For the Perpetually Single Christian

“No matter what the world says, you don’t need to find another person to complete you, for you are made complete in Christ.”    

When I asked Scott Mehl if there was anything he’d like me to write about in my last couple of blogs, he thought about it for a bit, then said, “you’ve never really written about singleness, have you?” I was kind of hoping he wouldn’t notice. I often talk about my singleness with friends and family and I have strong opinions on the topic, but I’ve purposefully avoided blogging about it. Something about putting it in print is scary; I don’t want to be identified by my marital status or lack thereof. I don’t want to be pigeon holed as a Single, Childless Woman of a Certain Age. I’ve tried to write on topics that all Christians can identify with, whether male or female, single or married, young or old. Yet, this topic is one I cannot help but grapple with as it does, to some extent, influence many of my experiences and it does bring up a lot of questions regarding my role in the Christian church, my value as a human before God, and my future dreams and goals.

So, here I am tackling singleness in one blog. Obviously, this will be an incredibly cursory glance at a topic that can, and has, filled volumes.

I didn’t choose the single life, the single life chose me. I actually have yet to meet a perpetually single person past 30 who planned their life to end up that way, though I’m sure they exist. I hear there’s a new movement of younger individuals who feel non-sexual (currently termed asexual) and are thus choosing celibacy, but experientially, I haven’t met anyone like this my age or older. I do know many a singleton, both male and female, but everyone I’ve talked to had, at one point in their life, planned on the whole boyfriend or girlfriend or partner or spouse thing. Even my younger asexual friends, or my friends who have chosen celibacy due to other reasons, still tell me they dream of having a lifelong non-sexual companion with whom to grow old. Instead, there are those of us who have just been single for so long, we’ve decided to embrace the gift rather than hate it, and are starting to think of what our lives should be like if/when we never marry or have children.

Most of us don’t feel like singleness is a gift. It feels like it’s been thrust upon us against our will, leading to struggles with loneliness and discontentment. Some days (not all, because let’s be honest, we’re pretty busy and our marital status isn’t always on our minds), it honestly feels more like a punishment for some unknown past sin, bad attitude, or unchangeable flaw. But let’s remember that gifts are chosen by the giver, and bestowed upon the receiver, usually with good intentions. The receiver does not often choose the gift, we can only choose whether to accept it with grace or bitterness.

In her book “Let Me Be a Woman,” Elisabeth Elliot, twice-widowed, wrote “having now spent more than forty-one years single, I have learned that it is indeed a gift. Not one I would choose. Not one many women would choose. But we do not choose our gifts, remember? We are given them by a divine Giver who knows the end from the beginning, and wants above all else to give us the gift of Himself . . . it is within the sphere of circumstances He chooses for us - single, married, widowed - that we receive Him. It is there and nowhere else that He makes Himself known to us. It is there we are allowed to serve Him.”

In whatever state we seem to find ourselves for the long run, God is reaching out to give Himself as the ultimate gift. Marriage, as lovely as it is, is not the goal. Neither is raising kids. These are mere metaphors for the ultimate relationship, examples to help us understand the greater love. Ending up with the brooding Mr. Darcy of our dreams or rescuing Princess Peach is not the great love itself, no matter what Jane Austen and Super Mario Brothers imply. Even these are arguably both more about money - gaining Pemberley or gold coins - than love. Any person who did end up with their “true love” can tell you that it doesn’t always end up to be the cure for loneliness and discontentment we think it will be. Often life turns out a bit more like the final shot of “The Graduate” than “Silver Linings Playbook” or “Clueless.”

So, for those of you who have been single a bit longer than you planned or would like, or who are experiencing singleness all over again after divorce or death of a spouse, these are the encouragements I’d like to share:

You are loved, well and truly. You are valued and found beautiful. Your life has a great, important, and lovely purpose. This is possibly one of the hardest things for me to grasp as a singleton. Because no one person has chosen me to be on their team for life, because I have no one who is supposed to tell me how beautiful I am or how incredibly sexy my intellect and wit are or how much they can’t live without me, it is very easy to think that I am unlovable, worthless, and ugly inside and out. I do realize these thoughts plague most, if not all,  humans whether married or single because I know that marriage or partnership isn’t the true, lasting solution to human loneliness and insecurity. My only claim is that, as a single person trying to remain committed to purity, we often get fewer affirmations from those outside of us; we don’t get as many hugs and kisses, we don’t get the intimacy and affection found in a monogamous permanent relationship, we often don’t even have anyone to tell how our day was when we come home. We can go entire weeks, maybe even longer, without physical touch. We can go days, maybe weeks without being told we are loved, or found lovely. Again, I know there are many imperfect marriages in which this is made even worse - so do not think that I’m saying a human relationship is the cure for this. I’m just saying that singleness is yet another thing in our fallen world that can make believing the truth of who we really are much more difficult.

So, I’ll say it again: you are loved, well and truly. You are valued and found beautiful. Your life has a great, important, and lovely purpose.

There is so much more to singleness, but remembering the love of God for us seems like the foundation for everything else. God has gifted you with singleness for this period of your life, and possibly for the rest of your life on this earth. He did not give it to you as a punishment, because you fell short in some way; He did not give you singleness because no one wants you. This time of singleness, whether short or permanent, is part of a bigger picture, one that will end in His glory and your good. Romans 8:28-30 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” God’s gifts serve one purpose: to conform us to the image of Christ more and more each day. For some, He chooses marriage to do this, for others, He chooses singleness.

Singletons: as a starting point, here are some verses on which to meditate when those negative thoughts start to creep in.

Non-single friends of singletons: here are better truths of which remind your single friends instead of the not-guaranteed, not-found-in-the-Bible promise that God has someone for each of us, which points us to the creation as the solution to our struggles rather than to the relationship we already have with the one being who can actually complete us.

Your love of God alone makes you radiant.

“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” - Psalm 34:5

You are God’s creation, and He has planned good works for you no matter what your relationship status is.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” - Ephesians 2:10

You are God’s child, his beloved, and He is working to make you like Him. God Himself is who sanctifies you, using many means. It does not take a spouse to be like Him.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” - 1 John 3:1-3

No matter what the world says, you don’t need to find another person to complete you, for you are made complete in Christ.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” - Colossians 2:8-10  

God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that we need in this life (even if we never marry!), choosing us and adopting us as his children, and growing us in holiness, and including us in his great plan. We are chosen for the one team that matters most and have as much of a role in it as anyone else.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” - Ephesians 1:3-14

You are not forgotten, an afterthought, a mistake; you are so valuable! You are a wonderful work of the almighty God! God knew each moment of your life before you were born; he is with you in your loneliness, in your hardest times. God is leading you, even now. These days are not accidents or mistakes; they have a greater purpose.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” - Psalm 139:1-16

You are loved, not only by God, but by the family of Christ which He created to fulfill the human need for community. Remember, Jesus himself chose singleness during his time on earth, but never considered himself without family.

“While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” - Matthew 12:46-50

We have everything we need in this world already. God has not left out something necessary for our lives by not giving us a life partner, rather, He already provided what we need to live a godly life. We are not victims, left to battle this world unarmed; God has provided for us in ways we can’t yet even imagine.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” - 2 Peter 1:3-12

Yes, prolonged or permanent singleness can be difficult, even heartbreaking. Turn to the Lord as the healer of these pains rather than the world’s opinions or your own negative thoughts. May these words of Charles Wesley’s classic hymn ring true for you and me (emphasis added by me):
Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly, While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.

All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing
Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.
Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.”