By Pat Ennis
As a Christian woman trained as a home economist, I never expected to be single past my mid-20s. However, the Lord had a much different plan for me and has gently matured my attitude toward singleness as well as the purpose of marriage. Rather than view marriage as the only opportunity for an intimate, nurturing relationship, I know now that I should marry only if our united lives would be more effective for the Lord than either of us is in our single state.
As a single professional I established home economics departments in three Christian colleges and one seminary. I experience daily the joy of watching young women mature into useful instruments for our Master’s kingdom. Though I have no children of my own, I have spiritual children and grandchildren all over the world. My single status allows me to provide the nurturing that my students need without neglecting my own family. I consistently have the joy of experiencing what Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34.
My greatest challenge in experiencing contentment in my single state revolves around members of the body of Christ who cannot understand how someone who can cook and sew, as well as implement effective management and financial skills, is not married. Their insistence that “Mr. Right” will one day come along discounts the possibility that it is the Lord’s will for me to minister to others as a single, using my spiritual gifts, talents, and educational background.
Benefits of Singleness
Recent statistics remind us that 99.6 million Americans 18 and older are unmarried. Many will never marry. Paul addressed the practical advantages of singleness in 1 Corinthians 7:7-9, 25-40. A primary reason for remaining single, according to Paul, is the special freedom and independence afforded to the individual. God delights in men and women who use their singleness to concentrate on becoming complete in Christ and tending to their Father’s affairs (Luke 2:49).
The Christian community should encourage singles toward spiritual maturity so that they are prepared for their heavenly Father’s next assignment (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Spiritual maturity for the single saint includes growing in personal character (1 Peter 2:2–3:22), understanding God’s purpose for the home (Genesis 2:21-24), developing a heart of contentment (John 14:1-3), learning how to effectively manage their current home (Proverbs 24:3), growing in graciousness (Proverbs 11:16; 2 Peter 3:18), practicing biblical stewardship (Philippians 4:11, 12), implementing hospitality (Romans 12:13), broadening their world view (Matthew 5:13-16), understanding the contribution they can make to the body of Christ (Romans 12:4-6), and embracing the truth of Titus 2:1-15 so that God’s Word is not discredited.
A Critical Choice
The wise single’s choice to become complete in Christ eliminates the need of looking to other people and other situations to meet their needs. Only spiritual maturity—not professional achievement, marriage, children, or ministry success—brings spiritual completeness. Several concepts of completeness emerge as we consider singleness from eternity’s perspective.
• Their growth commences by “holding fast” to Christ (John 17:3; Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:19; and 1 Peter 1:23).
• They are capable of doing what God has called them to do (2 Timothy 3:17).
• They acknowledge Christ as their authoritative head (Ephesians 1:22-23).
• Their strength to deal with Satan’s temptations develops as they mature in Christ (Ephesians 6:10-20; 1 Peter 5:7-9).
• Their value system is properly aligned (Matthew 6:19-21, 33; Colossians 2:20-23).
• They recognize they are equipped to become involved in the work of the ministry (1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Ephesians 4:7-16).
• Their completeness in Christ and effectiveness in ministry come through divine assistance and personal responsibility (Philippians 4:13).
• They acknowledges that dying to self and to the world is a part of the process (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 2:20; 1 Peter 1:2-4).
• Their knowledge of God reminds them that he will not take second place and achieve his completeness in them (Deuteronomy 10:12, 13, 30:6; Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 12:29-31).
• They acquire a humble faith as the process is carried to completion (Colossians 2:20).
• They are confident that as they walk uprightly their heavenly Father will withhold no good thing from them (Psalm 86:11).
Realigning Your Focus
Those who view singleness from eternity’s perspective focus on their heavenly Father. The more they realign their focus the more they demonstrate their love toward him (1 John 2:3-6). The world says others’ affirmation of them confirms or negates their value as a person. God’s Word states that as his son or daughter, they are loved even when no human affirms them (Jeremiah 31:3). A number of biblical references affirm that singles are loved.
• They are God’s special treasure, chosen by him (Exodus 19:5; 1 Peter 2:9).
• They were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
• They were created for his glory (Isaiah 43:7).
• He keeps them as the “apple of his eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10).
• Their loving heavenly Father created them, formed them, redeemed them, called them by name, and claims them as his very own (Isaiah 43:1).
• When they were at their worst God gave his very best for them (Romans 5:8).
Contentment Is a Choice
The single saint understands that marriage is not a condition for salvation, a command, or the standard for everyone. Reflecting on 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, they are encouraged to be content with their marital status and wholeheartedly serve their Lord rather than living in a state of limbo until “Mr. or Miss Right” appears (1 Corinthians 7:32; Philippians 4:11; Hebrews 13:5). The teachings of Jesus in Matthew 19:12 suggest that singleness is a good thing. If singleness was an acceptable state for the Son of God, how can we reject it?
Pat Ennis is a professor and freelance writer in Fort Worth, Texas.
Viewing singleness from Eternity’s perspective, single Christians . . .
Focus their time and energy on their character development (Colossians 3:10).
Learn from the wisdom of others (Proverbs 1:7).
Acknowledge the strategic position of the home (Genesis 2:21-24).
Study the culture of the 21st century in light of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:1-17).
Seek to be a faithful steward of every relationship (1 Corinthians 4:1, 2).
Develop a heart of contentment (John 14:1-3).
Maintain a diligent heart (Proverbs 4:23).
Choose forgiveness and flexibility (1 Peter 5:5, 6).
Manage their home prudently (Proverbs 24:3).
Faithfully maintain their current living environment (Proverbs 31:27).
Implement effective methods of household management (Colossians 3:23).
Choose to grow in graciousness (2 Peter 3:18).
Abide by standard etiquette protocol (Proverbs 11:22).
Display gratitude (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Practice biblical stewardship (Matthew 25:21).
Understand and applying basic budgeting principles (Proverbs 27:23-24).
Discover and implement time management strategies (Psalm 90:12).
Implement hospitality (Romans 12:13).
Develop a biblical attitude toward hospitality (Hebrews 13:2).
Focus on being the host or hostess rather than the guest (1 Peter 4:9).
Develop a biblical world view (Matthew 5:13-16).
Purpose to broaden their world (Luke 2:52).
Cast their vision beyond their own needs to the needs of others (John 4:34-38).
Accept their unique position in the body of Christ (Romans 12:4-13).
Thrive in their single state (1 Corinthians 7:7-9, 25-40).
Meditate on the fact that God loves them (Philippians 4:8, 9).
Practice the Titus 2 Principle (Titus 2:1-1-15).
Willingly practice the Titus 2:3-5 instruction (1 Samuel 15:22).
Be as excited about being a mentor as having one (Luke 6:38).
Research on Singleness
The Barna Group shares its research on trends in singleness in an article titled, “A Revealing Look at Three Unique Single Adult Populations.” Here are some highlights.
“There are three major groups which must be studied separately to truly understand singles,” Barna explained. “The never-been-married group, which is the largest singles subset, is the youngest, most active and most optimistic of the three segments. Divorced adults are typically middle-aged and have completely different needs, goals, expectations and issues. Widowed adults tend to be primarily female, are generally in their 60s and beyond, and possess an entirely different view on the future than do their younger single counterparts. All three groups are single, but the route to singlehood and their perspectives and lifestyles suggest that it is inappropriate to think of or to treat all singles alike.”
“The balance within the singles population will continue to shift, since the number of people 65 and older will double in the coming 30 years, producing an explosion of widowed people.” The researcher outlined other trends he foresees as well. “Our racial and ethnic patterns lead us to believe that there will be continued increases in divorce and children born out-of-wedlock. Despite the heightened optimism of young adults regarding their future marriage and family experiences, we also expect continued growth in the acceptance and practice of co-habitation.”