Being single is an amazing stage in life. Although many well-meaning Christians emphasize the importance of being married, which indirectly causes feelings of inadequacies in singles, the reality is that being single does not make us “less than” or incomplete as opposed to those in a relationship. While the Bible does note that it is not good for humanity to be alone, this does not place a singular, long-term relationship above the life-giving relationships that many singles enjoy.
I didn’t get married until I was 30 years old so I understand singleness very well. On top of that, I worked at a large church for 13 years where I was regularly asked when I was getting married. Can you relate? My response was always, “I don’t know.”
When I attended or officiated weddings, I would usually stay for the reception. I remember getting to the point in my singleness where I ended up stepping outside right around the time the garter was going to be tossed. For me it was another reminder that I was single—almost as if I was not complete until I got married.
When I was feeling insecure about my “single status” when meeting new people in a professional setting, I would hide my ring finger, letting them guess whether or not I was married. I guess after so many years of the emphasis on marriage, I felt like I needed to hide my singleness at times.
Marriage is important.
This is not an article against the marriage establishment. Marriage is good—great, even.
The Bible is filled with marriage imagery. The covenant between God and the people in Exodus 19–24 is filled with marriage imagery. When the people sin in making an idol in the image of the golden calf in Exodus 32, Moses’ rebuke is about their “marital unfaithfulness” to God. The relationship between Christ and the Church is spoken of in terms of a bride and a bridegroom.
Marriage is a good and healthy thing. But the question is: Is marriage the only option? Isn’t being single just as much an expression of wholeness?
Singleness is celebrated in the Bible.
Singleness is not merely an unfortunate precursor to being in a relationship. Singleness is actually celebrated in the Bible. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 7.
Now, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me. First, Is it a good thing to have sexual relations? Certainly—but only within a certain context. It’s good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder. Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me—a simpler life in many ways! God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others. I do, though, tell the unmarried and widows that singleness might well be the best thing for them, as it has been for me (1 Corinthians 7:1–9).
For those who are single, you are not incomplete. In fact, the Apostle Paul, the first theologian of the New Testament, said he preferred that everyone would be single so they could devote themselves more fully to the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
Many people will counter this thought with Genesis 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” What is presented here is not a mandate for marriage, but an acknowledgement of the inherent need and desire to be connected “to not be alone.” This does not necessitate marriage, but it does elevate the need for community in our lives.
God created us for relationship, with Him and others. Scripture does not mandate marriage—and if you’re not married—you are not incomplete.
Enjoy this single phase of your life.
When I look back on being single, I have fond memories. I could go anywhere at any time. I could hang with any friends at any time. It was great!
On the other hand, I did long to be married, to be in a deep relationship. I remember dating and not finding a spouse. And after so many dates, I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me. I thought, “When am I going to get married?” It was the same question I was regularly asked, but now I was asking that question of myself.
I experienced self-pity, freedom and even self-discovery. Looking back on my single stage, I learned and grew as a person. I was able to build lifelong friendships, be invited into friends’ families and figure out who I was. Though I had moments of loneliness and awkwardness, it was an amazing stage in life.
It was during my single phase where I met my beautiful wife. It was during my single phase when I was ordained into the Christian ministry. It was during my single phase when I officiated my first wedding.
If you are single, enjoy this phase of life. Sometimes we get so caught up in wishing we were married that we lose our focus on the here and now. Take life one day at a time and enjoy the stage you are in—because there is nothing quite like the single stage.
There’s nothing quite like the marriage phase. There’s nothing quite like the parent stage. The problem occurs when we start thinking, “If only I were (fill in the blank), then I will be fulfilled.” But you won’t.
We need to seek fulfillment in our current situations—right where we are today. Only then can we have a hope of finding fulfillment in other stages. We cannot look to another stage to bring us some elusive healing or fulfillment.
So, whether you feel the Church over-emphasizes marriage or not, take time to find fulfillment and community in the here and now. If your friends seem to have pity on you for being single and that really irritates you, ask yourself why. Maybe there is more underneath the surface.
If you have a good relationship with your pastor, ask her/him to speak on the joys of each major phase of life. Encouraging singles in the Church will only empower them to have a positive influence.
Don’t let others make you feel inadequate or insecure—live this life—this stage of life where God is willing to use you now for amazing things. Allow yourself to grow and be stretched like never before.
Make a commitment, here and now, that you will not let the self-defeating attitude that says, “When this happens, I will be happy” take hold in your life. Instead resolve to live life to the fullest now. Use the time, energy and freedom you have now to find emotional and spiritual fulfillment, build God’s Kingdom and figure out who God wired you to be.
I promise you the healthier you become now in this stage you are in, the healthier and more fulfilled you will be overall. Whether that next stage is a new career, marriage, kids or relocation, living on Mars. It is advantageous to work on ourselves now.
There’s nothing quite like this stage—so embrace it and live it to its fullest potential.
After twenty years in the church and university worlds, Bryan A. Sands has accepted the call of Lead Pastor at Kaimuki Christian Church in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is the author of, Everyone Loves Sex: So Why Wait? (A Discussion in Sexual Faithfulness). You can learn more about the book at EveryoneLovesSex.org. Bryan and his wife, Caz, have three daughters.