Life is an interesting journey, isn’t it? One of the most intriguing things that I’ve been learning about lately is singleness and dating. As a single person, I’ve heard many different things:
- It happens when you’re not looking
- Just pray harder. And don’t be so picky.
- It’s great to be single…you’re so free!
Even Paul says 1 Corinthians 7:7 that he wishes that all men were as he is, single! A few verses later, he says that while a married man is concerned about the affairs of the world, singles can be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit (v. 35).
I’d say that 90% of the sermons on singleness reference this scripture passage. That’s great, but I don’t think it really addresses the underlying frustration of most singles – living in that place where there’s a desire in your heart for something, but we haven’t seen the fullness of that promise come to pass. We get told that “If you feel lonely, you’re not being spiritual enough. So you should just pray more.”
So in that moment of loneliness, many singles simply push away their feelings, when in reality they are feeling a powerful theological truth in their souls. I wrote a sermon about this – titled “Singleness: Longing for Marriage Without Obsessing Over It.” You can download or listen to it here: http://jcboston.org/single-part-1/
When we talk about singleness, we must also go back to the beginning of creation. In Genesis 2, we see that God has set up the world in such a way that it was not good for man to be alone. Longing for a partner was deeply seated in Adam’s nature – a longing that none of the animals could satisfy. So a woman was “fashioned” for him out of Adam’s rib, created as an “ezer kenegdo” for Adam (Gen. 2:18). This word is tricky to translate (“helper” or “help-meet” in most translations) but what it does not mean is that Eve was created as a slave or servant for Adam. In fact, this word “ezer” is used in every other instance in the Old Testament to refer to God – when they needed help from God to come through desperately. God was their only hope, their ezer. With the word “kenegdo” meaning alongside, opposite to, or counterpart, we see that the original creation of woman is not just to serve man but to be his lifesaver, his sustainer beside him.
The mission to be fruitful and cultivate the earth was given to both Adam and Eve together, and we see man and women standing together, a perfect partnership. It is only after sin enters the world that male dominance appears – but that was not the original intention of God’s roles for men and women.
From my albeit limited experience, here is some practical advice I have for singles:
1. Respond to loneliness by turning to God
One of the biggest things that singles complain about is loneliness – but it’s important to understand that everyone feels lonely to a certain extent, not just singles. Being in a marriage relationship itself will not fully satisfy the longings in our hearts. Unless we are set in our relationship with Christ, we will always be unsettled. That’s because as wonderful and exhilarating that love from another person is, we have to know that it is only a reflection of the great love Christ has for us.
Loneliness can become an escalating downward pit – we begin by feeling alone, which leads to wondering if God really has someone out there for us, which leads to us doubting that He has the best in mind, and then we wonder if God is really there at all. Therefore, because loneliness is a result of separation from God, we must respond to loneliness by turning to God.
When you’re experiencing loneliness, I’d suggest that you dig to the root of it by answering “I am lonely because…” Are you blaming God, yourself, or other people? Replace these lies with truth from the Word.
I know the other day I was feeling quite lonely when I met single women in their 30’s and I realized that that could be me – that it was possible I might never be married. But as I prayed, I realized that I am single because God is abundantly good to me, because that is his best for me. We are all made to be conformed to the image of Jesus – and that looks different for each one of us. It sounds cliché, but this is something you will have to work through with Jesus and have him speak into your unique hopes, dreams and longings.
2. Celebrate where God has you now
As a single, it’s easy to have the view that being single is a temporary purgatory – “Get me out, get me out.” A few months ago, I set myself on this single-minded quest to find the man to share my life with. After some awful dates and many funny stories later, I sensed God telling me, “Stop trying so hard. You don’t have to force anything to happen. Just rest in me and celebrate where you are now.”
Many people get stuck in the opposite perspective – “Woe is me…I’m just waiting for the right one…” Personally, I’ve experienced many Christian men that are in this place, and I want to encourage the guys to be bold and pursue women! In my experience, this is something that the non-Christian world is doing well– non-Christian guys really know how to date girls and pursue them. Girls like guys who take initiative, who don’t wait around and “see what happens.” There are things you can, and should, do to cooperate with God’s purposes in your life. So if you’re desiring marriage, what steps are you taking to pursue it?
Loneliness makes us quest to find someone, and that’s ok. Don’t expect it to go perfectly – You’ll make mistakes. It will be awkward. It will be difficult. It probably won’t happen the way you think it will happen. And that’s OK.
The reality is that many of us aren’t ready for marriage. There are things that He wants to work out in us before we’re ready for our spouse, and our spouse is ready for us. So a prayer that I’ve prayed recently is, “God, do what you have to do in my life to prepare me and my future husband for marriage. My sole desire is that I might become the woman of God that you desire me to be.”
To be single is to be in the place where you long for something more, but also celebrate where God has you now. If you focus on what we don’t have (in the future) or what happened (in the past), you will be miserable.
To celebrate the now, start a gratitude journal – pay attention to little joys of common moments and write them down. This has helped me to change my perspective from “Woe is me” to “Wow, God is good to me. There is a lot I have to be thankful for.”
3. Use your time to serve others
When you’re single, it’s easy to fall into trap of self-absorption – since there’s no wife to support or husband to pamper, now is the “you” time. Society tells us that singleness is a time to satisfy our immediate desires with no strings attached.
But the irony about “singleness” is that none of us are really single. The next time someone asks you if in a relationship, your immediate response should be that you are in dozens. Even if you’re not a husband or wife, you are still a daughter, sister, or friend. So the question becomes: how are you investing in these roles that God has given to you?
Many of my married friends talk about how much they have matured in marriage. I think this may be because marriage is based on a covenant to commit to the other person for life, through good and bad. There’s something that happens in the daily grind of serving others, but this selfless love doesn’t have to happen exclusively in marriage. God so loved us that he gave his son to us – that’s the kind of love he asks us to have, not self-seeking but a giving, sacrifical kind of love. So as singles, we must pursue contexts where we can be selfless, in the midst of limitless opportunities to be selfish.
When you’re single it’s easy to have hidden sins and hide little practices that are happening in your life. But secrecy is the tool of the enemy – as a single, we must pursue community and accountability so we can live life in the light.
Evaluate your calendar and bank statement. What are you actually doing with the time and treasure God has given you?
Each of us should have at least one person that we’re discipling, and one person that we go to for accountability. Whose life are you pouring into? Do you have someone that you trust to turn to, that holds you accountable?
If you don’t have those people, then who in your life is God asking you to reach out to?
Last, I want to leave you with some great resources I found while writing this sermon:
- This sermon title was inspired by an Article by John Piper
- “Singled Out by God for Good” – A humorous, well-written article about singleness
- And finally, a hilarious video (below) “Stuff Christian Singles Hear:”