What do you feel when you hear the phrase “not yet married”?
Some will readily, even happily identify with the label. You’ve wanted to be married for a while now, and you don’t mind that others know about your desire. You sense God calling you to be a husband or a wife someday, even though that calling’s unconfirmed today. Your life is not all about finding “the one,” because you have given your life to Jesus, but you would love to share that life with someone and pursue him together. You don’t know what God will do, or if you will ever marry, but it’s clear that whatever might happen (or whoever), for now it is not yet.
Others will immediately be offended by the same four syllables. I know because I’ve read and responded to the emails. Perhaps you’re reading this article to validate your utter dissatisfaction with such a shallow view of singleness. Why would we define ourselves by the absence of marriage, especially if we are children of the living God, bought at infinite price, filled with divine power, and promised an eternity of life and happiness? I am not “not-yet-married,” you may say. I’m perfectly happy just as I am — my schedule, my career, my ministry, my freedom.
I often responded that way to married advice and encouragement during my single years — “Stop defining me by my singleness!” But I’ve come to like the phrase “not-yet-married” for at least four big reasons.
1. Some of you want to be married.
First, many Christians do have a deep and enduring desire for marriage. Their hearts ache to find a husband or a wife. It’s a calling they believe God has put on their life, and yet it’s still an unrealized and unconfirmed calling today.
Many of them have tried to pursue marriage the right way — not diving in too quickly, making sure to set clear standards and boundaries, and leaning in to hear from good friends and counselors. But it hasn’t worked out. The dates they have been on haven’t gone well, or no one’s ever shown any interest.
Others have thrown themselves into one relationship after another, dragged around by their desires for intimacy, and led into sexual immorality and regret. They’ve been told their desire for marriage is good, but they have no idea how to take the next step, or how to think about all these months, even years, of brokenness and loneliness. That may not be you, but it was me, and it’s at least a few of your Christian friends.
Regardless of your dating history, I want to shape your waiting and longing for marriage with everything Jesus has already given and promised us, and with the work he’s given you to do in every season of life, regardless of your marital status.
2. Most of you will be married.
Secondly, statistically most of you will be married. A few of you will be called to lifelong singleness, and it will be beautiful to watch you savor Christ and serve others as a single man or woman. It will be stunning for the world to see — someone trading the pleasure of marital love and sexual intimacy for a lifetime of singular devotion to God and laying down your life to bring others to him. But most of you will be married, even if that’s not on your radar or priority list today.
If trends from the last couple hundred years continue, the average believer will be married at some point in their life. Therefore, it seems appropriate to talk to most believers in their twenties or thirties as if they might one day be married. We should not be consumed by that reality, define our progress or contentment by our marital status, or give all of ourselves to pursuing marriage. We should, however, be preparing ourselves to be ready and faithful if God calls us to love and serve a husband or wife.
3. Some of you have given up on marriage.
Others are not convinced. You’re still skeptical and offended. Ironically, that’s another reason I’ve come to like the phrase “not yet married.” More and more young adults, at least in America today, are disillusioned with, and pessimistic about, marriage.
Several factors are at work, I’m sure. The pain of divorce may be the biggest. Fewer sons and daughters have seen their father and mother fulfill their vows and persevere in love. Put another way, more of us have tasted divorce firsthand as children, or watched our friends suffer from it. Why would I think my marriage would survive? Why would I subject myself to that kind of regret and pain?
But God gives us hope. He is the one who joins man and wife, and he can preserve their union, and make it flourish. With God, you can believe again in marriage. One of the most radical and countercultural things we can do today to declare our faith in Jesus is to marry someone and remain faithful to them, and only them, until we die.
4. Every Christian will be married.
Lastly, on this side of heaven, we are all not-yet-married in the most important sense. Every wedding day in this age is a pointer to a wedding day to come, when we are given again, forever, to our Savior and King. On that day, we will sing, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7). God made every marriage a movie poster of a marriage to come — a marriage every single believer in Jesus will enjoy one day and forever.
The way we love a husband or wife, as imperfectly as we will love him or her, tells the world about the kind of love God has for us — and yet it will be as nothing compared to the real thing: an eternity of peace, joy, and life purchased for us by our Bridegroom at the cross. One day we’ll get to meet him face-to-face. It will be the greatest family reunion of all time — the wedding to end all weddings — when God, with open arms, receives us, despite all our brokenness, made beautiful by the blood of Jesus.
In Christ, we will all be married, and that marriage to come shapes every other desire and longing in this life — especially our desires for marriage.
Mobilizing the Not-Yet-Married
Being “not-yet-married” is not about dwelling on the negative. If you are in Christ, you are never again defined by what you are not. You have too much in him to be discouraged about not having anything else — even things as important in this life as a job, or a spouse, or children. The things that fill our lives and make us happy here are simple grains of sand compared to the endless beaches of knowing Christ.
It was, after all, an unmarried man who said, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8–9).
And being not-yet-married is not about waiting quietly in the corner of the world for God to bring us a spouse. It’s about mobilizing you — a growing generation and movement of single men and women — out of shame, selfishness, and self-pity into deeper levels of love for Christ and more consistent and creative ministry to others.