Singleness: The Balance Between Longing and Contentment

In Inspiration, Love, She Speaks by Rose Angulo38 Comments

Singleness

Driving home from yet another mediocre date, a familiar disappointment hits me highlighting the depth of my unfulfilled longing for a husband, a partner for life. After fifteen years of dating, I find myself asking God, “When is it my turn?! Don’t you know my child-bearing years are scarily close to their end?” I also find myself simply wanting some form of certainty: “God, if I’m going to be single forever, just let me know now!!” At other times, I feel genuine peace in my singleness. I have meaningful friendships, a career that I’m passionate about, and I’m growing in confidence and emotional health. Unencumbered, I can seize more opportunities to travel and help others. In these moments, the often confusing and painful process of dating seems more problematic than singleness itself.

​I’ve received a lot of advice from well-meaning friends, many of whom were married in their early twenties and never had to deal with dating in the digital age. I’ve been told: to work on myself, to accept myself; to stop looking because that’s when you’ll meet someone, to join E-harmony, Match, Plenty of Fish, OkCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Christian Mingle; to make myself more physically desirable, to embrace my inherent beauty; to try and meet someone at my own church, to avoid dating people at church; to be thankful for a season of singleness, to recognize that marriage is normative in the church; to live with wild spontaneity, to prepare for domestic life; to be self-sufficient, to “let the man be the man”; to accept that God doesn’t always intervene, to trust that God gives us the desires of our heart. Apparently to successfully date, one must be very good at navigating paradox.

One of the hardest tensions I’ve wrestled with is how to honestly acknowledge my currently unfulfilled desire for marriage while also living a life characterized by genuine contentment. Can I hold these two seemingly contradictory but true experiences at the same time? Can I acknowledge one without diminishing the other? Finding contentment in singleness seems particularly daunting given that there is no guarantee fulfillment will come in my preferred timing or even at all.

Proverbs 13:12 states, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Yet, even in times of delayed hope, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6. Scriptural wisdom seems to suggest taking a dialectical view and embracing the paradox of longing and contentment. In a sense, particularly for the Christian, all of life is paradoxical. We are living in the tension of the seen and the unseen, brokenness and wholeness, the now and the not yet. However, when it comes this uniquely deep desire of my heart, the distance between the now and not yet is less ethereal and crashes into my daily reality.

While I hope for a God-ordained love story like Rachel and Jacob’s, right now I relate a lot more to Leah who remained romantically unloved – though very loved by God. (See Genesis 29). Never was this sentiment truer than when I walked down the aisle alone as a bridesmaid at my little sister’s wedding and had no date for the event. Ugh.

A wise pastor, aware of my desire for marriage, reminded me that although God never promises to remove our suffering, He does promise His presence in our pain. While this brings comfort in many areas of life, when it comes to my desire for marriage, things get trickier. As much as I love God’s presence, sometimes I yearn for a flesh and blood man to walk beside me in a non-metaphorical way! As much as I’m glad God holds me in the palm of His hands, sometimes I just want someone who physically can hold my hand.

So how do we actually live in a manner that treats longing and contentment as non-mutually exclusive? How do we walk this out when it comes to our desire for a life partner? Admittedly, I am writing from a place of present vulnerability. I haven’t attained perfect balance and writing this article would likely be easier if I were now happily married and merely reflecting on my time of struggle. Nevertheless, in my experience, authenticity and intentionality have been crucial in gaining a healthier (and happier) perspective and creating a more integrated emotional experience.

On the longing side, I’ve learned to self-validate my desire for a husband. Yes, I’m complete in Christ, but it’s also natural to long for another human with whom I can grow in intimacy, express sexuality safely, and create new life. I date with purpose, giving me courage to end things sooner once I’m fairly sure it’s not a good match and also to risk more where there is potential. I acknowledge, without shame, that my eyes well up at weddings not just because I’m happy for friends, but also because weddings trigger feelings of loneliness. I try to honestly face my disappointment that being single at 35 means I may never have biological children with my husband if get married, or that my parents may be too old to be active grandparents. I also take steps to be the best version of myself, such as going to therapy and getting my finances in order, recognizing this will make me a better spouse. I read books on marriage. And, I continue to place my desire before God in prayer with expectancy, but not expectation.

On the contentment side I have to work harder. I have to continuously give myself permission to be content, to push away the nagging feeling that I must arrive at destination marriage before I can rest. I try to relinquish my worries about timing by taking breaks from active online dating. I’ve made efforts to stop living in anxious limbo as the cliché “lady in waiting” the way I did after applying to law school when I would run to the mail box every day to check for acceptance letters. I see myself as fully alive now. I discipline myself to take a stance of gratitude for all I have. I have forced myself to sit in the reality that I may never get married and to ask God to help me visualize that kind of future. This process was initially terrifying, but facing my fear head on has taken away some of its power and helped me realize that regardless of marriage, I can still have a full, adventurous, meaningful life. Ironically, this has given me the audacity to acknowledge the full intensity of my longing.

For those of us in a season of unfulfilled desires, the danger of not holding both our longing and contentment is that we easily begin operating between extremes, always losing a part of our self. We can go from melancholy despair that leads to unhealthy relationships to stoic hopelessness in which we don’t let anyone into our hearts. By owning all of our experience, and trusting that God is with us in it, we can live as we truly are, not as ladies in waiting, but as RAD ladies in living . . . and longing.

If this message blessed you, be a blessing by sharing with others.

Comments

  1. Bola Adewunmi

    Wow Thank you for your openness and honesty….I definitely believe that God will grant us the grace to continue to trust in him during this waiting season Amen

    1. Rose Angulo

      Thank you Bola! I am definitely dependent upon grace – really good perspective!

  2. Angie C

    Thank you for sharing that with us. It was difficult to read as its not something I like to think about too often. But its nice to know there are a few of us in the same season. All of our paths are different and God has never not shown up greater than I could have dreamt for myself and he will for us.

    1. Rose Angulo

      Hi Angie- thank you for your comment. It is a really difficult topic for me too – its hard to confront things that cause pain, but you are SO right – God really does show up in such personal ways during times of struggle! Praying you can continually sense his joy!

  3. Laura

    What an honest and beautiful examination of a place of waiting that many women find themselves in. I am in this place myself and struggle with the same longing/contentment dilemma. Keep looking toward Him and pray-

    1. Rose Angulo

      Thanks for the encouragement, Laura! What a good reminder to always keep looking towards him, prayerfully! Blessings to you!

  4. Leslie

    Thank you for writing this. I feel this way almost to the letter. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one processing “both sides of the coin.” God bless you!

    1. Rose Angulo

      Thank you Leslie! I’m so glad you could relate. There are definitely lot of us processing living in the paradox!

  5. Liv

    Rose, thank you so much for your transparency!! I completely agree with all the paradoxes we have concerning Christian dating, which seems to have only led to more confusion rather than clarification. Not too long ago, tears flowed as I watched soon-to-be grandparents receiving the news of their adult children’s pregnancies. Turning 35 soon, I’ve also thought about not being able to have children of my own or not having my parents be active in their lives and it is a great pain.

    Sometimes, I think I should have done more but realize looking back that when I’ve intervened, I’ve royally messed things up. I’ve surrendered this area of my life to God, so I’m trusting that whether life-time singleness or prolonged singleness is what is best for me, then while I can have moments of pain, there are still many moments of joy. Marriage is momentary while the promised marriage with the Bridegroom is forthcoming. Singleness is not my identity, it is my calling until God so ordains to change it.

    Blessings,
    Liv

    1. Rose Angulo

      Liv – Thank you for sharing your own journey. I love the notion that our identity is never in our marital status- whether single or married. I really appreciate your comment!

  6. Susannah

    Thank you so so much for this, I’m struggling with this very thing as well! This was encouraging to read, especially from the view point of someone who is feeling what I feel. Thank you so much 🙂

    1. Rose Angulo

      Thanks Susannah! I really appreciate that. It is nice to know that there are kindred spirits going through the same things!

  7. Delight

    I too have swung between both sides of emotions about singleness. I’ve been good at keeping busy and investing in self and others. But in May last month, I was hit with a wave of loneliness, it caught me off guard. Your article was very encouraging. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Rose Angulo

      Thanks so much! Loneliness can sneak up on us whether single or not and have definitely been caught off guard with it myself. I’m glad that you related to my experiences- that connection reminds us we arent alone!

  8. Kimberly

    Thank you for sharing this. While there are days when I can truly thank God that he did not give me what my heart longed for when I was younger, I do continue to struggle with this. At nearly 41, it is very difficult to watch those half my age walk down the aisle and start their lives of togetherness, while I stand in the background waiting to clean up after the ceremony (I’m a church administrator). While I do not wish for others to share this struggle, it helps knowing that I’m not alone!

  9. Kim

    Your writing covered so many of my thoughts and struggles. My friends have said all the same things! I was married for almost 20 years but found myself a widow at 45. I miss having a companion husband in life and desire that again. It has been almost 5 years and I am experiencing some of the same struggles as you discuss. I do not have children and I regret that sometimes. Anyway, thanks for sharing and offering some clarity!

  10. candyce

    I feel like you opened my head and wrote my thoughts after having all the same experiences.

  11. Sarah

    Wow, talk about a blessing from God. Just reading everyone else’s comments behind yours was encouraging and to think, God is using you so radically to give hope and encouragement to all of us in this same season! Thank you for your honest and transparent heart, my sister. I am so grateful to have stumbled on this site. Mos likely, our husbands have been praying for us and are feeling the same way and same emotions…God does not call us to be alone and I have faith, we will all rejoice when the miracle of finding our soul mate actually comes!! it will indeed, be a miracle! 🙂

  12. Rebecca Sweezey

    Thank you for so eloquently expressing what I feel every day. I feel guilt because I’m not content to be alone because, as others like to tell me, “God is all you need”. Of course they say this as they shop for their husband and 2.5 kids. I’m tired, my soul is weary, but there is some spark of hope still in me. Thank you, and may God bless us all with His love.

    1. Rose Angulo

      Thanks for your honesty Rebecca! It can feel dismissive when people say that God is all we need because even though it may be true in one sense, God also built us to thrive in community and have connection. Marriage and friendship are both his ideas! I love that I can go to God with my loneliness and know that he “gets me” and will be with me in it!

  13. Nnenna

    God bless you. I cant quite recall how I stumbled to this site, but I have been blessed by your refreshing honesty all the same. You have described the feelings of a lot of single people and I admit that it hurts to be right here sometimes, but there is something going on in our hearts at the moment. It is the gift of His Presence, which we will need whether we are single or married. Secondly, I’m not a subscriber nor I do I advocate for dating sites because I find out that we are uniquely made and a man of our selection may not be the best mate for us. There are challenges ahead of us that we cannot see or anticipate and having a mate of God’s choice for us (if He wants us to) makes the road ahead easier. Do not be weary in well doing my sisters. Let your adorning be the meek and a gentle spirit which is precious in the sight of God, that inner adorning, is what will attract any godly mate and sieve the bees from the flies.
    Shalom.

    1. Rose Angulo

      Thanks for your comments and blessings. I definitely believe seeking God’s wisdom in finding a mate (or letting him lead us to mates whether we meet them at church, at a friends party, on a social media site, etc) is crucial. In fact, I think with every area of life, God’s ways are higher than ours and we do well to seek his guidance! I love that you pointed out that having a meek and gentle spirit are attractive – definitely a growth area for me!

  14. Mary

    Let me say i have read hundreds of articles from christian single women like myself and NOT ONE has captured my exact feeling as you have ! I teared up because i felt like you had read my prayer journal and written an article based on my vulnerabilities. Thank you for your honesty, i know it was not easy writing this, but you have given me hope and a new perspective on where i am in life.

    1. Rose Angulo

      Mary, thank you so much for your kind comment. I am so glad you found some comfort in knowing that others have dealt with the same spectrum of emotions and experiences as you. Its validating to know that we are not alone! Praying for you in your journey- that you know how beautiful and lovely you are!

  15. Kelliann

    It was amazing to read a post about this NOT written by someone who is now married with children. Thank you for your authenticity, this was EXACTLY what I needed right now.

    1. Rose Angulo

      I’m so glad Kelliann! It can be hard to write about struggle when we are in the middle of it and dont know how things will turn out! So glad that you related to this at this point in your life!

  16. Louise

    Thank u so much for sharing your story, I actually feel better knowing that I’m not alone in this, my story is a bit different, I’m a mother of 4 having to start over after a abusive relationship for 18 years, I’m having to face to start over at the age of 37 I’m studying to be a counselor, not knowing which way I’m going, but I trust God to show me, starting to have feelings for someone that is also puts God before everything and anything, but unfortunately he is not interested and on the other side there is another guy who would do anything for me to give him a chance, but unfortunately he doesn’t follow God so closely, I don’t want to settle for something that doesn’t feel right, I’m trying my best to move on and being content with being single and living my life with and for God, but like u mentioned our human nature longs for that love and affection, it is hard but I’m leaving it in God’s hands and I trust him, made to many wrong choices, keep the hope and the faith, God will come thru, Blessings

  17. Joan

    Thank you for your words. I have lost hope, and I know somewhere in my heart it is there, but it has gone dormant. I have been strong and hopeful for so long, and I have come to a dead end. I allowed myself to open up my heart to someone who did not deserve it. I know God ended it in his mercy, and I am thankful for that. But it hurts all the same. I don’t know how to find hope again, but I think it is not far off.

  18. Kasey Moore

    Oh my goodness. In God’s perfect timing I found this article. In 2 months 3 men entered my life, and wrecked it. I have wanted to be a wife and mother since I was 16. Thinking that it may not happen for me actually makes me want to cry. It feels like my heart breaks. I am so thankful for this article. I’m going to reread it every time I feel despair coming on. It’s scary to think of a future without a love of my life walking beside me. I really don’t want to think about it actually, I suppose this means I need to spend some time with God on this. God bless you!

  19. Ericka Gonzalez-Blanco

    Rose, I am curious to ask if 1.5 years later you are married or in a relationship now? When that happens (believing with you and for you) will you make an update post ?!?! Please.

  20. Hannah

    Hey Rose,

    Thank you for writing that wonderful post, such an encouragement. I was hoping you could expand a bit more on what you said about waiting with expectancy and not expectation please? I would love to learn more about what the difference is between the two. How do you prevent waiting with expectancy from becoming an expectation? What is the “line” between the two?

    Thank you again.

  21. Tammy

    Great article. For those of you who have been strong enough to wait for your GOD chosen mate, I am in awe of you! In times of weakness and loneliness, may you remember that although you are in pain, you have saved yourselves from multiple areas of pain resulting from choosing unwisely. Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created. Maybe, if I had known such a strong, wise individual in my youth, I would not have traveled down a wrong path for so long. Keep your trust in Him, his choice for you is the only one worth it.

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