About 35 percent of adult church members in Britain are single, so clearly the subject of singleness has considerable personal interest to many people in our churches. Each single person will have a different experience. There are age differences. Being single at 20 is very different from being single at 30, 40, or 70. There are circumstantial differences: some have never married, while others are divorcees, widows, or widowers. And there are experiential differences: some have chosen to be single and are basically content; others long to be married and feel frustrated.
What does the Bible say to all these people?
1. Singleness is a gift from God.
When Paul speaks of singleness as a gift, he isn’t speaking of a particular ability some people have to be contentedly single. Rather, he’s speaking of the state of being single. As long as you have it, it’s a gift from God, just as marriage will be God’s gift if you ever receive it. We should receive our situation in life, whether it is singleness or marriage, as a gift of God’s grace to us.
2. Singleness has advantages.
Paul mentions two advantages of singleness in 1 Corinthians 7:
- Single people are spared the “troubles” of marriage. There are many great blessings in marriage, but there are difficulties too. Even when a married couple’s relationship is good: life is more complicated. There’s more than one person to consider in decisions about use of time, accommodation, holidays, even the daily menu. And there’s more than one person to worry about.
- Single people can devote themselves more fully to God’s work: “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 Cor. 7:32-34). Few consciously choose to stay single to devote themselves to Christian work. Most single people haven’t chosen singleness in that way and yet they have the same advantages as those who have. Instead of focusing on the difficulties of being single, as some do, we should all make the most of the advantages of God’s gift of singleness while we have it.
3. Singleness is hard.
When God saw Adam on his own in the Garden of Eden, he said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18). So Eve was created to meet Adam’s need for companionship, and the two came together in the lifelong, sexual relationship of marriage. Single people are therefore likely to struggle with loneliness and sexual temptation. Those struggles are certainly not exclusive to the unmarried, but they are very much a part of the single condition. The lonelier we are, the more likely we are to struggle with sexual fantasy and fall into sin. We need to be proactive in seeking help in these areas. We aren’t designed to be on our own, and if we aren’t to be married, whether in the short or long term, we should seek to satisfy our need for intimacy in other relationships. That will mean taking the initiative in keeping in close contact with friends and family. And we must be self-disciplined in “fleeing from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). It often helps to have one or two close friends to whom we are accountable in this area.
4. Singleness is not permanent.
Many who are presently single will one day marry. Others will remain single throughout their lives. But no Christian is single forever. Human marriage reflects the marriage God wants to enjoy with his people forever. The Bible speaks of Jesus as the bridegroom who will one day return to take his bride, the church, to be with him in the perfect new creation. On that day all pain will disappear, including the pain of a difficult marriage or singleness.
After we had spoken about heaven, an elderly single lady said to me, “I can’t wait for my wedding day!” We should all share the same hope. And we can already experience something of that intimate marriage with Christ here on earth by the work of the Spirit in our lives. Human relationships do matter, but none is nearly as important as our eternal relationship with Jesus.
A final word to those who are single:
- Thank God for the gift of singleness. Whatever your experience of singleness, recognize it as a gift from God and make the most of it for as long as you have it.
- Do all you can to be godly. It’s easy for those who are single to lapse into a selfish, self-centred lifestyle and into sexual sin, whether in thought or deed. Be self-disciplined and accountable to others.
- Keep your eyes fixed on heaven. It is our eternal relationship with Christ that ultimately matters.
Read more on this great post, originally on TheGospelCoalition