The gift of singleness
By Dennis Franck
Have you ever heard parents tell their kids, “Someday you’ll grow up and have a wonderful husband/wife” or “God has someone special for you”? Have you ever felt the pressure some people in the church put on a young adult to “settle down and get married”?
It’s very common for parents, church leaders and others to want to see youth do what many Christians think is the “successful thing” — graduate from high school, go to college, find a potential mate, graduate from college, get married, serve God together and live happily ever after.
There are problems with this thinking, and many young people today know that such a scenario is not always the reality. Divorce is extremely common, many teens are living in single-parent families, and maybe even more difficult, many are living in blended families.
The practice of marrying by age 18, 21 or even 25 is not as common as when your parents married. In fact, marrying by age 25 is becoming less and less frequent these days.
Recent statistics for the United States reveal there are 48.5 million never-married adults over the age of 18 and 83 million total single adults. People are postponing marriage for many reasons, including finishing college, pursuing a master’s degree, getting a good start in a career, buying a home and developing their abilities and talents.
A little-known gift
I don’t know about you, but I never heard anything about the gift of singleness while growing up in a Christian home. You’d have thought I’d have heard something about this since it is in the Bible … but I didn’t. What does God’s Word say about this, anyway?
The gift of singleness is found in at least two places: Matthew 19:11,12 and 1 Corinthians 7:7. In Matthew, Jesus explained the three reasons that kept a person single: some people were born without the ability to have sex; some were castrated; some chose to remain single to serve God.
Regarding the gift of singleness, Jesus told people that not everyone can receive or accept serving God as a purpose for staying single. It is for those to whom the capacity to receive it has been given. In other words, it is a gift.
Singleness can be a gift for life, or can be chosen for a period of time to develop one’s identity, character and direction before marriage.
In 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul presented further teaching about the gift of singleness. He said, “I wish everyone could get along without marrying, just as I do. But we are not all the same. God gives some the gift of a husband or wife, and others he gives the gift of being able to stay happily unmarried” (The Living Bible).
Paul was a single man when he wrote 1 and 2 Corinthians: “I say to those who aren’t married, and to widows — better to stay unmarried if you can, just as I am” (1 Corinthians 7:8). So, singleness is a gift and marriage is a gift.
As a pastor to young adults and single adults for 21 years, I have known several people who had the gift of singleness. These people usually have four things in common:
• They are not bothered by staying celibate.
• They are content being single and not having a romantic relationship.
• They give little thought to marriage.
• They find great satisfaction serving God in their spare time.
What can be good about being single?
Jesus was a single adult. Jesus lived on Earth for 33 years unmarried. Living in Jewish society, parents chose a spouse for their children who were typically married by the time they were 18 years old. Yet Jesus lived well into His 30s without a wife and children.
You may have never thought about the benefits of singleness, whether for a period of time, or for life. Here are some benefits I learned from others while pastoring adults who were single or single-again (widowed or divorced).
1. You can travel, move and spend money without a spouse’s permission.
2. You have more time to serve God and develop your spiritual life.
3. You can prepare to be a healthy marriage partner.
4. You can live without the stresses marriage brings.
5. You have more freedom to develop close friends and to develop abilities and talents.
6. You do not have to be concerned about having married the wrong person or married at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons.
7. You can keep the apartment/house the way you want it.
8. You can cook and eat only the food you want.
One powerful advantage of being single is the benefit of developing you. Many adults marry before they should and have not taken the necessary time to mature spiritually, relationally, emotionally and financially before entering into a lifetime commitment. They don’t have a complete understanding of the roles and responsibilities of marriage.
Such marriages have much difficulty and sometimes don’t last. It is far more important to become the right person for marriage than to find the right person for marriage.
Many people think marriage completes us. I think some people confuse the words complete and complement. Colossians 2:10 says that we are “complete in Him” (NKJV). Christ completes us, not marriage.
Dennis Franck is the director of Single Adult/Young Adult Ministries of the Assemblies of God. For more information, visit singles.ag.org.
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