The Singles Challenge by Margaret Feinberg
(originally from The Singles Challenge
By Margaret Feinberg
Copyright Christianity Today International):
Theresa became a Christian when she was 18. She says she assumed that God would present her with a fine Christian man, complete with a shiny red bow, and that meeting him would be just around the corner.
“I’m 33 years old now, and no such man has shown up on my doorstep,” says the San Francisco Bay Area resident.
Most of the men that ask Theresa out are not Christians, which makes it easy for her to say no. When she finds herself attracted to a non-Christian, they have to pass a test she calls “dropping the Jesus-bomb.”
She used to let non-Christian guys take her to dinner and then halfway through the meal tell them that she was a Christian. “They’d still seem hopeful until I bluntly told them what that means in their language: ‘I am not going to sleep with you,'” she says. “Most non-Christian men respond to this by saying ‘check please!’ I got tired of the dinner ritual and have sped up the process. Now I simply drop the Jesus-bomb right away.”
She says dates were easier to come by in her early twenties, when most people that age are still single. “But my twenties came and went and now most of my peers are married and having babies,” she explains. “I rarely see a man my age who is single. And the few I have seen, I have no interest in, not that they are asking me out in the first place.”
Theresa is far from alone in her situation. Being single today -especially a single Christian- isn’t easy. A variety of issues assault today’s Christian singles, including pressure to marry from family, friends, and well-intentioned church members; a lack of dating options; and, of course, sexual temptation. In addition, women face the constant ticking of their biological clocks.
And it’s not just twenty- and thirtysomething men and women who are facing these challenges. Today there’s a growing demographic of older singles, 40 and up.
“In singles’ groups with people age 30 and above, a significant portion of the singles are single again,” says Chip Ingram, president of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries and author of Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships. “Thus, the pain of the failed relationship and often being a single parent multiplies the stress in an older single’s world as well as making it difficult for the never-have-been-married singles to discern what their role is in developing relationships where they would be inheriting a family or dealing with baggage from their partner’s past.”
A lot of older single Christians, who didn’t expect to be single at this point, admit to feeling lost. “They thought they would be married by now, or if they’re divorced, they never expected that to happen to them,” says 33-year-old Lori Smith, author of The Single Truth: Challenging the Misconceptions of Singleness with God’s Consuming Truth.
“They often feel less Christian because the church emphasizes family so much that singles are left with the impression that good Christians get married and have kids. They wonder if God has forgotten them. Many are depressed about being single and don’t know how to change the way they feel.”
‘Like a person without a country’
At 32, Camerin Courtney, the managing editor of Today’s Christian Woman (a sister publication of this magazine), says she never expected to be dating at her age, let alone writing a singles column for ChristianityToday.com.
Though she’s had a few long-term dating relationships, she says she still hasn’t found the right guy. And reading e-mails from hundreds of singles, she’s convinced that she’s not the only one who isn’t dating much. She speculates that there’s not a whole lot of dating going on inside the church today, particularly among older singles.
“There’s such high expectations when you’re past a certain age,” says Courtney, who is also the author of Table for One: The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Singleness. “You’ve probably seen it. If you go out for coffee, then you’re considered a couple. It goes from casual to serious fast in people’s perceptions.”
Brian, a 39-year-old single Christian living in Tennessee, agrees. He says that the dating among his Christian friends is extremely intentional. “In other words, it is only with someone they are sincerely interested in getting to know better – they’re not going out just to have something to do,” he says. “Mostly my friends seem to meet other singles at church or through other friends, but every now and then they meet someone at a place like the gym or a coffee shop.”
In the search to find their soul mate, many Christian singles find themselves struggling with being content. Michelle McKinney Hammond, 46, is co-host of the syndicated TV talk show Aspiring Women and author of Sassy, Single, and Satisfied and several other Christian books on singleness.
She believes contentment is difficult because singles have been programmed to believe that you are not normal if you’re not attached to someone else. She notes that media and pop culture push the concept of couples, with many reality TV shows geared toward the hunt for love.
“We’ve reached desperate levels of searching with shows like The Bachelor,” Hammond says. “Even if you were a content single, you would think something is wrong with you because you’re happy!”
For Christians this can be particularly challenging, because the model of happiness and wholeness portrayed in media often isn’t godly. “You have the Bridget Jones- Sex and the City message that says singleness is cool and hip and they’re assuming you’re bar hopping and living with your boyfriend,” Courtney says. “Then you look to the church, and it’s so family-centric you feel disconnected. It’s either Sex and the City or soccer moms, and many of us can’t relate to either one. You feel like a person without a country.”
And whether you’re single in the city, country, or suburbs, the matter of sex looms large. “We’re surrounded by it, everybody’s doing it, but we’re not supposed to, and the church doesn’t talk about it too much,” says Lori Smith.
“I think a lot of singles are throwing in the towel on that one and deciding that it’s not really important [to save yourself for marriage]. But if you’re going to live as Christ is calling you in that area, you have to be willing to be completely counter-cultural and continually sacrifice your own desires.”
From surviving to thriving
One of the biggest changes that needs to take place is in the church’s philosophy surrounding singleness, says Smith. She cites the story of a male friend who visited churches on his own and then together with a female friend. The friend said the difference in responses to a single walking into church versus a couple walking in was dramatic.
“I think if you polled most pastors and congregations today, and they were honest, they’d say they believe God’s best plan is marriage, and that singleness may be okay for some but is far from ideal. The Christian culture needs to change the way it views singleness- to see it as a God-given opportunity and a good gift for the time it’s given, whether that’s five years out of college or twenty. We need to view single Christians as complete Christians, as mature Christians, as people God can use in our lives and in our congregations in a powerful way.”
But much of the change will begin on an individual level. A lot of what it takes from going from surviving to thriving as a single can be summed up in attitude and outreach.
It’s important, says Camerin Courtney, to have plans and goals besides just finding a mate. “It’s so easy to allow the whole singleness scene to become all encompassing, so it’s important to have new projects and goals in the works. Start a business. Travel overseas. Do things that cause you to move forward.
“You can’t make a spouse appear,” she says. “There’s only a certain amount of work you can do, and the rest is up to God.”
“You can’t make a spouse appear. There’s only a certain amount of work you can do, and the rest is up to God.” -Camerin Courtney
Courtney notes that it’s sometimes too easy to hibernate and enjoy alone time, but it’s important to get out and live so that you don’t have a void in your life. “We’re made to be in relationships, and we need to build a family of friends,” she says. “You need a group to be supportive. You need friends from a wide range of ages to help fill the gap so you don’t feel like there’s something missing in your life.”
And when single people are feeling down or lonely, they need to step back and recognize the true source of those emotions. “Sometimes my feelings come from the influence of an acquirement-oriented, consumerist society that doesn’t value the idea of being content with what you have,” Courtney observes. “We need to recognize the messages being thrown at us. You have to reprogram your brain and say this is the set of standards I live by.”
Michelle McKinney Hammond’s advice to singles is to learn to enjoy the life you have and live it richly. She notes that it’s the perfect time for investing in quality friendships and relationships with both sexes as well and being there for family members.
“It’s also a great time for experimenting with all that life has to offer, now that all of your resources and time belong to you,” she says. “Get out there and take a bite out of the world. Discover your personal gifts, find out how you can bless others with them and get into purposeful living.”
Getting a (love) life
Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy three-step plan to finding a mate. Courtney encourages believers who are seeking a mate to make it a matter of prayer and continue to pursue God’s unique call on their lives.
“We like formulas,” she says. “It’s easier. There’s the courtship model or the online-matchmaking modeling or the A- plus- B- plus- C- equals- marriage model. Part of praying about it is figuring out where God is calling you. I think that’s the harder path.”
It’s also important for Christian singles to remain active in the things that naturally interest them, she adds. Taking classes or getting involved in ministry will open up the opportunity to rub shoulders with others who share similar passions.
What’s more, “others get to see what we’re good at, and that we’re not one- dimensional people who are waiting for God to do something.”
“Trust God and His perfect timing,and then get on with life.” -Michelle McKinney Hammond
Courtney says that whether it’s online dating, speed dating, or just good old-fashioned “I’ll pick you up at 6:00” dating, it’s important to remember that God’s methods are higher than our own.
Though every Christian should have a list of non-negotiables, it’s important for singles to remain open to the various ways God may use to introduce someone into your life.
Gregg and Susan, who live in the Chicago area, were colleagues at work and then good friends for more than a decade. Over the years, they would occasionally try to fix each other up with other people, until God finally awakened within them a love and attraction for one another. “After years of me thinking we weren’t right for each other, God suddenly showed me that we were,” Gregg says. The moral of the story is not necessarily that Mr. or Miss Right may be right in front of your nose, but that believers must be in constant prayer about God’s will for their lives, because sometimes His answers change.
“After prayer, trust God and His perfect timing, and then get on with life,” adds Hammond. “Don’t dwell on looking for a mate. After all, Ruth wasn’t looking for a husband when Boaz found her. Find activities that you enjoy and stay open. When we anticipate blessings, we recognize them when they come.”
For those who have been divorced or experienced the death of a spouse, Hammond says it’s important to take the time to heal and find out what God would like to do with your life right now. “Take the time to revel in the comfort and love of God,” she says. “He is the best spouse ever.”
Theresa agrees. “I am not depressed, and I am not desperate for dates,” she says. “I am very plugged in at my church and involved in a ministry where I can help others. God has sustained me. If God has brought me this far and I seem to be doing okay, then what lies in the future should be survivable as well.”
But that doesn’t mean she’s given up on meeting that special someone. “I can’t see myself ever not wanting to get married,” she confesses. “God would really have to do a work in my heart, and I know He could if He wanted to. But I am still a hopeful romantic.”
Related posts, this blog:
(Link): Want To But Can’t – The One Christian Demographic Being Continually Ignored by Christians Re: Marriage
(Link): Why Do Churches Treat Singleness Like a Problem? via Relevant Magazine
(Link): Twice-Divorced Lady Suggests That God Told Her He’d Send Her Husband Number Three and She Got Married a Third Time – I Actually Don’t Find This Story Uplifting
(Link): Never Married Christians Over Age 35 who are childless Are More Ignored Than Divorced or Infertile People or Single Parents
(Link): The Netherworld of Singleness for Some Singles – You Want Marriage But Don’t Want to Be Disrespected or Ignored for Being Single While You’re Single
(Link): Do You Rate Your Family Too High? (Christians Who Idolize the Family) (article)
(Link): If the Family Is Central, Christ Isn’t
(Link): Mormons and Christians Make Family, Marriage, Having Children Into Idols
(Link): 10 Things Never to Say to a Single Girl (article)
(Link): Five Things Single Women Hate to Hear
(Link): Fifteen Things You Shouldn’t Say or Do To Your Single Friends
(Link): Responding to the Cliche’ ‘Jesus Is All You Need’ – Christian never married lonely single
(Link): Christian Singles Never Marrieds – it’s okay to get your needs met
(Link): The Problem with Platitudes – for Christian single over 35 years old never married
Because most sermons about singleness are chock full of cliche’s-
(Link): Topics Preachers Should or Shouldn’t Mention When Discussing Singlehood
(Link): Same Old Tired Advice to Christian Singles
(Link): Singleness and Scripture – responding to Christian myths about singleness
(Link): Unmarried Christian Women Ain’t Got Time Fo’ Dat!
I think this contains several cliches singles hear:
(Link): Annoyances of Being a Christian Single
(Link): Stop Telling Your Single Friends to Try Dating Sites – Please.
(Link): List of Christian Singlehood Annoyances, Part 1
(Link): List of Christian Singlehood Annoyances, Part 2
(Link): Celibate Christian Woman Asks Christian Host Why God Will Not Send Her a Husband
(Link): Never-Married Adult Man Named Stephen Asks Christian Host Why God Has Not Answered His 3-Decades Long Prayers To Send Him A Wife
(Link): Eugene, the 56 Year Old Man, Tells Christian Show Host He’s Tired of Being Single
(Link): I Married Young. I Was Widowed Young. I Never Want A Long-Term Partner Again by R. Woolf
(Link): Stop Believing God Told You to Marry Your Spouse by G. Thomas
(Link): Depressing Testimony: “I Was A Stripper but Jesus Sent Me A Great Christian Husband”
(Link): Following the Usual Advice Won’t Get You Dates or Married – Even Celebrities Have A Hard Time
(Link): Joanne The Widow Lady Wants to Know Why God Didn’t Answer Her Prayer to Keep her Husband With Her
(Link): The One Thing Evangelical Leaders Don’t Want Christians to Know about Mixed-Faith Marriages (two links). by C. Cassidy
(Link): The Right One – Do Unmarried Christians Only Need Jesus in Common to Marry
(Link): Pat Robertson’s Incredibly Insensitive Advice to Gail the Unmarried Woman
(Link): Typical Conservative Assumption: If you want marriage bad enough (or at all), Mr. Right will magically appear
(Link): Those “God Brought Me My Spouse” Stories – Woman Says God Brought Her A Spouse on the Beach
(Link): How One Man Has Broken Up 4,000 Relationships and Caused 17 Divorces In Just 10 Days
(Link): Single People Aren’t Problems to Be Fixed or Threats to Be Neutralized By Ella Hickey
4 thoughts on “The Singles Challenge (Single Christian over 35 years old never married )”
I’m. 37 , never been on a date but I also can’t have kids . What I dont get is the why ? There has been no purpose in this for me . Nothing good has come from this . Being forced to sit in candle passings in college had to be the worst.
I dont care what excuses people use I refuse to ! I want to know why has God provided no one for me and no Christians I dont want to know what you think God hasn’t as that’s not why God hasn’t . It angers me to listen to others give god credit for bringing their spouse into their lives – well God no praise here for not doing that in my life – being single while all ur friends aren’t – sucks !!!
Hi Kathryn, Christian Pundit here. Thank you for leaving your thoughts.
I’m sorry I did not approve of your post sooner, but this is not a blog I check daily (or even weekly).
I’m so sorry – I know how frustrating, painful and confusing it can be when you cannot get a boyfriend, a date, or get married, especially if you’ve sincerely tried being a good Christian person your whole life. I’m in the same situation as you.
The only difference is that I did get a boyfriend, but I did not get him until I was in my late twenties (a mutual friend introduced us). I was with him for a few years and engaged the last couple of years but broke things off with him.
It’s especially disappointing when you are a single Christian because (at least in my case, but this seems to be true of so many other Christian women), I was told repeatedly by my Christian mother and Christian pastors and in Christian articles that if I just prayed to God for a spouse and trusted in His timing, that God would surely send me a spouse. But it never happened. (I’ve never married and am now in my early 40s.)
Some Christians say, you can’t trust God to send the husband to your front door, you must go out looking. So fine, I tried that. I joined some dating sites, attended singles classes at churches, etc, and that had no results.
You said, “It angers me to listen to others give god credit for bringing their spouse into their lives – well God no praise here for not doing that in my life – being single while all ur friends aren’t – sucks !!!”
I know. I agree. I try not to get bitter about it – I do permit myself to feel anger at times, but I don’t want to get caught in bitterness. (I’ve been around bitter people before, and they are a drain to be around)
Being single for so long might be a bit more bearable if Christians stopped giving us older singles “reasons” why they think we’re still single (as their reasons usually sound like blame), or the platitudes, unsolicited advice (such as, “If you’re just grow your hair out, you’d get a man!”).
I’m surprised that for something as important as marriage that God is pretty silent on how to go about getting married in the Bible. There are guidelines in the New Testament on how married couples are to behave, but there is little to no advice on HOW to get a spouse. The silence is very odd.
Also odd is how the church does nothing practical to get singles who want marriage introduced with compatible people of the opposite gender.
I repeatedly see singles leaders and pastors online say they don’t want their singles classes to turn into “meat markets.” Well how else do you expect single Christians to find each other and marry – do you want them going to seedy nightclubs or use dating sites?
Many evangelicals and Baptists, as a matter of fact, sort of act as stumbling blocks to singles who want marriage. If you admit to wanting marriage, many evangelicals and Baptists will shame you for it and will lecture you on how you should find contentment in singleness.
These people who claim to revere marriage will do “didley squat” to actually help people obtain marriage. If marriage is so great, according to these conservative Christians, why aren’t they lending a hand in matching singles up to get them married off?
I for one would appreciate the help. (Dating sites are a joke and kind of smarmy; I’d prefer not to use them).
Anyway, welcome to the blog and thanks for leaving some comments. I’m sorry you’re single but hate it, I do know the feeling!
You may want to see some of the other blog pages here, such as (and there are more like this through out the blog)-
Responding to the Cliche’ lobbed at never married Christians who want marriage: “Jesus Is All You Need!”
Fifteen Things You Shouldn’t Say or Do To Your Single Friends
Singleness and Scripture – responding to Christian myths about singleness
Five Things Single Women Hate to Hear
Surviving Church as a Single
Hi Sharon. I am “Christian Pundit”, the person who owns this blog.
Thank you for visiting and leaving some comments. Most of my blog deals with the subject of being never married and over 35 years old, if you’d like to look over the rest of the blog (I also sometimes discuss other topics).
I don’t know if I’d describe having regrets, sad feelings, or loneliness as being a “pity party.” It’s normal and natural to feel those things if some desire is not being met.
I can’t say I agree with John Piper about everything. If you are deriving some kind of hope or benefit from listening to or reading his sermons, then that is good.
But please don’t let any Christian tell you it’s wrong to have desires (the Bible says God is the one who gives us our desires, places goals in our hearts).
One other issue I sometimes tackle on this blog is the topic of codependency: many Christians wrongly believe that the Bible teaches it is wrong for us to get our needs met, when the Bible actually instructs us that one reason we are to fellowship with other Christians is to get our needs met!
I won’t get into that here, but there are other blog posts where I discuss this a little bit, such as in this post:
Christian Singles Never Marrieds – it’s okay to get your needs met
Many Christians are absolutely hideous at giving comfort and encouragement to other Christians (ones who are hurting) but prefer to lecture them, judge them, criticize them, or make them feel ashamed.
You said, “I am no longer obsessed with getting married or finding a mate.”
I find that it waxes and wanes. In my late 20s, I was fine with being single (or “content” as Christians say). I didn’t get really troubled by never being married until I got to around 35 or 36, and no spouse was in sight. (I had broken up with a fiance’ a year or two before.)
Now that I’m in my early forties, I’ve found it easier to adjust to. In many ways, I enjoy being single and prefer it. I call all the shots in my life.
I don’t have to worry about compromise or bickering with someone else. But then there are days when it still bothers me to be single.
Holidays are the worst, or attending a church where everyone else is part of a couple, and it’s one of those family-centric churches that acts as though there is no such thing as a woman over 35 who is not married.
You said, “I have learned over the years to be at peace with my singleness and if it was God’s will for me to be married, He would have provided me with a husband by now.”
In the past few years, I’ve seen, heard of, and read about women who did not get married for the first time until age 40, 41, 42, and one or two women were in their 50s before they had their first marriage! So marriage may still be in the cards for you, you never know.
Don’t listen to idiot preachers -and yes, they are presumptuous idiots and jackasses- who say trash in sermons or blogs such as, “If you’re not married by the time you are 40 years old, God has called you to singleness!”
Not only does the Bible not teach that concept, but as I’ve said, I’ve seen real life stories of Christians and Non Christians who did not achieve a first marriage until age 40 or beyond, so obviously, some people do get married later in life.
Psalm 145 says:
The LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made. (verse 13)
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. (verse 16)
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them (verse 19)
Of course if you are truly happy with being single and don’t want marriage, that is fine too. I don’t mean to pressure you or make you feel bad in any way, but I’m just hoping you haven’t given in to defeat from these know-it-all preachers who spout off that line about “if you’re not married by the time you are 40…” nonsense.
You said, “Don’t assume that just because someone is married and looks happy on the surface, that they actually are. “
I know. I’ve mentioned that before on the blog.
I was in a long term serious relationship for seven years. The guy I was in that r-ship with was selfish, took advantage of me, was narcissistic, etc, so I know that a r-ship is no guarantee of happiness and fulfillment. There are positive aspects to being single.
You said, “The trials and tribulations in this life will seem so small compared to the glorious things that God has for us in eternity.”
If that comforts you, that is great, and I don’t mean to knock it if it works for you but for me personally, I don’t really care so much about heaven myself, or being rewarded there.
It’s life down here on earth that is hard and painful, and I want blessings and help in this life.
You said, “There are Christians living in third world countries who are suffering severe persecution and poverty.”
I understand, but I am against comparing suffering in that light, so I have to politely agree to disagree with your approach to viewing singleness (or other issues) in that manner.
I wrote a previous blog page or two about it.
To give you an idea of what I mean:
After someone in my family died, a Christian woman at my church (I had been going there for three months) basically told me I did not have a right to feel sad about my family member’s death because there are orphans in Africa who have life worse than I do, and there are homeless people in our city.
She said that to me in a judgmental way, or it was meant to be constructive, but I found it deeply insulting, offensive, and insensitive.
Here are one or two posts about that subject:
Part 2 – Suffering and Misery Trend Du Jour
The Bible Says Christians are to Help Other Christians First [not help orphans, widows, homeless people and Non Christians first]
If you find that you feel better about your single status because you feel blessed by what you have, as opposed to orphans in third world nations that have nothing, okay, I suppose, but I find it insulting when Christians say that to me when I say, ‘I sure am sad today because my family member died, or I’m not married yet.’ Telling me that there are kids starving in the world doesn’t make me any less sad, and it minimizes my pain and does not change my circumstances.
Thanks again for visiting, and I hope you look over some of the other posts at the blog.
Hi. This is a very good and timely article. I used to feel real bad about being single, but God has provided me with peace of mind over the years. I am no longer obsessed with getting married or finding a mate. There is more to life than finding a mate. I realize that a lot of churches are very backwards in their approach to Christian singles, especially if the single person is over 35 and female. Jesus and the apostle Paul were single. I feel that God is not obligated to provide us with all of our desires. I sometimes go through periods of loneliness. I have been listening to some sermons online by John Piper. Most of the sermons were focused on learning to be content and not looking to God to give you every material thing you want in this life. John Piper said that we are here on this earth for a very short time, compared to eternity. We need to be focused on things that are eternal and not so much the temporal things. I realize that it is hard and being single, female, and Christian is not easy in our society. I have had several female friends that got divorced over the last few years. On the surface, they seemed to have the happy marriage and nice middle class lifestyle. Don’t assume that just because someone is married and looks happy on the surface, that they actually are. I used to be angry at God for not sending me a nice Christian man with a good job/career and that was nice looking and well groomed too. I have learned over the years to be at peace with my singleness and if it was God’s will for me to be married, He would have provided me with a husband by now. There are Christians living in third world countries who are suffering severe persecution and poverty. I learned to not to have pity parties anymore just because I am single. The trials and tribulations in this life will seem so small compared to the glorious things that God has for us in eternity. God Bless.
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