My single life was like a roller coaster ride: While I was dating someone, I felt good about myself, but when I wasn’t dating, I was in the pits. Once the pit was so deep that I fell into depression. During my senior year of college, I dated a girl for eight months. I thought she was the one—I was ready to graduate, marry, and get on with life and ministry. But I was in too great a hurry, and she was not ready for marriage. She broke up with me two weeks before I graduated from college, plunging me into a deep depression. It seemed as if all the light and color had left my world. I felt as if my life were overshadowed by huge black storm clouds.
Looking back, I realize now that my main problem when I was single was that I was looking to girls, rather than to God, for my basic validation as a person. I felt as if I were somehow incomplete if I didn’t have a girlfriend, fiancée, or wife. But one is a whole number. If you feel like half a person waiting for the second half to come alongside and complete you, then you are going down the wrong road. If you think marriage the answer to loneliness, then you are being deceived. Believe me: Many married people are still lonely.
In a Focus on the Family article I read online, Greg Smalley makes this surprising comment about marriage: One of the greatest truths I’ve learned about marriage is that I don’t need my wife to love me. I know that sounds counterintuitive—maybe even opposite of what you have been taught about relationships. The truth is that your need to be loved has already been satisfied by the right source—your heavenly Father. A spouse will never be the source of love in your life. That is God’s role exclusively!
I wish I would have understood and believed the truth of 1 John 3:1 when I was in my early twenties: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” My core identity is Mike, the beloved son of God—regardless of whether I am single or married.
I regret having wasted so much time and energy moping around during the single season of my life. Instead of worrying about getting a date or having a girlfriend, I wish I had spent my energy and time on the affairs of the Lord. So many waste their years of singleness pining away for someone else. To be sure, nothing is wrong with wanting to get married: It is a godly desire. Marriage brings its own benefits and difficulties. I encourage young people who want to get married to honestly cry out to God for a godly life partner. I also challenge them to never lower their standards for whom they marry.
The first question I ask when a girl tells me she has found a guy she wants to date (I ask the same question of guys too), is whether he loves Jesus more than he loves her. If she hesitates, I tell her that the guy is not yet dateable material. If he doesn’t love Jesus most of all, then he will be tempted to find his validation in his girlfriend. He will also be incapable of loving her in a healthy way. If someone loves Jesus with all his heart, then his love for a girlfriend or life partner will overflow naturally from that core love.
REFLECTIONS: Reflect on where you receive your basic validation as a person. Do you get it directly from the Lord as his beloved son or daughter? Copy the text of 1 John 3:1 and place it where you will see it often as a reminder of your core identity. Memorize 1 John 3:1 and repeat it often, especially when you are not in a relationship, but really want to be or when you don’t feel loved by someone with whom you are in a relationship.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 3:1