Singleness: Gift or Curse?
“Only let each person live the life that the Lord has assigned to him and to which God has called him… Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called… So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God … it is good for a person to remain as he is”. (1 Cor. 7:17,20,24,26)
For those of you who are unmarried, in the midst of a sermon series on the gift of marriage, the obvious question is, “so… what about singleness? Is it a gift or a curse?”
Short Answer: Singleness is a gift from God and a gift to offer back to God.
We know you’re thinking: “Awesome. Another married couple is going to tell us how ‘great’ singleness is.” We get it. But we’re far more qualified to contribute to a discussion on singleness (20+ years experience) than marriage (1 year experience). We were both “old” by typical church and small town standards when we got married at 31 and 29 years old. We’d love to be able to encourage you that your singleness is an intentional gift from God that, like any gift, is to be stewarded and enjoyed.
Fundamentally, doing singleness well is a matter of trusting God—that your current position in life is not accidental. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul emphasizes four times that we should “remain” as we have been called, not seeking to change our circumstances so much as we seek to live for God in our circumstances, trusting that they are not an accident and God is doing something through them.
For Paul, God has a purpose behind calling people from all different circumstances – and it’s not to make all their circumstances the same. He pushes the single person to remain as they are and to steward their gift of singleness to serve the Lord. He’s not saying we are never to seek a change in our circumstances (or no one would be married, right?), but he is addressing an underlying distrust of the Lord to work in present situations. He appeals to us that no matter where we find ourselves – single or married – we live orderly lives and give our “undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:35).
We’d like to make this practical by dispelling a few myths that we hear from singles and have ourselves thought at times.
Myth 1: “My life can’t start until I’m married.”
I (Adriel) have been tempted by this one and see it most frequently in Christian women. It frequently comes from a heart that wants to walk by sight not faith – to copy others’ faith rather than forge their own with God. Since many Christian women do get married and have children, it’s easier to think you can copy-cat their lives and call yourself a godly Christian woman rather than go to God daily in prayer and Scripture, asking him to show you personally how to grow as a godly woman. Truth: “My life began when Jesus saved me, and every moment and circumstance is to be lived fully to him, because it all counts.” (Galatians 2:20; 2 Peter 1:3-4; Ephesians 5:15-16)
Myth 2: “Single time is ‘me’ time.”
I (Stephan) believed this lie for years, and although for me it didn’t look like hard partying, it was a period of life characterized by selfishness. This lasted until God revealed to me that I needed to exploit the advantages of where he had me—a single dude, with a well-paying and flexible job, and extra time at my disposal—for him. As a Christian, there is no such thing as ‘me’ time, whether married or single. Because you’ve been bought with Christ’s blood, your life belongs to him, and you don’t own your body, time, dreams, money, or anything else. Don’t believe the lie that you can live a wildly selfish life now and “get it out of your system,” and then be ready to serve a spouse, children and church after you say “I do.” This is a rampant American lie that the apostle Paul called out centuries ago: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). If you make singleness about “me time” rather than serving, you can expect to experience a harvest of the painful results of selfishness whether you stay single or get married in the future. Truth: “All I am belongs to Jesus and as a single person I am to serve God and serve others like Christ.” (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Myth 3: “Dating is a good way to practice for marriage and keeps me from feeling lonely.”
This one is saddening because it so clearly wastes the single person’s affections, time and money (amongst other issues). Please don’t date around waiting for the “right one” to pop up or to keep your inner-romantic occupied. Don’t waste your days daydreaming about crushes and over-analyzing potential romantic prospects. God gave you a mind to worship him, and a heart to love Him and what he loves. He wants all of us to serve him and enjoy what he has for us now – and promises to provide us with everything we need. One of the “downsides” to marriage is that the husband and wife are preoccupied with one another and have less time, funds and affections to be directly devoted to the Lord, the church body and others around them. Don’t willfully take on the disadvantage of a married person when you’re single. Truth: “I can serve God and his church and reach the lost in a way married people can’t – and God wants me to take advantage of that, while he supplies my every need.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34; Philippians 4:19)
Myth 4: “God’s original plan was for people to be married, so singleness can’t be part of his design. I’m less than who I should be.”
Yes, God’s original design in Eden was marriage. But doesn’t it seem a bit presumptuous to say that God didn’t want Jesus or Paul to be single? God doesn’t have a “Plan B.” All things happen according to his only plan. Additionally, God says in Ecclesiastes 3 that there is a time for everything (including singleness), and that he makes all things beautiful in their time (including your singleness). Do you believe that your life will be made beautiful in God’s way and time? Do you believe that your life as a single person is not wasted? That if he calls you to singleness through your twenties, your twenties are not “wasted”? That if he calls you to life-long singleness, in Him, it will be beautiful and not wasted? Truth: “It is no accident that I am single, and God has planned this from the beginning of time – and I have good works as a single person that he’s designed for me. I know God is making my life beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11; Ephesians 2:10)
Evaluate where God has you now—your specific circumstances as a single Christian. Spend time in Scripture and prayer, asking Him to open your eyes to the opportunities he is providing for you—opportunities to put the gospel in your life and affect the things and people touching you. What people, situations, suffering, and opportunities are you sinfully ignoring and avoiding? Where are you trying to escape your God-given circumstances?
We don’t know what’s in your future as far as marriage goes. But we do know that if you are a Christian and you are single, God has made your entire life significant – so act like it is. Nothing about your life is insignificant: the way you treat and talk to your roommate, coworkers, classmates, neighbors; the things you study; the hobbies you pursue… these are all meaningful and important to God and his Kingdom. God has given you the gift of singleness today. Are you going to live as if your life is on hold, or are you going to live for Him now?