Worldly Singles: No Worries
Although the married and family life has preoccupied most of my time in recent years, nevertheless, through pastoral ministry and friendships I interact with a lot of singles. Curiously, more than any other demographic that I have encountered, it is Christian single who seems to be the most anxious about their vocation. In short, they fear that they will not find that right person.
On the other side of the spectrum, it is increasingly the case that non-religious or sub-religious singles deliberately choose not to get married. For them, shacking-up suffices to meet their needs. In fact, Pew Research has found that the number of people getting married since 1960 had dropped by 20 percentage points. More recently, from 2009 to 2010, in just one year, the marriage rate dropped by 5 percent. That's a lot!
But as for Christian singles who want to get married- whose main ambition it is to get married -many of them have a very difficult time reconciling their current status with God’s will. Not a few of them lost their peace about their future believing that somewhere along the line they messed up and made the wrong decision, thus putting themselves outside of Divine Providence. On the flipside, their non-religious counterparts seem to go with the flow, almost carelessly. If they get married, they get married; if not, no big deal! This is attitude of those who subscribe to worldly values, anyways. To an extent, there are some understandable reasons why Christian singles seem to fret more than worldly singles about getting married.
For instance, Christian singles are called by Christ to live chastely. As far as their options are concerned, “shacking-up," or just "sleeping around," just to relieve sexual tension, is off the table. For non-religious or secular singles, on the other hand, they are more likely to be sexually active or even cohabitate before marriage…if they marry at all. In other words, unlike those who aspire to follow Christ, such people enjoy the perks of marriage while foregoing the sacrifice and demands of marriage. Under these circumstances, to wait for the right person isn't as urgent for them.
In contrast, Christians, by and large, put a high premium on the institution of marriage. Needless to say, their counterparts, by and large, do not…at least not as much. In short, this accounts for some of the anxiety suffered by Christian singles. Having sensed the calling to the married life, they want to get on with their life with a companion. It would almost seem that their life is on hold until they get married. Some would have you believe, life has yet to begin until this one missing piece to the puzzle is in place. To be sure, many Christian singles go through a real crisis of faith as they await the answer to their prayers.
Misinterpreting God’s Plan
But there is another factor at play which takes us to the very heart of God’s will and His providence: This factor is what may be called the “Sacrament of the Moment.” The Sacrament of the Moment is a common teaching among the Saint, but too often, it is overlooked by Christian singles and those who face uncertainty. Let me explain.
Many Christian singles rack themselves with anxiety over the thought they did something to “mess up” God’s plan for their vocation. They maintain that perhaps the right person came along but they did not recognize “their time of visitation;” that is, they missed that one and only opportunity to get married. Their anxiety also has them wonder if they broke up with a person they should have never broken up with. Or it could be that- given their bad luck – they think that they will never find that right person at all. In their reasoning, therefore, it is as if their belief in random chance – circumstances which lie outside of God’s control – is stronger than their faith in God’s all-powerful wise counsel.
Whatever the crisis, one has to believe in one of two things: 1) Either every single circumstance is within God’s control or 2) It is not. Strangely, many Christians choose to believe the latter; not so much in theory but in practice. And in tending toward the latter, they struggle to reconcile God’s loving will – not only with supposed missed opportunities -but suffering and misfortune as well. In other words, they chalk up their trials and suffering to chance. This belief, no doubt, is inspired by noble motives. After all, they do not wish to criticize the Lord when they find themselves in a crisis. So, in order to spare God of criticism they conclude that suffering and setbacks are not of God’s doing. This assumption is quite prevalent among believers.
The downside to this belief system is that if we press this reasoning to its logical conclusion, it means that adversity is meaningless; that is, the trials that we encounter were never meant to be.
God Writes Straight With Crooked Lines
Yet, if we see that the circumstances of each day are but the manifestation of God’s plan for us, then we can also understand that what appears to be a senseless drought of romance and marital love is every bit as meaningful as getting married. No doubt, the interim period between our prayers to God and his answer to those prayers may be painful at times. But because God willed it positively (preferred it) or allowed it (with His passive will), we can rest assure that the situation we find ourselves in is good for us nevertheless!
In fact, it is God’s active will that husbands and wives can find fulfillment in the vocation of matrimony in the first place. Yet, if God had not willed this, the married life would not be fulfilling to anyone. What I am trying to say is that the same God who created the institution of marriage and made it an appealing vocation to people, is the same God who has strategically called certain Christians to be single for the moment. Or, to put it another way: the same God who created marriage for the good of humanity, is the same God who withholds the calling of marriage for the good of the single person.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.