We are concluding this series on the reasons for prolonged singleness! This month is Part 9, wherein I will cover one last reason that people may stay single. As I stated in last month’s blog post, this series does not present an exhaustive list. There can always be other reasons for prolonged singleness. However, my intention was to provide an inventory of the reasons I have encountered both as a prior single person and someone who writes and talks with singles who desire marriage.
This last reason is designed to explore how important marriage is to our well-being. Also, how necessary it is for each one of us to pursue our God-given vocation when we find ourselves thwarted by the phenomenon of prolonged singleness.
The journey out of prolonged singleness to marriage can be a sanctification process for those who are afflicted with it. To give up hope and not traverse this path is tantamount to not picking up your cross and carrying it. (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23)
I want to reassure you that prolonged singleness is a true suffering (To confirm this, I encourage you to read my blog posts, “No Wedding Song” and “Prolonged Singleness and the Bible: A Study of Tobit”). Now there are many reasons to stay safe inside the bondage of prolonged singleness: no dashed dreams, no rejection to experience, no heavy-duty prayer campaigns, no stepping out in faith with God, and no having to look at ourselves or our wounds. However, one would never know all the positives of sharing your life with another person within the Sacrament of Matrimony.
A Sound Analysis
You may want to reference two of my previous blog posts here: “The Vocation Awakening” and “Prolonged Singleness: Are You Stuck in the Single State? “The reason being is that each sets a sound framework for our calling to marriage. Specifically, there is a universal call to marriage that God designed all of us with when he created us (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) §1603). Then there are some people he has chosen to forsake the great good of marriage, to follow Jesus Christ and serve the Kingdom of Heaven (CCC §1618).
In Matthew 19:12, Jesus tells us there are only three reasons that a person does not marry: “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”
You do not need to discern if you are called to marriage because you already know that you are from the Scriptures and the CCC. You may need to discern if you are called to forsake the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb. If you have discerned that you are not called to do so, then you may want to go to step 3 of the analysis:
Do you fall into one of the two categories that Jesus said were incapable of marrying? Were you made incapable of marriage from birth or by others? Most people fall into the second category, being made incapable of fulfilling their vocation to marriage due to the actions of other people. The question becomes, what are you going to do about it?
The behavior of other people (sin) that is acted upon us can be wounding. There can also be the attitudes or actions of the society we live in. Ever since the 1960s, the culture has grown increasingly hostile to marriage and family. There is no adequate or stable system in place to assist single people in meeting other marriage minded individuals and getting married. Thus, it is more difficult for people to find a suitable spouse and marry.
Also, our wounding and societal norms have taught us dysfunctional ways of engaging with the opposite sex. This has not helped matters either.
It is in this plight of loneliness, and the desire for love and marriage, we desperately need to cry out to God for help and for healing. Only he can restore us, enabling us to leave behind our misguided ways and get on the path to finding a suitable spouse. He is also the one who uses this desire we have for marriage to draw us to himself and help us overcome our own woundedness.
Philippians 2:12-13 tells us, “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.” While our initial salvation has nothing to do with our works (effort), our sanctification does. Cooperating with God in this process is vital. And this cooperation requires that we expend energy and intentionality, doing the heavy lifting as we seek God for help with the process. Unfortunately, some people don’t want to do this hard work. Therefore, they never overcome the obstacles keeping them from finding a suitable spouse.
If we were in a sports tournament or had a big project (at school or work), we would have to be disciplined to be able to compete and finish well. The sanctification process and healing from prolonged singleness is no different:
“Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons…. If you are without discipline, in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards…. Should we not submit all the more to the Father of spirits and live? … At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed!” (Hebrews 12:7-12)
Discipline is not fun. However, it is a sign that God love you. (Hebrews 12:5) Working with the Lord through the trial to bear the fruit intended is what God is after. (John 15:16) It is the refusal to do this necessary work that can keep you stuck in the throes of prolonged singleness.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) reiterates this point:
“Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called “mystical” because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments – “the Holy Mysteries” – and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.…The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle….” (CCC §2014-2015)
In conclusion, every reason for prolonged singleness we have looked at in this series requires heavy lifting and the help of God to be overcome. The good news is that there is victory to be had! I encourage you to seek God who can be found, who wants to help us with our trials. I can say this because I know first-hand the power of his saving hand.
Julieanne M. Bartlett All Rights Reserved Copyright 2023