Skip to content

Singleness, Suffering, and Christian Hope

Lisa Wink, a friend from church, was 33-years-old and still wasn’t married in 2007, despite years of waiting for a husband. I probably would have asked her out if I were single, but I was already happily engaged to my 26-year-old fiance.

“Josh, I’m serious. I’m at the end of my rope,” she said, standing outside church after a Christmas service. “It’s getting harder to believe I’ll ever get married.”

I could see the frustration and fear in Lisa’s eyes, and I cautiously told her that I sensed God would soon move on her behalf in this area. He did. By the time my wife and I married three months later, Lisa was seriously involved with a 36-year-old stud named Tim Schultz. Before the year was over, they were happily married.

Now Tim and Lisa actively minister to many of the single people in our church, empathizing with the suffering of singleness, speaking from experience. So I asked Tim to share their story, and I believe it will encourage you, no matter what your marital status.

* Note: Many, many people have told Tim and me that we look alike.  As you can see from the photo on the left, they are correct.  Even when my wife saw that photo, she did a double take.

* * *

There are much worse forms of suffering than unwanted singleness, but there are few forms of suffering that are addressed more poorly by the church. This is probably because the burden is (1) carried disproportionately by a small portion of the church (single women, age 27-45), and (2) met with insufficient empathy by church leadership (most of whom are married men).*

*True story: I know of a church elder who comforted a 37-year-old single woman by telling her, “I know this must be tough, but think of it this way: it’s nothing like the pain of elderly women who lose their husbands after decades of marriage.” Real smooth, brother.

My wife and I come to this issue as a couple who was married much later than our youthful expectations (not to mention the expectations of our parents). Because the scars from our suffering are so fresh, Lisa and I have a heart for those who struggle with unwanted singleness.

If you know my wife casually or just see her picture, it is hard to think of her as ever “suffering with singleness.” She’s beautiful and also approachable – though not a networker, she has 1,151 Facebook friends and counting. Yet Lisa, a woman with abundant social capital, struggled greatly with singleness, and you can be certain that many others do as well.

Lisa had been a faithful Christian since her mid-teens, served as a missionary for six years during her twenties, and entered her sexual prime at age 33 as a very reluctant virgin. Naturally, she started to hate weddings.

And why wouldn’t she? It was one thing when her wild, younger sister beat her to the altar, but another when Lisa was still single and attending other people’s weddings ten years later.

Then her friend Alicia, a 38-year-old divorcee, converted to Christianity and began meeting some of Lisa’s guy friends. On a group date one night, Alicia came as a late-addition, hitting it off instantly with her date. Lisa’s night ended with her date revealing that he “didn’t have a peace” about her. A week later, Alicia and her new man were already getting serious. Six months later, Alicia was married.

Lisa had managed to pick up the pieces by then and was several months into a relationship with a promising new guy. Of course, they broke up shortly before he could accompany her to Alicia’s wedding and shortly after he told her, “You’re perfect for me, but you don’t really challenge me intellectually.” (Believe it or not, he’s still single.)

Even Christmas served up indignities. She spent eight, consecutive holidays with her parents as their one, remaining “single adult child.” Christmas cards arrived in bulk from former sorority sisters, Facebook friends, and girls she babysat when they were five. Married. Married. Married.

Two adult sisters? Married with multiple children. Two serious exes? Both married their next girlfriend.

The low point came around Christmas of 2007. Even though Lisa felt like a loser, she was conspicuously not invited to a party thrown by women in the church – they didn’t want the competition. Even her female, Christian friends didn’t want her around. Damn it all. Lisa returned to her empty house that night and wept uncontrollably as she pounded her fists into the bed and yelled at God in anger.

Like Lisa, I returned to my parents’ home for Christmas of 2007, pondering a relationship that had ended only weeks before. I was sad, because it was the first relationship in years that had real promise.

I spent my teens and early twenties thinking that God would reward me for being a good Christian boy by giving me the wife of my dreams. When He didn’t, I spent a decade dating casually and with little regard for God’s way. Now I was 36-years-old and still spending Christmas with my parents.

I had been drawing closer to God in the previous 18 months, but I was convinced that any serious Christian woman would be turned off by my relationship history and my lost spiritual decade. I told my friend Rohini that I doubted any woman would ever love me enough to marry me.

In January, I received a spam email from a dating website called Christiancafe.com. Enticed by the free, two-week membership and (as I recall) a bit of mild inebriation, I posted a profile.

Several days later, I received a call at work from Rohini, who told me that she wanted to set me up with an eligible bachelorette named Lisa, whom she had met on Capitol Hill. She excitedly suggested I come to an event where we could meet.

Later that day, I received an email in my Christiancafe.com inbox that ended with this line: “My name is Lisa, and I work for the Senate Chaplain.” Having no idea that Rohini was already trying to set us up, Lisa – the Lisa – had also joined Christiancafe.com and emailed me. Providence was at work.

Lisa and I met for a date after our Rohini/Christiancafe.com set up, and eight months later, we were married on October 4, 2008.*

*By the way, Joshua Rogers was in attendance that night. And while he humbly calls himself a spiritual “klutz,” on the dance floor he is anything but. In the category of “Best White Male Dancers from Mississippi,” informed experts rank it:
1A: Joshua Rogers
1B: (tie) Elvis

As I stood up to say a few words about Lisa at our wedding reception, there was a palpable sense of joy in the room that went beyond ordinary wedding happiness. Everyone who knows Lisa felt a deep sense of relief, because they knew they were witnessing The End – the end of every romantic near-miss, the end of her constant feeling of aimlessness, the end of every tear-stained journal page. Those crushing Christmases, those bittersweet weddings, those invitations that never came . . . Gone. All gone.

Gone, but not forgotten. Although our suffering officially ended that night, every minute of heartache now served to make our present joy greater and fuller than if we had never suffered. Our suffering wasn’t merely being erased or compensated for. Instead, God was somehow using our suffering to enlarge and perfect our joy.

To us, that moment was a picture of our ultimate Christian Hope: ours is the only faith that would dare use a barbaric device like the cross as a symbol of triumph. God is not only with us in our suffering, as He proved at the cross, but He will transform our suffering, as He proved at the resurrection.

Lisa and I have never been happier than we were on our wedding day. But even the very best day of life on earth is only a foretaste – a dim hint – of what it will feel like when we finally meet the Lord.

If you are a Christian who is struggling with singleness, I am praying for your suffering to end. I don’t know how and when it will end, but I can absolutely guarantee that God will one day end it with a resurrection. I love the way Teresa of Avila put it: “The first moment in our Savior’s arms will make the most miserable earthly life seem like a single night in a bad hotel.”

As I finished this article at 1:30 in the morning, I looked over at my sleeping wife. I thought about all the nights she had gone to bed lonely. The scars are still there. But like the scars that remained on Jesus’ resurrection body, their meaning has been converted from shame to glory.

Tears filled my eyes as I leaned over and kissed Lisa on the cheek and remembered, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes . . . ” (Revelation 21:4) Thank God we hadn’t met when we were 21. Thank God He didn’t “spare” us from suffering. My tears of joy were only possible because, in our suffering, we had shed so many tears of sadness.

24 Comments
  1. R #

    Beautiful story. When I first met Lisa I thought she was so gorgeous and amazing, she just didn't have time for men! God was saving her for you, Tim, and I am sure she will now say that her suffering and waiting was all worth it. You both make a beautiful couple—and will continue to create beautiful children!

    Like

    August 17, 2010
  2. Even after 30 years of happy marriage, I was touched as Tim shared the thoughts of so many of my single (and even single again friends). I pray that God may continue to use your hearts and your experience to minister to those around you. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    August 17, 2010
  3. love, love, love this story! and LOVE TIM AND LISA! :)(oh, and Wyatt too!)

    Like

    August 17, 2010
  4. I think Wyatt's spoken for, Ms. Thomas (see the last line in italics).

    Like

    August 17, 2010
  5. DC #

    Thanks, Tim, for this great, pastoral testimony. What an encouragement!

    Like

    August 17, 2010
  6. JIM #

    That was truly awesome!!!

    Like

    August 17, 2010
  7. Having been a friend of Tim's during his 20s, I knew first hand how much he wanted to find a woman to be his wife, his partner, the mother of his children.I used to tease him that he'd never find anyone that would meet all his criteria. In fact, when I heard he was engaged, my first thought was that I couldn't wait to see what Perfection looked like.Having read Tim's story about their love, now I know.I wish you, Lisa, and Wyatt a life filled with love and appreciation. I am so happy for you.

    Like

    August 17, 2010
  8. As Tim's mother, I must say that Lisa is truly a gift from the Lord to our family! We love her and are thrilled to call her our "daughter-in-love."

    Like

    August 18, 2010
  9. Cute story. I'm happy that your friend Lisa found someone after so many years. But since the focus of your introduction was her situation and feelings about being single, I'm puzzled as to why you didn't ask her to share the story.

    Like

    August 18, 2010
  10. Thank you for posting this. Lisa is absolutely radiant! I can still hear her laugh from 10 years ago. When my mom passed away, Lisa listened compassionately and even made me chocolate chip cookies. Who knew she struggled with singleness as much as I do. Anywoo… interesting timing.

    Like

    August 18, 2010
  11. Jenny, to answer your question, Tim writes for a living, and Lisa was more than happy to let him tell their – not her – story. Picky, picky. 🙂

    Like

    August 18, 2010
  12. Thanks for telling this story. It's really encouraging to see God's sovereignty throughout, especially in an area where many singles in DC struggle. Sometimes I think that, because we live in a generally affluent society and most of us are healthy/sheltered/nourished, there are very few places where God can test our faith — job, spouse, children. In particular in the area of singleness, we can turn away from God and try to take things into our own hands, try to "make" marriage happen on our own. So we really need encouraging stories like this one to be reminded that God is always present, He knows what we're going through, He deeply cares, He is acting on our behalf, and His job is to redeem brokenness. Thank God for Resurrection!!

    Like

    August 18, 2010
  13. Preach it.

    Like

    August 18, 2010
  14. I remember coming up to visit nova/dc in January of 2008….Lisa and I sat on chairs in the Senate Chaplain's Office and bemoaned our singleness yet thanking God for his blessings in our life. Lisa is a beautiful woman of God whose path I seem to cross whether in Oklahoma City through BSF or UCO, CWFA or working on Capitol Hill…and now as FB friends as we live far apart. Her story, her life and her love for other has inspired me and I thank God for her! -a fellow Lady in Waiting

    Like

    August 20, 2010
  15. Thanks for sharing with such vulnerability!Peace- Dawn

    Like

    August 20, 2010
  16. Thanks for sharing with such openess and honesty. There is so much that I can relate to in both of your stories. I do see a great need for spiritual leaders and all Christians to be much more intentional in their support of singles.

    Like

    August 29, 2010
  17. I've been meaning to respond to this post for awhile, but needed time to reflect and ponder this. While inspired by this story, I see so many things wrong with this. I'm pretty tired of hearing the concept of "suffering single," the concept that you are miserable if you are single. That, to me, is truly offensive. There are women who chose to stay single. Yes, even Christian women. I understand the concept of the family being the foundation of society and faith, but we live in an imperfect world. There are women who have gone through so much in relationships that they've made a CONSCIOUS decision to not date, and are moving happily along. Are these women suffering? Do all women suffer until they get married? Please. Don't insult us. I have to caveat my comments above by saying that I am a secular woman. But I do believe in God and I pray often. I am amazed and baffled at Christians – admiring their love for family and their optimism. But also baffled by their sometimes archaic beliefs in the role of men and women in relationships and society in general. I'm also baffled by the adherence to the Bible. I am not trying to incite a long discussions about that, as this isn't the forum. But I challenge the authors to really think about who this post was supposed to target – those women like myself who are curious about God and seek guidance, or women who are already a Christian and are looking for guidance in their faith. Right now, I feel as though this post failed at both.

    Like

    September 15, 2010
  18. In an early draft of the article, I wrote “I don't believe that singleness equals suffering, nor that marriage ends suffering.” This was cut for space reasons, but I tried to make my intentions clear by using the phrase “suffering with *unwanted* singleness…”Lots of Christians (including me) agree with you about the excessive “focus on the family” in Western Christianity. Singleness is absolutely equal in dignity and status to marriage. Saint Paul was single. Jesus was single. Early Christians were radically countercultural in the status conferred upon single people, especially women. Greco-Roman women had fewer labor market options, so they married (and, if widowed, remarried) for economic security. Christians said “No. We take care of women in those situations like they are part of our own family. We don’t expect them to marry to be taken care of.” This practice sounds ordinary today because of the normalization of what was at first a Christian ethic. Christians can be baffling and annoying, but I would urge you to make your decision about Jesus based upon the earliest accounts of his life found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These biographies are trustworthy because they were written and circulated within 30-40 years of Jesus’ death, within the lifetime of eyewitnesses who could refute any false claims about Jesus’ life. These accounts all portray the first witnesses to the central event of Christianity—the resurrection of Jesus—as single women, at a time when women’s testimony wasn’t admissible in Jewish or Roman courts. Meanwhile, his closest male followers are portrayed as narcissistic dolts who deserted him in his trials and only returned when they were told of his resurrection by women. If you wanted to write propaganda for a fledgling religion, it would make little sense to portray the men who became its leaders as idiots and portray women with low cultural status as heroic and truthful. The best explanation for these “counterproductive” stories is that they are actually true. Finally, my post was not directed (primarily) to those in your situation, but I am happy that you are happily single. You seem to have a significant spiritual side, and I wish you the best on your spiritual journey. Tim

    Like

    September 15, 2010
  19. Thank you for your response to my comment, Tim. You've given me a lot to think about, and alot to research. I had no idea the role that single women played in the Bible. I look forward to reading those chapters. And I thank you and your wife for your courage and honesty and wish you both the best.

    Like

    September 15, 2010
  20. It's interesting and baffling to think two attractive people could "suffer" from being single. I would understand it in a woman's position, but from a man's position I would think it would have more to do with the lack of a suitable mate than not finding anyone that "loves you" or would marry you. Plenty of women want marriage while many men do not. Very interesting story.

    Like

    October 9, 2010
  21. Thanks for the encouraging way you write towards singles. It really helps to have someone understand.

    Like

    January 7, 2012
  22. Hi Tim and Lisa,Thank you for sharing your story. I am a 32 year old Christian woman and I have experienced a lot of hope deferred in the form of failed relationships and out right rejection from men I had deep feelings for (I have multiple experiences). I have also seen a man who rejected me marry relatively quickly and I am surrounded by people who married in their 20s. I hope that you will continue to help encourage people and let them know they are not alone. When I see your picture, I don't think of the people I would normally imagine having a problem finding a mate. I moonlight as an event organizer in the dating industry, so I also know about singleness and dating issues from a professional standpoint. But, everything happens for a reason and I think that part of human flourishing is related to how we use the experience we have had with suffering. I am attractive, physically fit, and have a lot of friends, so I know that finding somebody isn't a reward for being attractive and witty. For a good while, I thought that I was just "too bossy and outgoing" for a good Christian man, but I remember all of the people in all shapes, sizes and personalities who are Christian and married and are certainly not perfect either. But it doesn't take away the fear of rejection and the sadness I feel when I see others experience relationships. But, like I said, everything happens for a reason. If I haven't had so many doors closed on me, I doubt I would be able to have this second job that I love so much and I doubt that I would be able to gain trust and friendship from the people who attend the events I help plan.

    Like

    February 9, 2012
  23. Timmie Liew #

    Such a blessing to have read this. Thanks heaps for sharing.

    Like

    July 14, 2014
  24. Kenneth Gortz #

    Thank you for sharing your story. I find that it pretty much echoes what I am currently going through in my own single journey, even though I live in another part of the world. Thank you.

    Like

    July 27, 2014

Comments are closed.