The topic of marriage can often be a sticky one for single women inside the church still looking for their future husband-to-be’s.
Many believers are ill equipped to properly advise the unattached ladies within their congregation, oftentimes saying all the wrong things.
Offering a few words of wisdom, Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in Michigan, published on The Gospel Coalition website what one woman informed him on the matter via email.
She had written in response to DeYoung’s article, titled “Dude, Where’s Your Bride?” which addressed the question of why so many “unmarried, college graduated, serious-about-Christ, committed-to-the-church, put-together young women” had not found a groom yet.
Her advice dealt not with the why, but specifically with what believers should not say to single women still seeking a groom.
“I keep praying for someone to come along for you,” was one phrase that she believed could be better stated.
“Instead of praying for that, why don’t you pray that I would be growing in Christlikeness so that if Mr. Wonderful walks into my life, I would be better suited to be a helpmate for him.”
Another comment to avoid: “I don’t know why no young man hasn’t scooped you up and carried you off yet.”
The woman noted that though that statement was intended as a compliment, it could immediately trigger questions of self-worth.
“Unfortunately when you say this I immediately try to answer the question of why no one has carried me off. Am I too much of one thing and not enough of another? Do I not look right? Am I too soft spoken or too loud? What do I need to change about myself since obviously something is wrong with me if I haven’t been taken off the market? Maybe I should go read Proverbs 31 again to figure it out.”
Another frequent suggestion made to single women by members of the church, she listed, was: “You should move somewhere where there are more young men, or maybe go to a church with more single people.”
The problem with that piece of advice is threefold, she noted. First, it made it seem like the goal of going to church was to find a spouse. Second, it made women trust less in God and more on themselves for their matrimonial future. And lastly, it did not help women be content in their current situation.
“It can be a daily struggle for some women to be ok with where they are at in life, and indirectly telling them that their life would be better somewhere else doesn’t help,” she explained.
Online dating was another popular suggestion that hurt women more than helped them.
“Many, many wonderful Christian people have met and married through online dating. It’s the wave of the future without a doubt,” she acknowledged. “But it is still something that brings embarrassment to the person. It can sometimes feel like the question is really saying ‘I see that you’ve completely failed at attracting anyone in your physical world so have you tried to do it in an online world?’”
The last remark she hoped believers would think twice about uttering was “Don’t you want to get married and have children?”
That question usually followed a single woman’s statement about being content in her current state, she described.
“Being content is not the same thing as having no desire for something ... although I would like these things, my life is not somehow a failure if I do not achieve them. I would love to be able to have the blessings that come with marriage and children, but it should not be more than my desire to have the blessings of a relationship with Christ.”
Cautioning those advising singles, the woman also addressed single women themselves, who were at times on the defensive.
“Single people have a responsibility as well to not be overly sensitive,” she penned. “Singleness can be a deep trial, but making little things into big deals because someone [unintentionally] prodded that hurt isn’t the way to go. Single people need to extend grace, knowing that the intentions of people are good and out of their love for them.”
DeYoung appreciated the woman’s attitude and hoped that Christians everywhere would begin to think about how they and their church could be more welcoming and supportive to singles.
Many readers were encouraged by the advice, while a few men hoped someone would come up with a “What Not to Say to Single Men in Your Church” as well.
“Great post,” Melody commented. “...I’m single and in my late 20s and its really encouraging to me when people don’t focus on what ISN’T happening in my life, but what is.”
Jessica also wrote, “This is very helpful. I am married but know many fabulous single women...and I know I have at least said a couple of these to them. So now it has been noted!!”
“What a compassionate work here sir,” Jack Wellman also shared. “I am obliged to take this to heart. I am more blessed than I deserve with a godly wife, children, and grandchildren. Thinking should be a prerequisite to speaking. Well done.”
Another reader hoped that a list about things believers should say to encourage their single sisters be made as well.
In response, DeYoung shared that talking to single brothers and sisters “like normal people” was helpful.
“Sometimes we only talk to the person with cancer about cancer, or to the widow about losing her husband, or to the single person about being single. The goal is not to make everyone so afraid of talking to people. That can easily happen where we are nervous about saying the wrong thing to people in the hospital, or the wrong thing to single people, or the wrong thing to internationals, or the wrong thing to teenagers, etc.”
“That’s why I appreciate my sister encouraging single women not to be overly sensitive,” the East Lansing pastor concluded. “We live in a society where people take offense quickly and easily. We don’t want to perpetuate that. And yet, love suggests we should consider how our words affect them.”
To read the full article on The Gospel Coalition, click here.