When God created marriage, He knew that singleness as a status would eventually result. You can’t have one without the other. With this design, He invaded the human heart. He instilled longings that radiate with stomach flip-flops, quickened pulses, ear to ear smiles, and feet-dragging, gut-wrenching heartbreak. Powerful human emotions behind the God-breathed words of “male and female He created them.” He knew what He was doing. He knew the countless individuals who would both rejoice and suffer in one category or the other, for those that have and have not. He knew the longing and loss that would produce some of the darkest days for His beloved creatures. And yet He calls it “very good.”
Yes, this bold statement predates the fall, where man and woman would usher in a long, dark road of separation from God. But does that take away from what God established as good? If the highest good is God’s glory on display, even the darkness makes way for the brilliance of the Light of the World. And God’s definition of good is so different than ours. Our natural bent sounds almost Neanderthal: Hard bad. Easy good. But God flips that logic on its head, knowing intimately the human spirit. We need tough. We waste away in easy. And the Life-Giver says that His ultimate purposes are good, for those who love Him.
When it comes to singleness, I want to suggest that there is a question worth asking for every Believer. It’s a hard word, but a good one that can wage war with our primitive tendencies. It’s also revealing. In the midst of the potent emotions God weaved into the human soul, it will reveal how well you subscribe to the goodness of God’s designs. It will potentially challenge you beyond any other earth-journey storms. It’s a simple question, but it might take a lifetime to answer. The worthy inquiry into the human soul is this: What if God ordained that I should be single for the rest of my life?
Take a moment to let that question hang in the air. Breathe in God’s assurance and exhale any apprehension welling up inside of you. For those of us who want marriage or already have it, believing that it is indeed very good, this question can feel like disturbing a wasp nest. Perhaps it’s best to back away slowly. But what if under the nest lies a key to closer intimacy with Christ? Ah, now you must stand still and contemplate.
For myself, grappling with this question all the way through my 20’s has been a prominent supplier of growth. It has revealed idols. Idols of marriage, picket-fences, self, security…the list is long. The list is painful. Those wasps won’t let you destroy their intricately-woven domain without a fight.
It has taught me how to serve God irrespective of status. Elisabeth Elliot said, “The secret is Christ in me, not a different set of circumstances.” God’s Kingdom is not made with holding tanks or pause buttons that allow us to relax and wait to serve Him until our situations change. He wants to use us as we are, where we are.
It has taught me to trust that God really does know best. The gift of Singleness isn’t often received with glee, but after a decade of trying to figure out the return policy, I find the state of my heart and soul made healthier and my armor stronger against stinging-winged lies and attacks.
Grappling with the question of permanent singleness has taught me to loosen my grip on my will. “When the will of God crosses the will of man, somebody has to die.” (Also Elliot) And to live is Christ, to die is gain! I believe that more than I did at 20, and it brightens the spotlight on the forever promises that result from taking up our cross to follow Him.
But most importantly, it has produced an intimacy with Christ that I would not sacrifice on the altar of an alternate life, if given the chance. In the quiet moments of hoping and asking, Christ was my most constant companion. In the chaotic seasons of heartbreak and calamity, Jesus offered something better than answers and a thorough life-map. He offered more of Himself.
We don’t often day-dream about our nightmares. If you are married, it’s not appealing to think about the possibility of premature widowhood. If you are single and long for the very good one-ness portrayed in Genesis 1 and 2, it’s not pleasant to consider spouseless decades. But in that hypothetical, God might have some severe mercies to offer. I will finish with one more Elliot quote as you contemplate tough, emotive questions. Keep in mind that she experienced an initial single season in addition to 2 more seasoned with widowhood.
“Single life may be only a stage of a life’s journey, but even a stage is a gift. God may replace it with another gift, but the receiver accepts His gifts with thanksgiving. This gift for this day. The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived—not always looked forward to as though the “real” living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.”