I love marriage deeply, and every day just grows sweeter! However, this joy and contentment in marriage is built on the bedrock of 25 years of deep joy in singleness. After one of my recent posts on marriage and the beauty of marriage, I promised someone that I would soon write about the glories of singleness. So, here goes! Most people who read this are either married, or will someday get married. I don’t know what the precise percentage is of people who will never get married, but what I do know is that everyone is, for some indefinite season of their life, unmarried. If you happen to be unmarried, I have three things you need to be intentionally doing with your life.
- Learn the secret of being content (Phi. 4:11). Hudson Taylor, in preparing to go to China, got rid of his mattress, began making his daily diet (if my memory serves me correctly) just bread and apples, and chose to rely upon God to provide all of his financial needs. He trained himself to be content with difficulty, and allowed God to teach him how to rest on Christ no matter what his circumstance. Most people on the planet have no real understanding of the joy which is found in such a lifestyle. When you begin to align with the Scriptural truth that godliness (i.e. conformity to Christ’s nature) with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6), you that the waves of circumstances become concrete of stability. Christ cannot change, His Word cannot change, and therefore no matter what changes (or lack of desired changes) take place (or don’t take place) you have an anchor for the soul, which is both sure and stedfast (Heb. 6:19). Wallace, in Jane Porter’s “The Scottish Chiefs,” has a tremendous answer for Bruce when he asks how Wallace is able to endure all the difficulties of his life’s circumstances. Here is Wallace’s answer:
“Whence, my friend,” cried Bruce, “did you draw the ethereal essence that animates your frame? You toil for us–watch for us, and yet you never seem fatigued, never discomposed! How is this? What does it mean?” “That the soul is immortal,” answered Wallace; “that it has a godlike power given to it by the Giver of all good, even while on earth, to subdue the wants of this mortal frame. The circumstances in which Heaven has cast me, have disciplined my body to obey my mind in all things; and, therefore, when the motives for exertion are strong within me, it is long, very long, before I feel hunger, thirst, or drowsiness. Indeed, while thus occupied, I have often thought it possible for the activity of the soul so to wear the body, that some day she might find it suddenly fall away from about her spiritual substance, and leave her unencumbered, without having felt the touch of death. And yet, that Elisha-like change,” continued Wallace, following up his own thought, “could not be till Heaven sees the appointed time–’Man does not live by bread alone;’ neither by sleep, nor any species of refreshment. His Spirit alone, who created all things, can give us rest, while we keep the strictest vigils: His power can sustain the wasting frame, even in a barren wilderness.”
- That being said, I think it would be wise for those who find themselves in the situation of being single to realize that whatever lies ahead, God is, right now, preparing and readying you for those future events. One of God’s great providences is, like a loving father patiently teaching his son to ride a bike, that He doesn’t give us more than we can handle (1 Cor. 10:13); however, He is readying us for good works He’s prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). When you walk content in the circumstances which God has placed you in, you recognize that right now you are to be “doing” the good works He has prepared for you to be doing in the present moment; and in faithfully obeying Him in the present, He is using the current test to ready and prepare you for the next one! He instructs line upon line, precept upon precept (Is. 28:10). Thus, if you never get married you are still supposed to be yielded to God’s sanctifying grace and allow Him to cultivate you and prepare you for the good works He’s ordained for you. It may be to run an adoption agency. Well then, go get a immigration law degree. It may be that you are going to be a music instructor. Well, become the most excellent musician in your field. It maybe marriage. So, learn to budget, learn to sew, learn to change the oil, learn to change a baby’s diaper, learn to write poetry. If you’re single for the rest of your life, well . . . still learn to budget, learn to sew, learn to change the oil, learn to change a baby’s diaper, learn to write poetry. I remember my sister Jaclyn telling me that back in the day most missionaries were required to know how to perform two medical procedures: setting a broken bone, and delivering a child. So, go take a midwifery class, or a medical missions course. In essence, go to it kids! Read a book . . . read Francis Bacon, Edgar Allen Poe, George Müller’s Autobiography, Henry Law’s “Gospel in the Pentateuch,” Charles Spurgeon and sure, Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin too, if it strikes your fancy. Study hard, read the Bible twice every year. Learn Mandarin, because hundreds of millions of Chinese souls need Jesus and have never heard of him. What I’m getting at is this: your days as a single are numbered. Learn to number your days that you may apply your heart to wisdom (Ps. 90:12). In essence, let the present circumstances which God has given be an exercise in contentment and joy in Him, which becomes a preparatory lesson in the harder lessons to come!
- Thus, spend your single days lavishly upon Christ. Use them as a means of loving Christ. In learning to serve a future spouse you are really endeavoring to love Christ more by showcasing Him clearly. In learning to change a diaper, even if you never get married and have kids, you are blessing some family and as you change the diaper you can praying that the little one’s life might be one that honors and glorifies Christ. Once, my sister, Jaclyn, and I spent time at a nursing home for retired missionaries (Elsje and I actually went here for a day during our honeymoon, as romantic as that sounds). I met a woman there named Helen Cox. She’s one of the sweetest women of God you’ll ever meet. When we asked her what her advice would be to this generation, she got a twinkle in her eye and declared with a voice of aged wisdom, “I’d tell ‘em to get out there and serve the Lord. It’s all worth it. It’s all worth it!” Her statement has impacted me more than a dozen sermons, or a hundred trips to the movie theatre, or a thousand rides at the carnival. As Jesus said in John 6:27, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” So, labor to know Christ and make Him known. And whether you get married someday, or remain single to the end of your life, you will find an endless ocean of joy that neither singleness, nor marriage can ever satisfy.
I have witnessed a whole rash of blogs and books railing against the idea which the evangelical world has been teaching for many years now. They are all against this idea of waiting and preparing for a future spouse. They ridicule purity rings, vows of abstinence and the like. Now, I realize that much that the church has done to encourage young people to “stay pure until marriage” and to “guard their heart” comes off as cliché. Nevertheless, it does not alter the reality that for many of you reading this, you have a spouse (whether now, or someday) who is actually alive at this present moment. They are the neighbor which Christ commands you to love. So, learn to love Christ well, which will prepare you to love your neighbor well.