a blessing or a curse?
At 18, I started college thinking
to myself, I hope I can wait until I’m 25 to get married.
Twenty-five seemed so far away. I had no idea I would still be single at 35.
Much has been written of single Christians who did exploits for God —
David Brainerd, Amy Carmichael and Lillian Trasher serve as great examples.
But what about those of us who do not desire to remain single forever? I’ve
found there is hope for the single hearted. Here are some of my experiences
along the path of singleness.
The inventory of fearful thoughts plaguing the single can get pretty extensive.
Will I find the right one? Did I let him/her get away? Am I getting too
old to have or to raise children? Am I to remain single for life? What about
a Christian dating service?
It’s easy to look at singleness
as a problem and become solution oriented. When you feel like you need to
fix something about yourself, you can get frustrated. The pool of eligible
people seems to grow smaller every day. Every romantic book or movie simply
serves to remind you of what you don’t have. It is one thing to talk about trusting God, but it gets harder with each wedding
invitation from yet another close friend.
People don’t make it any
easier for you. Don’t you love that friend or relative who always asks
if you’ve met anyone yet? And every single at one time or another endures
the jubilant matchmaker who has found the perfect mate. (Did you ever ask for their help?) Sadly, some people in the church seem to think there
is something wrong if you are not married by a certain age. Even worse, some
singles start to feel that way about themselves.
Did Paul really know what he was
talking about when he said as a single man, “I wish that all men were
as I am” (1 Corinthians 7:7, NIV)? I believe he did.
“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned
about the Lord’s affairs — how he can please the Lord. But a married
man is concerned about the affairs of this world — how he can please
his wife — and his interests are divided” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).
There are specific historical and
cultural reasons Paul wrote this cautionary statement to the church at Corinth,
but don’t miss a principle that applies today. A single person usually
has a level of freedom that a married person does not have. The question is,
how are you using that freedom?
First of all, how are you waiting
as your wedding date remains hidden in an uncertain future? The word wait also means to serve or wait upon, as a waiter in a
restaurant waits upon his customers. He serves them. Is your singleness a
period of simply waiting for a mate or waiting in service on the Lord? Singles
should take advantage of their freedom to serve in a greater capacity.
I have been able to travel, take
classes and minister in a much greater way than if I were married. Children
are a “heritage from the Lord” and “a reward from him”
(Psalm 127:3). But a father of three once told me, “After children,
it takes longer to do everything!” While I look forward to marital companionship
and the reward of children, I’ve learned to appreciate the freedom that
singleness can bring.
Another advantage that shouldn’t
be overlooked is the area of finances. The costs of health insurance, auto
insurance, food, travel, clothing and sometimes taxes are all higher for marrieds
than for singles. You might be tempted to think that two people means two
incomes. This assumes that both spouses will work, but is that ideal for every
marriage? Your season of singleness is a financial opportunity to save, invest
and even bless others on a level that may not be possible later on.
ATTITUDE. Your attitude determines your altitude. Christians often quote Philippians
4:13 for encouragement. The passage takes on significant meaning for singles
when read with verse 12: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know
what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any
and every situation. … I can do everything through him who gives me
strength.” Contentment does not happen by accident or good fortune.
It is an attitude to be learned.
SELFLESSNESS. Believers are called
to “serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). Singles may be
tempted to ask, “How can I serve others when I don’t feel complete
myself?” But it is precisely these disciplines of serving and self-denial
that prepare you for a successful marriage. It behooves you to learn the practice
of selflessness before walking down the aisle.
RELATIONSHIPS. Except for John
the Baptist types who somehow find fulfillment as spiritual hermits, family
and friends are essential for the personal contentment of most singles. Over
the years, I’ve learned the immeasurable worth of relationships in combating
loneliness and providing accountability, especially as it relates to sexual
temptation. God said it isn’t good for man to be alone. If and until
marriage comes along, you must build relationships to make sure your aloneness
doesn’t become a pitfall.
SEARCHING OR BECOMING? Many marriages
shipwreck because one or both partners spent more time searching for the right
mate instead of becoming the right mate. You cannot overestimate the absolute
necessity of character development. Continual learning, doing and spiritual
growth are important not only for what you bring to marriage, but also for
becoming a more fulfilled single. To be something you’ve never been
you must do something you’ve never done.
SPIRITUAL INTIMACY. There is the
cliché singles are always given: “Let Jesus meet your need for
intimacy.” Certainly, our Lord is all-sufficient, but the fact is He
created some needs that are only to be met by another human being. Until that time comes,
God’s grace is sufficient to teach you the spiritual discipline of delayed
gratification. When combined with a lifestyle of fasting and prayer, your
delayed sexual fulfillment is a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Such
fasting He rewards with spiritual intimacy that fulfills and strengthens you
to run the race set before you.
I used to go to sleep praying that God would pull another rib job like He
did with Adam. I would awaken to find my perfect life companion somehow materialized
out of thin air. God has yet to take me up on it. But I keep on accepting
each day as a gift from God.
Singleness includes some fears,
to be sure, but my freedom gives me an advantage others don’t have.
It helps me to remember that there are worse things than being single.
If you look at your singleness
as a curse, then it will be. You should instead focus on the opportunities
your singleness affords in the areas of time, ministry involvement
and finances. Far from being a period of need, the focused and
faithful single views singleness as a gift to be maximized for
the glory of God. Is singleness a blessing or a curse? The answer
depends on you.
Brent Atkinson is a nationally appointed home missionary doing
urban church planting and ministry training in Los Angeles. He
is currently the director of the Los Angeles Bible Training Center.
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