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The Single Life: Loving it, or Living with it

Posted by Nate Edwards on

Summers can be the worst for some of us. While we might love the warm weather, we don’t love the fact that it is making this haunting suspicion in our mind even stronger: “Everyone has someone except me.” We see people going on dates at the park, we are invited to hundreds of summer weddings and it even appears that the animals around us are moving in pairs.

It probably wouldn’t feel so depressing if the expectations for us to find someone weren’t so high. Whether these expectations come from the outside or from within, they put a lot of pressure on us to reach this level of adulthood. When it hasn’t worked out the way we envisioned it would, there is a ton of disappointment. We start asking questions like, “What is wrong with me?” and “Will I ever find someone?” That disappointment can turn into loneliness, or even resentment: a constant sadness that stays with us because we feel like a failure. To make matters worse, a frustration at both God and other people who have found a relationship can emerge.

In spite of all these feelings about our singleness, the Bible makes outrageous, but true, statements that most of us don’t want to hear. In 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul, a single man, calls singleness a “gift” and says, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God…” Also in Matthew 19:11 Jesus calls singleness good for “those to whom it is given”.

What do we do with this?

How do we navigate our feelings about our singleness and what the Bible has to say about it?

While this won’t solve your problems, I would like to encourage you with these five truths.

  1. Marriage is NOT the culmination of the human existence.

Your mom might disagree, but marriage is not meant to be the most important thing about you. While marriage is a beautiful gift from God, it is not the purpose of your existence nor are you incomplete without it. Jesus himself was never married, and he said that marriage is not eternal but limited to this world (Matthew 22:30).

So if marriage is not the point to life, what is? In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes how marriage is meant to point us to something, mainly Christ (Ephesians 5:31-32). As you read the rest of the Bible, you will see that everything exists to declare the glory of God. Psalm 19:1 says, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Isaiah 43:6 states, “bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

The reason you exist is NOT to find a soul mate, but to be in relationship with the one your soul was made for.

  1. God desires you to leverage your singleness for his glory.

For many single people, one of their greatest fears is that they will never get married. Research, however, suggests otherwise. Current findings indicate that over 80% of Americans will get married before the age of forty.

While not everyone necessarily gets married, the majority of Americans do, so the odds are good that you will. Regardless of whether or not you marry someone, the Bible is concerned about how you leverage your years of singleness. Paul suggests that your singleness is a unique time where you can have an undistracted, undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:35). Along with marriage comes responsibilities and distractions, which are not bad, but will prevent you from doing some things that you can do as a single person.

The question I would ask you is this: how are you using your singleness? Who are you mentoring and who is mentoring you? Where are you leading? Where are you connected? How well do you know God’s Word?

Are you investing your time in things that are eternal rather than temporal?

Hobbies and Netflix are not evil, but too much focus on either can distract you from using your single years for effective ministry for the glory of God.

  1. God uses difficult seasons to refine us.

We don’t like it, but life is hard. Jesus said himself that in this life you will have trouble (John 16:33). James agrees with the Lord when he says, “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). Not "if", but "when."

While there is much conversation about where difficulty comes from, what is more clear is the purpose of difficulty. James continues on, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3-4). Just as an athlete puts his or her muscles in crisis in order to strengthen them, so too our faith is put in crisis in order to bring about growth. Peter writes that suffering can also provide for us the right perspective on life, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Peter and James both encourage us to rejoice in our difficulty because God is using it in our lives to shift our attention to what really matters.

So while you may not like the season you are in, my encouragement is to not wish it away so quickly. Rather, embrace it and allow God to use it in your life to strengthen your faith and provide you with the correct perspective on life.

  1. A desire to be married is not wrong, and is worth pursuing.

The single person who is attempting to submit their desires to Christ has a difficult question to answer in their own mind: “What do I do about my desire to get married?” How does one trust Christ with their life if marriage isn’t what he has for them, yet the desire for marriage still persists in their heart?

To that I would say that marriage is a gift from God; he is the creator and source of it. It was his idea. In Genesis 2:18 God declares that it is not good for man to be alone and in turn makes someone to complement the man. God decided to make woman and create the establishment of marriage. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).” Since marriage is God’s idea, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be married and taking steps in that direction.

With that in mind, pray consistently for your future spouse, go on dates and position yourself in environments where you could meet the type of person you are looking for. Unless God gives you clarity otherwise, seek his will as you pursue this desire. But always remember that your desire for marriage should be in the right place in your life. It is a gift from God that you hope you can experience one day, not the treasure for which your life was created.

  1. We need to deepen our understanding of the gospel.

Why does singleness hurt so badly for some people? Why does it create so much fear and anxiety in your heart? Why does it lead you to lower your standards and date people who aren’t aligned with you morally and don’t share the same allegiance to the Savior?

I would suggest it’s because you are not believing the gospel - the truth that God is all we need - in this area of your life. For many single people, their singleness is attacking one of their core fears - these fears are the source of all the detrimental symptoms in our lives. Core fears could include the fear of rejection, abandonment, failure, inadequacy, or being unloved. Many Christians would assert that Jesus is all they need, yet when it comes to their relationships, they feel strongly about the need to get married too. Until we see that the gospel gives us confidence to face our fears, we will always struggle to believe that God is enough.

Tim Keller has been very helpful in this area. In his book, Preaching, Keller points out that Jesus is the answer to all our questions. Until we embrace what Jesus has done for us, we will fail at trying to do what we can’t do for ourselves. He uses the story of David to make his point:

“If I read the story of David and Goliath as basically giving me an example, then it is really about me. I must summon up the faith and courage to fight the giants in my life. But if I think of the Bible as being about the Lord and his salvation, and if I read the David and Goliath text in that light, it throws many things into relief. The very point of the passage was that the Israelites could not face the giant themselves. They needed a substitute, who turned out to be not a strong person but a weak one. And God uses the deliverer’s weakness as the very means to bring about the destruction of Goliath. David triumphs through weakness and his victory is imputed to his people. In his triumph, they triumphed. How can one not recognize Jesus in this story? Jesus faced the ultimate giants (sin and death) not at the risk of his life but at the cost of his life. But he triumphed through his weakness and now his triumph is ours-his victory is imputed to us. Until I see that Jesus fought the real giants for me, I will never have the courage to be able to fight ordinary giants in life (suffering, disappointment, failure, criticism, hardship.)”

 -Tim Keller, Preaching

Rather than trying to slay our fear of singleness, we should take our fears to Jesus who has already destroyed the giant of loneliness on the cross. Because of what Jesus has done, we are loved, we are not alone, we do have value and there is a significant plan for our lives.

Singleness is a gift that some of us wish we were never given, but my hope is that we can embrace this season of life that God has us in and maximize it for his glory and our good.

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