Single Christian women: how should we then wait...

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Note: Here is a comment appearing beneath Marriage, student debt, and motherhood.... My sister in Christ, Jessica, asks a question that is burning in all our churches and I'd like to ask our readers to respond to it here in the comments section of this post. What advice do you have for sisters desiring marriage who are wondering what steps are proper for them to take as women?

You'll see I've put down some preliminary thoughts, but I'm hopeful others will also respond. One rule, though: No one who despises God's command that wives submit to their husbands may respond. This is an in-God's-house conversation that must have as a foundation submission to God's commands to husbands and wives. Thanks.

Tim- I have a question for you... I have many godly single women friends, all of whom would like to be married but are without even a single prospect among them. What is the appropriate role of a single woman, particularly one who is desiring a husband? More specifically, how forward is she allowed to be? I mean, we all say wait for the Lord, His timing is perfect, occupy yourseld with other things, etc. ...and I think most of the time, that all may be fine advice. But I seem to recall a certain woman named Ruth who DID kind of take things into her own hands. Is there a place for women being that forward? Even with a man with whom you've never actually discussed marriage or dated? What are your thoughts on this?

As an example, one of my friends is 35, has been on the mission field for 11+ years, and has a burdened heart for a husband and is waiting ... but should she be doing more?

(Signed) Jessica

This is typical of a number of issues where we should be somewhat hesitant to say what ought to be done because some may conclude the suggestions are law, and thus have their consciences bound where God has given freedom.

Granted, God has not given freedom concerning the relationship between the sexes in matters of authority and purity. But how we work His decrees of father-rule and heterosexual, monogamous, life-long, covenantal marriage out in our lives must involve a large component of personality and culture. What is seen to be a matter of purity in Africa may not be purity here, for instance. Similarly, what might be considered improper female initiative for one woman in one church may well not be improper with another sister in another church.

Let me give an example. In our church, we had a godly older mother-in-Israel who was universally respected. Although there is some debate about this, my wife and I remember her instructing a young woman to go up and sit next to a young man during evening worship. She told the young woman something like this: "You can't take the initiative, but you can go up and help him to notice you."

That's common sense and I think she was right.

It's painful to see godly women waiting on men to take responsibility for building a marriage and home. Pastors and elders need to challenge the young men of their church to step up to the plate and swing, trusting that God is pleased to give good gifts to His children today as He has been in the past--and this despite our real weaknesses as men, today.

Years ago, when John MacArthur was preaching on the 1Peter 3 and the nature of the godly adornment women should put on, he did something unusual. Listening to his sermon on tape, I heard him stop mid-sermon and address the young men of his church directly. His challenge went something like this:

And you young men, listen to me. There are a lot of women here in this church who have adorned themselves with godliness, and it's time for you to notice and do something about it!

That was all, but it was met by spontaneous applause from his congregation. This sort of challenge is needed in the church today.

About seven years ago, I spoke at a singles retreat down in the deep south. Prior to the retreat, I spent time listening to the full time singles pastor as he unburdened himself concerning the challenges he faced working with his flock. There were many good women adorned by godliness and ready for marriage and motherhood, but the men weren't willing to commit themselves. So I spoke about biblical manhood and challenged the men to see that an unwillingness to bear the very real weight of responsibility taking a wife entails was sin. For many of them, I said, true repentance in the face of our feminized culture would mean marriage and fatherhood.

The fruit of that conference was bittersweet. The singles pastor who brought me there saw the men of his flock go home, propose to their girlfriend, and marry. It was sweet in that they finally became men and founded a Christian home. But it was bitter in that my friend's singles ministry was decimated by the departure of a whole host of young couples who left the singles minisry behind.

Now please don't accuse me of having a low view of singleness as the Apostle Paul describes it in 1Corinthians 7. Clearly God calls some to singleness and it's my habit always to mention that call in any discussion of courtship, betrothal, dating, or marriage. We should never neglect to affirm that the first step to be taken is to seek God's will as to one's own calling concerning marriage. Singleness must be honored among us as a godly calling, and nothing less than constant references to its honor will do in our sex-saturated culture.

Also, please don't think I'm being cavalier about the challenge of marrying in our immoral and anti-Christian day. Almost all the men I was speaking to were college graduates with well-established careers, so these were not young pups still needing to put a few years under their belt on the road to manhood. Rather, they were men who were dating women in the group, often for years on end, without ever being challenged to have faith in God and love these women by taking them to be their wives.

And yet, while honoring singleness and warning against being precipitous in engagement and marriage, the larger need of out time is to help men to walk by faith, shouldering their male responsibilities despite their intimate knowledge of their own weakness. Ultimately, let's acknowledge that there's a lot of truth to the statement that the only preparation for marriage, fatherhood, and motherhood is marriage, fatherhood, and motherhood. You know what I mean?

That, and prayer with faith in the power of God to accomplish in us what He commands of us.