***The following is a work in progress for professional publication.***
Happiness in the Single Journey
“Being a mother is the greatest job on Earth.”
“Someday you will find someone to love you as much as my spouse and I love each other.”
“Why aren’t you married yet?”
“Family is the most important institution.”
These seemingly simple and oft repeated phrases can be painful and heartbreaking to an unmarried or single member of the Church.
Questions of “Why am I still single?” “Why doesn’t anyone love me?” “Why does he get to be married and not me?” “How can she be married twice and I still haven’t found one husband?” “I’ve prayed for it and I’m a good person, so why hasn’t the Lord sent me an eternal companion?” “How am I ever supposed to fit in at church when it is all about families, and I don’t have one?” “Why should I have to sit through another lesson about parenting when I’ll probably never be a parent myself?” “What is the point of going to a ward activity geared towards children? I’ll never fit in!” and so many other questions of doubt are common and not unusual in the minds of a single member of the Church.
Unmarried members often feel alienated or left out of the general membership of the Church. Without children, or spouses, what place is there for them at ward activities that are so often family oriented? When lessons and advice are given regarding strengthening family relationships, what do they have to offer to the lesson or to take away from it?
One of the most difficult parts of being single, particularly for those individuals who have passed the more culturally traditional younger years of courtship and have entered into their thirties, forties, and older, it is wondering why they have not found a spouse? Why have they not been so blessed? “Am I so hard to love? What’s wrong with me? Am I not faithful enough? Why doesn’t anyone like me?” All of these questions can be painful and difficult to ask, often lead to unhappiness and self-doubt, and at times can lead to an individual’s slow departure from activity within the Church.
Elder Neal Maxwell in his book “And These Things Shall Give Thee Experience,” counseled that we are not being punished when we do not receive that which we desire. Sometimes the Lord has other plans for us. It is our job to do our best, and be happy, no matter what the situation.
To find happiness and contentment in our lives, no matter our situation, is often the ultimate challenge. Whether it be the family dealing with financial downturn, or an infertile couple longing for a child, or the desperate desire to find love and a mate, the challenge to find “joy in the journey,” even when the journey is not the one we expected or wanted to take.
President Thomas S Monson said it this way, “This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.”
Elder Maxwell described these challenges (to find joy in our experiences no matter their difficulty) as one of the “hard doctrines” of the Gospel. He quotes author C.S. Lewis, "Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently, He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace."
Being single is not a curse, or an affliction. It is not a punishment that you must overcome. It is simply that the Lord has other plans for you. What role is it He has carved out for you? What do you have to offer? The Lord knows you, your talents, and has provided you with the circumstances so that you may do your best. It is not an accident that you were born at this time and place. You must find your self-worth and be an instrument in the Lord’s hands. No individual’s worth is more than that of another, regardless of marital status. “The worth of souls is great in the eyes of God.” There was no postscript that said “Except some will be worth more than others because they got married and raised a family. Through no fault of your own you will not be worth as much.” The Lord values you, and has put you in the situation where he needs you. Give yourself to the Lord so that you may be the person He needs you to be.
You must find your calling and magnify it. Some will be called to be mothers and fathers. Others will not be held back by the constraints of a family so that they may serve in other ways to the wards, communities, and even the world around them. Being single is not a limitation or condemnation. It is the opportunity to expand and do more, while living a Gospel centered life. Marriage does not solve any one’s problems. You must be happy with who you are above all else.
Do not consider your life to be a trial. The Lord knows you and your abilities. He has prepared you for this time and place, and provided you with the opportunity to serve Him. Find your joy, find your happiness, by serving Him. Do not underestimate what the Lord has in store for you, regardless of your marital status.
***This is a work in progress for professional publication.***