Wait… What? Are you sure, Lord? You can’t be serious! Are You? Singleness, really?
In the American culture, for a young adult and for those getting older, it is viewed as quite odd to be single, even if that person believes he/she is doing God’s will by being that way. He/she may start hearing different statements such as:
- “Oh, you’re still single, I’m sorry!”
- “So when do you think you will decide to start looking for a husband/wife?”
- “You mean you’re happy single? Because I know this person with whom I think you would do great.”
- Surprisingly, I have heard the following one several times as a single, young female serving the Lord, “You’re not rooting for the other team, are you?” (Suggesting that I’m now a lesbian due to my lack of dates with men.)
With this being the normal attitude of today’s culture, how would a Christian cope with being a single person if he/she was called by the Lord to be that way? How would a person even know that singleness is God’s will for him/her as a Christian?
These are important questions for any Christian to ask if he/she is truly seeking after God’s will. God does not act in a certain way because He is cruel, but He is truly seeking our best. Sometimes God chooses singleness for His servants instead of marriage because He knows what is truly best for them. How should we as Christians respond to singleness when we have been brought up in a culture that has already predetermined that every healthy person is supposed to be married? The Bible has strong views when it comes to singleness and doing God’s will. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:7 that singleness is a gift from God. You may be thinking, “What, a gift? My life of singleness is not a gift. I feel cheated due to my lack of having a spouse. I feel empty, lonely, and as if I’m not whole because I don’t have a spouse to serve the Lord with.” I do not doubt your feelings. Feelings at times can be very strong, but it is also very important not to cloud the truth with your feelings.
The Bible has a lot to say about all of these topics and more. You may learn that singleness really isn’t as bad as you thought, and that the Lord has an answer to all these feelings that you may have. It may also be important to ask if singleness is really the issue and not finding true contentment in the Lord. When Christians become discontent and focused on other things (such as feelings, or what they do not have) instead of on God, their judgments become clouded, and they don’t trust God because they cannot see clearly what He is trying to do in their lives.
First, we will see what Christ has said regarding singleness, then we shall see what the Apostle Paul has said about singleness, and last, we will see how we as Christians should properly respond if God has called us to singleness. In Matthew 19, Jesus Christ is explaining to His disciples the seriousness of marriage. In Matt. 19:3, the Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) had come to ask Jesus, “Is it lawful to divorce your wife for any reason at all?” Jesus then explained, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6). The Pharisees’ response was, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her away?” (Matt. 19:7). “He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way’” (Matt. 19:8). What Jesus communicated was once you are married, that’s it! “For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel” (Mal. 2:16). God HATES divorce and rightly so because it destroys people emotionally and spiritually.
Once you get married, you can’t wake up one day, realize that you don’t love the person you have married anymore, and then decide to get a divorce. If the person you have married turns out not to be the person you thought he/she would be (which happens all the time), you can’t get a divorce and go about your life. Or this one, which takes on a more spiritual tone, if you and your spouse are serving the Lord and your spouse goes carnal, you cannot divorce your spouse because, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” You must stay married to your spouse. As your spouse drifts off into the world, you must stay focused on serving the Lord, and put the Lord first. As a Christian putting God first in my life, I cannot imagine something that would be more painful than watching my spouse serve the Lord and then drift into carnality.
Any way you look at it, once you are married, there is no way out unless one of you dies. While the disciples were listening to Jesus and the Pharisees talk about marriage, they began to realize that maybe marriage was not as easy or as light of a topic as they thought. They responded to the conversation, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry” (Matt. 19:10). Now here is the interesting part, Jesus’ response to His disciples, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only to whom it has been given” (Matt. 19:11). If you noticed, Jesus did not disagree with His disciples. In fact, He goes on to explain how men make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom in verse 12. Now according to Strong’s Bible Dictionary, the word “eunuch” is a person who voluntarily abstains from wedlock. This person does not get married so that he/she can better serve Christ’s kingdom here on earth. This person believes that as a single person he/she can better serve Christ and better fulfill his/her purpose in life, which is to seek and save the lost, Matt. 28:19-20; to build up other believers spiritually, 1 Thes. 5:11; and to be Christ-like in character, 1 Peter 1:14-15. As Christians, this should be our main focus in life. This is the reason we were not taken into heaven at our conversion. If being single and not getting married will help you do these better, then you should abstain from marriage and remain single until you believe you can serve God better as a married person. If a spouse will help you fulfill your God-given purpose in life better, then that’s great. But if not, you should NOT pursue looking for one. Marriage is very serious and should not be taken lightly. The main reason for a Christian to get married is not because they are lonely or because they want to feel needed. The ONLY reason a Christian should get married is that he/she believes he/she can serve God better, that he/she can further the kingdom of God on earth by leading people to Christ and building them up spiritually better as a married person. In my opinion, most Christians get married for the wrong reasons. They may have a low self-image and believe that a spouse will make them feel better about themselves. Some Christians think that getting married will make most of their life problems better due to them now having a spouse. Also, something to be considered is that some Christians are just in love with the thought of being in love! These are all wrong reasons to get married. Christ said that to be married is a lifelong commitment, as seen in the above passages. Christ also said that if a person can accept the life of singleness to further the kingdom of God on earth, then let him/her then accept it.
Now that we have seen what Jesus Christ has said about the topics of marriage and singleness, let’s see what the Apostle Paul has to say about these two topics. The Apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to the Corinthian church around 55 A.D. At that time, Corinth was a lot like our Las Vegas, Nevada. Whatever happened in Corinth stayed in Corinth! Corinth was known for its fine athletes, intellectuals, artists, idolatry, and at nighttime, it was common to find fights and drunken orgies. In Corinth, the way one worshiped in the temples was by having sex with the temple prostitutes. In the middle of all this immorality and corruption was a church forming of new converts to Christianity. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to help the church of Corinth live in a way that would be pleasing to the Lord, and because Corinth was known for its immorality, marriage and singleness were both hot topics of the day, just as they are now. In 1 Corinthians chapter 7, Paul addresses the issues of marriage and singleness. To those who were married because of the immoralities that were taking place in Corinth, Paul said, “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Cor. 7:3-4). Now some Christians may be thinking, “See, that is an excellent reason to get married, I can have all the sex I want!” Other Christians may even use 1 Corinthians 7:9, “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” The Christian may say, “Due to my past lifestyle of immorality as a non-Christian, I now have a lust problem and should now get married, so that I do not ‘burn with passion’”.
When I first became a Christian, I had a hard time controlling my thoughts when it came to lust because of my immoral lifestyle as a non-Christian. When I decided to move in and be trained as missionary, I still had a hard time dealing with my lustful thoughts. One day while reading my Bible, I read 1 Corinthians 7:9. I thought I found the solution to my lust problem and was quick to tell my spiritual leader at the time about the solution that I had found. With a raised eyebrow, she began to tell me that if that was the main reason for me to get married, then I would be using my husband as a sex object and not for the purpose God had for marriage. She began to tell me that the only true reason a person should get married as a Christian is because he/she believes that he/she could better fulfill his/her purpose in life than he/she could single. The solution to my lust problem was not marriage, but redirecting my thoughts to Scripture when tempted to lust and to see people as God does. If a Christian is looking at marriage as a way to deal with his/her sex drive, then his/her motive is very selfish and not pleasing to God. The only God-pleasing motive for marriage is to glorify God by pursuing His will for your life, not to have as much sex as you want.
The Apostle Paul talks of singleness as well as marriage in 1 Corinthians. “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife” (1 Cor. 7:27). According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary, by Drs. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck, at the time 1 Corinthians was written, there was a great persecution against the Christians. Paul advised the singles to stay single because if martyred, the Christian would not have to worry about leaving his/her family behind after being killed for the faith. For us Christians in America, I think there is a great application for us as well. Though most of us Christians are not under the pressure of being martyred, we can learn and apply this verse to our lives. I looked up the word “seek” in the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, and the definition is “to go in search of; to acquire or gain”. There are many ways that Christians try to acquire a spouse. There are single’s nights at church where singles can learn about God and grow in their walk with Him. But in reality, most of these single’s meetings turn into date nights, “Christian style”. Also, I looked up on the internet Christian dating websites, and I found at least ten pages full of them. Then look at the motives as to why people even go to church. I was once told by a religious person who was faithful in going to church, “Well, I want a good girl who I can still have fun with.” Where did he go to find these good girls he could have fun with? The local bar and the local churches. At the college where I serve as a local missionary, I meet Christians who put all their time and energy into searching for that perfect someone to make their lives complete. If those Christians put as much time into their relationship with God as they do trying to find a spouse, they would most likely be some of the godliest people I would know. It saddens me to see Christians seeking after someone who will not give them true or lasting fulfillment. Seeking after a spouse and obtaining one will not give you lasting fulfillment, only a right relationship with God will. Christians are too often seeking after the wrong things.
If God wanted a Christian to have a spouse, He would give that person one; he/she would not have to spend all his/her time and energy trying to find one. James 1:17 says that every good gift is from God. A spouse will be given to a Christian if God believes it would be a good gift for His child. I do not believe Christians should be wasting their time searching for a spouse when if God wanted them to have a spouse, He would make sure they would have one who would meet their personal needs and their ministry needs.
Later on in the chapter, Paul tells the single Christians to remain single so they could have undistracted devotion to the Lord. If these Christians were to marry, they would be more focused on their spouse than their relationship with the Lord (1 Cor. 7:32-35). As I observe married Christians as a whole, I can see that Paul knew what he was talking about. Married Christians seem to struggle with making Christ the highest priority of their lives. Most married Christians do not take advantage of their single years to focus primarily on God, but, instead, they spend their time trying to find a spouse who they think will meet their needs.
As single Christians, we should be spending our time focused on God and His purpose for our lives. If Christians have a solid foundation in the Lord while they are single, then they will do better in their relationship with God as a married Christian. If a person does not take advantage of his/her single life to focus on his/her relationship with God, he/she is really hurting him/herself spiritually. While a person is single, he/she can devote as much time to the Lord and His will for his/her life as he/she wants. When a person is married, his/her time is divided between family, work, and God (usually this is the order of priority in a married person’s life of responsibilities). It’s hard for a married person to have complete devotion to the Lord because he/she is distracted by life’s responsibilities. “One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife” (1 Cor. 7:32-33). As single Christians, we need to take advantage of this time to completely focus our time and energy on God and His will for our lives. Marriage takes work! You need to have character traits of self-sacrifice, humility, service, and agape love (seeking the best for another person), just to name a few. If a person does not work on these traits as a single, if God does want him/her to get married, it will be a hard road for him/her and his/her spouse because he/she will be learning these traits as he/she goes, instead of already having them. As single Christians, we should not become upset because of our not of having a spouse, but instead work on getting closer to God and finding His will for our lives.
We have seen what Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul have both said about singleness. So what should our attitude be if as Christians we are called to be single for however long the Lord sees fit? It’s important that we not only live a life of singleness if God has called us to live a single life, but also that we have the right attitude while single. If a person is single it can be easy for that person to have the “Woe is me” attitude. Some singles have developed an attitude of self-pity and resentment because they feel as if they have been cheated out of having a spouse by God. Some feel that God is hurting them and getting sick enjoyment from seeing their pain of loneliness. Is this true? Does God make Christians single because He is a cruel God? The answer is “no”, He does not! God loves His children and only wants what’s best for them (Rom. 8:35-39).
There are many reasons why God does not give a spouse to a Christian man or woman.
- He/she may not be spiritually ready for one.
- He/she may be able to serve God better without one.
- His/her character growth may be stunted because he/she would be spending more time with his/her spouse than with God.
- God may want to see if he/she will trust Him while he/she is single, to see if they really do believe that He wants their best.
There are many other reasons as to why a Christian might be single, but, regardless of the reason, we as Christians should trust that God knows what’s best for us and have an attitude of contentment. God is not trying to rob you of joy, but giving you a life that would lead to your having the most joy! “Fields always look greener on the other side of the fence.” But what people fail to realize is that on the other side of the fence is nothing but thorns and stickers. Because you haven’t had what’s on the other side of the fence, it looks more appealing. Learning from painful experience, I’ve learned that getting what you don’t have does not bring you joy and fulfillment, but having godly contentment does.
According to The New Bible Dictionary, p. 250, “contentment” is defined as “denoting freedom from reliance upon others, whether other persons or other things; hence the satisfaction of one’s needs (2 Cor. 9:8) or the control of one’s desires (1 Tim. 6:6, 8). It’s not a passive acceptance of the status quo, but the positive assurance that God has supplied one’s needs and the consequent release from unnecessary desire. The Christian can be self-contained because he has been satisfied by the grace of God (2 Cor. 12:9).” Realizing that you can trust God to meet your needs and that you can rest in Him to do that will bring you closer to God than you realized. God loves you as a Father Who loves His children, and sometimes a loving Father has to say “no”. “Just because God doesn’t give us all we want, when we want it, doesn’t make Him any less a loving and caring God” (Geoff Griffith). God at times must say “no” because He loves us too much to say “yes”. We as Christians should trust our loving God, and be content with the life that God has chosen for us. Sometimes may be easier to trust God than others, but that is when we should not lean on our own understanding, and trust in the Lord with all our hearts (Prov. 3:5-6).
Singleness is not a curse, and marriage is not the ultimate blessing. Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul both thought highly of singleness and remained single throughout their lives. We as Christians should have the right attitude, trusting God that He does in fact know what He is doing. Single Christian, do not become discouraged because you do not have a spouse, but enjoy your singleness as a time to get closer to God, so that you can have a firm foundation in Christ. God knows your needs because He is the One Who made you; therefore, God is the One who knows how to meet your needs in the best possible way. Your job is to trust Him.