Summary: There is a prevailing belief in modern culture that never getting married is a fundamental failure of fitting in and belonging and marriage will make a person happy.
My best friend since High School never got married. He says it wasn’t his choice to be single. He is now in his 60’s. I learned more about unconditional love through him than from anyone else.
As an eighteen-year-old teenager, I was taken under the wing and discipled by a person in her 70’s who had never married. She said it wasn’t her choice to be single and that she always wanted to be married. She taught me, through both her words and deeds, more about the character and nature of God than all my decades of academic learning and ministry experience.
Another dear friend of mine has never gotten married. She says it isn’t her choice to be single and would still like to be married, but she says that is God’s choice and not hers. She is now in her 60’s. I have learned from her more about loving and committed devotion to God than from anyone else.
Those three people made no active choice to be single and remain celibate. Each of them wanted to be married and share their life with someone. They all thought that singleness would be for just a season in their lives. Their desires, thoughts, and feelings were, and are, quite to the contrary of being single. So, how could anyone be content to be single their entire lives?
Other than having never been married, what is it they have in common that sets them apart from so many others? The answer is that each of them fell desperately in love with Jesus early on in their spiritual walk and willingly chose to make Him their lover first, in the purest sense of the word, and find contentment in intimate relationship through nothing else, and in no one else, but Jesus.
What is the Gift of Singleness?
The word single comes from the Latin word ‘singulus,’ which means “one only; consisting of a separate and unique whole (an individual).” Being single suggests being exclusively attentive (having an undivided heart).
In a 2018 study released by Pew Research Center, they discovered that only about half of Americans over age 18 are married. That was down from 72 percent in 1960, which could be the result of people getting married much later in life than they were just a few decades earlier. The odds of a person getting married was 28 percent for women and 30 percent for men. The study confirmed that most Americans expect to get married eventually. Twenty-seven percent said they weren’t sure whether marriage is for them and 14 percent said they don’t plan to marry at all!
There is a prevailing belief in modern culture that never getting married is a fundamental failure of fitting in and belonging. It is believed that marriage will make a person happy and is the best answer to feeling complete and overcoming the fear of loneliness, as well as satisfying the desire for intimacy and belonging. The truth is that marriage alone will not meet the needs that only family and a group of friends can provide for support and even as sources of intimacy. Most importantly, the central most fulfilling and important relationship in any culture is a person’s relationship with their Creator God and what they mean to Him, and He to them.
Singleness is a gift of God’s grace. That doesn’t mean that some people must remain single by divine decree. What it means is that as long as a person is single, it is a gift from God, just as marriage is a gift if a person enters into it.
Advantages of Being Single
Singleness is not a punishment or a trial to endure. It is an opportunity to grow in other relationships within a person’s life, and most specifically, with Jesus (James 1:2-4). It is a gift that can be used to shape a person into what God wants them to be.
There are some significant and practical advantages to being single rather than married. Singleness provides the opportunity to have the undistracted freedom to focus on God and to be completely content with Him and fully consumed with pleasing Him with undivided devotion and without the concerns and challenges that come with marriage (1 Cor 7:32-35).
The gift of singleness is not about producing superior spirituality (Col 2:16-19; 1 Tim 4:1-5). There can be found great joy and purpose in singleness with celibacy (1 Cor 7:1-7). Jesus said that there are those who have chosen to remain single and celibate their entire life for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 19:7-12).
The person who is single can direct all their focus on such things as prayer, preaching, teaching, evangelism, and discipleship training, etc., and learn “how to be holy in body and spirit,” becoming more fully obedient through dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to both the “things of the Lord” and to the Lord Himself (Matt 19:12,34; 1 Cor 7:32; Isa 56:4-5; Rom 15:17-19).