Singleness is an incredible gift from our loving Father. But what are we to do with this gift? How do we steward it well?
I believe our calling in singleness is to show that Jesus is enough; to have undivided devotion to the Lord; to make Jesus our priority; to let Him make us whole. This is how we steward the gift of singleness.
In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul is talking to married people and working through some weird things they had going on in the Corinthian church.
In verse 6 he says,
“Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am (single). But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Now if you are like me when I was single, you’re probably be thinking, “Huh? How on earth can it be better to be single than to be married. Singleness is the last thing I want.” But I think as we hear Paul out, we will begin to see why he suggests this.
Jump down to verse 32-35. Paul, speaking to single people says this,
“I want you to be free from anxieties. 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. 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. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”
Paul doesn’t say I wish you were as I am, single, so that you’ll be miserable and lonely for the rest of your life. No. What does he say? I wish you were single as I am so you would be free from anxieties and so that you can have undivided devotion to the Lord. Doesn’t that sound nice? Free from anxieties and undivided devotion to the Lord? That is something that I desire.
But when I got married, suddenly, I didn’t make decisions on my own, I didn’t spend money on my own, I didn’t come home to a quiet house where my introverted soul could rest. Now Michael and I are making decisions together, even if we disagree. Now, my buying a coffee or a cute new pillow for our couch affects him also, and not just me.
Now I come home to a wonderful husband who may have had a hard day, or who may need words of affirmation from me, or may need me talk through life with him. Now don’t get me wrong, I love all of those things, but my interests are divided and my anxieties are multiplied. Now I am not only supposed to be devoted to the Lord, but I am also supposed to think of my husband before myself and serve and care for him above myself.
These are wonderful gifts too, but they cause my interests to be divided; life is just more complex. Paul says that singleness is a gift and he says it’s a gift because in singleness you can have undivided devotion to the Lord, you can make Jesus your priority, and you can show with your life that Jesus is enough. This is our calling in singleness. We steward the gift of singleness by having undivided devotion to the Lord.
Pricilla Shirer says this,
“Whatever your life entails right now- no matter how far removed it seems from what you expected––he has anointed you and divinely equipped you to not merely handle it but to thrive in it.”
If you are single, it’s not a mistake that you are single right now. It is a special and unique gift that the Lord has graciously given you. And not only has He given you this gift, He has anointed you and divinely equipped you not to merely handle it and suffer through it and endure it, but to thrive in it and steward it well.
So, my question for you is, how are you stewarding this gift God has given you? If someone were to look at your life and look inside of your heart would they see that Jesus is enough? Would they see your undivided devotion to the Lord? Would they see that He is your number one priority?
Statistically, most of you will get married in your lifetime. And that means you won’t always have this gift of singleness, so don’t waste it. I can honestly look back on my 34 years of singleness and praise the Lord for those years. I am so thankful for them because they made me who I am today. Don’t waste this gift, steward it well.
However, even though statistically most of you will be married in this life, God doesn’t promise that you will get married. He doesn’t. I’ve searched and searched Scripture for that promise and it’s not there. Coming to terms with this truth was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it drastically changed my outlook on my singleness.
God doesn’t promise that you will get married, but He does promise that you are loved unconditionally. He does promise to never leave you or forsake you. He does promise that in Him there is fullness of joy. He does promise that His plan for you is for your good and to prosper you and not harm you. He does promise to draw near to you. He does promise to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. And He does promise to make you like Himself.
Those are some pretty incredible promises.
Francis Chan says,
“There is a huge difference between believing what God has promised and praying for things you’d like to be true.”
Stand firm on the promises of God and pray for the desires of your heart; but don’t get those two confused. Remember who is the Giver of gifts and place your trust and hopes in what He has actually promised.
I see two struggles that aren’t necessarily unique to singleness but are common and in some ways intensified by singleness: loneliness and purity.
When stewarding the gift of singleness, it’s important to give these struggles to the Lord and work through them with Him. It’s not that we have to be perfect, but we can show that Jesus is enough even in our struggles.
Loneliness is the number one thing that I struggled with and most of my friends who are single struggle with. I deeply desired companionship and to know someone intimately. I remember right before I moved to Portland struggling so much over whether or not to move. The thought of making one more big life decision on my own nearly pushed me over the edge. I was over it. I just wanted to do life with someone.
Loneliness is hard and we weren’t designed for it. But guess what? Marriage isn’t the fix for loneliness. There are so many people who are married who feel lonelier in their marriage than they did when they were single.
If you’re struggling with loneliness, don’t fantasize about marriage and falsely believe that once you’re married you’ll never struggle with loneliness. Instead, run to Jesus with your loneliness. He wants to fill up your heart and fill those gaps that loneliness creates. He is the only fix for loneliness. He also wants to give you companionship.
One verse that changed my life is Proverbs 68:6,
“God sets the lonely in families.”
Families can come in all shapes and forms. Maybe it’s a tight group of friends that you can live life with. Maybe it’s a roommate. Maybe it’s a family with little kids that you can be a surrogate aunt. Maybe it’s people you do ministry with, pouring out your life together for Jesus. Maybe it’s your own biological family. For me, there was one particular family that adopted me as their own. We did ministry together, I would babysit their kids, and have dinner at their house. They were my family when I was single and lived far away from my own family.
God doesn’t call us to be lonely, he wants us to be a family with other people. When you’re single, that family may look different than you expected, but those relationships can help fill the hole you weren’t meant to have. If you’re struggling with loneliness run to God with your heart and feelings and look for the family he has brought into your life to help with that loneliness. For those struggling with loneliness, here is a great 4 part sermon series on loneliness by Paul Matthies.
As a single person purity can be a struggle. Pornography, sex before marriage, and cohabitation are running rampant, not just in our society but also in our churches. I want to tell you that God has a better plan for your life.
Purity is a struggle, especially when you’re single, but God has so much more for you. If you’re struggling with purity, of any kind please don’t feel ashamed and isolate yourself. We get it, we’ve been there. Seek out the help that you need and come to God with those struggles because He’s standing with His arms wide open ready to pour out His grace on you. He wants so much more for you.
Pure Desire Ministries is a great ministry if you are struggling with purity.
I want to end with one story and one passage of Scripture that God used to radically shape my single life. It’s the story of Hannah found in 1 Samuel 1.
Like many of us, Hannah struggled with unmet desires. She was married to Elkanah who loved her dearly, but Hannah was barren. Elkanah’s second wife, Peninnah, had many children and use to tease Hannah about her barrenness. Every year Elkanah took his family to worship the Lord in the tabernacle at Shiloh. One particular year Hannah deeply troubled because she desperately wanted children. She went to pray to the Lord at the temple alone. Scripture says she was “deeply distressed” and “in bitterness of soul she poured out here heart to the Lord.”
Have you ever been there? Have you been deeply distress or in bitterness of soul? Have you ever wanted something so badly that your heart aches? I sure have.
What I love about Hannah is that she took all these emotions to the Lord. She didn’t burry them or pretend she didn’t feel them. She laid them all at the feet of her loving God.
Then it says she “went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah” (1 Samuel 1:18-19).
Hannah laid all of those soul-crushing feeling at the feet of the Lord and then went about her day with her face no longer sad and worshiped the Lord. Why was her face no longer sad? Because she’d trusted the Lord with her feelings. It’s not that she didn’t feel them anymore, but she had given them to the only One who could do anything about it. And she chose to not dwell on what she didn’t have, but on the One she did have.
When we struggle with unmet desires, when life is different than we expected, when we struggle with loneliness, or struggle with purity, we can take all of those things to the Lord who sees us and hears us. In bitterness of soul we too can pour out our hearts to the Lord. And guess what, we have a Great High Priest who is able to empathize with us. And able to empathize with us in a unique and specific way because he too was single. And then we can lift our faces and worship the Lord. This is how we show that Jesus is enough.
Singleness is a gift from the Lord to be stewarded. Marriage is not Heaven on earth and singleness is not a curse. We steward our singleness well when we show that Jesus is enough and have undivided devotion to the Lord.
In your singleness are you showing that Jesus is enough?