is, apparently (according to this statement) withholding a spouse until you show more belief. Let's dive into why this phrase is so harmful when spoken to single Christians and some better alternatives to say instead.
Why Is This Phrase Anti-Biblical?
This phrase seems to imply that someone does not have enough faith in the Lord. And therefore, if they pursued God more wholly that God would finally provide them with a spouse they've prayed for for years.
And here's why that doesn't work.
Let's take a look at several biblical figures who never got married, who followed God with their entire hearts
The prophet Daniel never married. In fact, Scripture and Jewish tradition indicates he was a eunuch. Daniel (and his friends) is the only one in the Bible who the Bible doesn't point to any of his flaws (apart from Jesus, of course). This doesn't mean that he didn't have any. But we can see he lived a holy lifestyle. He pursued God even when that meant certain death (Daniel 6). And yet, he never married. If we agree with the above statement, then we say that Daniel never fully pursued God. Which, as we can see in Daniel 1-12, couldn't be further from the case. We also don't know if Daniel wanted a wife or not. But if he had, and God had not granted him one, that doesn't deter from Daniel's faithfulness by a single ounce.
Paul encourages singleness. He penned a good portion of the New Testament, endured persecution, and martyrdom. But if we believe the above phrase, then Paul didn't exercise enough faith in God and didn't pursue him enough. A laughable idea.
Yep. You read that right. Despite what sensationalized books such as The Davinci Code might indicate, Jesus never married. Ever. No one on earth has ever pursued God more wholly than he did, to the point of death on a cross to take on all the sins of man.
As we can see by a handful of examples (we could list several more) this phrase doesn't hold up biblically. We could also point to the fact that A) just because we follow God doesn't mean he'll give us our every desire and B) the Bible praises singleness. So can we please stop treating it like some sort of disease or treating singles as second-class beings? Speaking of...
Why Does This Phrase Hurt Singles so Much?
Apart from the holier-than-thou tone that often accompanies this phrase, let's dive into just how much hurt this phrase causes.
It implies someone doesn't have enough faith to receive a blessing
God's blessings don't work that way. Take a look at the story of the man who said, "I believe. Help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). God doesn't punish us for experiencing doubt. Even John the Baptist, the greatest prophet, doubted. To imply a single person doesn't have enough faith, reveals the married person's biases against them. That somehow God has punished the single person for not pursuing him wholeheartedly enough.
It implies the married person did something to earn the blessing.
They did not.
"But wait," you may object, "my spouse didn't walk into my life until I pursued God." Wonderful for you. But God doesn't have a one-size-fits-all plan. Just because he worked in your life in a particular way does not mean he will do the same to any single Christian who wants a godly spouse.
For example, I battle depression. I have certain coping mechanisms that help me to handle the depression each day. However, when I encounter another Christian who has depression, they may have other symptoms than I do. They may handle the mental illness differently than I do. So if I were to say, "I read Psalm 103 and pray. Therefore, you need to read Psalm 103 and pray," this implies that my cure will somehow be their same cure. It doesn't work that way.
Furthermore, married people did not bring the spouse into their lives. God did.
Relationships take an incredible amount of work, but they did not enact God's plan for the exact moment when their spouse showed up. They did nothing on their own to earn the blessing. God decided when the blessing would arrive.
It doesn't listen to the real problem.
I wouldn't wish the dating culture we experience now onto my worst enemy. It has gotten so much harder in the last ten years to find a spouse who pursue God with all their heart. In saying a flippant phrase like this, the person ignores the hurt the single person may experience. They may not know the blind dates, the tearful prayers, the numerous small groups attended, etc. the single person has gone through thus far to even find someone who believes in God and doesn't lie about it to get sexual favors (trust me, it happens way more often than you think).
So instead of saying this phrase, let's explore alternatives.
Alternatives to This Harmful Phrase
What can we say instead?
First, don't say anything at all.
Yes, you heard me correctly. Sometimes we just need someone to sit with us in the hurt. You don't know what we've gone through to get to this point, and simply sitting with us, praying with us, and loving on us does wonders.
Secondly, if you must say something, say, "I'm sorry. I can't imagine how it hurts. How can I be praying for you?"
A caveat: Make sure this person wants a spouse before saying this. Many Christians have pursued celibacy and may not want a partner.
Thirdly, if you must share your story, make sure to preface it with the following.
"I know my story isn't your story. Here is how God moved in my life. But I am not saying that you don't have a vibrant relationship with him. I'm certain you do. This story is merely to encourage you as you wait and pray."
Related Resource: Check out our FREE young adult podcast Big Pond, Little Fish! Host Alyssa Roat joins other young professionals in a podcast exploring life, career, family, friends, and calling from the perspective of a young Christian fish trying to make a splash in the world’s big pond. All episodes are at LifeAudio.com. Check out episode one here:
Photo credit: GettyImages/fizkes
Hope Bolinger is an editor at Salem, a multi-published novelist, and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,100 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy is out with IlluminateYA. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in November of 2021. Find out more about her at her website.