Is Singleness a Problem - or an Opportunity?

by Owen Strachan April 27, 2017

You will not find a biblical text that encourages you to check out of kingdom work because you’re presently unsatisfied.

Sometimes in church life, you hear “problem” language linked to singleness. “How do we solve the problem of singleness?”

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the question and the concern. As I point out in a new article for 9Marks, “Singleness in Modern Culture,” American culture has morphed on marriage. The average marrying age used to be right around 21 for both sexes; now it’s creeping toward 30. This is a matter that requires serious pastoral attention, for our culture has shifted beneath our feet.

In my 9Marks piece, I offer three words of advice to pastors. Here, however, I would simply like to point out the fact that singleness on its own terms is not a problem. In Scripture, it’s an opportunity. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7 speak directly to this truth: the one who is married is anxious for earthly concerns, while the single person is able to focus on heavenly things (1 Cor. 7:33). Right off the bat, that’s a strong word for us to consider.

Singleness need not be a problem. It can be an opportunity. You may not have chosen to be single; you may not want to be single. I get that. Marriage is a good gift of God. But know this: you will not find a biblical text that encourages you to check out of kingdom work because you’re presently unsatisfied. The kingdom of Christ is not the Positive-Thinking Self-Made All-Star Team. The kingdom of Christ is made up of pilgrims who journey through this lonely world until they get to glory. We live the doxological life at all times, but this does not necessarily mean we find ourselves in the lane we would have chosen for ourselves. We are a people who work unto God wherever he takes us, whether that means our preferred vision or one we had never anticipated.

We may pray to be married. I commend that. It may be a serious spiritual challenge for you to be unmarried. That is understandable. But whatever your status, disconnect “problem” language from singleness. Make sure that you do not lose the glory God would have you give him by living in a state of lament. This life can be hard and even cruel. But God is good, and he would have you live a doxological life wherever he places you.

You can choose how you will look at your singleness. If you want to see it as a problem, and an awful burden, you can see it that way. Or, if you want to see how God renews even the toughest parts of our lives, you can see your singleness as an opportunity. As I’ve written about in Risky Gospel, you can serve your church, build a God-honoring vocation, and enjoy life. The fact is that as long as you are unmarried, your time really is your own. The road is wide open. Your God is big, and rules over everything. He loves you in Christ. Heaven awaits.

Sounds to me like a life that is rife with opportunity, and teeming with possibility.