As years have passed and my singleness remains, some counsel I’ve found to be quite scarce to single people who desire marriage is to grieve the sense of loss that sets in when marriage doesn’t come. But, the Bible shows us how to respond to the losses in our lives: lamenting to the Lord.
We see the practice of lament throughout scripture. It is a prominent aspect of living in relationship with God in the midst of a broken world. Lament is not about wallowing in a place of despair or depression. It is about being honest before the Lord when His good character and our painful circumstances don’t seem to make sense. It involves turning to God, bringing our complaints to Him, asking Him for help, and choosing to trust Him. Mark Vroegop puts it this way:
“Lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust. Throughout the Scriptures, lament gives voice to strong emotions that believers feel because of suffering. It wrestles with the struggles that surface. Lament typically asks at least two questions: 1) ‘Where are you, God?’ 2) ‘If you love me, why is this happening?’”
For me, I have always wanted to marry young and have children young–but that has not been God’s plan for me. Do I regret how my life has turned out? Absolutely not. I see God’s faithfulness to me in a thousand ways. I can look back on my life and say: “the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (Psalm 92:15). And yet sometimes, I feel deeply the loss of what could have been: “my days are past; my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart” (Job 17:11). I will never marry young or have children in my twenties. Those years are gone. The possibility of having children around the same time as my siblings and closest friends is slipping away. The possibility of having any biological children at all is slipping away. At times, that’s deeply sad to me – and that’s okay.
John Piper said, “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life that you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life He’s given you.” Ecclesiastes says there is a time to weep. Jesus Himself wept. The Psalms and prophets are full of laments. Indeed, “the Bible gives us permission to weep deeply over the life we hoped we would have, and not feel ashamed of that hope or disappointment.” We should allow ourselves to lament the loss that comes with unwanted singleness. Lament is the way God has designed for us to process pain, and lament is also a doorway to wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 7:4 says, “The house of the wise is in the house of mourning.” Why is that? Because the world is broken, and so are we. To lament is to live in reality. We often ignore it, but when sorrow comes, it serves as a “reorientation to the brokenness that lies underneath all of our lives.” It reminds us that we live in a world with unexplainable pain and forces us to wrestle with God about it. Lament is not only a balm to soothe our souls. It is also smelling salts to rouse our hearts. It awakens us to the reality of sin, suffering, loss, and pain–and also to the gospel, hope, redemption, and heaven. Lament is the way God brings healing to our souls, and it is also a way He imprints wisdom deeply on our hearts.
Faithfulness – Ours and God’s
Unwanted singleness is a loaded gift. It has a freeing simplicity, but it also has unanswered questions, hopes deferred, and gradual losses. Our call is to be faithful with whatever God gives us. In the parable of the stewards, the master gives each servant talents to work with. For those who stewarded them well, the master’s response was, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
Part of stewarding faithfully is rightly identifying the “talents” we have. We often talk about being faithful with the advantages of singleness, but neglect talking about being faithful with the trials and losses. All are gifts from the hand of God. If we are single and don’t want to be, it is not an accident. God is not overlooking us. He is purposely giving us something. When He gives us unwanted singleness, it is like He is giving us three talents labeled gift, trial, and loss. We should be faithful with all of them. We respond faithfully to the gift of unwanted singleness when we use our single years for strategic kingdom service. We respond faithfully to the trial of unwanted singleness when we endure with patience and steadfastness, linking arms with brothers and sisters who also have trials of various kinds. We respond faithfully to the loss of unwanted singleness when we don’t ignore it, but lament it.
When I was 21, I couldn’t imagine being single into my 30’s–yet, here I am. It’s easy to look back and see God’s faithfulness; it’s harder to look forward and trust that it will be there. But because of Christ, I can say: “As for You, O Lord, You will not restrain Your mercy from me; Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness will ever preserve me” (Psalm 40:11). The Lord will not restrain His mercy from me. If what I need is grace for unwanted singleness for 2 more years or 50 more–I will have it.
For as long as we have unwanted singleness, we have a multi-faceted gift. Let us faithfully and humbly steward it–and also hold it loosely. The gift of singleness has an expiration date, whether in this life or the next. We have no idea what gifts God has in store for our lives on earth, but we know exactly what He has in store for faithful stewards: “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).
 See Genesis 50:10; Numbers 11:11-15; Job 3, 6-7, 10, 16, 23, 26, 30, 31; Psalm 3, 5, 6, 10, 22, 35, 42, 43, 44, 69, 74, 80, 88, 94, 102, 137, 143; Jeremiah 12:1-4, 15:18; Lamentations; Micah 7; Habakkuk 1:1-4.
 Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds Deep Mercy (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), p. 29.
 Vroegop, 28.
 John Piper. “Embrace the Life God Has Given You.” Desiring God, accessed March 10, 2021, https://www.desiringgod.org/embrace-the-life-god-has-given-you
 Lore Wilbert, Sleeping Alone, 68, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5877a990725e25a56603b679/t/5a665556e2c48324bb327296/1516655969414/Sleeping+Alone.pdf
 Vroegop, 91.