Valentine’s Day, a holiday that’s approached with fear and trembling by single people everywhere, is impossible to ignore. Flowers and jewelry are all over the Internet and television. Online matchmaking sites amp up their advertising.
The message is a clear one: “Being single is a fail. Let’s fix that for you.”
Many singles are content to be single, but for those who are single and struggling, I want to say, it’s okay. It’s normal. God made us for each other. He made us with a desire and capacity for love.
For me, the hardest part of being single is not having someone to share my life with. There is an unfulfilled desire for intimacy day after day.
So you pray. You pray for a spouse. When that doesn’t work, you pray for God to transform you into more spouse-like material in hopes that something will change about your demeanor, making you more attractive to the opposite sex. And then finally you get angry and start asking God to take from your heart the desire to be married, to love and be loved, the whole thing altogether.
I had been making that last request, often bitterly, for the better part of a year — daily pleading with God to take it all away. Fussing that it isn’t fair of him to create within us such strong desires for companionship and love, only to allow that those desires would never be actualized.
Why would God be so cruel?
As a single person, I’ve even been told to make that my prayer. But I know it’s imperfect and misguided advice and an imperfect and misguided prayer.
Because we have to place our struggles at the foot of the cross. We have to put our trust in him. We can offer up our miseries and remember that these struggles can help sanctify us.
We can’t pray to God and say, “Hey, what you’ve given me is too hard. Take it back.” Instead, we must pray, “Hey, Lord, this is hard as hell and I need your help with this. I trust in you.”
That helps us advance along the same path for which God created the sacrament of matrimony: the path that leads to him.
The purpose of marriage isn’t to gratify our own needs, or fill some empty longing. The purpose of marriage is to grow in holiness together, each helping the other to attain heaven.
The end goal is always Christ, whether you get to him with the aid of a spouse or not.
So we can’t pray for that longing of love to be removed from our hearts. Instead, pray that God increase that desire and redirect it toward him.
You see, you’re human, created by him for him. That longing you feel, longing for something deeper and greater, will always be there. It’s part of our beautiful humanity. To ask for God to “take it all away” is to ask him to make you less than human.
It took me a long time to realize that. I asked him to take it away, and God said, “No. Love me instead.”
So my message to you single people is, use this gift of singleness as your undistracted time with him. Seek him daily in prayer. Be angry and be honest about your feelings, but also be humble. I know it’s hard, and it hardly seems fair, and it’s perfectly ok to tell him that, often if you must. But always end your prayers with the affirmation that you trust him, and asking that his will be done.
If you long for intimacy, seek spiritual intimacy with God. If you long for love, seek to love God more. Meditate in prayer on what love is and how that love can be put into action. Loving another human being is easy because they’re tangible beings you can see and feel. Loving God can be more difficult because of our limited capacity to understand the magnitude of God’s perfect love.
Your single state provides your time with him. Perhaps you need to spend less time on Internet matchmaking sites and more time in prayer at adoration, before his physical presence. Spend less time focusing on your own sorrows and miseries and more time contemplating his sorrows and sacrifices in order to get a true understanding of boundless unconditional love.
Stop buying into the idea that being single is a problem to be remedied, and think of it as time to grow in holiness.
Don’t shut your heart to love because you think you have nobody to love; instead, open your heart to receive more love than your heart can bear.
Don’t pray for less, pray for more.
Don’t pray for and desire imperfect, fleeting human love and affirmation, but pray for perfect unconditional love that only Christ can offer you. Pray that the love you have ready in your heart be nurtured and magnified for him.
These suggestions aren’t remedies for loneliness or sadness, because being single doesn’t need to be remedied like an illness. Being single needs to be nurtured like a gift. Be encouraged this Valentine’s Day to love and be loved.
Katrina Fernandez has a PhD in being single, and a master’s in single parenting with a concentration in Catholic guilt. She’s been writing about those topics for more than a decade now.