School of The Rock


The Inevitable Husband: The Myth and the Danger

Written by Emily Race

The narrative of boy-meets-girl has dominated storytelling since before written languages. Our culture teaches you that the “happiest day of your life” is going to be your wedding day. Our movie theatres are always playing at least one film whose core is a love story. Our fascination with this story is the reason Taylor Swift has a career, all priming you with the expectation that it will one day happen to you. However, the expectation of this mythological creature, the Inevitable Husband, is one of the most destructive lies propagated by our culture and even by churches.

The Myth

  • God will bring a man into your life when your relationship with God is right, and
  • Your job is to wait for this man.

This myth is promoted in women's devotionals and in youth groups across America. When I was in youth group, I was encouraged to write a letter to my future husband, telling him what I was doing to prepare myself for him. At another church I know, the plan for the "college-age ministry" was ensconcing the young men downstairs watching movies, while the young women would learn to can and freeze vegetables. The well-meaning leaders of this group believe they are preparing these young women for their future, inevitable, husbands. In these mindsets, however, a woman's only contribution to the Kingdom is through her role as a wife. What is she supposed to do in the time when she isn’t a wife?

In a blog post from Grace for the Road titled “I Don’t Wait Anymore,” the author recalls hearing mottoes like “Be the woman God made you to be, focus on that, and then the husband will come,” or a poem written from “God’s” point of view: “The reason you don’t have anyone yet is because you’re not fully satisfied in Me. You have to be satisfied with Me and then when you least expect it, I’ll bring you the person I meant for you.” Commenters on the article confirmed hearing similar phrases, including “Dance with God and he’ll let the right man cut in.” You may have heard versions of these yourselves; I know I did when I was your age. 

The imperative in each is fine: “Be the woman God made you to be, focus on that”; “Dance with God”; “You have to be fully satisfied with God.” We should of course devote ourselves to pursuing God and becoming godly women. However, there is a false promise in each of these statements: if we do that, God will produce Mr. Right. If we do what we are supposed to, the Inevitable Husband will appear. And although that implied promise is a false one, it’s easy to pin our hopes on it.

The Danger: What the Myth Promotes

The first problem with the myth that God will bring us husbands when we are ready is that the goal becomes the husband instead of a fulfilling relationship with Christ. So instead of pursuing whole-heartedly a relationship with Christ, we wait, prepare, and save ourselves. And some of us wait, prepare, and save for a very, very long time.

Various internet dictionaries define “waiting” as follows: 1.The action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens. 2. remaining inactive in one place while expecting something. 3. delay: time during which some action is awaited; 4. stay in one place and anticipate or expect something.

A lot of young singles tread water until “the one” arrives: My life and purpose will really begin once I’ve met him, they think. I just need to wait until the “right time” and then he will appear. Yet, the U.S. Census data of 2011 found that of young adults – people from 18 to 29 – only 20% are married, compared to 59% in 1960. The average age for women on the day of their weddings is now 26.5, the highest it has ever been. For men, it’s 28.7. If you turn out to be average, most of you still have ten years to go before you get married. Are you going to spend that time “waiting”? Staying where you are? Delaying action? Remaining inactive? How many years do you waste, remaining inactive in one place while expecting something? God doesn’t call us to a life of waiting. He calls us to a life of ministry.

During this waiting time, young people are taught to prepare themselves for this future, hypothetical relationship instead of building a productive, faith-centered life. They read those quotes again: “The reason you don’t have anyone yet is because you’re not fully satisfied in Me.” In this view, a relationship with Christ is just a means to the real end: the Inevitable Husband. I have even heard people interpret Psalm 37:4 (“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV)) as a promise that God will give us what we truly desire, i.e., a husband. In reality, if we “take delight in the Lord,” then the desire of our hearts is the Lord’s will. However, some women court Jesus as a means to attract an earthly husband instead of conducting themselves as the Bride of Christ.

In the course of “preparing” ourselves, we are taught to save ourselves for that husband. Some wear purity rings; some sign abstinence pledges. Let me be perfectly clear: I believe in and wholeheartedly endorse both purity and abstinence. But for what purpose? In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes that sexual sins are sins against our own bodies – bodies that belong to God.  So whom is our purity for? For the Inevitable Husband? Or for God? The purpose of purity – all kinds of purity – is to please Christ. Yet purity becomes a kind of savings account that we are holding in reserve for a husband, rather than an active lifestyle. When I was in high school, I saw numerous skits performed by well-meaning youth leaders meant to demonstrate the destructiveness of sexual impurity. A woman goes through several relationships before marriage, and finds on her wedding night that each of those men is still in her bed. A woman gives a part of her heart to the man in each relationship, only to find that she has an incomplete heart to give her husband. However, purity is not merely the absence of (or abstinence from) impurity; it is a lifestyle that has meaning and merit even for a person who never marries. Our bodies are a temple God dwells in, says Paul. Not a temple that we take care of until the Inevitable Husband comes along to enjoy it. So if the goal is to wait, prepare, and save for the Inevitable Husband, what happens if he never shows up?

The Danger: What the Myth Implies

Statistically speaking, not every woman in the world is going to get married. In fact, only 51% of all adults in the United States were married according to the 2011 census data. In addition to other contributing factors, there literally aren't enough men to go around, even before you start factoring for criteria like appropriate age, similar beliefs, etc. For every 100 unmarried women over 18 in the United States, there are 88 unmarried men. Some women wait for decades to get married. Some never marry. In the 2011 census, 31.4 million American adults lived alone, comprising 27% of all households. What is the implication?

If a woman has grown up with the expectation of the Inevitable Husband, she may come to feel that she’s been given a bum deal. Maybe she has held up her end of this deal. Why hasn’t God? This is the most disastrous implication of the myth of the Inevitable Husband - that God has somehow broken faith with a woman if she has followed His commands and no man is in sight, that women who have not found "the one" are somehow doing something wrong or that God is withholding the Inevitable Husband.

Often, these women get tired. It’s hard to wait. It feels futile to prepare. It seems pointless to save.  If the woman has focused her life on these rules – wait, prepare, save – with no result, she may start to feel that God hasn’t held up his end. Many of these women leave the church – and sometimes their faith altogether. Thus-educated young women feel that they have received a bum deal, without realizing they are missing out on the Real Deal. Because the focus was wrong. The focus was on a life in preparation for marriage instead of a life devoted to the most important relationship of all: that with Jesus Christ.

The Truth

Here is the hard truth: God never promised an earthly husband. Nowhere in the Bible does that promise occur. The only husband God promises anywhere in the Bible is Himself.

In Isaiah 62, God tells Jerusalem, “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” In Isaiah 54:5-6, he tells Israel, “For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married young, only to be rejected.”  In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus compares Himself to a bridegroom for his followers. John the Baptist compares Jesus to the groom, and says that even John’s followers belong to Jesus as a “bride belongs to the bridegroom” (John 3:29). In Revelations, the church, the New Jerusalem, is called the bride of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Marriage is a metaphor God uses again and again to show his love for the church, even going as far as commanding the prophet Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman, to demonstrate the way the Israelites continually court other gods and idols. We cannot be God’s disciples if we are courting other idols before Christ, whether the idol is school, sports, work, men, money, gossip, romance, family, or anything else.

In college, I heard young women say things like, “I’m dating Jesus right now.” What happens when they meet men they want to date? They break up with Jesus? Do they think of their relationship with Jesus as a path to being better future wives, not as the most important relationship they have? Jesus himself told his followers in Luke 14:26 that we are to love Him so much our other relationships – with parents, spouses, children, siblings, and even ourselves – seem like hate in comparison. We cannot be his disciples unless he is our first love, not our first date. J.C. Ryle said, “Follow Christ for His own sake, if you follow Him at all.” Those of us who follow Christ because we are hoping to get something out of it – admiration, approval, happiness, husbands, wealth, whatever – will be disappointed.

I am twenty-seven years old, just above the current average for brides. I have friends the same age as me who are single, who are married, who are divorced, who are single moms. The only factor that makes a difference in the joy they know in life is whether they have a solid relationship with Jesus.  If that is not the primary focus of your life, no other relationship – lover, friend, child – will satisfy.

The Good News

The reality is that some of you will get married. Statistically speaking, some of you will not. Husbands are not inevitable, even if you are living a good and godly life. The good news is that it’s okay either way.

On the one hand, it is fine to get married! Isaac meets his wife Rebekah after his mother dies: “So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Genesis 24:67b). Ruth brought joy to Boaz, and Abigail was a fit match for David, who praised her for her “good judgment” (1 Samuel 25:33). Proverbs 31 famously praises the wife of good character, noting the good her husband gains from her. Proverbs also says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (18:22) and “a prudent wife is from the Lord” (19:14). (Proverbs also notably disparages the “quarrelsome” and “nagging” wife.) At his most optimistic, the author of Ecclesiastes encourages the living to have a joyful heart, writing, “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun” (9:9a). Being married can ease the burdens of life in some ways.

Truthfully, if you feel like you’re waiting a long time, here is some encouragement. According to the most extensive study of marriage in America ever produced, Rutgers University’s “Alone Together: How Marriage is Changing in America,” people who get married at 18 have a divorce rate of almost 75%. You are 2 to 3 times more likely to get divorced if you marry in your teens or early twenties than if you wait until after 25.  The older you get, the better your chances become. Statistically speaking, there is a strong link between the most educated women and most resilient marriages. You have a better chance of a successful marriage if you do not live together before marriage. You have a better chance if you marry someone who also has a strong faith. You have a better chance if you have a strong community of friends and family, like perhaps the community you can find at church. I first encountered these statistics when reading the book Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray Love. As a woman who came from a failed marriage to eventually marry again later in life, she writes, “It’s rather astonishing, as it turns out, what a difference it can make to get married when one is middle-aged, accommodating, and calm, rather than young, self-absorbed, and reckless.” In a summary, Dr. David Popenoe of The National Marriage Project concludes, “The risk of divorce is far below fifty percent for educated people going into their first marriage, and lower still for people who wait to marry at least until their mid-twenties, haven’t lived with many different partners prior to marriage, or are strongly religious and marry someone of the same faith.” So if you feel tired of waiting, just remember that the longer you wait, the better off you’ll be.

On the other hand, the Bible fully supports a single life! In Song of Songs, the Beloved cautions her friends three times: “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” When Jesus’ disciples concluded it would be better not to marry, Jesus replied that to some this word “has been given.” There are some who “choose to live like eunuchs [celibate] for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12b). Jesus (who also never married) says that those people who can accept this life should do so. Why then is the only reassurance that lonely women get "you just haven't met the right man YET?" It takes courage to face that loneliness and to face the pressure of your classmates, your coworkers, your friends, or your family. It’s okay to be lonely from time to time.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that he wished “all of you were as I am,” unmarried. He also writes of the unmarried and widows that “It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.” (7:8). Paul concludes about widows that, rather than remarry, “In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is” (7:40). Paul is careful to explain that this is his advice, not a command from the Lord, and he recommends staying single when possible: “Those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this” (7:28b). He points out that an unmarried person (male or female) can be fully devoted to the Lord, but a husband or wife has divided interests: “An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband” (7:34b).  This is a verse I have never heard anyone mention from the pulpit, but it rings true. An unmarried woman is free to minister in many areas. She does not have to plan dinner or decline opportunities to serve because of someone else’s schedule. Her time alone at home can be spent in devotions and prayer without interruptions. She does not have to arrange childcare before leaving for a missions trip or to take care of someone’s needs. You don’t have to be a wife to be contributing to the Kingdom.

It’s okay to hope that one day you meet a godly man who will be your closest ally, best friend on this earth, and a leader in your family. But you don’t have to spend your time waiting and preparing and saving for him. Instead, write God a letter about how much you love Him. Write yourself a letter to explain how you’re becoming a better person for Jesus. There is life to be lived, needs to be served, and a wonderful and loving God to be known and enjoyed. What are you waiting for?


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