“Why aren’t you married yet?” I winced a few years ago when asked this question. It was meant as a compliment, but rather it exposed a sense of failure, serving to remind me how I had not met up to the expectation. I laughed but I struggled to find the right response.
Western culture seems to have this idea that life can’t be lived to its fullest without having a significant other. There must be something wrong if someone is 22, 30, 40, 50…and not yet married. This message is strong in the world, and unfortunately, it has snuck its way into the minds of many Christians. But this thought does not align with the truth of Scripture.
Over the years, God has graciously reshaped my view to show me singleness is a God given gift. A gift that is truly good for the single individual, for the church, and for the glory of God.
To better understand this gift it is helpful to look at the gracious treasures hidden inside being a single believer.
God the Giver
First, it is important to understand that God never does anything that is not working for the good of a believer. The good he works out, is defined as always serving to further shape the believer into the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29).
Believers can trust that God is truly good and is always working for their good because through his very words he laid the foundations of the earth and breathed the heavens into existence (Psalm 33:6), and demonstrated his love for believers by emptying himself (Philippians 2:7) and by dying in the believers’ place (Romans 5:8).
Through this act, God met believers’ deepest need—he saved them from eternal wrath and reconciled them to himself. If God went to such great lengths to meet their deepest need, will he not also take care of them amid any circumstance they face (Romans 8:32)?
If you are a single believer it is because God is working for your eternal good. He has not gypped you somehow. Rather, God has chosen this season in your life to further conform you to his image and to give you a unique opportunity to glorify him.
Undivided Devotion to Christ
Pay close attention to Paul’s words, “and [the married man’s] interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:34).
This passage lays out the most beautiful gift for the single believer. Their interests can be undivided and their concerns are freed to be solely about pleasing the Lord. In position, the single has fewer obstacles to true satisfaction and holiness because they have fewer worldly concerns (a married person has more God-ordained responsibilities to juggle: spouse, kids…etc.).
This does not mean that undivided devotion to Christ and efforts for holiness will come naturally. It requires great effort on every believer’s part, regardless of position, because believers constantly battle against the flesh, this world, and the devil.
But this battle is the fight of faith Scripture speaks of, and it is worthwhile because the whole of Scripture teaches that the only way the human soul will ever be truly satisfied, is to be wholly satisfied in Christ. The single believer has an opportunity to be undivided in this pursuit. What a gracious gift.
Displaying the Beauty of Christ
Another gift hidden within singleness, is that by living a life of devotion to Christ, there are unique things singles display about the beauty of Christ.
John Piper points out some of these for us in his book This Momentary Marriage:
- “That the family of God grows not through sex, but by the regeneration through faith in Christ.”
- “That relationships in Christ are more permanent, and more precious, than relationships in families.”
- “That marriage is temporary and finally gives way to the relationship to which it was pointing to all along: Christ and the church – the way a picture is no longer needed when you see face-to-face.”
- “And that faithfulness to Christ defines the value of life; all other relationships get their final significance from this. No family relationship is ultimate, relationship to Christ is.”
Displaying the Worth of Christ
Living a life devoted to Christ requires holiness. In a world that views sex as the ultimate fulfillment, single believers, are to display the worth of Christ to the world by living a life of holiness in sexual purity.
Purity starts in the heart and reaches far beyond sexual abstinence. Remaining pure includes carefully filtering the input of the mind. It is crucial to abstain from what feeds the passions of lust which lie inside every human heart because all these can so quickly lead to destruction. Be radical in getting rid of anything that causes you to stumble or feeds temptation in this area or any other.
It is reasonable to deny ourselves the fleeting pleasures of this world because of what Jesus accomplished for us. He solved our greatest problem by accomplishing our salvation and we will spend all eternity enjoying him. It is a privilege to live in a way that displays his worth to the world.
Serving for the Glory of Christ
Singleness also gives a unique opportunity to sacrifice and serve for the glory of God due to having greater freedom and discretion of time and resources. There are many places to give and serve, and one of the best place to do this in in the local church. Not having the same time commitments as a married individual provides a free release to use spare time to this end. God is pleased and glorified when we are motivated for his name's sake. Find a place to give and serve for God’s glory.
Relationships through Christ
God has not called the single to walk alone. No believer is called to independence, but rather dependence on Christ and interdependence with the church.
The church helps one another persevere in faith, grow in sanctification, deepen in enjoyment of God, and enrich godly relationships. The church should be a place of genuine relationships for every believer. While singles do not have the close accountability of a spouse, they should always have the close accountability of the local church. Press in and be involved.
Hope in Christ
God will not ultimately leave the single believer without a spouse. In fact, he has already provided one because in the church we are all a part of the bride of Christ. Earthly marriage is just a temporary shadow of the ultimate marriage which every believer will eventually be a part of: the marriage of Christ to his church. This is the blessed hope we are called to.
A single person faces a unique set of challenges, but it is also no doubt that they face a unique set of opportunities and it is all designed to prepare them for glory.
Because of the new view God has given me, today when I am asked, “Why aren’t you married yet?” I can respond with joy, “Because God is infinitely good to me and has chosen to give me the gift of singleness for my good and his glory!”
This article series is adapted from lectures given by the authors in our Women's Ministry the fall of 2017. The content and lectures were based off the book, "Disciplines of a Godly Woman," by Barbara Hughes.