State of the Union? Still Forthcoming

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Maybe Valentine’s Day is your least favorite day of the year. Maybe you dread walking alone amidst the teeming mass of smiling couples at your favorite restaurant. Maybe you feel sick as you see others enjoying what you so long to possess, or as you remember what you’ve lost. Maybe you see your present state of singleness as a curse.

If that’s you, take heart: God has not forgotten you.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth,

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
1 Corinthians 7:6-7

He then address the unmarried and the married, which seems to imply that marriage is not the only gift in Paul’s mind here; singleness is a gift as well. This isn’t new information. The “gift of singleness” is a popular phrase in Christian lingo. But the gift itself is less popular. We in the church often see singleness as the consolation prize, the participation trophy that everyone gets while marriage remains the prize everyone desires. We claim to be content in our singleness, laughing with our married friends that we don’t really want a relationship, but the majority of us would likely jump at the chance to receive our preferred gift, the “better” gift in our estimation.

This makes sense. Marriage is indeed a good gift. God remarked that it wasn’t good for man to be alone, so he created Eve (Genesis 2:18). Paul writes of the unique way marriage reflects Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Song of Solomon praises the beauty of marriage. This means that marriage is indeed a great thing, a gift worthy to be desired. As it is written,

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.
Proverbs 18:22

With that being said, we need to acknowledge that the goodness of marriage does not make singleness any less a gift. Singles are not half-people awaiting a partner to be made whole, nor are singles broken people, unfit for the gift of marriage. All good gifts, singleness and marriage included, come from God by grace (James 1:16-18).

This brings us to a question: How would our discussion of singleness be different if we viewed singleness as a gift in the same way we viewed marriage as a gift? In other words, how would our perspective change if we looked at this conversation through Paul’s eyes, not those of our culture?

I think a few things might change for us. Here are some thoughts and suggestions to that end.

1. We would highlight the benefits of singleness, rejoicing in how God has blessed us rather than mourning how he hasn’t. God blesses singles with time and opportunities they won’t have in marriage, and he intends to use singles uniquely during that season. I think that was Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 7: marriage brings a number of limitations and distractions to the work that singles are able do. Yes, it opens up doors, and that is good; but don’t be too eager to close the doors God’s opened to you currently.

2. We would work to be good stewards of our singleness rather than wasting our time coveting the ministries of others. We as Christians cannot afford to get distracted by idols, even if our idols look much more like Facebook status updates than metal statues. The sad truth is that many of us worship a relationship status far more than we worship the Lord, spending more time and energy on the pursuit of a ring than on the pursuit of the king. How do we avoid this idolatry? I think we can start by setting our eyes on things above, not on things below (Colossians 3:1-17). Check out my friend Brooke’s post for an excellent look at the dangers of searching for satisfaction in your relationship status and the need to set your eyes on Christ.

3. We would recognize that singleness is more than simply a default position: it is a gift, and an important one at that. Jesus said in Matthew 6 that his followers didn’t need to worry about their lives as the Gentiles did. Rather, believers are to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness and trust God to provide all that they need. I believe that promise includes marriage. God is aware of your singleness. Stop worrying about whether or not you’ll find a spouse tomorrow and start serving the Lord where he’s called you today. Too much is at stake to waste our lives in despair.

4. We would remember that Christ did not die for a temporary relationship but for an eternal relationship. Christ remains our savior, not an earthly spouse. Salvation from sin remains man’s greatest need, not salvation from singleness. The glory of God remains our aim, not romance. Remember that this life is about more than your life. Trust God and obey.

Paul lived for the King and his kingdom, and he saw everything else in light of his call. Follow his example. In all things, seek the Lord. Trust the Lord. Obey the Lord. And see your singleness in light of eternity. This season is a great gift from God. Let us not waste it.

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