I cannot count the number of times I have heard the phrase “If you just wait on God, He will send you your husband,” or “It’s just not your ‘season’ right now, but keep serving God and the right man will come your way.”
Just this season on BET’s Being Mary Jane, Gabrielle Union’s character had to tell a friend, “I didn’t want to hear you say, ‘wait for God, so he can send you a man, so you can have a baby’ ” when confronted with the fact that she was keeping secrets about her unfulfilling single life.
The TV Mary Jane is making many decisions with which many people of faith would, in fact, disagree (such as sleeping with a married man), yet her frustration with having her feelings dismissed with "the God response" is not uncommon.
All too often, when the issue of single womanhood is finally addressed in church, at women’s conferences or just in casual conversation, the answer is the quick “Just pray.”
The problem is that a pat response suggests there is a simple solution to what is really a complex and very painful dilemma that leaves many people, women in particular, achingly lonely.
For while this question seems simple enough on the surface, it is actually fraught with significant theological implications. When people ask, “If God loves me, why hasn’t my mate shown up?” the often underlying question is really, “Why hasn’t God shown up?” And if your life is built on a faith in a loving, caring God, that can be incredibly painful and create a true crisis of faith.
Moreover, the underlying viewpoint in “just wait on God,” suggests that if you really have faith in God, if you are really good in life, your prince will come. And conversely, if the love of your life has not come, perhaps you may conclude that your faith has failed or that God does not really care.
But, I would offer this response. Genuine longing is not enough and is not necessarily biblical.
There is nothing in the Bible that says if you wait long enough, you will get exactly what you want, when you want it, the exact way you want it. In fact, God often surprises us in ways we could never expect.
And telling someone that if he or she does all the “right” things, then God will show up like a spiritual Santa Claus and give them the spouse they desire does not line up either. One of the best examples of this is that Christians believe that Jesus did everything right, but in the end, he did the thing he did not “want” to do by going to the cross to fulfill God’s bigger plan.
We cannot accept the premise that those in relationships are more loved by God, or that those persons who aren’t in relationships are any less beloved.
So, where does that leave us on this Valentine’s Day?
Does that mean that prayer is pointless or that God is not going to come if we hold out and wait for God to move?
No. I believe that God still answers prayer and that God can still send you the love of your life. I am just saying that neither I nor anyone else can presume to tell you how God is going to answer your prayers. So, the last thing any of us should do is put our lives on hold until the perfect person comes or until you get to “your season." Pray and keep moving!
If we believe that “for everything there is a season…” (Eccl. 3:1-8), then that means that you don’t have to wait on your season, because in God, every season is your season! It may not be wedding season, but God still has great things for your life.
I would never suggest that the longing for a life mate will magically go away. And your joy may, indeed, come from finding the right mate. But it may come from where you least expect it.
Joy may find you as you adopt a child in need of a loving parent. Fulfillment may overtake you as you embrace and live out your calling, profession or public-service passion. You may see the face of God’s love in the possibility promised by each new sunrise, in the laughter of an innocent child, in the comfort and company of friends and family or in the pursuit of that dream that stirs in your soul.
God’s love letter to us includes this declaration that “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). And if you are a believer, you believe that God has already so loved you, that God has, indeed, already shown up and that you are already loved more than you could ever know.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Frances Cudjoe Waters is a United Methodist pastor as well as a writer, blogger and frequent lecturer with a focus on issues of faith and justice, culture and family life. She has written for The Root and the Huffington Post and blogs at BTransformed.com. Follow her on Twitter.