Whether married, dating, or single, I think we have all come across a time in our lives when we felt bombarded by people who have questions about our marital status. If you’re single, you get questions like “are you single? Are seeing anyone? Why not?” If you’re dating someone, you get questions like “when will you get engaged? Why isn’t there a ring on her finger yet?” If you’re engaged, you might get questions like “when are you getting married? Is he/she someone you really want to spend the rest of your life with?” And when you get married, you get questions/comments like “when are you two going to start a family? How many kids will you have? I’ve heard having children can really strengthen a marriage.”
It seems to me that we live in a society that is obsessed with relationships. Everyone wants to feel loved, accepted and adored, and many think that the best way to get those feelings is through a relationship. Wanting to feel loved is not a bad thing – I strongly believe that God placed the desire in our hearts for a reason and I’ll get back to that reason in a moment. Right now, I just want to point out that no one will love you perfectly. No person, place or thing on this earth, not even my very loyal dog or my cherished teddy bear. And it is completely unfair to put those expectations on other people – whether it is your best friend since grade one, the boyfriend you’ve had since high school, or the parents/guardians who raised you. It is unfair to think of them as perfect, or that they will be perfect because it’s just not possible. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. Does this mean we should just stop trying to be perfect or stop trying to love people perfectly because we know we will mess up? Of course not, it just means we are still working on it, as God calls us to do.
Why would we do that? Because our God loves us absolutely perfectly! He is the only being who can. And absolutely nothing can separate us from that – not any sin, or crime we’ve committed. “ Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’)No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). A relationship with God is the only type of relationship we should be that obsessed with because it’s so worth obsessing over.
All that being said, why is there still so much emphasis on being in a relationship? While it is something many of us crave, I’m sure we can attest to the fact that God is the only one who truly satisfies. And I think that in all cases of wanting love and acceptance, God placed that crave in our hearts so that we can draw nearer to him – not run to other forms of love. Yet, even in the church there is a strong emphasis in finding that “nice, strong man who will provide for you”, or the “beautiful, sweet young woman who will submit”. Many of my single friends have told me that others will attempt in encouraging them in their singleness by saying “don’t worry, your time will come”. Some refer to it as a “season” in life that most people have to endure before finding “the one”. And while I realize this is an attempt to comfort and build up, it can actually be quite damaging and here’s why:
- Marriage is not our purpose in life
- God did not create us to find a man or woman, settle down, have a family and live happily ever after. There is so much more to life than that! As much as He ordains marriage and the whole idea of family (I mean, he created Adam and Eve for each other), He does not call every person to that, and most certainly does not call us to live such comfortable lives that we forget to thank Him and continue to serve Him.
- While God blesses those who choose marriage, and while marriage is not always comfortable, God also blesses singleness just as much (see “Paul actually says singleness is better than marriage”)
- Marriage is definitely not always going to be comfortable, and He definitely uses it to glorify Him, and God absolutely leads those into marriage that are called into marriage. But if you are going to do it, do it because God is calling you to – not because you think you can get something out of it, or because you want him/her to make you feel nice/loved all the time. Because I can guarantee they will fail at that. Do it because you know you can glorify God by serving this person, and by serving God with this person.
- Glorifying God is our ultimate purpose – In his book “The Mingling of Souls”, Matt Chandler talks about how the purpose of marriage is to show the unconditional love to our spouses that God shows us. God is our bridegroom (Isaiah 62:5) that gave us this amazing sacrificial love by sending Jesus to die on the cross for us. What better way is there to glorify God through showing others this same sacrificial love that he gave us? Chandler goes through Song of Solomon, showing readers just how absolutely beautiful marriage is through having this kind of love for each other.
- Paul actually says singleness is better than marriage – “But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on, those who have wives should live as if they do not” (1 Corinthians 7:28b – 29). Paul obviously does not mean this in the sense that those who are married should be going around seeing other people. He simply does not want us to put ultimate significance in present realities and worldly pleasures. Why? Because he wants us “to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: her aim is to be devoted to God in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:32 – 35). Paul even goes so far as to say, “I wish that each of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that” ( 1 Corinthians 7:7). He wants us all to experience the full joy in Christ that he has through being single his whole life! I like the way my study Bible covers this aspect. It says: “Paul views his celibate lifestyle as a ‘gift from God’ that made it possible for him to accept his unmarried state and use it in the service of his Lord.” Singleness can actually be seen as a gift from God!
- You can practice sacrificial love outside of marriage too – Showing sacrificial love to those around us does not mean we have to be throwing our backs out for everyone or burn ourselves out to make everyone else happy. It means we have to be tuned in to God’s voice every single day to hear who we can be investing in, spreading the gospel to, and serving. In this way, we can be giving sacrificial love to our friends and even non-Christians. And when you’re single, you have so much more time to invest in other people! This kind of love is not only meant for our spouses/fiancés/boyfriends/girlfriends, it is meant for everyone!
- We need to be all God’s
- One big way to glorify God (since it is our purpose) is to sacrifice all of ourselves to God. We will not be able to give any of this sacrificial love to our future spouse or our friends or even non-Christians if we do not have God’s sacrificial love within us.
- Take a moment to really reflect on the love that God has for us through meditating on Romans 8:38-39, Psalm 86:15, Zephaniah 3:17, Galatians 2:20, or any other verse about His unfailing love – let His presence and love soak into you and encourage you to be loving towards others as well. Keep in mind that God does not want you to be taken advantage of or to be walked on. Loving someone doesn’t mean letting them do whatever they want to you. I strongly believe that meditating on God’s word and His love for us will give us discernment in who we can be showing our love to each and every day.
Saying “don’t worry, your time will come” implies that God’s will is for them to have a significant other at some point in their lives, but that is something only God knows. Calling the single life a “season” also implies that it will be over at some point, but again that is only something God can determine. Instead of encouraging our single friends to find someone, or telling them that they will, we should be telling them that singleness is a blessing! It means greater intimacy with God – to have all of God, and for God to have all of us. It means we have to be completely dependent on Him and Him alone. It’s actually much easier to give Christ our all when we do not have as many distractions around us. Trusting in Him is almost never easy, but He is faithful and knows the desires of our hearts because He created us!
And we should be recognizing that if we are in a relationship or married, we should be living as if we are in the single season forever. Let your single friends be an encouragement to you and to remind you to be living this way. This is what I call Living the SSF. Living the Single Season Forever.
Like Paul, I do not mean this in the sense that those in a relationship or marriage should go around dating other people because they are living as a single person. Obviously it says in the Bible that adultery is not okay. I mean this simply in the sense that those in any relationship should be giving their all to Christ. Not just the left-over bits from whatever role you play in a relationship, but your all. This is our chance to be fully dependent on the only one who can truly satisfy.
If you’re single, live the SSF.
If you’re dating, live the SSF.
If you’re engaged, live the SSF.
If you’re married, live the SSF.
For any stage in life, God calls us to intimacy with Him. How can we have full intimacy if we are only giving him bits and pieces of our lives? I encourage you to give your all to Christ today as if you are the only person in the world, as if you were designed to be single your whole life.
Sometimes this will not be easy, and you will want to do things your way instead of God’s. Sometimes our own shame from past relationships or from past wrong-doings gets us down and we find ourselves struggling with accepting this love that Jesus has for us. I will be addressing some of these topics in my next blog, so stay tuned!
Right now, I want to know if you will dive in with me to a life that offers more than we can possibly imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Will you live the SSF with me?