I am a 38-year-old African American woman who had my first (and last) kiss days after turning 34. And I’m not alone. Over the years, friends have confided in me about the loneliness, sorrows, and doubt that plagued their singleness.

By developing a catechism, I have been encouraged to meditate on God’s goodness—and his Word—throughout the happy and sad days. My hope is that these principles would read like the arm of God stretched out over a slumped shoulder and, for those who are feeling burdened, that it would be one of support and comfort.

Section I: God’s Sovereignty over My Relationship Status

Q1: What is the chief end of my singleness?

A: To have my soul so consumed by the delight of loving and being loved by God and so mesmerized by his singular sufficiency for my deep thirst for love, acceptance, belonging, and significance that it testifies before the world to the preeminent excellencies of God as Lord, lover, and friend.

Psalm 27:4; 63:3; 73:25–26; Isaiah 29:13; 54:5–6; Jeremiah 29:13; Psalm 37:4

Q2: What is our only gain in singleness or marriage?

A: That we may better know Christ. I have no other gain. The freedom of singleness and the intimacy of marriage are but flotsam and jetsam without his supremacy in them. Both flourish or flounder to the extent Christ is known through them.

Psalm 16; Philippians 3:7–11

Q3: What is our certain calling?

A: Blessed are we to be called to that which also fulfills our deepest longing: to have no gods before God and to love him with our whole hearts, souls, minds, and strength. To have no higher allegiance than to God Most High, to seek no other end of all our actions but making his glory seen, and to have no deeper affection than for Christ who is our life. Whatever our circumstances, we have all we need to fulfill this calling through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

And the second calling is like it: to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Exodus 20:3; Matthew 22:39; Luke 10:27; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 1:6–7; 2 Peter 1:3; Colossians 3:4; Matthew 5:16

Q4: What happens when we idolize marriage?

A: We have been mastered by our desire for marriage when we can conceive of no good apart from obtaining it, if we are willing to go deliberately against God’s will to secure it for ourselves, or if we use it and the pursuit of it to serve our glory rather than his. In doing so, we grieve our Beloved, who is jealous for our hearts, and expose ourselves to needless disappointment, for the sorrows multiply of those who chase after other gods. But one of the greatest mercies God can do us is to teach us the difference between God and all that is not God and thus make us connoisseurs of the divine with a taste for the eternal.

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Psalm 96:7; Isaiah 41; 44:9; 57; Jeremiah 8:19; Psalm 16:3; Luke 12:7; James 1:14; 1 Corinthians 6:12

Q5: How can I grow without a partner?

A: The beauty of salvation and growth is that they both depend on but one man—Christ. To have him is to have all needed. And I, as part of his church, have been promised to him who paid my bride price at staggering cost to himself to be made holy and cleansed through his word. His zeal for and commitment to my growth exceed even my own, and his love leaves no instrument—including singleness—unused to present me to himself glorious, without spot or blemish.

Galatians 3:3; Ephesians 5:27

Section II: God’s Sovereignty over My Self-Worth

Q6: What is my true worth?

A: I am made in the image of God, redeemed by the perfect blood of Christ, and am the current dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit. I was adopted into the Royal Family of royal families, was searched for and brought back to the flock by the Good Shepherd, and enjoy the fellowship of the Spirit of comfort, freedom, and truth. I may be rejected by others, yet I am chosen and precious in God’s sight, coheir with Christ, reigning in this life and in death. I am crowned with glory and honor and held as a royal diadem in the palm of my God.

Genesis 1:26; Ephesians 1:5–7; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19–20; Luke 15:4; Psalm 8:5; Romans 8:17; John 14:16; 2 Corinthians 3:17; John 16:13; Isaiah 62:3–5

Q7: Am I seen?

A: While weary-souled we cry, “Notice me! See me! Love me!” God stoops down, gathers us under the corner of his garment, draws us near, and whispers tenderly, “I do, my beloved, I do. I am El Roi, the God who sees. My eyes are open day and night toward you, for I have set my name on you .” But it is often the case that we, after catching our breath on his knee, bound back out to chase after the world’s affirmation, like a child after bubbles, and so miss him calling to our backs, “Notice me! See me! Love me!”

Psalm 18:35; Ezekiel 16:8; Psalm 34:18; Hosea 2:14; Genesis 16:13–14; 22; 29:32; 31:42; 2 Chronicles 6:20; Psalm 11:4

Q8: Why wasn’t I chosen?

A: Not because I am deficient, but the intimate and transcendent wisdom of the Giver of every good and perfect gift found it best for me. He who numbers both the stars in the night and the hairs on my head and before whom all my longings lie open can be trusted to allot me a pleasant portion. For I have entrusted my being to the one who chose me first and best and whose book contains all my days.

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1 Peter 2:9; Deuteronomy 7:6; Psalm 33:12; Haggai 2:33; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; Revelation 17:14; Ephesians 1:4; Psalm 38:9; James 1:17; Psalm 139:16

Q9: Am I worth loving?

A: Marriage is not the only context in which one is loved, so it is unwise to conflate being loved with being married. The love of humans never makes us worthy; it is incidental at best. But in Christ we understand the correct ordering of love and worth—we are not worth loving but loved worthy. Worthiness is the inalienable privilege and unassailable reality conferred to us in Christ. Where else can we find such an emancipating love as this?

Romans 5:5–8; 1 John 3:1; Galatians 4:7; Romans 8:30; Ephesians 2:3, 8; Deuteronomy 7:6–9; 1 Corinthians 1:26–30; Psalm 8:4

Q10: What is the praise of man?

A: A snare and deception. We ourselves attest that as finite, fickle, and short of sight, we often praise wrongly: We overpraise the undeserving, underpraise the worthy, and praise superficially—getting distracted by the surface and missing the substance.

Galatians 1:10; Proverbs 29:25; 1 Samuel 16:7

Q11: What makes me whole?

A: The wondrous cross of Christ alone.

Section III: God’s Sovereignty over My Sorrow

Q12: How long, O Lord?

A: Should I suffer another holiday fusillade of questions from well-meaning kin, should I be the last single person standing among my friends, should my hopes for a child be dashed, or should my yearning batter my faith to its brink, yet may Yahweh quicken my heart to rejoice all the more in him from the valley. He will rise to calm my chronic ache, to remove my sense of shame, and to be my long-sufferer-in-arms. Blessed are all who wait for him. As long as day and night continue at their appointed times, the mercies needed for each day will greet me anew each morning.

Psalm 13; 119:22–23; Isaiah 54:1; Habakkuk 3:18; Jeremiah 33:20; Lamentations 3:22–23; Isaiah 30:18

Q13: What is our power over despairing thoughts?

A: That the God who hears my every cry of distress and discerns my thoughts from afar has provided relief not just for assaults from without but also for those from within. Because he desires truth in the inmost places and for me to know his rest, He has divinely empowered me to take every rebellious, hope-denying, truth-distorting, God-obscuring thought captive and make it obedient to Christ by his indwelling spirit, the guide to all truth.

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Psalm 51:6; 139:2; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Psalm 94:11; John 16:13; Ephesians 6:16

Q14: Does God care that I’m hurting?

A: Scarcely is affliction mentioned in the Scriptures without God’s seeing or hearing being close by. In truth, he knows of our pain before our lives even reach that frame. Before we call, he answers; amid our cry, he inclines his ear. It is impossible for God to be unmoved by our wounds because they are his. He bore our grief and carried our sorrow before we even knew of our need. Let us be careful to sweep the debris of all other attachments from our hearts so the way may be clear for him to come quickly to our aid to deliver us from our despair and doubt.

Isaiah 65:24

Q15: What power has sin over us?

A: None except that which we concede through disbelief in the character and promises of God. Sin’s victor has come, and in Christ we are new creations. The old has passed. Sin is no longer our master.

Romans 8; James 1:14

Q16: What ought I to do with my unmet desires?

A: The invitation to cast our cares on the Lord does not expire. So let us not tire of laying them at his feet. If we are patient with our friend who asks us over and over for prayer, how much more patient is the Lord who bears our burdens with us.

1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6–7; Luke 11:7–8; Psalm 5:3

Q17: Where is my blessing?

A: Christ died that our emptiness could be filled, that our eyes could see, that our minds could be enlightened, that we could find him glorious, that our hearts could be soft, and that love for him might pulse through our entire beings. Our blessing is in a poor spirit, in mourning, in meekness, in hungering and thirsting after righteousness, in showing mercy, in a pure heart, in peacemaking, and in enduring hardship for Christ’s sake. If we cannot find blessing there, we will not find it anywhere, for even as God has given us all things for our enjoyment, they will spoil in our mouths if our hearts are not first full of him.

Matthew 5:3–11; 1 Timothy 6:17; Numbers 11

Section IV: God’s Sovereignty over My Future

Q18: In what can we put our hope for our future?

A: In the Lord who, seeing all the days of my life before one of them came to be, directs my steps so his good purposes prevail. He makes my lot secure. As he provided manna to the Israelites in the desert, he will also provide me my daily bread. Whether I marry or not, Christ has promised me a life of abundance, and his word does not return to him void.

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Psalm 71:3; Proverbs 16:9; 19:21; Isaiah 55:11

Q19: For what can I give thanks as I wait?

A: God carried Israel as a father carries his son through the desert after he heard their cries for mercy and delivered them from the oppression of Egypt with a mighty hand and outstretched arm and with great signs and wonders. He guided them safely with the cloud by day and with the light from the fire all night. The Lord turned the bitter waters of Meribah sweet for their thirst. For their hunger, he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens and rained down on them manna to eat, giving them the grain of heaven. They ate the bread of angels. And they wept that there was no meat saying, “There is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

Numbers 11:6; 14:11; Deuteronomy 1:31; 26:8; Exodus 20:2; Psalm 78:14, 23–25

Q20: Can God’s plan for me really be good if it doesn’t include marriage?

A: It is good to give thanks for “yes” answers to prayer and commendable to trust when God makes us wait, but it most clearly evidences the triumph of the Almighty’s hold on our hearts when we sacrifice praise in the wake of no. The purest confession we can make is that he was not made for us but we for him. We worship him when to the world our cups look empty, yet we know them to be spilling over. He is our very great reward and has vowed to never stop doing us good.

Genesis 15:1; Isaiah 45:9; Jeremiah 32:40; 1 Corinthians 2:9; Matthew 7:11

Q21: Can I survive this?

A: The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and he, after a little while, will himself restore me and make me strong. When I am tempted, he can redirect my path. When I am weary, he can refresh my soul. When my heart breaks, he can bring sutures and salve to my wounds. Though he may not change my circumstances, he will strengthen my hands. Singleness is survived one day at a time; tomorrow has enough troubles of its own. Today, here in my longing, I can toast to God, the gladness of my heart.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives.

2 Chronicles 16:9; Hebrews 11:6; Nehemiah 6:9; 9:19–21; Matthew 6:13; Jeremiah 31:25; 2 Samuel 22:17–20; Hebrews 2:18; 1 Peter 5:10; Isaiah 65:14; 2 Corinthians 4:9; Colossians 1:11; Isaiah 40:29

Alicia Akins is a writer and student at Reformed Theological Seminary, and the author of the forthcoming book Invitations to Abundance (Harvest House Publishers).

An original version of this catechism originally was published at the author’s blog, Feet Cry Mercy.

[ This article is also available in español and Français. ]