Singleness isn’t something you often hear talked about from the pulpit. Before now, I don’t think I ever heard a sermon devoted specifically to the topic. Sure, I heard all of those fortune cookie phrases growing up:
“Wait for the one God has for you.”
“You want to get married? Don’t worry. The Lord knows the desires of your heart.”
“Start writing love letters to your future husband now, and one day you can give them to him.”
If you were raised in the evangelical youth culture of the early 2000’s and haven’t gotten married yet, you probably remember when you started to feel gypped by all of those false promises you grew up hearing. As I got older, I began to realize that the “one God has for me” may solely be Himself. I didn’t deny that He knows the desires of my heart, but I began to doubt the premise that He’d give me whatever the ends of those desires were, especially when so many of them were sinful. I wondered why it seemed like everyone everywhere had always assumed that this “future husband” concept was a universal guarantee.
Naturally, when my pastor recently told me he was going to preach on singleness, I felt a combination of fear, relief, hesitance, and precaution. So, when he asked for my input, I sat down and feverishly typed out seventeen thoughts that I thought were important for every married pastor to know about the single life before addressing singles in their bodies. Here are the first 6:
1. Lifelong singleness is a reality for many in the church. Often, it is an undesired reality.
This is especially true among women. According to Christianity Today, there are 2 single Christian men for every 3 single Christian women in America. She who lies in that last third will either remain single for life, marry an unbeliever, or marry a widower/divorcee. Ask any single Christian woman and she knows that this discrepancy is real, especially among missionaries. We’re highly aware of this reality. Yet, we’re also highly aware that God’s sovereign plan is good.
For more statistics on the gender gap, refer here.
2. Though we may face this undesired reality, we are not diseased.
Many feel especially stigmatized as singles in the church. Though singleness may be a trial for us, it does not and should not define us. Trials and seasons of sadness are not a singles’ problem, but a human problem as we live in the tension of the already but not yet. We may have an unfulfilled longing, but we are not deficient. We don’t desire pity, but understanding and acknowledgment.
3. Though the trials of singleness are real, so are the blessings of singleness
We experience closeness in friendships that many married friends do not. We learn to rely on the church in ways we would not have known had we been married. Though not necessarily in the ways that we would’ve chosen, we learn that Christ is truly our greatest reward and sustainer. We have a strong urgency for the redemption of our broken world, knowing that Earthly marriage is not the deepest marriage we are awaiting. We’re excited and ready for the ultimate intimacy, our final unification with Christ in person and in the flesh. Our singleness is not merely a trial but it brings us a greater awareness of who we are in Christ and in the church.
For more on the strengths of singleness, refer here.
4. BOTH marriage and singleness are sanctifying.
In conversations about feeling undervalued as singles in the church, I’ve often heard the rebuttal, “but marriage is sanctifying.” Most singles I know do not devalue marriage. In fact, most long for it. But, marriage may not be a reality for them now or ever. When this statement is said, it feels like spiritual leaders think our singleness is a choice, and even more so a choice against holiness. This thought pattern further leads to the stigmatization of singles.
Yes, marriage is sanctifying in ways that singleness is not. But, so also is singleness sanctifying in ways that marriage is not. I have to learn to intentionally redirect my unfulfilled longings toward Christ himself. I have to learn firsthand what the immanence of God means in my daily life when I come home (as an extrovert) to an empty house. I have to learn what the fullness of Christ means in the midst of earthly emptiness. Singleness, like marriage, is uniquely sanctifying.
6. BOTH marriage AND singleness are hard.
As singles, we don’t have anyone to divide and conquer our daily life responsibilities with. We do the laundry. We cook. We clean. We budget. When the car needs a new battery, we take it to the shop. When the washing machine breaks, we get on ehow and figure out how to fix it. When we need a ride home from the hospital and don’t live near family, we call our own Uber. Believe it or not, your Uber driver isn’t really the knight in shining armor you want to comfort you after a difficult medical procedure. Neither singles nor marrieds have a monopoly on hardship. As any married friend will tell you, marriage comes with its own pains, challenges, and lessons. But singleness, likewise, brings with it unique wisdom through difficulty. As marrieds or singles, we should never discount each other’s life struggles.
7. Sanctification is not a means to the ends of marriage.
I’ve heard pastors attempt to include singles in their marriage sermons by encouraging them to cultivate Godly virtues for their future spouses. But the truth is, we don’t seek holiness for the ends of any Earthly partner, but for the holy God himself. Marriage isn’t the necessitated reward for holy living. Our sanctification is not the means to anything but the glory of God himself.