Not shelved but made sufficient: Singleness in Christian Living

By Emmy Bourne - 23 February 2023

So, I have recently delved into the world of online dating (again). I am not going to lie; it has been stressful. How do you big yourself up without being cliché or arrogant? What photos do you use that show your fun, attractive, confident, interesting and/or social side all in one? What can I do to make myself stand out but also make sure I am ‘being myself’? How do you express the importance of your faith without being ‘too keen’? I had always imagined I would sit round a table with some girlfriends with a glass of wine and we would create this masterpiece and within seconds the man I had been waiting for would ping up almost immediately. Full disclosure – I did it alone, on a whim and almost felt like I couldn’t tell anyone. It felt like breaking into the online dating game showed I was discontent with my life, so therefore I was discontent with God.

I have been single for a while now and I have been through the motions with it all. I have gone from being desperately lonely to being angry at God for ‘being left on the shelf’, from fiercely declaring that I am independent and happily single to refusing to make any effort to meet someone in case it came across as desperate. I have cried, been encouraged, been heartbroken, confused, lost, filled with hope, furious at everyone around me and weighed down with what felt like never-ending loneliness. The desires of my heart felt ignored and shunned, so I stopped asking.

And I am still battling with this now. More so actually. But I have also come to see some wonderful truths about singleness that I wanted to share with you, whether you are married or single. Because in a church, single and married people coming alongside each other sees a church flourishing and enlightening those around them.

So firstly – being single doesn’t mean we are on our own

Often, this verse in the book of Genesis 2v18 – “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” – can often be taken out of context and suggests that the way to solve loneliness is to get married, or that God’s answer to loneliness is marriage. But actually what is being said here is that God’s intention with creating US, plural, is that living outside of a community isn’t good. He is pointing to the importance of being part of a church and that we were made in the context of relationship.

A real joy of being single and being part of a community is having strong, intimate and diverse relationships with different people from all walks of life. The single life can have the space to enjoy community as God intended. So for those of you who are married, I encourage you, open your doors to those who are single – not because they are ‘alone’ but because that’s what church is all about! Being one body united under Christ – a joy-filled community. We must remember that God’s love for us is sufficient above all other things – all we need is Him and everything else is secondary. That includes the love and affection of others. As Sam Allberry observes, “If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency.” So as a single person, I can show those around me that God’s love alone is more than enough for lasting joy.

Secondly – find value in your real identity

Life roles we take on here on earth aren’t permanent or ultimate goals to try and reach. Whether that’s being a mother, a wife, a husband, a father, happily single – these all should strive to embody godly attributes that are attainable not through our marital status, but through the work of the Spirit in our lives. Being single doesn’t mean second best. Sometimes marriage seems to suggest emotional and spiritual maturity. That being married means you’ve graduated into a different and better life and the value of singleness is less. We can’t feel lost or insignificant if we aren’t the wife or husband of someone, because, where does our identity lie as a human, as God’s creation? In Him alone. We are made in His image – created to reflect Him is our daily lives. Sons and daughters of the Living God. And so while I know that I will be always have to work on my contentment with being single, I can always know God’s joy in my singleness, by seeing myself through His eyes.

And finally – ride the storms and embrace the promises

The single life can be a battle of lies and promises. Another bible verse that can often be misquoted and misread is ‘Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” – Psalm 37v4. While these words, written by David, were to encourage the discouraged and remind the people of God’s love of justice and His faithfulness, it isn’t making a ‘blanket’ claim that God would grant all our heart’s desires, even if they are well intended.  And when Paul speaks of singleness being a gift in 1 Corinthians 7, he isn’t saying this gift he speaks of is the ability to carry and cope with the single life, but the state of being single itself. Whatever our situation or current relationship status, we should be thanking God for that life and the grace He shows us, in all circumstances. And, as for all Christians, including those who are single, we won’t be single forever. On earth, some of us will marry and some will remain single – but this will come to completion in the end. In the Bible, it speaks of Jesus being the bridegroom that will one day return for His bride – that is us and the church – and we will be go with Him to the perfect new creation. We all share in this same hope and even while we are here on earth, we can experience that intimate relationship with Jesus through the work of the Spirit in our lives.

So when all is said and done, while singleness might feel like an ongoing battle for some of us, it’s our intimate relationship with Jesus that ultimately matters. I don’t know the plans that God has set ahead for me – whether I am to be married or remain single – but I do know for certain that His perfect will for me is that He wants to see me flourish and grow and bound forward in His steadfast love for me – no matter what my marital status is.