Full confession: for much of teens and throughout my twenties, I’d made marriage my illusive savior. I truly believed that if I found a godly spouse, I would receive God’s blessing and be made whole. After all, didn’t Proverbs 18:22 say that “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord”? I’d been a good Christian boy. I followed the rules. Didn’t I deserve some of God’s favor in the form of a wife who would love me?
If I was a man dying of thirst in the desert of singleness, then marriage was the treasured oasis I longed for. Nothing could quench my thirst quite like marriage. So whenever I thought I glimpsed a potential love interest in the distance, I chased her with reckless abandon. “This is it! There is the woman I’ve prayed for! My prayer has been answered at long last!”
But time and time again, I found myself chasing a mirage. I was still lost and no closer to quenching my thirst. This “marriage mirage” as I’m calling it, quite literally tormented me for years. The older I got, the worse my obsession with finding “the one” became.
Did God really love me? Did he really care about my desires? I read verses like Matthew 7:9-11 and thought they meant that if I prayed and asked God for the bread of marriage, He would grant it to me.
“‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’” (Matthew 7:9-11)
Marriage: A Good Thing
Throughout the Bible, in Christian writings, and in church culture, marriage is taught to be a good thing. Yet with every “unanswered” prayer and every “failed” relationship, I was left wondering why He was withholding this good thing from me and giving me the stone of singleness.
Yes, that’s right. I viewed singleness as a stone. It felt like a punishment or some cruel joke. Singleness wasn’t a sacrament to me (like the Catholic Church teaches). If twenty-something Jon could have said anything positive about singleness, I would have said that it was a stage of life that needed to be endured. “Be patient,” I told myself. “Wait at the red light. He made these laws to protect us. God will tell you when to go.”
But the longer I remained in that stage of life, the more impatient I became. Things got worse when I started comparing myself to other men and judging the choices of Christian girls in my community.
“Surely, I’m better than him! Why wouldn’t she consider me?”
In my self-righteousness, I started to doubt God even cared.
Sex and The Sexy Christian Single
If you aren’t a Christian and you’re reading this, it might seem odd. Why should marriage be such a big deal to me and other Christian singles? Well, if I’m being honest, I think it probably has to do with sex.
As a young man living in a secular culture where having sex for the first time is seen by many as a rite of passage into adulthood—while simultaneously subjecting myself to a Christian culture that says sex is to be reserved for marriage—I was pretty conflicted. I knew my identity as a man wasn’t defined by whether or not I’d had sex, but at the same time, I felt like a failure for turning thirty without ever having kissed anyone.
Okay, so there you have it. That was me for much of my life. I wanted to spend some time here writing about this problem so that others who might be in a similar place will know that I’ve been where they are. I’ve faced the dark, lonely nights and cried out in anguish. I’ve struggled (and failed, many times) to resist lust. I’ve been angry at God for denying me time after time. I’ve doubted He really loved me, or that He was good. I’ve rebelled.
But little by little, over the course of many years, God started to chip away at the stone mask that had blinded me. Was He really the one tormenting me? Was He really denying me bread when I asked for it? Was singleness really just a stage to endure?
Jesus is the Bread
One of my biggest mind-blowing revelations came when I discovered that the verses in Matthew 7— the ones about a good father giving his children bread when they asked for it—had nothing to do with God giving me my desires. No. It had to do with our Heavenly Father giving us Jesus.
I had replaced Jesus as the bread in that parable and made it about me getting my own desires. Because I had made marriage an idol, I saw a relationship as the bread that would save me. If someone worshiped rest, I imagine they would see a vacation as the bread that would save them. But relationships and vacations, though good things, are only temporary. They can’t satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.
But here’s the thing, Jesus can! He is the Bread of Life that never runs dry. He is the only Water that could ever quench our thirst. I was so busy searching for marriage to make me whole, I was missing the call of Christ to find my wholeness in Him and Him alone.
For me, this understanding changed everything. I finally saw that I had been praying to “the god of marriage” and asking for a wife, rather than praying to the Lord God, asking for the Bread of Life.
Yes, of course God cared about my desires. But He cared more that I desired Him.
Changing My Desire
I truly believe that in His great mercy, God withheld marriage from me until I came to the place where I could desire Him more than anything else. It took years for me to see this, and many more to truly heal from the years I’d wasted.
As a married man today, I can attest that marriage is indeed a great thing, but it is not The Great Thing. It is merely a shadow of Someone so much bigger and so much greater than anything we can truly understand. I was a starving man, looking to a shadow of food and thinking it could sustain me when what I needed to do more than anything else was turn to the real food that was casting that shadow and to find my satisfaction there.
Today, I can honestly say that I believe there is nothing and no one in all of creation that will bring as much satisfaction as Jesus. He is the Real Thing that all other things reflect. He is “The One” I should have been chasing with reckless abandon all my life.
If you gain anything from these words of mine, I pray it’s this: God loves you and cares about you so much that He wants to give you the very best Gift imaginable. He wants to give you Himself. Turn to Him and lay down whatever it is you think will sustain you. I promise, if you truly turn to Jesus, you will not be disappointed.