by Molly Carman
January 6, 2021
We have all experienced a season—no matter how short or long—of loneliness. When you are single, it can be easy to dream about a season of life when you might not be single. It can also be easy to fall prey to the lie that you are owed a relationship or even guaranteed an amazing marriage.
But we are not guaranteed such things. Our culture commonly associates singleness with loneliness, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Tragically, some people are lonelier in marriage than they ever were when they were single. In any case, we are guaranteed that God is good all the time and that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Ps. 145:9, Heb. 13:5-6).
Another common misconception, especially in Christian circles, is that marriage is godlier than singleness. But Scripture shows us that this is simply not the case. Marriage and singleness both provide unique opportunities for sanctification, and both come with their own associated trials, temptations, sacrifices, and freedoms. As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35:
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.
Because Paul was single, he was able to devote himself fully to the ministry of spreading the gospel and discipling others. However, Christian ministry is not strictly the job of single people. We can intentionally serve Christ and the church no matter our situation in life. For example, Priscilla and Aquila were married and likely had the marital concerns Paul described in 1 Corinthians 7, but nevertheless served the church fervently alongside Paul to disciple young believers and build up the early church (Acts 18:2,18, 26; Rom. 16:3; 1Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19).
Being single is not easy, especially when it feels like all of your friends are getting engaged, married, or announcing that they are having a baby; meanwhile, you feel like the most exciting thing that has happened in your life lately is that you got a free coffee last week. But I have learned that my present singleness provides opportunities that most of my married friends will never have, or at least not in the same way. I can more easily go wherever God is calling me, meet new people, and get connected to a community. I can foster my dependency on the Lord, free from the temptation to depend too heavily on my spouse. I can say yes to various service opportunities without the worry of family concerns. Paul is clear that the married are concerned with the things of the world and the unmarried are concerned with the things of God, not because married people are less spiritual but because marriage requires things of a husband and wife that can take time away from the work of ministry.
Today, it is often said that the church needs to be doing more to serve its single members. However, singles often have a greater capacity to serve the church and its members and be involved in ministry to their greater communities than married couples do.
It is always easy to want what we do not have. My recently married friends have told me that, as much as they love their spouse and being married, they realize that I have greater opportunity to say yes to things like going to grad school, going on a mission trip, or volunteering in a ministry program. While I am sometimes envious of their marital companionship and parenthood, I am learning the secret of being content in Christ (Phil. 4:11). Comparison is always the thief of joy and contentment.
If you are single, consider how you can serve the church and what a blessing it is to be able to say yes to ministry and the spread of the gospel. And even if you have no children of your own, you can still invest in children by giving hard-working parents the night off from their kids or serving in the nursery or the youth group at your church. Every season of life is an intentional gift of God to sanctify you and draw you closer to Him so that you might become more like Him. So, instead of selfishly thinking about how the church can serve you in whatever situation you are in, I encourage you to go and serve the church. After all, Christ—our ultimate example—came not to be served but to serve (Mat. 20:28, Mk. 10:45).