Over the last couple of weeks, I have been dealing with the gift and calling of singleness. If you haven’t read those articles, I would encourage you to do so before reading this one since they build upon one another. This week, I am dealing with being content while single.
Having read the other two articles, can you see why there can be great contentment in being single? The church often sends the message that singleness is a mistake or it is wrong or it is unfulfilling. The world often sends the message that singleness is the life because you can do whatever you want. But Scripture says that singleness is a gift of God by his grace, to call you to do that which married folk cannot do.
God may not always call you to singleness. But if you are single, it is your calling right now. There may be an aching for someone to go home to at night, to talk with, to snuggle with, to grow old with. That is fine. Contentment does not mean that we can’t have longings or desires. It means that we will receive, accept, even rejoice in God’s will.
Jesus, while in the Garden of Gethsemane prayed three times to have the cup removed from Him, but nevertheless, Thy will be done. Paul prayed three times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed from him, but it wasn’t. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” (2 Corinthians 12.9, ESV). What did Paul say, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12.10, ESV). He also told the Philippians though that contentment is not simply something that happens automatically, but rather learned in time. “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content,” (Philippians 4.11b, ESV).
Remember, I told you that to be loved by Jesus is better than marriage. As Sam Allberry said, “Both marriage and singleness point to the gospel. The former reflects its shape, the latter its sufficiency.” In singleness the gospel of Jesus Christ shows His all-sufficient grace. Marriage reflects the shape. It is a picture, a model as Tim Challies has said. But it is not the real thing. It is a miniaturized version of what is real. What is real encompasses not just those who are married, but all who know Christ. Challies wrote:
When we understand the meaning of marriage, we realize that even if you never marry or are no longer married, you are not missing out on something that is essential to the human experience.
If you are unmarried, you are not missing out on what’s ultimate and, therefore, on what’s essential. It’s no tragedy to miss out on the model. The only tragedy would be to miss out on the real thing. The only tragedy would be for you to miss having that real, living, and ultimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Before finishing these articles, let me point out a few things:
- God has granted single people a gift that he has not given to everyone. Specifically, I am referring to those never married when I say, be happy and honored that he has bestowed such a privilege upon you. To the divorced or widowed, I say: this is not what you wanted; it is not what you asked for. But God has promised to give his best even if we cannot make heads or tails of why.
- Since this is a gift, then we as God’s church ought to celebrate it and not shame it. We ought not to go to one who is single and ask them if they are seeing anyone or when they plan to marry. Let God’s gift and grace be a gift that is enjoyed. May we not be the ones to strike discontentment into the heart of God’s child.
- Singleness is a calling, just like marriage is. They are each unique jobs—vocations—that we are to stay loyal to as long as He calls us to them. For the single: until married. For the married: until death do us part. At which point, the callings have been reversed.
- The freedom that one has in being single is a God-given freedom for God’s kingdom. You may have freedom of time and/or resources that others simply do not have. Let God utilize that for His kingdom and glory.
- Jesus, the fullest and most contented man to live, lived as a single man. Paul, the greatest of the apostles, lived as a single man. Marriage doesn’t fulfill anyone. Only Christ can.