Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Trusting God in Singleness, with Charmaine Porter

Episode Resources

Learn more about You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.

Dannah Gresh: Often times there’s a disconnect between popular thinking and what God’s Word says—even among believers. Charmaine Porter sees that disparity in the way people view her marital status.

Charmaine Porter: God has never made me feel belittled or less than or unqualified because of my singleness. I have, unfortunately, felt like that in the church, though. So that, to me, was, “Well then, I need to start redefining how I’m thinking about my singleness.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh, for September 12, 2019.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: So, can you really trust God with your singleness? I know that for a lot of singles, that’s a difficult question. You have desires, longings even, that it seems like God will never meet.

Beyond that, you sometimes run into a sort of stigma. Maybe it’s an attitude. It might be subtle; it might be blatant, but it’s that underlying assumption that if you’re not married, something must be wrong, or that things would be better for you if you were married. You can find yourself slipping into those same kinds of thoughts.

One reader commented on our True Woman blog and expressed those kinds of feelings. Listen to the ache in her words. She said:

In two weeks I will turn fifty-one. I’ve never been married, and as a result, I don’t have children. I want to believe God has a plan for me and that’s why I’m still single, but it’s still easy to fall into thinking that maybe He knows I’m not good enough to be a wife, or maybe I’ve sinned so many times that being alone is my punishment.

Even as a Christian I find it hard to look forward to the future. I don’t understand why so many are blessed with families and husbands. Does God love those women more?

Well, our guest today and tomorrow is here to help expose our wrong ways of thinking about singleness and to help us get our attention where it belongs, whether we’re married or single, on the glory of God.

Dannah, you’ve know Charmaine Porter for some years now.

Dannah: Oh, you bet, Nancy. I love Charmaine! She was a traveling member of the True Girl live events for three years. Right now she’s the Learning Community Coordinator at a ministry called Impact 360 Fellowship. It’s kind of a gap year, and she’s the female leader. She does a weekend retreat on biblical womanhood and coordinates a lot of the other biblical worldview learning that these students undergo for nine months.

I’ve known that she has this real passion for the Church to approach the topic of singleness more biblically. And, Nancy, this really is a programnot just for singles because, as a married woman, my own heart was not just educated but impassioned for how I approach singleness.

Nancy: You were able to sit down with her in our studio to talk about this concept of trusting God to write our story, including in that season of singleness. So let’s listen together.

Dannah: Charmaine, I am convinced that we, the Church, need to rethink singleness.

Charmaine: I am convinced that you are right. (laughter)

Dannah: You are one of the reasons I believe that. You actually are one of the ones that started to make me think that maybe I was thinking about it in an unbiblical way. So let’s talk about that.

Charmaine: Yes.

Dannah: How old are you right now, Charmaine?

Charmaine: I’m thirty-one.

Dannah: And single.

Charmaine: And single, yes.

Dannah: When you were a little girl, did you dream of being single?

Charmaine: No! Growing up in the church, I assumed that it would happen. All the conversations led to me thinking that it would happen.

Dannah: Marriage?

Charmaine: Yes, marriage. I mean, who didn’t have crushes when they were younger? So, Charmaine—whatever the boy’s last name was . . .

Dannah: Yes, writing it on the back of your book cover.

Charmaine: Totally! Practicing my signature. I definitely, definitely dreamed about what the day would look like. I dreamed about the reception. I dreamed about how wonderful a party it would be. I dreamed about just finding that person that my soul loved. I didn’t use those kinds of terms when I was a girl, but that was basically it. I definitely dreamed about the wedding. I dreamed about having my best friend and being with him for my life. I mean, who didn’t?

Dannah: Who didn’t? Right. It’s kind of planted in us, isn’t it?

Charmaine: Definitely.

Dannah: And how did the church in, say your high school years, continue to plant that desire to be married, to have that man in your life one day?

Charmaine: I think a lot of the language had a big, big part of what I thought about it. It was always, “Well, when you get married,” or “When you have kids.” People would find out that I liked kids or that I was good with kids, and they’d be, “Oh, that’s great because when you get married, or when you have kids, that’s going to come in handy.”

Even conversations with my father were, “You need to learn how to cook because you need to take care of your husband, your man, one day when you get married.”

Different conversations. It also always seemed like purity was always attached to, “Stay pure so that God will bless your marriage. Stay pure until . . .” So it seemed like that was the goal of being pure.

Dannah: Yes. It’s almost like this purity ring comes with a guarantee.

Charmaine: Yes.

Dannah: I feel like that’s one of the big weaknesses in the early purity movement, one of the reasons I entered into the purity movement, because I was hearing that. I felt like, “I think the point of purity is purity, and obedience to God and holiness, not what you’re going to get out of it on this earth.

Charmaine: It seemed like we were making a deal with God, too. I honestly think somewhere in me I just started to see, “This doesn’t make sense.” It doesn’t make sense for me to try to be bargaining with the Lord. It doesn’t make sense for me to be setting myself up for something that the Lord never promised me.

The Bible never promised that I would find a husband or that the man would find me. It does say, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing,” but it doesn’t say, “He who finds Charmaine.” There’s no guarantee of that. So it almost seemed like I was setting myself up for disappointment if it didn’t happen.

Dannah: So, did you get to a place of disappointment?

Charmaine: I would say, when I was in college for sure. I went to a Christian university in Midwest Ohio, or the Midwest, and “ring before spring,” was the theme. I knew that people—myself included—wanted to get married. Like I knew that it was kind of the age that it happens—you graduate from high school, you go to college, you get married. It was almost like an expected thing.

I don’t think I’d ever met girls who said, “I’m coming to college to get my MRS degree. I’m coming to college to get married.” That made absolutely no sense to me. I was, like, “You’re spending how much money to do what?”

I mean, those were just my thoughts, but I think as that happened, and then as I continued to go along in my college years, and it didn’t seem like people were asking me out on dates. It didn’t seem like I was getting the attention that maybe other girls were getting. There’s definitely disappointment.

And a lot of it came with, my value was then in question. Am I valuable because I’m not dating? Am I valuable? Am I not enough? Do guys not find me pretty enough? Do they not find me fun enough? Do they not find me interesting enough? That’s led to disappointment, for sure.

Dannah: Could you take us to a night in college where you’re thinking those thoughts, asking those questions? What did it look like?

Charmaine: When I would come back home from college, I would go to church, and people would ask me, “Hey, how are you doing?” I would tell them what I was doing. The Lord blessed me with opportunities to travel when I was in college, not just nationally, but also internationally. I was involved in a lot of stuff.

Dannah: You were on a touring team, a singing team?

Charmaine: I was on a touring team. I was involved in leadership on my university’s campus, Cedarville University.

Dannah: And I should say you are a vibrant, bright, effervescent, contagious leader. People are attracted to you. You’re not a wallflower sitting in the corner waiting for someone to ask you out. You’re living life.

And so, you go home. You’re in your church, and the questions they ask . . .

Charmaine: They first ask me, “How are you doing? Tell me what’s going on in your life?” And I would share, and I would be really excited. Then the next follow-up comment would be, “We’re praying for you to find a husband. We’re praying for you that this happens.”

And I started to question: “Are they hearing that and not that I’m okay? God is receiving glory out of my life. I’m satisfied with where I am.”

So that just started to bubble up these questions of: “Where is this idea coming from that I’m missing out on something because I’m single? Where’s this thought coming from that, ‘You’re doing great, but you could be doing better if you were married. You’re missing something.’?”

I just had a lot of those thoughts, a lot of questions.

Dannah: I think that happens to a lot of people, especially in their college years, but sometimes we start in kindergarten: “Do you have a boyfriend?” That’s always bothered me because it makes a woman’s value about the guy and it becomes painful at a certain stage of your life if you’re wanting that and not finding that.

Charmaine: Yes.

Dannah: What would you say to people who do that? What would you say to them right now about how they need to change their vocabulary and their thinking?

Charmaine: I think a challenge would be to just change one word—“if.” Instead of saying, “When . . . when this happens,” because then you’re assuming. You’re assuming you know what God’s plan is for that person’s life. You’re assuming that God’s going to receive the most glory out of them being married one day. You are assuming that. So just saying, “If this happens.”

Or if someone is good with kids, “Wonderful. You’re good with kids. I bet kids really like you.” Period.

I had someone say, “Oh, you do your own taxes? That’s going to come in handy when you get married.” No! Encourage me that I know how to handle my taxes as a good citizen of this country and as a human.

Starting even younger . . . You’re saying, “Do you have a boyfriend?” I would challenge then to think: Do you only see boys, girls, men, women, as having value when they’re attached to another person? Or do they just have intrinsic value as an image bearer and as someone who can bring glory to God in and of themselves?

I would definitely, definitely challenge the thought of, What do you think about God’s glory? Because I was not made to be defined by a relationship. I was not made to bring God glory out of my singleness or simply out of marriage. I was made to just bring God glory as Charmaine. If I get married, then that’s what He wants to use in my life to bring Him the most glory. But right now, as a single person, He’s, like, “Well, I’m getting more glory out of you single than you married, so you’re single right now.”

I’d like to challenge them to think, Why are you asking those questions? Where are they coming from?

And even for me, because I used to say things like that. This isn’t to put down anyone that speaks like that. The only reason why I’ve even started to think and be challenged in this area is because, as my singleness has prolonged now into early thirties, I’ve had to back up and think: The Bible that I’m reading, the God that I say I serve is saying that I have value. He’s saying that I was made for His glory. Am I belittling His glory by still being single? Am I missing out on something? Am I making Him look bad?”

I’ve had to challenge myself and ask myself these questions.

Dannah: Big questions.

Charmaine: Big, big questions. I also had to think about, Where are these thoughts coming from? What are the roots?

Dannah: Post-college, when did you realize, “I think I need to embrace singleness,” or “I think I need to understand this singleness,” or “I think I may be single for a while.” When did that come?

Charmaine: Funny story: I had a ginormous crush on the lead singer of Hillsong United when I was post-college—like, right out of college.

Dannah: Let’s hope he’s not listening.

Charmaine: I hope he’s not listening because it’s kind of embarrassing—really embarrassing. I had the hugest crush on him. I remember sitting on my bed one evening in my apartment. I had my first job. I’m pretty sure I had my Bible in my lap. I don’t remember exactly what the conversation was between me and the Lord (I don’t know where this came from), but I remember crying my eyes out.

And I told the Lord, “God, I give this to You, but I don’t want to. I really don’t want to do this, but I give You this crush that I have. I give You this desire that I have to be known, to be loved, to be wanted by someone else. I give You this, but I don’t want to because if I give it to You, then You’re in control of it and I’m not. And if You’re in control of it, You may give me something that I don’t want. I don’t want to be single for the rest of my life. I don’t want that, but I still think I need to give this to You.”

This crush . . . it was crazy, Dannah. I’m going to be honest with you. I was having all sorts of dreams. He was going to come on campus and whisk me away. It was kind of crazy.

Dannah: I’m proud of you for saying that because I think women do that. We want to think that’s what we do when we’re in seventh grade. We have the crush. We dream the dreams. We paint the pictures. But I think both single women and married women do that. Sometimes it’s the crush when we’re in our late twenties of someone we don’t even know. And sometimes the pictures we paint are the way our husband rescues us and fixes our marriage or something like that.

That is us being in control, and that is us saying, “God, here’s how I want You to write my story.”

Charmaine: Yes, for sure! And, “If You don’t do this, I’m going to be upset.” This was another point where my theology had to change. I’d heard verses like Psalm 37:4, “Pursue the Lord with all that you are. Give Him your heart, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I think that verse is misinterpreted.

To be very, very transparent, my mother passed away when I was eight years old. I have a major desire for her to be here in my life right now, and she’s not. I’ve had to wrestle with, “Well, Lord, somehow, some way, You’re receiving more glory out of her not being here than her being here.”

I’ve had to wrestle with that, and if it’s true in that instance—and He’s the same God—then could it be true in my singleness? Is that possible that, while I do want it . . . I’ll even back up and say, “I think I want to get married now because I realize it’s not just the wedding.” That’s what a lot of my dreams were, I realized, when I was a kid. I wanted the wedding, and I wanted the party, and I wanted all my family and my friends to be together.

But to actually live in partnership with another person, to sacrifice, to godly submit to another man—was that what I was picturing when I said, “Oh, I want to be married”? It wasn’t.

Dannah: A lot of times we want the wedding. We prepare for the wedding. But we’re not preparing for the marriage—the submission, the partnership, the help meeting—all of those hard things. We’re not dreaming about that stuff, right?

Charmaine: Right. We’re not dreaming about that. I wasn’t dreaming about that. So I just had to come to, “Lord, I was made for Your glory, whatever that looks like, that’s what I was made for.” Do I still desire to be married? Yes. I think so.

Dannah: That night of crying and saying, “God, I give this to You,” would that be the night that you would say, “I began to choose to trust God with my singleness”?

Charmaine: I think it started there, for sure. Over the next few years, as I left that first job that I had and then actually went on the road with the one and only Dannah Gresh . . .

Dannah: (laughter) You were a lead teacher on the True Girl team.

Charmaine: Yes. As I started to do that . . . I’ll be honest with you, Dannah. I would go on the road with True Girl ministry and still have in the back of my head, “I could meet my husband at this church. I could meet him. Someday I could get off the bus, and he’d be the sales manager of the—whatever—I could meet him.”

I really didn’t know how to reconcile that. I honestly didn’t know how to still have this desire and yet still try to remain content. I didn’t know how to do that.

So what I really started to do was just be honest with the Lord. It’s hard to invite Him into this struggle of: “I want to be content. I’m not really sure how to do that. You’ve got to help me do it.”

So I started to talk to Him about this. Eventually the conversation started to go from just, “Lord, I’m talking to You about my singleness, and I’m asking You to either change this or take it away. Take away the desire to get married or take away the need to be wanted and all that stuff.”

I started to realize, first of all, that He gave me those things. Those things come from Him. They’re not a bad thing. They’re not an unholy thing. But while I was desiring those things, He started to heal them, and I started to find value and satisfaction in Him, but also in the things that He’s allowing me to do.

I think it’s 1 Corinthians 7:17 that says, in the Message version, “Let God, not your relationship status, define your life.”

I started to not only believe that and let that shape how I was living my life, but I started to become a fan of God defining my life. And so the conversation started with, “Lord, help me in this area of singleness to trust You there.” But eventually it went into, “You’re a holistic God. You’re not just concerned about my relationship status, You’re concerned about my relationships with my family. You’re concerned about my relationships with the people that are around me. You’re concerned about what I eat. You’re concerned about how I spend my days.”

So I started to invite Him into my life, my relationship status included. But I didn’t just let that, the relationship status, define me because God doesn’t define me just by that.

Dannah: Let’s stop there in 1 Corinthians 7 because as this part of your story was unfolding, you’re touring with True Girl. I’m listening to that honest declaration to God sometimes in our prayer circle as you would just say, “God, I trust You with this desire.” And I think, for me, that was the beginning of my rethinking of singleness. And I thought, I think we’re getting this wrong as the Church.

I think, maybe not everyone in church, but I was guilty of it, and others around me were. We weren’t satisfied to just pray for Charmaine to glorify God. We were praying for Charmaine to find a husband. My husband confronted me and said, “You need to stop praying for Charmaine’s husband, and you need to start praying for Charmaine’s worth in Christ.”

Charmaine: Wow!

Dannah: So, between your honesty, and his confrontation . . . My husband has a great passion to approach the topic of singleness with biblical honesty and integrity.

Charmaine: Yes. I’ve experienced that.

Dannah: So I began studying this passage, 1 Corinthians 7. First Corinthians 6 and 7 is a lot about how the Corinthian church, the Greek and Roman culture, had a lot of lies they were believing about sex, marriage, and singleness.

Now, I didn’t realize that there were things in here about singleness. I was hyper-focused, as is the problem, on the sex and the marriage stuff. But in 1 Corinthians 7:8, it says, “To the unmarried and the widows, I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” And what Paul was addressing there, in part, was the fact that, beginning at about 31 BC, Augustus Caesar had widows fined if they weren’t married within two years of their husband’s death.

Charmaine: Wow!

Dannah: The value of singleness was so . . . Well, there was no value for it in the culture. Even the rule of the land as: Don’t be single. So Paul was addressing that in here. He’s saying, “Wait a minute!” And, of course, we know that Paul also said, “Hey, if somebody is single or they are a widow, you pay their way,” because that was a very practical need in the day. Women couldn’t have a job. He said, “We as Christians value singleness so much that we’re going to pay their way.”

And this confronted me in terms of: We are so guilty, as the church of Corinth was, of not valuing singleness and responding to it differently.

And the passage you just quoted, 1 Corinthians 7:17, in the ESV version says, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”

And you just quoted it in the Message version, which, I think, a lot of times we’re, like, “Oh, change of topic now.” But it wasn’t.

Charmaine: No.

Dannah: So, say that again in the Message version.

Charmaine: In the Message version, it says, “Let God, not your marital status, define your life.”

Dannah: Of course, that’s a loose paraphrase.

Charmaine: Right.

Dannah: He’s saying, “Hey, listen: This verse is still attached to the topic of singleness. So let each person lead the life the Lord has assigned to him,” which is what you were saying you were discovering in a hard way on the hot pavement of life.

Charmaine: Yes. You know what’s funny, Dannah, is that one thing over the years that I started to realize that there was a disconnect between what the Bible was saying and what the Church was telling me is that God has never made me feel belittled or less than or unqualified because of my singleness. I have, unfortunately, felt like that in the Church, though. So that, to me, was, “Well then, I need to start redefining how I’m thinking about my singleness. I need to start redefining when people say: ‘Do you think you have the gift of singleness?’”

At first, I honestly would be like, “I don’t want you to say that about me because I’m not trying to be labeled by that.” I assumed that people were saying, “Because you have the gift now, then you’re going to have the gift forever.”

But as I started to do some research on this and getting back to the Bible, what Paul was actually saying, getting into the Greek and things like that, I started to realize that Paul’s saying, “If you’re single, you have the gift. If you’re single, you have the gift of singleness. But also, if you’re married, you have the gift of marriage.”

Think about receiving a birthday present: You wouldn’t just have that gift and sit it on your table and just leave it there. Or you wouldn’t just put it in the back of your closet. You would take that gift; you would open it up and see what was inside. You’d see: “How do I work this? What can I understand about it? How can I use it in my everyday life?” You know, if it’s a good gift.

I think that’s what the Lord is waiting for a lot of us to do, to realize that, whether you have the gift of singleness or the gift of marriage, open that baby up. See what it is. It’s a tool for us to use for however long the Lord has us have it to bring Him glory.

Dannah: Yes.

Nancy: We’re not defined by our relationship status. That’s good news. And what helpful thoughts from our guest today, Charmaine Porter, as she’s been talking with Dannah Gresh. Charmaine and Dannah will be back tomorrow to pick up that conversation.

We’ve heard from Dannah and Charmaine as part of a month-long emphasis here on Revive Our Hearts about trusting God’s good providence. I’ve loved immersing myself in this topic over the past year or so as my husband Robert and I worked on a book called You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.

We’re praying that God is going to use this resource to offer tons of hope to listeners who are struggling to understand why God has them in their particular situation. As we were writing this book, Robert and I interviewed a number of people in tough life scenarios to find out how they were learning to embrace the mysteries of God’s providence. And we looked to the Scripture, of course, as our ultimate guide on how to accept God’s plan for our lives.

We’d like to send you a copy of this newly released book, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount this month. Be sure to ask for it when you call us at 1–800–569–5959, or you can visit us atReviveOurHearts.com to make your donation and to request a copy of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.

So if you’re single, as I was, by the way, for the first fifty-seven years of my life, I hope that your heart is to serve the Lord in this season. But there are a whole lot of practical decisions involved in how to do that. Dannah and Charmaine will talk about some of those nuts and bolts of trusting God’s plan tomorrow. I think it will be a helpful conversation to you in whatever season of life you may be in right now. So please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you trust God to write your story. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion