This is for single men. However, I'm throwing it out to everyone because I want single ladies, in particular, to know what you are called up to. I’ve been married for twelve years, but I too was single at one point. I, for one, know the pro’s and con’s of singleness intimately. I made my share of honest mistakes and outright stupid moves. I also, by the sheer grace of God, made some good, godly, wise decisions that I am thankful for to this day. I know that the season of singleness, like marriage, comes with its own unique set of fears, temptations and idolatry. So, I want to help. If you're interested I addressed this topic about a year ago in our church's study through Proverbs in a sermon called, Understanding Singleness.
Over the years I have seen some men handle singleness well, but I have seen more men handle it poorly. My goal here is not to heap shame on you but to encourage you. In Christ, your sins are forgiven and you are radically loved by the Father. He wants life for you, not death; hope, not despair; sanctified optimism, not disgruntled cynicism. If you are a genuine follower of Jesus every season is an instrument of transformation in the hands of our good and gracious God, as he forms you into the image of his Son (Rom 8:29). He will help you, strengthen you and uphold you (Isa 40:10). He has given you all that you need for life and godliness (2Peter 1:3). So, I encourage you to consider the eight following areas and, moved and motivated by the love and grace of God, make adjustments as needed. These tend to be the greatest areas of weakness for single men.
#1 PRIORITIZE YOUR PERSONAL PURSUIT OF GOD.
Leverage your singleness to run hard after God. Get to know him - well. Jesus is the prize, not marriage. Marriage is a gift, but not the prize. Seek to personally understand what King David was saying when he said, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence of fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps 16:11) Pursue God for the sake of God. Make him your rock. Prioritize him above and before all other things. Be intentional about spending time with him and growing in community. Get good at repenting humbly and quickly when you sin against others (that will come in handy when you're married).
If you do this, you will find that your sense of satisfaction in Him increases while your dissatisfaction in your singleness decreases. Over time, everything in your life will change - age, job, relationships, homes, etc - with one exception: God. Make the primary investment of your life, starting when you are single, in the one unchanging variable of your life. Jesus says it this way, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mt 7:33) He’s not promising you a spouse, but he is promising you something better than a spouse: himself. Also, one side effect of this is that you will invariably become attractive to godly single women - because, after all, Christlikeness is attractive. However, if you pursue God to be attractive, it won’t work. Pursue God for the sake of God and he will work out the details.
#2 PRAY FOR YOUR FUTURE WIFE.
I find that most single men think, talk, tweet and dream about their future wife more than they pray for her. How about every time you think about her you consider that a trigger to pray for her? Go to battle for her in prayer. Pray for her protection, spiritual vitality and purity. Statistically speaking, she’s out there. She might even be in a relationship with another guy, which you need to ask God to end immediately. Praying for your future wife does a number of things. First, praying for your wife is one way to prioritize God in your relationship with your future wife before you even meet her. Second, praying for your future wife will remind you that she is a gift of grace and not something you deserve or earned. Third, praying for your future wife will remind you that she is a real person and keep you grounded in reality (more on this below). Fourth, praying for your future wife will make you more spiritually discerning when it comes to pursuing someone. I prayed for Jen for four years, almost every day, before I met her. I already felt invested in that relationship way before we met and it made me exercise additional caution with any other potential relationship along the way. Fifth, and this is just bonus, your future wife will feel incredibly loved knowing you’ve been praying for her all along.
#3 HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS REGARDING YOUR FUTURE WIFE.
Today, more than ever, in large part due to the proliferation of social media, many single men get caught in analysis-paralysis when it comes to the qualities they desire in their future wife. One of the most common things I hear from single men is, “How do I know whether there’s not someone better out there?” This is largely cultural. We live in a consumeristic culture and we bring that same sense of consumerism into relationships. Often single guys want a Victoria Secret super model that serves like Mother Teresa, manages a home like Martha Stewart, performs like an Olympic athlete and dances like Beyonce. That woman does not exist - and if she did it would only be because she has been incredibly loved and cultivated by a godly husband (who can dance). Who your future wife becomes will, in large part, be dependent upon your love, sacrifice, and cultivation of her. Are your expectations realistic? What you’re looking for is a woman who you’re attracted to that cherishes Christ, who you can see being your best friend and who you’d want your own daughters to be like. That's great soil for any marriage.
#4 TACKLE LUST AND PORNOGRAPHY SOONER THAN LATER.
The time to begin to tackle any issues you have with lust and pornography is when you’re single, not when you’re married. Of course, if you are married and you have issues in those areas, now is the best time to address it. Any married man who has gone through this with their wife will tell you to address it sooner than later. You can imagine how these conversations go with your fiance or spouse. Not fun. Though your fiance or spouse will likely be incredibly gracious and understanding, you will be thinking, “Man, I really wish I began to tackle this earlier.” I promise you. You are not alone. No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. (1Cor10:13) Start by bringing it into the light with some friends. Your church should be able to help you as well, but not if you keep it in the dark.
#5 DON'T WAIT, INITIATE.
Most movies and television shows have women doing the initiating when it comes to relationships and not men. In real life what happens in those cases is that the women get hurt and not the men. That’s the opposite of what should happen. Men are like thermoses that can take a beating and keep going. Women are more like crystal wine glasses - incredibly valuable and meant to be handled with care. If anyone gets hurt it should be the guy, not the girl. If she says, “No”, you’ll bounce back. You were created by God to handle it. Godly women like to be pursued by godly men. So, don’t wait for her to initiate. In general, the rule-of-thumb is ladies first - except here. But, before you go off and start initiating, be sure you don’t isolate this point from the others, especially the next.
#6 PROTECT ANY WOMAN YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN.
Here I’m talking about emotional and spiritual protection. Generally, guys tend to bond over activities and doing things together. Generally, gals tend to bond over talking and sharing life. So, its not as big of a deal for a guy to share his life story but it can be, and often is, for a girl. After that conversation the guy thinks, “That was good talk” and the girl thinks, “He wants to marry me” and she’s already naming your future children. Of course I’m speaking in generalities here, but in my experience this is generally true. If you’re not sure what you think about a girl don’t have long walks on the beach alone, avoid extended times alone, don’t be texting or Facebook-ing her all the time, don’t talk about your sexual pasts right out of the gate. This is what it means to guard her heart. You, as the dude, are primarily responsible for the speed at which the relationship develops. Go slow and build a friendship before anything else. Remember she may not be your future wife, but someone else’s. Treat her like you want some other guy to treat your future wife.
#7 START GETTING YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER NOW.
The time to start thinking about your budget, saving for a wedding ring, career, etc is not when you find a girl you’re interested in - but long before. Of course, it’s never too late, but the sooner the better. Do you have a budget? Are you saving anything? Are you putting money aside for a ring? Do you have debt? Are you on a career trajectory where you could support a family in the future? Do have any personal issues that you need to get a handle on before even thinking about getting into a relationship? Have you talked with older men that are further down the road? Are you leading yourself in such a way that a girl would actually want to follow? Start getting your house in order now.
#8 SEEK WISDOM IN COMMUNITY.
Actively seek the wisdom, counsel and prayer of others as you consider pursuing someone - and as the relationship develops. Most relationships begin and end poorly because there is little external input sought out. It should not be a surprise to those around you when you begin a relationship. You should involve those closest to you, and some that are a little further along, well before hand. We need the prayers and counsel of others in our lives to help us recognize our blind spots. Ask them: "Do you think I'm in a good place to pursue a relationship? Am I being stupid? Do you think it is wise for me to pursue [insert name]? If not, why? Do you have any counsel on how I can lead and protect her well at this stage?" You will not regret these conversations and any gal you're pursuing will respect you, and feel loved and protected by you, because of your due diligence. Remember, per above, the gal you're pursuing may not be your future wife and therefore you should be just as cautious and careful with her as you'd want another guy to be cautious and careful with your future wife.
Our good and gracious God wants us to flourish in our singleness and in our marriages. Many of us did not grow up with good examples and so we have no idea what we're doing. But, this is one of many areas that the church can help us in life-shaping ways. If you're part of a bible-teaching, gospel-grounded, Jesus-loving church you should have many good men and great marriages among you to learn from, so leverage them. I’d love for there to be reputation in our cities that the best men and best marriages come from Jesus' church because his people seek to trust him in all areas of life - even in our singleness.