“I went through a season of bitterness”: Singles talk about what happens if The One never comes
by Christine Leow // June 4, 2022, 4:15 pm
Reuben Ang was on the panel of Salt&Light Family Night to share the valuable art of lamenting before God and returning to Him in his singlehood. Photo courtesy of Reuben Ang.
At 34, Reuben Ang has already achieved quite a bit in life.
He is the Managing Director of Hesed and Emet, which owns catering businesses Elsie’s Kitchen and Continental Delight. Not content to simply manage the business end of his catering empire, the business graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS) got himself trained in culinary arts at the Asian Culinary Institute.
He also earned a Specialist Diploma in molecular gastronomy, but not before putting in nearly two years as a full-time staff with FES (Fellowship of Evangelical Students).
At Zion Serangoon Bible-Presbyterian Church in which he grew up, Reuben is an elder, having been appointed to leadership in 2020. He has a cell group of peers whose friendship and support has kept him grounded.
Yet, he admitted that he struggled with “a season of bitterness” as a single.
“In the earlier days when I saw my friends getting married, I thought I desired a good thing. I had really honest conversations with God, praying and wondering when my time would come.
“The word that described the season was ‘being consumed’. I was consumed by that longing, that bitterness. In that season, I realised it was idolatry. I couldn’t do anything else apart from that.
“What must remain priority is not what I think is a good thing, but whatever God thinks is good for me.” – Reuben
“In church, at work, in my leisure time, this thought of loneliness and not having what I thought was a good thing, what I desired, why God was not answering my prayers – that bitterness consumed me to the point where I was no longer worshipful.”
The result of that season of wrestling with God was a surrendered soul.
“What I want in every season, what I must strive for, what must remain priority is not what I think is a good thing, but whatever God thinks is good for me. And, to perceive that through focusing on being worshipful and seeking God first.
“I haven’t figured out what that really looks like in this current season. But I know what it shouldn’t be, that a seemingly good thing can impair me from finding intimacy with my Saviour.”
Reuben laid bare the trials and triumphs of life as a single person on the edition of Salt&Light Family Night (May 31) that dealt with balancing singlehood and a desire for a soulmate.
Joining him on the panel were Angie Lim and Ps Oliver Chia. Angie is a video director, executive producer and writer with Roar Singapore. The creative community of storytellers, filmmakers, photographers, designers and strategists tells real-life stories that deal with social issues.
Ps Oliver Chia is an Associate Pastor at Grace Baptist Church. He oversees Discipleship and Outreach in his church.
Nearly 350 viewers joined the Zoom chat show. More than half (48%) were young adults aged between 26 and 35; a third were between the ages of 36 and 45. Under 25s made up 13%.
Asked what they enjoyed most about being single, “freedom” topped the list while “loneliness” was their main concern.
Here’s what the panellists shared about developing as a single and dealing with the disappointments of singlehood.
What is a godly perspective of singlehood?
Single or married, we flourish only when we “live our lives in accordance with God’s design and pursuing God’s purpose”, said Ps Oliver, 50.
Drawing from Ephesians 5, he noted that marriage between man and woman reflects Christ’s love for the Church. When Christ returns, there will be no more need for physical marriages because the Church, the bride, would be married to Jesus Christ the bridegroom.
“What does it mean for singles? Singles have the opportunity to portray the Church’s devotion to Jesus Christ.
“If you look at Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 7, he does say that one of the good things about being single is that we can have undivided devotion to Jesus Christ.
“Singles are to portray to the world that Jesus is satisfying, that He is indeed the treasure.” – Ps Oliver
“Knowing this is the big ‘what’ and big ‘why’ – that helps me as I think through how I live my life.”
That perspective has meant that even when Ps Oliver is alone, he is not lonely.
“Singles are to portray to the world that God is better, that Jesus is satisfying, that He is indeed the treasure.”
Quoting from an essay written by American counsellor Brooks Waldron, Ps Oliver concluded: “Singleness glorifies God by communicating the message that love and devotion to Christ is primary and eternal.
“It says to the watching world: God is enough. God is sufficient. God is better than anything, or anyone, else. God is worth all of the pain of following Him.
“This is the meaning of singleness. It is a high calling. And the message it communicates is not about the single person, but about God himself.”
How can singles flourish?
1. Have a purpose
From the age of 12, Angie had wanted to be in the media industry. Today, at 38, she is finally living her dream, although she only moved into video creation professionally in her early 30s.
“I’ve been privileged in that my calling is my job and my job is my calling. So, I have found purpose in what I do and I have lived purposefully.
Singlehood has “really been a gift to fulfil everything God has called me to do”. – Angie
“By and large, I really enjoy my singlehood now. It’s really been a gift to fulfil everything God has called me to do in the little time I had.”
Her advice to singles: Don’t wait for a spouse for life to start.
“I know of some singles who stop their lives. They dream of things like a full Europe trip. But they are waiting for their husbands to go with them – and they are almost in their 40s.”
2. Participate in God’s momentum
Having a purpose anchored in what God wants is important as well.
Instead of “waiting for things to happen”, Reuben is picking up music.
Said Reuben: “Flourishing takes place in relation to God’s world. It’s participating in the momentum of what God sees His world will be.
“As God’s people, we find our momentum and story in being part of His story of how things will be new again.”
For now, instead of “waiting for things to happen”, Reuben is picking up music again. Having given it up as a child, he has “discerned it to be what I enjoy doing and what God wants me to do now”.
He intends to nurture the gift God has given him to serve Him.
3. Know yourself
Being single has given Ps Oliver the space to get to know himself and grow from that knowledge.
“Growth means I put myself in areas that are uncomfortable so I learn to trust God.” – Ps Oliver
“God has made each of us differently. I tend to struggle with a certain cluster of sin habits. One of that is in the area of comfort: I desire comfort.
“Knowing that these are some of my struggles, growth means I put myself more and more in areas that are uncomfortable so I learn to trust God.”
Taking up Brazilian jujitsu and even being on the panel of Salt&Light Family Night are some of the ways Ps Oliver pushes himself.
“If I was approached 10 years ago, I would have refused.”
4. Be in a community
The community that Angie has been able to build because she is single has enriched her life.
“I am able to take time as and when I can, and as and when I want, to invite ladies over to speak into the wee hours of the night. We don’t have kids to wake and make breakfast for the next morning.
“We can just feel like going out right now and just go out right now. That has enabled me to build deeper communities.”
5. Give it time
Angie confessed that the peace she has made with being single did not happen overnight. “I wouldn’t say that it’s been that way throughout.
“The flourishing came later in my 30s. A lot of people see this stage but they didn’t see the stages before.”
How can singles deal with discontentment?
1. Recognise that discontentment happens to couples, too
Said Reuben: “It’s an ongoing struggle. In every season, we will continue to find other things that will vie for that misplaced love, that space and place that only Christ deserves.
“That is an ongoing struggle, regardless of whether you are single or married.”
2. Be contented with God
Said Angie: “I was a very driven person with a lot of ambition. I was always discontented because I always wanted to drive faster, be faster, do everything faster, finish everything faster. It didn’t give time for God to be God.
“He had to bring me to that journey of what it means to be contented with Him first.”
That entailed things turning out in ways she had not expected. Angie called them “broken roads” and credited them for teaching her how to be contented in God first.
3. Remember God’s faithfulness
All three panellists said falling back on God’s past faithfulness to them has helped them realise that, whether or not God gives them a life partner, He is still good.
“He will provide for us joy forevermore in His presence.” – Ps Oliver
Said Reuben: “God doesn’t change. We are the ones who wander from God. That brings us back to what Abraham says. Remember how God has already provided in the past.”
He has seen this happen in his business where God always provides, though not always in ways he expected.
Ps Oliver agreed: “He has already provided for us both rescue and redemption in Jesus on the Cross. Looking forward, He will provide for us joy forevermore in His presence when Christ comes back again.”
4. Get real with God
Ps Oliver gets honest with God and expresses his anger towards Him: “I paraphrase some of the Psalms. I pray, and that helps.”
5. Know your triggers
Little disappointments can lead to a bigger discontentment for Angie. Knowing what triggers her has helped her keep discontentment in check.
“My trigger comes when I fail at something small or didn’t get something that I wanted – something small like a sale I didn’t get or when people disappoint me at work.
“Once my trigger goes, my thoughts spiral: ‘Why don’t I have this? Why don’t I have that?’ Then, I spiral to this place where I can’t get out of the unhappiness.
“My emotions can point me to certain directions, to greater need or deception.” – Ps Oliver
“I think about the things I don’t have, including a husband and family.”
She used to escape by reading romance novels or watching Korean dramas. “But I realised those were not things that helped. It made me more miserable.”
Now, Angie changes her routine to “get out of my rut” whenever she feels triggered.
Ps Oliver does the same. He exercises – boxing, Brazilian jujitsu, “anything that tires me out and that I enjoy doing”.
“I’ve learnt over time to realise that depending on where I am, my emotions can point me to certain directions, to greater need or deception.
“I hold it till I am more rested and can gain perspective and think back on that.”
6. Turn to your community
Ps Oliver also counts on his close circle of church friends: “They know me well enough to care for me when they see me discontented.
“I tend to be forgetful. I know I have to be contented but there are times I can be forgetful.”
Reuben agreed a church community is very important.
“I have brothers who can journey with me and remind me that God did provide in the past and He will continue to provide in this season, though it may not be in the way I expect it to be.”
7. Refuse to indulge in fantasy
Women sometimes hold on to fantasies of what their future spouses should be like and those ideals can stand in the way of contentment.
“Women tend to ruminate a lot. I’ve learnt not to hold things so tightly, not to hold onto our fantasies so tightly,” said Angie.
What can singles do with the shame associated with singlehood?
Angie shared that she has been shamed for being single.
“People who were very close friends have said, ‘You single, so of course you don’t know lah. I felt very invalidated. I feel like, just because I’m not married, I can’t call a spade a spade.
“There is an us versus them feeling. Sometimes, I feel the married have made it into a club. The married life is so celebrated. But nobody comes and praises you when you do your singleness well.
“The married life is so celebrated. But nobody comes and praises you when you do your singleness well.” – Angie
“All they see is that you are not married, therefore you are not doing life well.”
Ps Oliver has had similar experiences: “I have aunties and uncles in church who have known me since I was 20-plus. They tell me, ‘Trust God. We will pray for you.’
“In their well-meaning intention, they seem to imply that singleness is somehow lacking.”
At times like these, Reuben turns to his safe space – a group of brothers in Christ with whom he can have honest conversations and get answers to make sense of things.
“When I am not able to find friends or they don’t always understand, I turn to God and lament.” – Reuben
“If you don’t have that, God is always there. When I am not able to find friends or they don’t always understand, I turn to God and lament.
“Biblical lament is something we must do well. It’s very honest, bringing those emotions to God.
“A big part of lament is the return.”
Reuben talked about a day in which God met him at his lamenting. It was November 11, 2019 – Singles’ Day.
“It really hit me that day. It’s Singles’ Day and I am single.”
It happened that his church group was jamming that day. Though You Slay Me by Shane and Shane was part of the set.
Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the One who’s all I need
“God arranged to minister to me through the song. Singing that song that day was a lament before God. I sang it to Him.
“You know what Job 13 says in the end: ‘Though you slay me, I will dare to hope in my God.’ The place of lament and return is so important.”
This report is Part 1 of the Salt&Light Family Night episode How do I balance singlehood and a desire for a soulmate? Look out for Part 2 of the report later in the week.
A full recording of this episode will be available at the end of the week. You can watch past episodes of Salt&Light Family Night on our YouTube channel here.
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