Single Is Never Second Best
From Gospel Translations
Enjoying God’s Gift at Midlife
Marriage is good — it was God’s idea, after all! So, why doesn’t he bring me a spouse?
That question, so perplexing in our twenties and thirties, can become downright painful as the decades march us into middle age and our marital prospects diminish. After all, we know the statistics — there’s a better chance of [insert extraordinary random occurrence] than of getting married after [insert any age over 39].
Does that mean we over-40 singles are doomed to lives of miserable loneliness? Most definitely not. First of all, we can forget about the statistics because, ultimately, only God determines who marries and who doesn’t. If marriage is God’s plan for us, sooner or later we’re going to get married.
Even more importantly, we can be sure that a solitary life is not his plan for us whether we get married or not. God has designed us to live in community, in a family of believers, and his work in our lives aims to get us there: “God settles the solitary in a home” (Psalm 68:6). The real question, therefore, isn’t whether we will wind up alone; it’s whether we’re willing for God’s provision of companionship to be something other than marriage.
Do We Trust Him?
Trusting God’s provision doesn’t mean, of course, that we won’t ever feel lonely. Just as there is a loneliness unique to marriage — in fact, the loneliest people I know aren’t the single ones, but those in a difficult marriage — there are aspects of loneliness unique to singleness:
It’s what a young, single woman feels among friends whose conversations revolve around wedding plans.
It’s what a 30-something single feels when his maturity is measured by his marital status.
It’s what 40-year-olds feel when others make an erroneous link between their singleness and their sexual orientation.
Singles’ loneliness is also fueled by the marital happiness we perceive (or imagine) others are enjoying. Trusting God in the midst of all this pain isn’t about looking harder for a mate or even praying for greater patience. It’s about leaning more deeply into Christ and finding in the process all the blessings of union with him — a deeper, more joy-filled union than that of any human marriage.
That’s why relief from the pain of unwanted singleness begins as we ask, Do I trust God? We won’t trust him if we don’t believe he is good in the way he governs the details of our individual lives — including our marital status. If we are single today, that is God’s goodness to us today.
Singleness Showcases What Marriage Can’t
As we rest in Christ and trust in the goodness of God, the loneliness of being single is transformed into an opportunity to build up the whole body of Christ. In other words, we can serve and glorify God not despite our singleness, but by virtue of it.
As we trust God’s good plans for us, we demonstrate, both to ourselves and to the people around us, that singles aren’t to be pitied. And as we abide in Christ, we stop viewing singleness as a problem to be solved. Since there will be no marriage in heaven except the marriage between Christ and the church (Matthew 22:30; Revelation 19:7), singles are uniquely equipped to show others a preview of what heaven will be like.
This is why singleness is actually a sign of hope rather than despair. We can showcase this hope to our married brothers and sisters by how we handle our singleness, and we can also display the compassion of Christ to other people who feel lonely.
Part of a Greater Family
As we watch our friends raise families, there is no need to feel robbed or shut out, because in the new-covenant era — our era — the family emphasis in Scripture is not mom, dad, and three kids. It’s the church family. When the biblical priority gets reversed, it hinders rather than helps the growth of God’s people.
Of course, we must seek to uphold the importance of the nuclear family, but we don’t want to make an idol of it. If we consider what the apostles emphasized, we see that their focus was much more on the Great Commission, personal holiness, and growing the church family. And it is this family from which no single Christian is to be left out.
As singles abide in Christ, we discover, often much to our surprise, that there are unique blessings that come with being single. At a purely practical level, we have more control over our time than our married friends. (I say “more control over” to correct the mistaken view that singles always have more time in general.) And the unmarried can more readily live out their personal preferences in planning social activities, vacations, and areas of service in the church and community. Singles encourage one another and glorify God as they identify their unique blessings, willingly embrace them, and put them to good use.
The best privilege of being single is far and away the enhanced opportunity for discipleship and serving Jesus. This, more than anything else — including marriage — is how God remedies loneliness. And there is a satisfaction that comes from living out these unique advantages that our married brothers and sisters can’t fully know. If we are willing — if we trust God — we will surely experience the value and rewards of singleness.
As we do, we come to value our lives — not despite our singleness, but actually because of it. Women who have rarely or never been pursued by men, or men whose pursuit of women has been rejected (once or many times), often question their worth. It is to such that Christ comes, not to shore up their self-esteem, but to drive them to find him as their worth. As we value Christ, our own value becomes clearer, and as that happens, we discover that somewhere along the way, we’ve stopped defining our personhood and our well-being by our marital status.
Singleness isn’t second best. To the contrary, it’s a privileged calling with unique blessings to enjoy and to pour out for others. Are we willing to embrace it unless or until God calls us to marriage? That’s the real question. And those who say yes will never be disappointed.