“Did he really just say that?” Sally’s mouth stood mentally agape.
She was sitting in a classroom of random students; some men, some women, some old, some young, some married, others not. It was the first day of her junior year at her Christian university, and they were doing the usual “get to know each other, talk about the syllabus, leave a little early” class hour. As Sally’s history professor walked about the room facilitating the introductions, she noticed a particularly disturbing pattern. With each new student, he would ask the usual: name, where they’re from, their degree program, and marital status. If they answered back with married, the conversation would spring off into children, church, goals, life-calling. If, however, they happened to be the black-sheep of the Christian relationship world and answer single, they were simply told that, “You’re a blessing waiting to happen,” and then were quickly passed by, as if family, church, goals, and life-calling were inconsequential facets of a boring single life – a life waiting to happen. When it came Sally’s turn to be questioned, she was overcome with waves of emotion. At first she was indignant. She wanted to retort back with quick wit, “What? I’m not a blessing until I’m married? Do I have some form of singleness cooties that I’m unaware of?” Then she found it comical, wanting to message her other single friends to join in with her on the laugh. But instead, she simply answered the question, took one for the team, and went on her way. Single Sally may not really exist, but how many of us singles can completely relate to her plight? As we sit and analyze the pattern Sally experienced, we can see a problem emerge.
Do I have the Singleness Cooties?
Singleness seems to have this stigma of being a curse on civilization. Many churches, unfortunately, don’t know what to do with the single church member. So they shuffle them along into the back Sunday School room like a mutant toy from Toy Story, in hopes that maybe they’ll find a common bond in other singles and marry each other. But they aren’t diseased, contaminated, or vile. Sure, some might be a tad more socially awkward than the average Joe, but they certainly don’t have cooties.
Singleness is a gift.
Honest! And it’s not the kind of gift you get at Christmas where you have to fake it when you pretend to be excited that you got it. It’s a good gift. A really good gift. How can I say this? For starters, Paul said it first. “Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. 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.” (1 Cor. 7:6-8) So often, we can read these outlandish statements of Paul’s, like this one, and forget that they weren’t just the scribblings of an ancient apostle who may or may not have been slightly off his rocker, these are the inspired words of God. It’s not just true because the apostle Paul said it and he was an honest sort of fellow, it’s true because God inspired it, and He IS truth.
The second reason singleness is a really good gift is because God is a really good gift-giver! Let’s face it, most singles aren’t completely contented with their singleness status…not 100% of the time at least. Sure, they may find contentment in their singleness, but if they are honest, they’ll admit that the contentment vacillates. They desire at some point to be married. But most singles are single because God has determined it to be this way. He’s either not brought someone into their lives or He’s taken someone out. Each single comes to a crossroads in their trust in God in this regard: Do they trust Him with their singleness or not? Those who struggle with this lonely status can tend to view God as holding out on them, withholding good from them. This couldn’t be further from the truth though. Because God is good (Exodus 33:19;Psalms 31:19; 107:1), the situations He brings into our lives are good (Romans 8:28-29), and the gifts that He gives are good for us (Matthew 7:11).
Life is short, and there is much to do. (1 Cor. 7:25-31)
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul gives several reasons why singleness is a good thing. The main reason he gives is kingdom work. A lot was happening on the spiritual forefront when Paul wrote to the church of Corinth. Christ had just risen and the church was in a state of immense growth. There were so many who had not heard the Good News of salvation, and Paul was singularly focused on this mission. “For the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31). He was willing to forgo the momentary pleasure of a marriage relationship for the sake of spreading the Gospel. Paul knew that compared to eternity, this life was a mere vapor, “here one moment and gone the next,” as James states. Imagine if Paul had been married; he could never have had half the ministry God gave him to do if he was dragging wife and children behind him. Looking at this passage through the lens of our culture today, not much has really changed. The present form of this world is still passing away, there is still much work for the kingdom of God to be done, many still need to be reached with the Good News of salvation, and we still only have one lifetime in which to do it. For the single reader, what are you doing for the kingdom of God right now? Are you busy working for the Lord, spreading the Gospel, lengthening the outreach of your church with your service? Or are you looking at your church to minister to you? How do you view your singleness status? As a burden to bear, a problem to fix, or the freedom to serve? For those ministering to singles, are you seeking ways to actively use them within your church? After all, they have more time and flexibility than your married members.
Freedom from Anxieties & Undivided Devotion to the Lord (1 Cor. 7:32 – 35)
Another reason Paul gives in advocating for singleness is because the single has the freedom to be entirely devoted to the Lord. She is free to make God her only concern. Her relationship with Christ is the only relationship on which she needs to focus. The married woman, however, has her husband’s needs and concerns to occupy her thoughts. While the Lord should always be her first focus, her family is a close second. When there is a call to ministry, the married woman must first consider how her family is going to be affected by this added responsibility before committing. When you are married, the husband and children are your first ministry. But the single woman is free from that worry. I know for me, personally, I was given an opportunity to serve as a missionary overseas. Because I was single, I was able to pack all my worldly possessions and move to Europe for a year! I would have missed out on that opportunity to go and serve if I had a family, husband and children, to consider.
Do YOU have the singleness cooties?
Many of life’s issues can be fixed with a change of attitude, singleness cooties included. If we as a body of believers see singleness as a problem to overcome, a holding pattern of which to get out, or a blessing waiting to happen, we do a disservice to Paul’s wisdom and God’s inspired Word in 1 Corinthians 7. We also continue the stigma of singleness cooties into the next generation of believers teaching them that singleness is something with which to struggle instead of a gift to embrace.
Sally left class that afternoon with a sneaking suspicion that this wouldn’t be the last time she would come across the pattern her teachers unknowingly exhibited. She would meet it with friends whose only aim was to set her up with every single guy they knew. She would meet it in a variety of Sunday school classes she would visit. She would even meet it in her own devotional life as she wrestled with loneliness here and there. But for every time, Sally met this attitude that singleness was a problem, Sally determined to fight her attitude. She decided to be a blessing in return, serve the Lord tenaciously, and become more solely devoted to God.
Let us learn from Single Sally that singleness cooties aren’t real, and allow God to get the glory through our attitude about singleness.
Some have the gift of singleness (life long celibacy), but most others are just single for a season. Telling a women who longs to be married that it’s a gift isn’t super true…it’s an opportunity to be sure, but it’s not the same gift that a woman who doesn’t desire to be married is.
I was single for many years and it’s tough at times! You really do feel that your life doesn’t begin until you get married. It’s a lie. It’s not true. You KNOW that, but it certainly doesn’t feel like that.
Allow yourself to grieve the fact that you aren’t married when you thought you would be. Your desire for marriage is good and God-given. But also realize that through your grief, you have to accept what you have from God’s good hand!
What a blessing the gift of singleness is! God ministers to singles who choose to put their HOPE in Him alone. He reveals Himself to them in special and unique ways that fill your heart with every need. You can have fullness of joy and fullness of life when God is your completer!
how timely this article is, thank you.
At my church the singles just got ‘encouraged’ (re: kicked out) of our sunday school class of young adults to leave the class of our peers (so we assumed, peers) to attend the younger sunday school class b/c we werent married with babies.
I was informed that its not black and white–its hard to draw lines and we should find which group we fit in with best – the just out of college singles or the people are age with babies.. ironically enough I dont see “27 and single” as that odd… its not as if I am 45 and never married asking where do I fit? So it bothers me that singles were made to feel so horribly unwelcome. I told my sister, “what? do they think they could catch singleness? and so what if you do catch it? I don’t think it always is awful!”
Anyways, like many singles, I hope to get married one day…BUT this particular hurtful event has made me dig my feet in…last week I was upset about being single and now I feel I am defending it. singleness is not a subclass. Dont treat me as so. So, like the author of this post, I plan just to disregard the attitude about my singlness…
Thank you, Sarah!
This is something that has been driving me batty ever since I outgrew the “college (and career– by title only)” Sunday School class. As singles, we fit into a different community that I think the church is afraid to encourage because if we encourage a community of God-honoring single individuals, they might actually stay single! (A travesty- I know)
I was removed from the youth ministry at my old church because I was not married. People see singleness as synonymous with a lack of motivation, or even a lack of spirituality. They think, “Oh, well if her heart was right with God, He would have given her a husband by now.” And it just isn’t true.
But I’ve found the flipside can also be dangerous. I visited a special young adult Christian community and it was nothing short of a dating service, a “meet” market as my friends said. That’s bad too, because it pulls your focus off Christ and makes Christian community me-centric (ie. If there are no single men, I ain’t going) when it should be about coming together as His body to worship Him! I am so blessed with the singles group I am in now because they love the Lord and hate dating services! (lol)
The leaders (one man and one woman) are both single and actually hesitated to start the group because they didn’t want it to turn into a desperate dating service; they wanted it to be a true Biblical community and it is, and it rocks. It definitely helps to be content with where God has me when I can fellowship with people who get what I am going through and aren’t eager to fix it.
What? Paul clearly says that the ability to be voluntarily celibate (like him) is a gift. Telling single girls looking forward to marriage that their singleness is a gift is untrue. Paul says that those who don’t have his gift of being willing to deny themselves sexual gratification should marry. Telling single girls to wait is in direct conflict with that!
Thank you for this message. It is so good to be reminded that God gives good gifts to His children. I may not always see my singleness as a good thing, but I know that I’ve just gotta keep “plugging through,” and live life. There must be something He wants to do in me or through me before He decides to bless me in another way… marriage. I know that happiness comes not from a man, but from the joy of our Lord. I am learning still to trust and lean on Him for support day by day.
Thank you for the article. It is a nice reminder. It is not easy being single and I’m at a stage where not only am I single but I’m a single parent of 2 young boys; so, it has been a real struggle because I have the desire of wanting a unified Christian family. I’ve given that desire to the Lord to deal with.
I became single because when the Lord was drawing me to Him (to salvation), I broke up with the father of my son whom I was going to marry the year I ended the relationship. I ended the relationship because he rejected (and still does) Christ Jesus. It was so hard, and when that happened I thought I could never recover. This was 2 years ago.
Being single for me not only has its challenges emotionally but financially. I have learned to truly depend on God completely. I’ve learned and am growing spiritually. I am reminded of Luke 14:26 (“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.). If I had remained in an unequally-yoked relationship then I was not loving my Saviour. It is more important to be obedient to the Lord.
My position as a single mother has given me the freedom to pursue God fully but I’m still a bit restrained in that I, like the married woman, must pour my attention to my children (the married woman to her husband). I have a desire to do missions and I’m seeking the Lord to guide me in this area as I am in this season of my life because I can’t just pick up and go like a single woman.
There are a few Christian books on singleness and I recommend to all you Christian single sisters the book Lady in Waiting by Jackie Kendall & Debby Jones. It is excellent. However, I would love it if someone could recommend a book for Christian single mothers; we seem to be in an awkward place between singleness and not-married-but-have-the-kids-so-not-exactly-single. Hahaha. God bless.
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