A friend approaches, face glowing with happiness, bearing good news about their new relationship. Once again, the contradictory feelings of congratulations and self-pity combat within me. The former bears outward expression; the latter, inward concealment. Sure, the Christian thing to do is console myself by rehersing the line, “You just need to wait for the ‘right one.’” But, what do I do in the meantime? The temptation is to walk in the shadow of each possible future spouse, thinking that the path of singleness is a trek through the valley of the shadow of death. Yet, could it be that this feeling stems from a deep-seated idolatry that interprets singleness as a cross to bear instead of a gracious gift from the Father that is meant to be leveraged for the glory of God?
How is it that Christians can view singleness in such a negative light? Is it simply the mixture of friends, family, and even fellow churchgoers asking well-intentioned questions concerning possible prospects for dating and marriage? Certainly, this does not help, but it is not the full picture. The desire for a spouse is a good desire. After all, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone (Gen. 2:18).” Also, consider the wisdom writer: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD(Pro. 18:22).” And who can forget Paul’s exhortation for husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the Church (see Eph. 5:22-33)? Don’t I need a wife in order to love her like Christ loved the Church?
The Scriptural witness points to the goodness of marriage, so it is not difficult to see how a believer who is single might view a season of singleness with negativity and disdain. How, then, does Scripture address singleness, and how might one walk faithfully in times of singleness?
One could easily jump to Paul’s exhortation for believers to be like him, specifically in regards to his singleness, becauseit provides the opportunity for undivided devotion to the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 7:7, 32-35). However, Paul is speaking to one’s ability to withstand the assaults of temptation to sexual immorality. So, this does not specifically speak to how believers should view singleness. The problem many single Christians face does not lie in avoiding sexual immorality but in finding satisfaction in the Lord Jesus that surpasses the thrill of finding oneself in a relationship. The problem is one of idolatry.
To properly view singleness, one must go to a source that does not directly deal with singleness at all. Observe the words of Jesus: “If anyone would come after me, let him denyhimself and takeup his cross dailyand follow me (Luke 9:23).” Those who follow the Lord Jesus must submit to his lordship in all things, laying all desires at the feet of Jesus, no matter how good and biblical some of those desires might be. This means that the believer follows the Lord Jesus like a shadow follows a body, always imitating him. Though this might sound anticlimactic, it carries with it fullness of joy.
The Lord Jesus would have believers pursuing his glory while he fills their joy (John 15:11; 16:24; 1 John 1:4). Out of this fullness of joy, he would have believers use all gifts, including singleness, for the sake of building his kingdom. With the freedom of time afforded singles, the Lord Jesus would have them tenaciously make disciples who are able to observe the joy that the Lord Jesus alone brings. In this way, the believer would constantly walk as the shadow of Christ, ready to remain single for the glory of God or ready to pursue a spouse to the glory of God. In sum, our entire lives, including desires, are to remain under the Lordship of Jesus, not under the sway of feelings of loneliness or dissatisfaction.