4

Anxiety About Being Single

Anyone who is not yet married give a little cringe when hearing the words of St. Paul in the second reading of the Mass this past Sunday, taken from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7:32-35.

Basically, the advice of St. Paul is to remain unmarried because to marry is a distraction to focusing on the things of the Lord.  He is quick to say that this is just his opinion, and said not to put restraint on you, but rather it’s for your own benefit.

Of course, anything that distracts us away from God is certainly not to our benefit.  But to get married, in and of itself, is not a bad decision nor a distraction from God.  In fact, for those who enter into it with the right intent, marriage is a vocation and will lead us closer to God in proportion to the gift we make of ourselves to the other.

However, you cannot deny St. Paul’s point that a person who is married is divided, because they are anxious about the things of their spouse.  By the very nature of marriage, you must tend to the things of your spouse.  You can’t tend only to the things of God while neglecting your duties as a spouse.

St. Paul wants people to grow closer to God.  Perhaps St. Paul was surrounded by married people who did not have time for the kind of missionary service that he was doing and loved so much.  Perhaps he just wanted single people to realize that it is so much more enjoyable and fulfilling to serve God full-time, rather than voluntarily distract yourself from God by marrying.

The main point is that St. Paul wants single people to be free of earthly anxieties.  It is worth considering “anxieties” in the sense of occupying the mind with thoughts about getting married one day.

People who want to be married one day and are unhappy that they are still single spend time dwelling on this fact.  Some spend quite a bit of time on it. They build up a tremendous anxiety about when it will happen and who it will be with and how it will come about.  This anxiety is negative and works against the person.

Single people sometimes make themselves crazy!  They are their own worst enemy by over-thinking about getting married and why it has not happened, and even question God.  They want marriage so badly, they miss the opportunities they have in the now.

Jesus is very clear about living in the now, and leaving the future to itself.  He is also clear about taking advantage of your opportunities.  Jesus told Martha that she was anxious about many things and that Mary chose the better option; namely to visit with the Lord while He was in their midst and not lose the opportunity by busying yourself with other normal matters that you can do anytime when the Lord is not visiting.

An unmarried person has an opportunity.  It is the opportunity to do things you cannot do or don’t get to do as often when you are married and have children.  But it’s also an opportunity to praise God and show Him you believe you are right where you need to be, and that He is right there with you.

Some people with anxiety about getting married take that negative anxiousness and try to kill off as much time possible with useless, counter-productive things to distract them from thinking about being single.

It’s very challenging to be alone with yourself when you are going through negative anxiety.  It is a demon we allow to possess us when we are not diligent about combating it properly.  It’s interesting that the Gospel reading of this same Sunday with the reading of St. Paul about the unmarried has the scene of Jesus encountering the unclean spirit in the synagogue.  It is a demon!  Demons are real, and they present themselves in all kinds of ways, including negative anxiety.

It’s understandable to not want to be alone sometimes and need to busy yourself with things to distract yourself from a perhaps unbearable time of dealing with being unmarried.  But we must not allow this natural disturbance to take hold and turn into to something worse.

To be single is not a terrible thing.  To be single when you really want to be married is not a terrible thing either.  I feel for those who really want to get married but have not been able to yet, and perhaps never will.  But regardless of why you are unmarried, the fact is you are.  Now what will you do with that today?  You cannot do anything about the past, and you cannot predict tomorrow.  Today is what you have to work with.

I think every person who wants to be married should feel wonderful about that desire.  It is a noble desire and we pray that God blesses you with a suitable partner to marry.  Keep that desire kindled, because it is from God.

But you must also keep that desire positive, while tending to the things of the Lord this day.  He wants to do great things for you and with you today.  He is visiting you today as He did in the town of Bethany when Mary chose to be with him.  There is much you can do today as an unmarried person for others, for yourself, and in all things for God.

What are your demons related to being unmarried?  Anger?  Bitterness?  Resentment?  Jealousy of married friends?  Anxiousness?  Depression about why you are not married by now?   Find out what demons you have with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and by His grace, get rid of them. They are actually working against you being attractive to a potential spouse, who probably cannot notice your beauty because you outwardly display negativity.

Be free!  So you are unmarried.  It could be worse.  You could be married in the way St. Paul describes a few verses before the portion of 1 Corinthians selected in Sunday’s reading; namely, that if you marry, “such people will experience affliction in their earthly life, and I would like to spare you that.”  So maybe God is sparing you the affliction that comes with being unhappily married.

Keep doing what you can to change your unmarried status to married.  But don’t be obsessed about it via anxiety.  You want a person who will not be a distraction away from God, but will lead you to Him.  That person is worth waiting for.  And if that person never comes, you will have lived each day in the now, tending to the things of the Lord, and you will be happy.


Anthony Buono is the author of Would You Date You? and founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice.  Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com


Filed under: »
  • Kevin

    More educated people, correct me if I’m wrong here. I believe, Anthony, that St. Paul’s words in this passage are related to the historical context. People at that time thought the end of the world would occur at any time. Literally the next day Jesus may return. Thus, it would not make sense to get married and concern yourself with such things.

    • Mary Kochan

      That would be the literal (historical) sense of that scripture, Kevin. You are not therefor wrong at all, you are merely incomplete. :-)

  • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

    Zsa Zsa Gabor used to say that when a man is single he is incomplete but when he marries he’s finished. :)
    Jokes aside… the opinion of St. Paul is valid as advise at any time in history. He was not the only one to have that opinion at that time. Since those times the Church has separated the vocational options for both males and females who want to dedicate fully to the service of God. That is the reason we in the Latin Rite have Nuns, Priests, and other religious remain celibate. It is wise not to load a man or a woman with two competing vocations. In the old and beautiful vows of matrimony (before the 17th century or so) we used to say “with my body I thee worship.” That is “worship” in the Old English sense of “dedicated, sacred service or honor” that is ultimately directed to God via the Sacrament of Marriage in which both participants administer each other a sacred sacrament in which God participates as the Giver of Life. Seeing it from that perspective one can appreciate the separation of priesthood and marriage, for example. Why, because the Priest sacrifices his ability to procreate to God, to the sacred service (worship) of God and God in turn gives the Priest the mystical ability to inseminate spiritually rather than physically. The priest is then a faithful copy of Christ in that sense, also married to his flock and ready to give his “life” (as in his potential to give physical life) for the Bride, his congregation. One can see that in those parts of the world where priests have been allowed to have a wife, that both man and woman must sacrifice many things to the priesthood. I would not call that a conflict, nor even a competition but a due sacrifice similar to the sacrifice that St. Joseph made to God when marrying Our Blessed Mother. Out of a greater love for the service divine St. Joseph and Our Blessed Mother immolated their marital rights completely to foster the life of the Son of God, so the will of God could be effected to the whole of the Church. What married priests in the East do in a partial way was done in a complete way by Joseph and Mary. St. Paul is therefore giving his apostolic opinion and very good counsel to chose the higher kind of service and to spare ourselves a balancing act that can be onerous to our fallen nature. If you want to serve God well stay single and serve Him dutifully. Yet if you (man) have been blessed with the love of a Christian woman then worship God through her and allow God to make you an instrument of His love so she can worship Him through you.

    That is my very unqualified opinion. :)

  • Genevieve Kineke

    I’ve long thout there might be an additional way to look at in in this generation. Surely, there are many good people who feel called to marriage, and since they’re in a state of grace and attuned to God’s will, they’re probably right. So why can they not marry? Because of the ghastly formation of so many of their peers, who engaged in marital acts with no lifelong commitment, embrace parenthood without sacramental graces, and show utter contempt for the married estate when they do flirt with it.

    While these sins offend God and shred the fabric of society, they also offer those who cannot find their way to the altar a form-fitted opportunity to be victim souls–perhaps for a time, perhaps for their lives. If they could offer this painful, painful suffering for the restoration of chastity and fidelity, it would be a powerful witness, and channel of grace to a confused, even depraved, age.

    To that end, they need our prayerful support, as do all priests, who likewise offer a sign of contradiction and a path of purity amidst those who rarely understand it.