Note: Before we get started, let me just say that this is not a post bashing marriage or romance or desires for those things. Desire for marriage is normal and God-honoring; God made us to be romantic creatures. Most people end up called to marriage. But whether you’re called to singleness or marriage, desire for relationship isn’t ever supposed to rule or guide you. Only Jesus is supposed to rule you.
It’s the week of Valentine’s Day. Buckle up, Christian singles, we got some ground to cover. *insert sunglasses emoji*
For the purposes of this post, let’s make an analogy. Let’s pretend your love—your innate desire for romance—is a little kid. It’s the middle of the night, and the kid isn’t supposed to be awake yet, but it is. The kid is up and about and causing all sorts of mischief.
Dear Restless Single,
Let your love go back to sleep.
In Song of Solomon, three times Solomon’s bride urges the women of Jerusalem not to stir up or awaken love before its time (Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, 8:4).
I say the same to you, beloved.
Don’t stir up your romantic desires. Not yet. Not before it is time. If you’re not ready for marriage and God isn’t calling you toward marriage right now, don’t pursue a relationship. Let your love sleep. Let the romance-seeking parts of your heart lie dormant. Don’t seek out what God’s not doing right now; don’t stir up desire for what’s not God’s will right now.
If you’re looking for, hunting, going after a relationship, so many things can go wrong. There are many dangers. Not only this, but if you’re looking for a relationship, if you feel like you need a significant other, these are symptoms that something is misaligned in your heart, a symptom you’re looking for love for the wrong reasons.
Indeed, we chase romance for many, many reasons.
Because we’re lonely. Because we think the affection of another person will make us happy, will finally lay to rest our insecurities and that creeping sense of unworthiness. We want to believe we’re desirable, want to be wanted, and we think we’ll get that from a relationship.
We want to feel necessary to another person. We want to be thought of, doted on, chased.
We want a family. We want sex. We want someone to tell us all the reasons they love us.
We want someone to go out on dates with, someone to come home to, someone to wake up next to. We want someone to tell us that all the things we’re afraid might be true about ourselves—our personalities, our hearts, our bodies—are all just baseless lies.
We want someone to bring home to the family, an answer when an aunt or grandma asks if there’s anyone special.
We don’t want to feel broken, undesirable, passed over. We think a relationship, a spouse, will prove to everyone—our parents, our friends, ourselves—that there’s nothing wrong with us, that we’re not defective, that we’re worth wanting, that we don’t need pity because we’re not alone anymore.
Desire for a relationship, beloved, desire to escape singleness and not embrace it, stems from so many fears and misconceptions about yourself, marriage, love, and mostly God.
Beloved, this will sound like a cliché, but it’s true: all you need is Jesus.
A spouse won’t make you happy. A spouse won’t fill all your needs. A spouse won’t meet all your desires. All because you weren’t made simply to be a husband or a wife. You weren’t made to be satisfied in another person. You were made to be satisfied in God. You were made to hunger for God, and all your other hungers are echoes of that one hunger.
If you aren’t satisfied while single, you won’t be satisfied when dating or married.
There are dangers in loving waking up too soon.
For one, it’s harder to be single and content when love is awake too soon.
Remember the kid analogy? It’s harder for you to do anything when you’ve got a kid running around. Imagine trying to wash dishes while the kid’s getting into the fridge. Imagine trying to have a conversation while the kid’s trying to do somersaults down the stairs. Imagine trying to read while the kid’s trying to do karaoke. Imagine trying to sleep when the kid thinks it’s time for a pillow fight.
So imagine trying to be happy/content as a single person when you’re consciously or subconsciously looking for/desiring a relationship. I don’t have to imagine, and I doubt you do either. It’s just common sense that contentment in singleness can be tough just on its own, but it’s especially tough when you’re often thinking about what a relationship might be like.
Second, you’re more likely to settle for less than what God wants for you. If you just want a relationship, over time, you lower the bar because you just need someone. So you might settle and end up married to someone who doesn’t love Jesus more than they love you. Maybe even someone who doesn’t love Jesus at all.
Beloved, this is far, far, far more dangerous than you realize.
Third, or rather in general, sin has more of an opportunity to gain a foothold in your life—through discontentment, grumbling, sexual desire, self-pity, and a bunch of other avenues. When you’re looking for something that God isn’t doing right now, it never ends well because sin is crouching at the door.
Distraction can set in. It’s so easy to get turned off the mission Jesus has given us (i.e. – make disciples). It’s easy for our eyes to go everywhere but God. Are you looking for a relationship, or are you looking for what God’s doing? Are you too preoccupied with your latest crush that you can’t see the opportunities to make disciples today? Are you focused on God, or are you focused on an imagined relationship well on its way to becoming your god?
Flirtation. You just want to be wanted, paid attention to. I know what that’s like. So you start flirting with people who aren’t yours to flirt with (i.e. – they’re not your significant other). It seems innocent, harmless, but it’s not. Don’t you see that you’re using them? Flirtation just causes more confusion in your heart and theirs.
Recreational dating. This is all-around damaging. You may tell yourself you’re looking for the one, but you end up sampling the minds, hearts, and bodies of a bunch of people who aren’t the one, entangling yourself with people again and again, forming ties only to break them again and again, and all that’s left is heartache. It’s not really a training ground for commitment.
Go to sleep, love.
But how can we keep love sleeping? Honestly for most of us, love’s already awake and has been for quite some time.
For me, love has been awake for as long as I can remember. Our hyper-romanticized culture woke up my love long before I ever knew that it is safer, happier, better to let sleeping kids dogs lie. It’s probably the same for you. All the music, all the movies, all the books, all the apps. Fixation on romance and relationships is all around us.
But we can help love go back to sleep by identifying the things that can stir up our desire for a relationship.
Monitor your romance intake.
Remember that we’re thinking of love/desire for a relationship as a little kid. And we’re trying to get this kid to go to sleep. But there are these bells that ring that keep the kid awake, that make the kid think it’s time to be up and hungry. You can stop ringing the bells. (This analogy makes a lot of sense in my head; I hope it makes sense to you.)
- Avoid romantic movies (yeah, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, all the rom-coms, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, etc.)
- Avoid TV shows that have a strong romance focus/subplot (which is honestly most of them)
- Avoid listening to music about romance and relationships (emo break-up songs and beautiful love ballads can be equally unhelpful)
- Get off social media where all your friends are getting in relationships and posting pictures of all their adventures with their significant other
- Stop reading books that focus on romance (I’m not even talking about romance novels; I’m talking about “clean” books that whet emotional desire)
- Don’t take those goofy click-bait-y Buzzfeed quizzes about what sort of mate you attract (you know of what I speak)
- Stop looking at those memes/diagrams about the perfect enneagram/MBTI pairings
All those things (and more) can be cut out (it’s the lawful vs. helpful business). In fact, if you’re feeling restless for romance, drop all the things on this list for a solid month and see if a relationship isn’t on your mind so much.
These are the things you can control, practical things you can do. Think of avoiding these things as giving the kid a bottle of Nyquil or a few capsules of melatonin. They are going to help your love sleep, but they aren’t going to actually repair imbalances/aches in your heart that keep you awake.
The Lord of your heart.
This part is last for a reason. This is the thing you need to come away with more than a list of practical does and don’ts. Hopefully, this is what sticks with you.
Trust Jesus. Like, really trust him. And where you don’t trust him, ask for grace to trust him more. If you’re afraid of being alone, it’s a signal that you don’t trust Jesus. If you feel like you’re running out of time or need to get someone’s attention, it’s a signal that you’re not trusting Jesus. Trust him. Your patience—or lack thereof—is telling to how much you trust him.
Pray—not for a relationship or even that your romantic desires go away. Pray instead that Jesus simply aligns your heart with his.
Love Jesus. Don’t be in love with romance. Don’t be in love with singleness. Be in love with Jesus. Grow in love for him. Trust him enough to lay down whatever he calls you to lay down. Trust him enough to submit to him. He’s far wiser than your wandering heart.
Where you can’t trust him, where it doesn’t seem like he and his love are enough, pray that he changes your heart. Ask him to show you what his love is truly like (because if you’re looking for love somewhere else, that’s a sign you’re not seeing his love like it is).
Let him be the Lord of your heart not just in theory or word but in reality.
p.s. – I hope this post makes sense, kids. I wrote this because I wish I’d been able to read this and be warned years ago.
p.p.s. – Again, please don’t take this to mean that romance is bad. It’s not. Desire for romance is not bad either. Romance is simply at it’s best when it’s when and how God designs it to be.
p.p.p.s. – Also, if you made it to the end of this monster huge post, dang. Go get yourself a box of novelty matches, kid.
p.p.p.p.s – Here’s another post from a couple years ago about being sad to be single, if you need it.