When we’re single for longer than we expected to be, it’s natural to ask ourselves, “Am I single because of something I’ve done (or not done), or is this what God intended for me?” Interestingly, a “yes” to either part of this question can initially bring both hope and sadness. But as I’ve reflected on my single status over the years, four principles—among many others—have brought me hope for either answer to this question. And I’ve discovered there are actually two better questions I can ask instead—questions that allow me to replace my worries with joy, purpose, and progression (see principles 3 and 4 below).
When we ponder why we’re single, many thoughts might come to mind, such as “Should I have gone to more social outings?” or “What if I’d just asked that person on a date?” Whatever the possible reasons might be, when we wonder if we’re single because of something we’ve done or not done, we can find strength in this truth from Doctrine and Covenants 90:24: “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another.”
Whether we could have been married now had we done something differently in the past, we can find strength in knowing that if we keep our covenants and draw closer to Christ in faith through scripture study, prayer, and discipleship, then we can trust that everything will “work together for [our] good.” When we seek to follow Christ, Heavenly Father will help us learn from our past experiences and use them to bless us in the future. The promise of eternal marriage will not be lost to those who live righteously.
When President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, gave his general conference address “O Remember, Remember” in October 2007, I didn’t comprehend the enormous impact it would have on my life. Yet I acted on the invitation to recognize and record the hand of the Lord in my family’s life each day.1 While I haven’t been 100 percent consistent over the years, I have written thousands of ways the Lord has guided my life, usually in seemingly small ways. This simple daily practice (and like all efforts, it does take practice to become better at it) has brought me profound joy as I feel Heavenly Father’s love and guidance for me so often throughout each day.
That experience and knowledge has also helped me find strength and hope when I wonder if I’m single because this is the work Heavenly Father wants me to be doing now. By frequently writing down how He is in the small details of my day, I feel at complete peace that He will guide me in one of my most important decisions for eternity. Helping me find a righteous, covenant-keeping spouse is not something He will overlook. I can have confidence that He will guide me as I do my part to live worthy of, seek, and act on the promptings of the Holy Ghost. I feel peace and joy because I trust Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to guide my life.
While I dearly want to be married, I want even more to follow Heavenly Father’s plan for me. I trust Him because I know He is in the details of my life. So rather than hyperfocusing on marriage, I have sought revelation about what course in life He would have me pursue right now and how I can serve my family and community in other ways.
To Moses, God said, “I have a work for thee, Moses, my son” (Moses 1:6). Joseph Smith learned from Moroni that “God had a work for me to do” (Joseph Smith—History 1:33). Each of us likewise has a work to do. And oh, how powerful our perspective on singlehood can be when we view it in terms of the work God needs each of us to do. Rather than viewing being single as something I’m “lacking” in accomplishing God’s work for me, I instead discover an important purpose when I view it as an opportunity to contribute in a variety of ways to the Lord’s work in the latter days.
President Nelson has taught: “You are the children whom God chose to be part of His battalion during this great climax in the longstanding battle between good and evil—between truth and error. I would not be surprised if, when the veil is lifted in the next life, we learn that you actually pled with our Heavenly Father to be reserved for now. I would not be surprised to learn that premortally you loved the Lord so much that you promised to defend His name and gospel during this world’s tumultuous winding-up scenes. One thing is certain: You are of the house of Israel and you have been sent here to help gather God’s elect.”2
This perspective invites me to shift the question of “Does Heavenly Father intend for me to be single right now?” to “What does Heavenly Father intend for me to do as a single right now?” The few additional words make a big difference. Because of that perspective, I pray each day that Heavenly Father will help me be worthy and prepared to do His work wherever He needs me—single or not. How do I learn what that mission is for me?
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught:
“[The Savior] invites you, as sons and daughters of God, to prepare spiritually to enter into His work. It will require your full energy, clear thinking, best efforts, and utmost faith.
“Your mission from the Lord will be unfolded to you day by day as you pray, search the scriptures, and diligently give of yourself in the Lord’s work. You will come to know your work from the Lord more and more as you submit cheerfully to His will. Remember that it is small acts of service and devotion that bring about great things. The Lord said: ‘Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great’ (Doctrine and Covenants 64:33).
“Make this year, this month, this day a new starting point in your life.”3
In addition to asking what work God intends for me to do right now, a few years ago I learned to ask another question that has been both productive and powerful: “How am I doing in following God’s plan of salvation and happiness?”
While eternal marriage is an essential part of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness for His children, it’s not the only part of it. So until that opportunity comes (which I still actively work toward), I can keep my focus on living all other parts of God’s plan for me that are within my control and that bring great joy. Among other things, I can
make and keep temple covenants;
live worthy of and prepare for a temple sealing;
participate in the work of salvation and exaltation by helping to gather Israel on both sides of the veil;
minister to my family and others;
find ways to mother and nurture, even though I don’t have children of my own;
serve faithfully in my callings;
create daily experiences that help me grow closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ;
learn to hear Him; and
express love and gratitude to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
And I can prayerfully reflect daily on the question “How am I doing in following God’s plan of salvation and happiness?” That question always provides an opportunity to receive revelation and to progress.
I don’t know what Heavenly Father has in store for my future, but I seek each day to discover the next step in the work He wants me to do. And I know that today and the future will be beautiful and joyful because I know Heavenly Father loves me, as He loves you too. I’m grateful He allows me to grow “line upon line” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:12) and “from grace to grace” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:13), because the future might seem overwhelming if I saw it all at once. I’ve gained so much strength from the beautiful doctrine that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9).
I may not fully know why I am still single in my 40s, but I find great comfort, hope, and happiness in the knowledge that Heavenly Father knows the reasons and that He will make “all things … work together for [my] good.” I maintain faith that He is in the details of my life and that He will help me accomplish the work He intends for me to do right now as I humbly seek His direction. Knowing that, I find it a joy and privilege to “cheerfully do all things that lie in [my] power; and then … stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (Doctrine and Covenants 123:17).