The Struggles and Advantages of Being Single
God has been teaching me some powerful lessons lately, though many of them have been painful. We live in a society, even among Christians, where the prevailing thought is often “I cannot and will not be happy unless I am in a dating (or whatever you call it) relationship with someone.” This is not right, and this must not be a mindset adopted by children of God.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t hurt on some level because I am single. It’s lonely sometimes… but not all the time. God has helped me recently to start focusing on some of the advantages I have right now that I may not have later if, by His grace, I am to be married.
I’ll first acknowledge the struggles that have been particularly deep for me, and then look at some advantages that have helped me overcome these struggles.
The Struggles of Being Single
1. Loneliness. This one is obvious. After proclaiming everything to be good in His creation, God Himself observed that “it is not good that the man should be alone…” (Gen 3:18). God created us with a need for relationship, not only with Himself, but with other humans. And God didn’t just leave man alone; in the rest of the verse He said, “…I will make him a helper fit for him.” God gave us a sense of emptiness, and gave us the opportunity to fill that emptiness with something other than ourselves. Personally, I believe God intentionally delayed in creating woman to show man how much he needed her. We are not here for ourselves.
But the child of God, even a single one, should not be characterized by loneliness. Jesus certainly felt this when He was abandoned at the cross as He cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt 27:46) In a real sense, He had been left completely alone to bear the immeasurable burden at Calvary. But Jesus also understood that in the midst of feeling abandoned, He was not alone. In John 16:32 He affirmed, “Behold the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” David reminds us that “the LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps 34:18). We are never truly alone if the Lord is with us.
2. Discontentment. Sometimes as a single guy, I feel like I don’t have much direction. I’m just floating, waiting for something to come along and give me purpose. It’s like I’m still waiting for my life to begin. But in reality, not only has life begun, but I’m at a critical stage of life that must not be wasted longing for the next one. There are some days I start to buy into that singleness-and-happiness-cannot-coexist mindset, and those days are usually the most miserable and unproductive ones. Self-pity is the enemy of the Christian. Can you imagine Christ thinking like that?
Paul wasn’t kidding when he said, “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Tim 6:7). Contentment is something that God expects out of His people. When His sheep become restless in the green pastures, not only do they miss out on just how green their surroundings are, but they scorn the tender and infinitely wise care of the Shepherd that is watching over them. Here’s the way to think: “…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:11-13).
3. Jealousy. This is where it gets hard. This is where being single stops being just a self-contained struggle, but starts to erode the unity of the body of Christ. I’ve not been one to think of this as a struggle for me, but recent tests have proven me wrong. I’ll be honest: it’s hard when you attend the weddings of those you’ve previously been really close to—it’s just hard. But there is a calling that we have: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15). When we can learn to honestly, honestly have joy when our brother or sister receives that which we most deeply desire—that, my brethren, is dying to self. That is taking up your cross. And that is what following Christ is all about.
If you haven’t seen them, you should read Gary Henry’s devotionals surrounding this. I’ve been pricked to the heart about this, and I pray that if this is something you’re struggling with, you will take it seriously and make your heart pure before God and your brethren.
Advantages of Being Single
1. Freedom. From what I’ve heard from my married friends, this is one I’ll appreciate a whole lot more from the other side. As an unattached guy, I can make most of my decisions without a lot of consultation with others. Certainly my decisions affect those around me, and I need to tailor my choices to serve others; but for the most part flying solo I get to call the shots. I can decide to take crazy road trips to Bible studies at the last minute. I can drive into the wee hours of the morning as long as I’ve got my Gatorade and peanut butter crackers. I can fill my schedule with serving the church whenever is most convenient for them. There are many areas of service that are most accessible to those not yet married.
Peter lays out this principle in 1 Peter 2:16: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” If we have fewer responsibilities to fulfill to a wife or husband, we then have a responsibility to use the time and energy we have to serve the Lord and His people with that zeal. So much energy is wasted wallowing in self-pity and wishing we could hurry up and find someone. How much more effective would we be in the Lord’s service if we saw being single as an opportunity instead of a burden?
2. Focus. There are only so many things we can do at once. If we want to enjoy the wonderful God-given joys of marriage, it’s going to be a huge time investment. To gain one good opportunity, we will have to give up other good opportunities. Paul spoke about these things in 1 Cor 7:32-35. “The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided… I say this… to secure your undivided attention to the Lord.” It is certainly God’s will for husbands and wives to be taking time for each other and investing in that relationship, but that means less time to be doing other good things in the Lord’s service.
Those who are single have an amazing chance to revel in a kind of unbridled zeal in pursuing the things of the Lord. There is a purity to one’s life consisting primarily of one’s self and the Lord. If you have the opportunity to take advantage of that, don’t take it for granted. Study. Pray. Use the extra hours in your schedule to dig deep roots in the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. Learn to “delight yourself in the Lord” (Ps 37:4). You may not get another chance quite like this after you’re married. And especially after you have kids. You don’t just magically become more devoted to God after you get married, so make sure you’re developing into the kind of married person the Lord wants you to be, even while you’re single.
3. Opportunity to Trust. God has created a world in which both pleasures and pains are a tremendous blessing to the Christian. We are directed to “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (Jas 1:2-3). Each emptiness, each hour of loneliness, each unfulfilled desire is an opportunity to learn to really trust in God. When we are doing well, like Israel, we so easily and thoughtlessly trust in ourselves. But the more we hurt, the harder we lean on God. And that is when we can say, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).
Tommy Peeler recently said, “God's love for us is more intense than that of the best parent for a child (Isa 49:15; Matt 7:11). Therefore, we can rest assured that the things that God prohibits are not forbidden to keep us from enjoying life, but they are given to prevent us destroying ourselves.” I’ve come to realize that the repeated frustrations in my relationship efforts may not be God trying to punish me or just so I can suffer, but to keep me from self-destructing. I don’t know if He’s guided things like this for that specific purpose (He knows I’m not exactly suave when it comes to these things—I’ve brought enough on myself), but I do know that this is an opportunity to learn to wait on the Lord. It is when I completely let go and give Him my heart that I learn to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want,” and really mean it.
I’m putting this up on Valentine’s Day because I know that this is a day of rejoicing for many and a day of misery for others. I feel like I need to put somewhat of a caveat saying: Um, yeah, I still want to get married. But God has blessed me SO much to be where I am in life right now. I feel more content than I have in a very long time, and I wanted to share some of the things God has used to bring me here in hope that it could help my fellow singles. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:3-4).