Dating, Theology of Singleness

The Lie of Scarcity

“I have come that they might have life and have it in abundance” John 10:10

A few years ago I became quite convinced that the reason I was single was that there were no suitable single, Christian men. At least none remotely close to my age. This perception was largely informed by my experiences at the various churches I had attended, or visited, in the UK, the USA, Australian and the Middle East. Wherever I went I would look around and see a good number of women sitting on their own, but very few, or even no men on their own, or with friends. From this observational viewpoint it was easy for me to conclude that there must not be enough single, Christian men to go around. Looking online I read various Christian, and secular, blogs, magazine and news articles that also seemed to have come to the same conclusion and it seemed to be a generally accepted truth, a Christian woman, over a certain age, would find it very hard to get married to a Christian man (a bit Jane Austen if you like).

So it was a bit of a shock to me, some years later, when I was talking to a single, Christian man (and yes a good one) that he and his male friends (also Christians) thought that there were not enough good, single, Christian women to go around. I was aghast, what are you talking about I thought, that is total rubbish. It is us women who are faced with the shortage while you men just have the luxury of not only being able to choose from all us wonderful ladies but from all the younger women too. Something that a woman cannot do as if a man wants children and you have passed or are passing that age he will rule you out automatically. What struck me most however, after this conversation, was that both men and women perceived that there was a lack of suitable partners. That  both thought there were just not enough suitable, single, Christian men or women to go around and because of this we would all be stuck as reluctant singles for the rest of our lives.

But is this really the way that we are supposed to perceive or explain our singleness? Why do we believe that God can provide food, shelter, jobs, healing and quote verses like ‘the cattle on a thousand hills are his’ and ‘my God will supply all my needs’ if we think that this is only true in certain areas? Does God really not have enough marriage partners to go around? Did He make a miscalculation on the marriage front and count wrongly and thus leave us short? The key question I realized is if our God is who He says He is and if Jesus said that He came that we may have life and have it in abundance  then why would there not be enough men or women to go around for all who desire to get married? And regardless of what we see with our eyes, why are we not living more by faith and less by sight in this area?

I spent a considerable amount of time in the UK last year and while there I thought ok there seems to be many more single men here so why don’t I try online dating with a Christian site. I discovered that there were in fact so many nice, single, Christian men looking to meet a nice, single Christian woman. I also realized that many of the things that these men wrote on their profiles sounded very similar to what I knew some of my friends and I had written on theirs. They desired to meet someone of good character, who was kind, who wanted to enjoy life, who loved Jesus for example. I went on a few dates with a few different guys and as I talked to them I realized that there were in fact more good, single, Christian men than I, and many Christian women, realized. And while I did not meet someone with whom I really clicked, the result was that the Lord started to challenge me about how I thought about Him. He challenged me about not having a scarcity mindset when it comes to meeting Mr. Right.

The topic of scarcity is actually an economic concept and there is a wonderful book, called ‘Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much’ which talks about the psychology of scarcity or what not having enough of something (or a perception of that) does to the mind. The authors explain how not having enough money or time or friends actually changes how we think and perceive the world. A scarcity mindset appears to paralyze the brain and stop people looking for other solutions or possibilities. It keeps people looking down rather than looking around, inward instead of outward and side to side instead of straight ahead. When we believe that there is not enough money or friends or time, etc. to go around we act differently than how we would have had we believed that there were in fact alternatives or options or possibilities to meet our needs. There is, in short, a psychological impact on us when we have a scarcity mindset such that the belief in lack actually manifests more lack and so the poor stay poor, the lonely stay lonely and the busy stay busy.

The Bible supports this theory and we read many stories demonstrating that believing always precedes seeing (Abraham, Joseph and Joshua for example). So if we are not believing that we will see something than it is unlikely that we will, no matter how likely it might be statistically. Proverbs 23:7 says ‘As a man thinketh in his heart so is he’, implying that if we believe that there are not enough good men or women to go around then we will probably experience that. Not because it is necessarily true but because we actually stop looking as a result of this belief. In doing so we are probably missing very real opportunities to meet some wonderful people, one of whom might just be the one that God has for us. When we think that there is no hope of meeting someone than we can adopt a lifestyle that reflects this. Rather than being open to new possibilities and going to new places with a hopeful attitude, we stay at home or only go places with our old friends. We don’t push ourselves out of our comfort zones because we have already decided that there isn’t any point because we won’t meet anyone there anyway.

Some of this thinking is self-protective. We think that if we don’t get our hopes up then we might just be positively surprised but at least we won’t be disappointed. We think that by thinking that there is less and not more we will lower our expectations and protect ourselves. But the truth is that we remain disappointed in any case and now our disappointment is tinged with bitterness that God has indeed let us down. I often wonder how many people settle in with low expectations and a belief that there isn’t anyone for them, telling themselves that this is just how things are and as a result lead lives of quiet desperation. Or of subtle bitterness, resentment, cynicism and resignation. How many single Christians give up going to church or start dating non-believers because they have decided to believe the lie that ‘there are not enough good, single Christian men or women’? I know quite a few. And I know personally just how hard it is to keep hoping when there seems to be no reason in the natural to hope at all.

I was challenged by the Lord to take Him at His word about who He says He is: generous, loving, a good Father who freely gives His children all things, and why He says He came: that I might have life and have it in abundance (John 10:10). I decided to stop confessing lack over my life, particularly over my dating life. I do not believe that our loving Father has somehow miscalculated the number of suitable men and women and therefore has to keep so many people single who wish to be married. That is absurd to suggest, yet so many single and married Christians subscribe to this worldview. I believe that for every person who seeks to be married God desires for them to be so too. It sounds outlandish to say maybe. But let me ask you is it outlandish to say I believe that our God is a healer that He hates cancer and wants to see every person healed? Why does it not always happen though you ask? Why do people still die of cancer and why do some people not to meet someone to marry? To be honest I don’t know but should we stop believing that God heals or that God brings us together with our spouse just because it doesn’t happen every time? If someone is sick should we say that God might not heal you so we won’t pray and we won’t hope that He does. Never, that would be horrible! If someone can’t have a baby do we tell them to give up, that maybe God doesn’t have enough babies to go around? No way. If some lacks a job do we tell them that maybe God doesn’t have enough jobs and so they might be unemployed their whole lives, never!

Somehow we have started to believe that when it comes to marriage God doesn’t have enough good Christian men or Christian women. We tell ourselves that we should just lower our expectations and as a result we settle in for lives of bitter resignation. Or lives where we pretend we are ok because it is not ‘Christian’ or ‘acceptable’ to say that we are not. Where we can’t admit that we are actually afraid that if we get our hopes up then we will be even more disappointed. And then we basically fulfil our own prophecy. We dress like we don’t care, we don’t go anywhere and we say things like ‘I don’t need to make an effort because a guy or girl should like me how I am’. Then when no person materializes we blame God and or say things like ‘I should never have tried, see I told you there was no one good out there’. Worse still when one of our friends ventures out and it doesn’t work out we say ‘I told you so, see there aren’t any good men (or women) out there and that is why I don’t try at all’.

What a sad state of affairs so many of us find ourselves in, secretly wanting to be married and to believe that there is someone for us, but being too afraid to live this hope out. Essentially believing that God is stingy and that He doesn’t have enough wonderful, single Christians for all the other wonderful, single Christians. I realized that fundamentally my problem with believing that there weren’t enough good men was that what I was really doing was doubting and questioning the character of God. And of course that is exactly where the devil wanted me (and you) to be. He wants us to think that there isn’t enough, he wants us to think that God is stingy and capricious, he wants us to think that if we didn’t get married young enough that there just isn’t a person for us. More dangerous though is that when we start thinking these things about one area of our lives we begin to think them about every area. We will begin to think well if God can’t supply me a husband then can he really supply me with a new job, or a breakthrough in my health or better relationships with a parent or sibling. We start to think, mostly subconsciously, that if God is a God of scarcity then maybe I am just one of the unlucky few (or many) for whom His promises will not apply because He only has enough for a certain amount of people and no more.

But does this sound like Jesus to you? It doesn’t sound like Him to me. If we consider the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand we see in both parables that not only did He feed very many with very little, but His disciples also collected up leftover food far in excess of what was first given. Further to that we also see that where the least amount was given, 5 loaves and 2 fishes, the greater amount of people were fed (5,000). So according to Kingdom economics the less we have the more Jesus will do with it, as long as we will give it to Him. And no matter what we give to Him, He always gives us back more than we gave. But most importantly Jesus gives generously and without limitations. In these two miracles all the people ate as much as they wanted until they were full, there weren’t any rations to make sure there was enough to go around, nobody was checking that they didn’t take too much, no there was enough and MORE. We can see that in the life and the words of Jesus that He is the giver of the abundant life and that scarcity has no part in His Kingdom. It should have no part in our lives either.

When we, as singles, start to tell ourselves, our friends and our families that there aren’t enough good Christian men or women to go around, we are not speaking abundance. We are declaring lack over our lives as sure as if we spoke about not having enough money. But Paul in Philippians 4:19 writes that ‘My God will supply ALL my needs’ and Jesus said ‘I have come that they might have life, and have it in ABUNDANCE.’ Trust the Lord that He has the right person for you, and for any other single Christians you know. Declare ‘God has a wonderful spouse for me’;  ‘God has planned all the days of my life before one of them came to be and thus He has planned for my spouse too’. Doubts may fly into your mind, most of them based on poor theology about the so called ‘gift’ of singleness (see my post on this here) or on faulty secular studies and statistics about singles today (see the same post which talks about the fact that if you want to get married, statistically it is almost guaranteed). Some of these doubts and fears, however, are generated by well-meaning people who are desperate to be able to explain their own, or other people’s, singleness. Sadly, the best, and sometimes only, explanation that they can find is this apparent shortage of appropriate partners.

Sometimes though we have to accept that we cannot explain our lives, that for now there isn’t a reason or clear explanation of why we are single. And we have to be ok with that. This is where our faith has to come into play and where we need to live by faith and not by sight. Where we say Lord I do not understand but I trust that you are a God of abundance not lack, you promised to supply all my needs, you promised that none shall lack her mate, you promised that the lonely would be in families. So Lord I stand on your word today and say with Habakuk that though there be no grapes on the vine, no animals in the stall and no crops in the fields I will still praise you. Because I believe that that you are who you say you are and I will take encouragement from the words God spoke in Habakkuk 2:3:

This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.

Today join me in banishing the scarcity mindset from all areas of your life, in particular when it comes to meeting that special someone. Trust in the Lord, lean on Him and know that He has not forgotten you and you will not be put to shame! He is who He says He is, our loving Father, Our Saviour and the giver of an ABUNDANT life.  God bless you and encourage you mightily today.

 

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