I find myself presently dealing with six marriages on the rocks. Some have hope, others lost it. Two have used the “d” word. I am trying to believe for them, when they are unable to believe for themselves. Rebuilding a broken marriage is no piece of cake. Takes work that some find daunting.
On the other side of the fence are single people who desperately want to be married. “Desperately” may not be a strong enough word. They look at couples enjoying life, having kids, doing the fun things families do, like going on vacations or watching a movie together. They know that they are meant to be married. Ouch. I tell singles, afraid that they may have the the gift of celibacy, “If you want to be married, you don’t have it.” Celibacy is for people who are called to it and rejoice in it (maybe).
So what I say to people on both sides of the fence: Life is not found in marriage or in the single life. People who are sad but know that once they get married all that will change could be in for a surprise. Singles who put all their marbles in the marriage basket better not leave them there if they get married. It would be too oppressive for their spouse.
I encourage engaged couples to write down their five biggest expectations for marriage, then throw them away. All too easy for an expectation to become a silent (or vocal) mandate for the partner: “You must do this for me to be happily married.” Rather than writing down expectations, try this: “Here are the five things I will do for you to make this marriage thrive.” A lifetime guarantee accompanies that posturing.
Not that I don’t understand the struggle of a single person desiring a spouse, a family, a legacy. But I still say, “Center your life on God. Be the best single person you can be. Paul regards it as a preferable station in life for people who want to have influence with others. The two most prominent people in the Bible were single. I know some single people who would make wonderful spouses but who chose to give their life away–like many missionaries have done.
They are champions, and their joy in eternity will mask any disappointment they may have felt in this life. They denied themselves, took up their cross, and followed Jesus. Instead of living in painful regret for what they didn’t have, they poured their life out and influenced many, something they probably could not have done the same way as married people. Paul writes like he understands: “Those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that” (I Cor. 7:28).
Likewise, I understand why marriage takes work. I failed as a young married man to give proper understanding to a young mother attempting to raise children with a religious husband. She forgave me. So Karen and I fight for marriages. God is a healing God. Bottom line: wherever you are, whatever you are–center your life in God.