It was a great sermon on marriage. Everything that the pastor said that night was Biblical, right and true. Marriage is a profound mystery, how the one-flesh union between a man and a woman is the clearest earthly picture of how believers are perfectly united with God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, I remember leaving that night though, wondering what my role is as a single woman. How can I display the glory of Christ? This was not the first time I had asked these questions. Within the church we talk about marriage and we talk about singleness but often the kinds of conversations we have about each are completely different in tone. It is easy to celebrate and value marriage and family; and rightly so, for it is a great gift from God! On the other hand, very often there is pressure for singles to get out of their state. One of my fears of writing a blog on singleness is that it would seem I was minimizing the sacredness, beauty and importance of marriage. I’ll lay my cards on the table right away: Do I wish I was married? Yes! Will I be really happy if marriage is a part of God’s plans for my life someday? Absolutely! Do I believe strong, godly marriages are essential for healthy churches, families and cultures? Definitely! On the other hand, singleness that is done in a God-honouring way is also just as beautiful and important! God doesn’t give second-rate gifts to His children and there are many inspiring examples in the Bible and throughout history of people who used their singleness in a way to bring glory to God. We live during a time in our culture when marriage and family are being degraded and singleness reduced to a time of just having fun and doing whatever makes you feel good without any commitments. We need hold on to a Biblical view of marriage and singleness valuing them as the Bible does.
My motivation for writing this blog comes from many conversations and my own journey as I navigate life as a Christian single woman who is now in her 30’s. It seems like the church in our culture in general hasn’t done a great job with valuing the gift of singleness and I’ll include myself in that as well. I am guilty of assuming certain things about someone because they were single. Thoughts of pity have entered my mind when I’ve heard of someone in an extended season of singleness. I used to think that being single when I was thirty would be the worst case scenario. Ultimately, as with everything in life, it comes down to a trust in God issue. Do I really believe what the Bible says is true? Do I believe that God’s ways are best and are higher than my ways? Do I trust that singleness is also an equally good gift from the Lord as the Bible says it is? In 1 Corinthians 7 the apostle Paul talks about how if someone is married it is good for them to remain married; and how if someone is unmarried it is good to remain unmarried. Singleness is also a gift for it allows someone to have fewer earthly distractions so that they are able to devote more time to the work of the Lord.
Sometimes I see a divide between marrieds and singles that shouldn’t be there. I’m not going to cast blame on any one side because honestly some days I feel like it is my own insecurity and sin that makes me feel like an outsider at times. Other days though I wish there was something I could do to bring the two groups together more because the truth is, we need each other and there are things we can learn from each other. We were created to live in community with one another, spurring each other on to love and godliness. One of the things that has most helped me in learning to be content is understanding that whether single or married, if we do want to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, it is going to be hard. Not only will we wrestle with our own sinful hearts, but we also will battle against the enemy of our souls. But, Jesus is our living hope in all circumstances! Some of my closest friends are married and that has been such an incredible blessing in my life. I’ve been amazed at how many times we are going through the same struggles and temptations; they may just look a little different depending on our life circumstances. True friendship involves us learning to love each other intentionally in every season of life; celebrating with each other and mourning with each other. Sometimes that may be going out for coffee and other times it will be doing a friend’s dishes, not because we love doing dishes but rather because we love spending time with our friend and that’s the best way to do it at the time. The Bible talks a lot about how we as believers are called to be apart of one body, all with different roles but all equally a part of the body because we have one Lord and one hope. I believe that as Christians we can display oneness in a powerful way because in spite of all of our differences, we are still brothers and sisters in Christ and are called to the same mission: To know Christ and make Him known in every season of life.
There have been and there will be many days I feel the ache of loneliness and despair start to set in. These emotions are a part of being human and we all experience them for different reasons whether single or married. The answer isn’t ignoring those feelings or trying to distract ourselves from them. The secret is learning to run to Jesus with them, as cliché as it sounds. This changes everything! There have been many times when I confess to God everything I’ve been thinking and feeling, and He gives me peace, comfort and a fresh perspective. Sometimes it happens right away, other times it takes many days. I remember one particular special family gathering when my nephews met my niece for the first time. As everyone was preparing to leave to go home, I was suddenly overcome with sadness as I thought about the fact that there’s a good chance I won’t get to raise children at the same time my siblings are. The feeling of grief stayed with me for the rest of the night so I decided to go for a walk. I remember expressing my hurt, frustration and sadness to God. Even though it took a few days for the hurt to subside, my heart was immediately filled with God’s love and strength as He gently reminded me of some of the most precious blessings in my life. It wasn’t as if God was dismissing my hurt but rather reminding me of His goodness and faithfulness to me in the past so that I could find hope again in the present. The encouraging truth is that the more we learn to run to Jesus quickly when life gets hard, the more confident we become of His ability to sustain, strengthen and comfort in those times.
It is my prayer that we, myself included, will start to talk and think about singleness in a new way. Within the church community, no one ever says “poor you, you’re married!” So, let’s not say that about being single. It is helpful to acknowledge that there are difficulties with singleness just like there are difficulties in marriage but there are opportunities, joys and blessings to each as well. Even though marriage is a good desire to have, the greater desire of our hearts should be for whatever will bring God the most glory through our lives. For all of us, relationships and marriage should not be the biggest goal of our lives; the Giver of that good gift and obedience to Him should be. We are called to bloom where we are planted and that’s going to look different for all of us. God calls us to specific seasons for specific reasons. Whether we are single, dating or married Jesus alone is the One that satisfies our deepest needs. I can honestly say that through the grace of God alone, I have found a lot of contentment and joy in my singleness. There are hard days but there are also many days I’m aware of the opportunities and blessings I have because I’m single. In every season of life there are great opportunities and blessings because God will always be our loving and gracious Father.
So I’ll end with my opening question: How can I display the glory of Christ as a single? The truth is it looks much the same for all of us. It is to use the time and the gifts God has given us in a way that shows Jesus to be as beautiful and majestic as He truly is. It is to make the most of the life we’ve been given, being thankful for it. It is to draw near to God and His word on the good days and on the bad days. It is to live for God’s glory and not our own selfish desires. It is to share the source of our hope and joy to a lost and broken world. It is to surrender our lives to Christ and seeking to become more like Him each day. All of this is possible only because Jesus has died for our sins and has defeated the penalty of our sin which is death. Because of this, those of us who place their trust in Jesus will have His spirit living inside our hearts filling us with His boundless love to bring us to closer communion with our Saviour in every season of life.
Colossians 1:9-17 seems to be the perfect ending to everything I’ve talked about in this blog:
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.