Marriage, we are told by the writer of Hebrews, is to be held in honor among all. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is honored to be married. In fact, many are honored with singleness. For the believer, it is as much of a grace of God to be called to singleness as it is to be called to marriage, though for different reasons. Sadly, for many, singleness looks to be more of a curse than a blessing, more of a judgment than a grace.
We live in a world where we are often identified by our status. Single, Married, Divorced, Widowed, and of course by sexuality: virgin, hooking up, not to mention the LGBTQ+ movement. And it is easy to allow that to consume thoughts and feelings. It can compound the loneliness and leave one in despair.
Today, I am starting a three-part series on singleness and family. This first post is aimed at helping everyone–everyone–see singleness as a gift. It may be an unwanted gift from God, but it is a gift nonetheless. Next week, I will show how singleness is a calling. The week of Thanksgiving, I will actually be dealing with contentment in singleness.
I call this a gift or a grace because of what we see in 1 Corinthians 7:7. “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,” (ESV). What gift? The gift to be single. “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am,” (1 Corinthians 7.8, ESV). Paul was writing to the Corinthians that, while marriage is and was a good thing, it would be better for them to be single. God has gifted, or graced some with the gift of singleness and the abstinence that goes with it. Others have been gifted with marriage and the responsibilities that go with that.
What Paul does not say toward either person is that they are less than fulfilled or that they have or will have lived less of a full life, having or having not been married. Marital status does not fulfill anyone. Remember the words of Christ, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” (John 10.10, ESV). Christ is our fulfillment in life, not a wife and not a husband. When Hannah was praying in Shiloh she recited the truths of God: “There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God,” (1 Samuel 2.2, ESV). No one can or ever will fulfill like God, like our Savior Jesus Christ. If we cannot find fulfillment in Him alone, then we will not find fulfillment.
Paige Brown wrote in a recent article for the Gospel Coalition:
Accepting singleness, whether temporary or permanent, does not hinge on speculation about answers God has not given to our list of whys, but rather on celebration of the life he has given. I am not single because I am too spiritually unstable to possibly deserve a husband, nor because I am too spiritually mature to possibly need one. I am single because God is so abundantly good to me, because this is his best for me. It is a cosmic impossibility that anything could be better for me right now than being single. The psalmists confirm that I should not want, I shall not want, because no good thing will God withhold from me.
John Piper told the story of George Mueller. If you’ve never read or don’t know about this man, he was an extraordinary pray-er. It was as if he received whatever he prayed for most times. But Mueller did not receive the answer he hoped for, when his wife was deathly ill. Piper quoted him on Desiring God’s website:
The last portion of scripture which I read to my precious wife was this: “The Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord will give grace and glory, no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Now, if we have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have received grace, we are partakers of grace, and to all such he will give glory also. I said to myself, with regard to the latter part, “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly”—I am in myself a poor worthless sinner, but I have been saved by the blood of Christ; and I do not live in sin, I walk uprightly before God. Therefore, if it is really good for me, my darling wife will be raised up again; sick as she is. God will restore her again. But if she is not restored again, then it would not be a good thing for me. And so my heart was at rest. I was satisfied with God. And all this springs, as I have often said before, from taking God at his word, believing what he says.
To be single, whether it is from having never married, having been divorced, or having been widowed, according to God’s Word, can be and is a gift. The caveat to that is toward the divorced, which ought to come only at the abandonment of the unbelieving spouse. If he or she leaves their Christian spouse, they are to let them go. Consider it a gift of singleness. “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace,” (1 Corinthians 7.15, ESV).
Remember these words: “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly,” (Psalm 84:11b, ESV), and “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” (James 1:17, ESV).