I’d like to preface this letter by asking that you read it with your Bibles readily available. I reference a lot of verses, but quote very few of them. I am sure these verses are familiar, but you may not have read them from the point of view of a single person in the past. Please take some time to read the whole passage as you read through the letter and search the passage for what God is saying to the single church member.
Dear Single Friend,
It is ok to acknowledge that being single is difficult. Perhaps you are like me and wish that single Christian life could be more openly and comfortably discussed. Therefore, I’m going to be very open and address this in a very personal manner. I will refer to the real struggles I have had in my life as a single Christian. Maybe you have experienced some of the same feelings, or maybe you have had other struggles, but I hope this helps you understand that you are not alone.
So here is my full out confession—one uncomfortable paragraph about the feelings that the weakness of human nature allows a single person to feel: First, it is very scary to think of being alone in everything that I do: no one to make life decisions with or help support me in my various undertakings. Second, most of my friends are married and are now raising families which leaves me with fewer friends and feeling very different. Last, it is no secret that there is a big emphasis on marriage and raising covenant children in the church; this leads me to feel left out, worthless, or that I am inconsequential to other church members or to God himself.
It is important to acknowledge the truth of my human nature and to confess the sin of my doubt and weakness (Ps. 32). Instead of wallowing in this weakness, I need to look at how I can and will (through the grace of God—Heb. 4:16) view the single life as the carefully and lovingly planned life that my God has created for me and made possible through my Savior (Jer. 29:11). But like all other Christians, I need help to find contentment in the life that God willed for me and to be able to say with the apostle Paul, “For I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11).
1 Corinthians 12 is a great passage to start with. Especially focus on vs 12: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body; being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” This passage reminds us that each church member has his place and is important. The church body is not whole without each individual member, including single members. This is a great verse (and there are many more) to comfort a single individual. However, this speaks only to one aspect of single life. I would like to speak about some of the struggles experienced by the single person that are not so easily seen by others. The following are lessons learned through some of my life experiences, personal Bible study, and through the blessing of the preaching of the word.
My first struggle is the feeling of loneliness. It is disheartening to feel alone. Sometimes I wonder if I matter to anyone. In these moments I am reminded that I do matter to God. God has determined to save me. I may not be able to say that I have a counterpart with whom to spend my life, but in all of my weaknesses and human nature, God has chosen to call me friend, to be part of the church, to be Christ’s bride. Isn’t he the friend I need? 1 John 3:1–3: ”Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God…” Remember how David through all of his life struggles was dependent on his relationship of friendship with God and insistent on continuous communication with God? His relationship with God was most important to him, and I need to make this relationship most important to me also. Wanting to be married (for self-centered reasons) should not be marked number one in my life; God should be number one in my life. He will direct my life and fulfill this desire if he pleases. Think of the story of Abraham and Isaac—how badly Abraham wanted children, and yet he put God’s will before his own desire, so much so that he was willing to sacrifice the very child he prayed for so desperately. Am I willing to sacrifice my heart’s desire for the purpose of following God so explicitly? Read Genesis 22, especially verses 16 and 17 about how Abraham is blessed for unhesitatingly following God’s will.
What has been helpful for me to remember is not to be overly consumed with wanting to get married and have a family. Being consumed by this desire and therefore thinking only of myself prevents me from seeing the present blessings that God has given me. Rather than thinking of what I may want in life, I must ask myself, What does my family need from me? What do my friends need from me? What can I do for my church family? And most importantly, what must I do for my God? 1 Corinthians 7:34 states, “The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” Single individuals clearly have a larger opportunity to think on spiritual things and act on them. Read also Philippians 2, especially verse four.
The next lesson I have learned comes through many tears over how friends perceive my life as a working woman. So, I hold this lesson closely to my heart. I have to be careful in my explanation so as not to take away from the blessing of a young person desiring to enter into marriage, but I think it is necessary to discuss options for another future besides marriage. This would need to come through a lot of prayer so as to not hinder, prevent, or delay a family that God may have planned for you. But one can plan for a future that is fulfilling even if marriage is not included. Don’t disregard the possibility that God may use your future as a platform in which to witness to others. Embrace the possibility and pray that you may be the tool that God uses to bring someone to the faith. It is likely that these opportunities come from a career (If God is showing you that marriage is not in your near future, there is nothing wrong with pursuing a career, but always put God’s will first: if he is calling you to be a wife and mother, a career must not be further pursued). Career paths such as teaching or nursing are both great (but not the only) options to serve the church, witness, and are also talents that can be used readily should you have a family one day. Whatever future you pursue, consider that a secluded life (which a single person may be tempted to have) doesn’t allow for interaction with other people and certainly not for witnessing. So pray for and plan a life that gives you opportunities to witness and serve God. Read from scripture and understand our calling to witness (1 Pet. 3:15 and Matthew 5:14–16). Submersing yourself in this intense study of God’s word (which is what witnessing requires) will change the focus away from what you may think is missing in your life, and you will be abundantly blessed in return. Don’t waste your time: spend it in the word and find these opportunities to witness and serve. Read 1Timothy 4: 4–16; verses 12–16 are especially beautiful. Also read 2 Timothy 2:24–26.
Now, to tackle the feeling of not fulfilling what is so stressed: producing covenant children. I think this is the aspect of singleness that I struggle with the most and not for the reasons you may think. For myself, it is not as painful to think of a life without a husband as it is painful to think that the people of the church view me as inconsequential because I am not producing covenant children. The truth is that if God has not willed it, I do not need a husband or children to fulfill his command (Eccles. 12:13–14): “Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” 1 Corinthians 7 tells us that in whatever state we are, we have a calling to serve the Lord. The single members of the church are blessed with more opportunity to focus on serving the Lord (1 Cor. 7: 7–8, 17, 20–28, 32–35). Again, use your time to witness and serve. Although we tend to focus a lot of energy on the children of the church (and rightly so), the children of God who join the church in adulthood as a result of witnessing are important also. They are in need of both witnesses (to plant the seed of the gospel) and strong Christian examples after which to model their lives. Matthew 5:16 instructs us, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
In my current state as a single person in the church, I believe that God has blessed me with a platform to find fulfillment in witnessing and godly service. Whether I am a wife, mother, or single person in the future, the ability to love someone in a way that I desire their salvation will certainly be used time and again (Rom. 10).
Whether you are desiring marriage, desiring singleness, or desiring contentment with where God is guiding your life, first remember to ask that his will be made clear to you (1 John 5:14–15 and John 15:16). Further, be intentional about praying for your future (read Philippians 4:6–7). If you desire marriage, pray that God prepares you for marriage. Pray also that you find contentment while waiting for marriage. If you are content in the single life, pray that God reveal his will to you in this. Pray that God uses you for the furthering of the gospel and for the purpose of the church.
In conclusion, it is not right or wrong to be single or to be married. We must look to God for what he has willed for our lives. We may not understand why God has placed us in a single life when we desire marriage; we may have insecurities about being lonely, being different or not producing covenant children. But remember, God’s way is perfect and every detail is planned in such a way that it leads to our salvation. Isaiah. 55: 8 and following states “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord… My ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts… so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace.”
In Christian Love,
A single friend
Other verses that I have found helpful in my personal devotions:
Philippians 2: 12–17: God working my salvation through my current life situation
James 4:10: drawing close to God through prayer
Isaiah 40:31 and Matt 11:28: When I am feeling weary about going through life “alone.”
Psalm 37:4: praying for what my heart desires
Colossians 3:23: living for God, not for other men
Romans 12:1–2: Doing everything to work towards the will of God