Before we set off down the road of what God says about the interactions between men and women in His word, a few things need to be made very clear. The church has often placed a great deal of value and emphasis on people who are not single, often because it is slow to understand the culture that surrounds it. Focussing on being a “family friendly church” often leads to those who are single feeling less welcome. I will use my experiences as examples here because, despite having been in a number of relationships with the view to marriage, including one engagement, I am a single man and these are some of the issues that I have had to face. Based on conversations with young guys, these are widespread ideas and so it is good to cover them before diving into the idea of God’s plan for relationships.
God Runs The World
First of all, it is important to remember that nothing catches God by surprise; its not like He getting caught off-guard because the toast is burning. Our relationships are no different. I am single because God is in control of everything. He is sovereign. Likewise, those who are married are married because God is sovereign. Those who are widowed are widowed because God is sovereign. God is more powerful than our social situations, our looks, our personalities, and our insecurities.“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
The next idea seems silly to say out loud, but many of us often think this practically and try and make things happen that really shouldn't happen. God is powerful enough to find you a spouse. It’s funny how we can read about God can creating the universe just by speaking it into existence (Genesis 1:1-31), causing Pharaoh to let the Israelites go (Exodus 12:1-51), and raising Jesus from the dead (Luke 24:1-53), and decide practically speaking that we need to do all the work to find a wife. Remember, God often uses the purposes of evil men for His own self glorifying purposes:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:22-24)
If He can give us new life and change us from people who hate him to people who want to serve him (Ezekiel 36:26-27), He can find me (and you) a spouse, easily.
But If God Loved Me, He Would Give Me A Wife
Don’t say that God doesn’t love you because you are still single. Again, we don’t says this out loud, but we often think it. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11)
What Jesus accomplished on the cross is a much better demonstration of God’s love than providing a spouse. In the grand scheme of things, the fact that you are made part of God’s family, that you are no longer an object of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:1-5) (He cannot be in the same place as your sin) and that one day you will spend eternity with Him in a state where there is no more marriage is beneficial both now and in eternity.
In fact, this is also tied up with another misconception about being single. Someone marrying you will not make you valuable. Serving someone in a relationship will not make you valuable. You cannot be made valuable, because you already are valuable. You are valuable because God tenderly created you in His own image.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16)
God has all your days written in a book. He has taken the time to plan the intricacies of your life. Taking that much time and effort on your days shows just how valuable you are to Him, and value in God’s eyes is far greater than any earthly value we may gain. Whether that means anything to you depends on whether we actually believe God when He speaks through His word.
Fulfilled and Single
If you are unfulfilled, a relationship won’t solve that feeling. I always have to be reminded that Jesus was not only single, but homeless. However, He had a life purpose and was fulfilled in what He did. “By oppression and judgement He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?” (Isaiah 53:8)
Jesus not only had nowhere to live and pass on to future generations, He had no legacy and no wife or children to share the joy of life and find fulfilment in. His mission from God was one in which He had to suffer and yet He was fulfilled. The key to Jesus fulfilment is in why He did what He did:
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:38-40)
The key to fulfilment is found in a relationship with God, not a relationship with a human being. Renouncing self-reliance, self-exaltation and self-rule and finding your calm, quiet, deep soul-contentment in God is the key to any interaction with any person, regardless of the relationship. Frankly speaking, you and I will never be satisfied in a relationship until we are satisfied in God.
“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:1–3)
In this psalm, David paints a picture of what this contentment looks like. To begin with, he is intentional with what he keeps his eyes on, and what engages his heart. He is intentional against the pride of both the things he has, and the things he wants. If we look around and see those things that other people have and compare it with what we possess, we are likely to fell unfulfilled with our lot in life if our eyes are no focussed in God. The bible encourages us to be content with what we have, because in the end we have Jesus forever (Hebrews 13:5).
David contrasts this ongoing pride and unquenchable longing for greener pastures with the image of a contented child with a mother. There is a huge amount of trust in play in this picture, as the mother has been responsible for providing the basic needs of the child and has always done so.
We know this is a picture of finding contentment in God because of the last part of this: David says “since I have found my contentment, my calm, quiet soul-satisfaction by turning to the Lord, I now call the people of Israel to join me in this; to put your hope in Him, to find your rest in Him, to calm your troubled heart in His presence, to quiet your soul by resting in the promise of His presence.”
As a side note, Paul talks extensively about the anxieties and worldly troubles of being married in 1 Corinthians 7. If you don’t already have the contentment and fulfilment in God, when you are married, you will not have the resources to be able to deal with all the challenges that marriage presents.
Everyone Has Family Except Me
If we are looking around and feel alone in the world because advertising, social convention and our peers place a high emphasis on family, there is one thing to keep in mind. You have a huge family already. “While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)
We are part of the family of God. Anyone who is a believer in Christ's finished work has an automatic connection with you and has the Holy Spirit empowering them to be able to love you like a brother or a sister. Even if no one is coming alongside you in this way, you have the opportunity to be a brother or sister to someone else in God’s family, which would not be possible if we didn’t have God working through us.
“Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:27-29)
The other thing to remember is Jesus promise about family. I have members of my biological family who want nothing to do with me because I follow Jesus. That is hard while on earth, but Jesus promises not only eternal life for His followers but a multiplication of those family members we have lost by following Him. God keeps His promises and He shows loving kindness to those who follow Him.
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,” (Deuteronomy 7:9)
Black Day, Stormy Night
We each have our struggles, even if they aren't as ‘bad’ as someone else’s. We really shouldn't be looking and comparing with others anyway. The grief of singleness is real and valid, and it comes from a very normal and healthy desire to be married. We have encouragement that Jesus went through exactly the same grief and pain (Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 4:15). What we need is God, and the perspective that comes from reading His word.
The New Testament calls us on numerous occasions to persevere and endure. “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)
Following Jesus in this world for a long time is not going to be easy. It may actually get harder between now and when we meet Him face to face. This is why the bible gives us so many descriptions of the amazing things God has given us in Christ. We need to keep remembering all these benefits, because we forget so easily, and they are a big part of the motivation to endure anything and everything for the sake of Jesus who died for us.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” (2 Peter 1:3-12)
It is healthy to consider the possibility that we may be single for life. That is not too hard a burden to bear. You can keep going, because God has given you everything you need. Don’t let Satan convince you otherwise. He always was a liar.