Steward Your Gift of Singleness
Note from Randy: Today’s blog is the second of a two-part series on singleness by my assistant, Chelsea Dudley. (See part one.) As I mentioned before, I have the deepest appreciation for her wisdom and Christ-centered insights. Thanks, Chelsea, for this helpful article.
Singleness is an incredible gift from our loving Father, and a gift is meant to be cherished. So what are we to do with this gift? How do we steward it well, to God’s glory?
Statistically, most of you who are single will at some point get married. But God doesn’t promise you will. He doesn’t. I’ve searched and searched Scripture for that promise, and it’s not there. Coming to terms with this truth was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it drastically changed my outlook on my singleness and allowed me to focus on stewarding it as a gift.
God doesn’t promise that you will get married, but He does promise that you are loved unconditionally. He does promise to never leave you or forsake you. He promises that in Him there is fullness of joy. He promises that His plan for you is for your good and to prosper you and not harm you. He promises to draw near to you. He promises to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. And He promises to make you like Himself. Those are some pretty incredible promises.
That’s why I believe our calling in singleness is to show that Jesus is enough. It is to have undivided devotion to the Lord, and to make Jesus our priority and let Him make us whole.
And that’s exactly what the Apostle Paul shows us in 1 Corinthians.
Free from Anxiety and Fully Devoted
In chapter 7 Paul is addressing some difficult issues in the Corinthian church. In verses 6-9 he says,
Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am [single]. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of anther. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
If you’re like me when I was single, you’re probably thinking, how can it possibly be better to be single than to be married? Singleness is the last thing I want! But as we hear Paul out, we’ll begin to see why he suggests this.
In verses 32-35, Paul speaks to single people and says,
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
Paul doesn’t say he wishes others were single so they’ll be miserable and lonely for the rest of their lives. No. What does he say? He wants them to be single so they can be free from anxieties and have undivided devotion to the Lord.
Fewer anxieties and undivided devotion to Jesus? That’s something to desire.
Now, being single doesn’t mean you will be completely free from anxieties and troubles. We all have struggles. Each of us is a messy sinner doing life with other messy sinners. But one benefit of being single is that you only have to worry about yourself and the Lord.
When I got married, suddenly I didn’t make decisions on my own or spend money on my own. I didn’t come home to a quiet house where my introverted soul could rest. Now Michael and I are making decisions together, even if we disagree. My buying a cup of coffee or a cute new pillow for our couch affects him, not just me. I come home to a wonderful husband who may have had a hard day, or who may need words of affirmation from me, or may need to talk.
Don’t get me wrong—I love all of those things, but my interests are divided and my anxieties are multiplied. Now I am not only supposed to be devoted to the Lord, I am supposed to think of my husband before myself and serve and care for him. These are wonderful gifts, but life is just more complex as a married person.
That’s why Paul says that singleness is a gift that allows you to have undivided devotion to the Lord. So my question is, how are you stewarding this gift God has given you? If someone were to look at your life and inside your heart, would they see that Jesus is enough? Would they see that He is your number one priority?
Priscilla Shirer says, “Whatever your life entails right now—no matter how far removed it seems from what you expected—he has anointed you and divinely equipped you to not merely handle it but to thrive in it.”
It’s not a mistake that you are single right now. It is a special and unique gift that the Lord has graciously given you, despite the challenges that come with it.
I want to briefly talk about two struggles that aren’t unique to singleness but are common, and in some ways intensified by it: loneliness and purity. When stewarding the gift of singleness, it’s important to give these struggles to the Lord and work through them with Him.
Loneliness is the number one thing that I struggled with as a single person, and most of my friends who are single struggle with it too. I deeply desired companionship and to know someone intimately. I remember one particular season where I struggled over whether or not to move. The thought of making one more big life decision on my own nearly pushed me over the edge. I just wanted to do life with someone.
Loneliness is hard, and we weren’t designed for it (Genesis 2:18). But guess what? Marriage isn’t the fix for loneliness. There are many married people who feel lonelier in their relationship than they did when they were single.
If you’re struggling with loneliness, don’t fantasize about marriage and falsely believe that once you’re married, you’ll never experience it. Instead, run to Jesus with your loneliness. He wants to fill the gaps in your heart. He is the only cure for loneliness.
He also wants to give you companionship. Proverbs 68:6 changed my life: “God sets the lonely in families.” Families can come in all shapes and forms. Maybe it’s a tight group of friends that you can live life with. Maybe it’s a roommate. Maybe it’s a family with little kids that you can be a surrogate aunt to. Maybe it’s people you do ministry with, pouring out your life together for Jesus. Maybe it’s your own biological family. For me, one particular family adopted me as their own. We did ministry together, and I would babysit their kids and have dinner at their house. They were my family when I was single and lived far away from my own family.
God doesn’t call us to be lonely. He wants to meet us in our loneliness, and He wants us to be a family with other people. When you’re single, that family may look differently than you expected, but those relationships can help fill the hole you weren’t meant to have.
If you’re struggling with loneliness, run to God with your heart and feelings, and look for the family He has brought into your life. (Here is a great 4-part sermon series on loneliness by Paul Matthies.)
As a single person, purity can be a struggle. Pornography, sex before marriage, and co-habitation are rampant, not just in our society but also in our churches. I want to tell you that God has a better plan for your life.
If you’re struggling with purity of any kind, please don’t feel ashamed and isolate yourself. Many of us have been there. Seek out the help that you need and come to God with those struggles because He stands with arms wide open, ready to pour out His grace on you. He wants so much more for you. (Pure Desire Ministries is a great ministry with help and resources.)
Pour Out Your Feelings to Him
God used one passage of Scripture to radically shape my single life and help me with the struggles I faced. It’s the story of Hannah found in 1 Samuel 1. Like many of us, Hannah struggled with unmet desires. She was married to Elkanah, who loved her dearly, but Hannah was barren. Elkanah’s second wife, Peninnah, had many children and teased Hannah about her barrenness.
Every year Elkanah took his family to worship the Lord in the tabernacle at Shiloh. One particular year Hannah deeply troubled because she desperately wanted children. She went to pray to the Lord at the temple alone. Scripture says she was “deeply distressed” and “in bitterness of soul she poured out here heart to the Lord.” Have you ever been there? Have you ever wanted something so badly that your heart aches? I sure have.
What I love about Hannah is that she took all these emotions to the Lord. She didn’t bury them or pretend she didn’t feel them. She laid them all at the feet of her loving God. Then it says she “went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah” (1 Samuel 1:18-19).
Hannah laid those soul-crushing feelings at the feet of the Lord and then went about her day with her face no longer sad and worshiped the Lord. It’s not that she didn’t feel them anymore, but she had given them to the only One who could do anything about them. She chose to not dwell on what she didn’t have, but on the One she did have.
When we struggle with unmet desires, when life is different than we expected, when we struggle with loneliness or discontentment, we can take all of those things to the Lord who sees us and hears us. In bitterness of soul we too can pour out our hearts to the Lord. We have a Great High Priest who is able to empathize with us. In fact, He is able to empathize with us in this specific way because He too was single. And then we can lift our faces and worship the Lord.
This is how we avoid wasting the gift of singleness. This is how we steward it well.
This is how we show that Jesus is enough.
Chelsea Dudley works at Eternal Perspective Ministries as Randy Alcorn's Executive Assistant.