I’m turning 25 this week. I always thought that by this point in my life I’d be married with two kids. Of course now that I’m here I can’t imagine being that way, but growing up, I was sure I’d at least be married by 25.
My friends are getting married, having kids, and moving to different states, or in some cases, different countries. Instead of doing any of that I’m still (perpetually) in school, working multiple jobs, and getting ready, Lord willing, to move out of my parents’ house. And I’m ok with that. But a lot of girls aren’t.
Recently I’ve heard more and more girls say, in tones of the deepest, saddest resignation, that they think they might have the gift of being single. And these aren’t even middle-aged women. These are girls in their early twenties, sometimes even late teens. This seems to be a pervasive idea in Christian culture, the idea that a woman’s life is not complete until she’s married. So I’d like to speak to that so-called “gift of singleness.” Because I think we’re doing it wrong.
The Gift of Singleness
What is the meaning of the word “gift”? A quick Google search yields the phrase, "A thing given willingly to someone without payment." Ask almost any child about their favorite thing about birthdays, and they'll get most excited about the gifts. We know from the youngest age that we like gifts.
So why do I hear “the gift of singleness” spoken with such despair?
I would suggest that it’s because, as women, we don’t see this stage as the gift that we pretend to think it is. And why not?
As prosperous American women, and especially those of us in Christian families, we are raised with the expectation of marriage. That’s our goal. To walk down the aisle in a white dress toward the perfect man is every little girl’s dream. We’re supposed to do well in school, to work hard, but ultimately, we should be ready to forgo that college education to get married and take care of our families. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. But it’s not right for all of us. But far too often, the fact of the matter is that that is our assumed outcome, and when it doesn’t happen, we are disappointed.
We tend to think of singleness as something that we should be ashamed of and work to get rid of. But the fact is, God put us here on purpose, and that means that whatever stage we’re in, if we’re walking with Him, can’t be bad. What else should this tell us?
It should tell us that our singleness, truly and unashamedly, is a gift. Something good that we have been given. It is just another stage in our life in which we are to glorify God. Do you think God is glorified when we despair of the place in which He has intentionally put us?
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." (James 1:17)
Paul, when speaking of marriage, said, "For I wish that all men were [single] even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God one in this manner and another in that." (1 Cor 7:7)
Paul saw his singleness as a gift, because it allowed him to work more effectively for the spreading of the Gospel.
The Gift of Being Single Right Now
If you’re single, then yes, you do have the gift of singleness! For now. God may give you the gift of marriage later down the road, but for now, He has given you the gift of singleness, and He expects you to take that gift and use it to His glory, until He sees fit to replace it with something else.
I think many women tend to live under the shadow of their future marriage, like they can’t really get on with their lives until they have that out of the way. Ladies, I’ve got news for you. God doesn’t need you to sit still to get His work done.
I won’t deny that I want to be married. Marriage is a good thing, instituted by God. But that does not mean that singleness is a bad thing, as we saw from Paul in 1 Corinthians. God uses singles to accomplish His will. We should not feel like the outcasts at school, work, church. Because no matter how other people see us, God does not see us as outcasts. He sees us as His beloved children.
A side note to those of you who are married, especially those of you in the church: don’t treat singles like the outcasts. You do have things in common. Your adoption into the family of God should be commonality enough for anyone. Treat singles like they friends they should be, not like people just waiting for the next stage of their lives to come around.
I love being single. I get to do so many things that I wouldn’t otherwise. Do I have mopey days? Sure. Do I feel like my friends are moving on without me? Yeah, sometimes. Would I change it right now if I got the chance? Well, yeah. But at the same time, this season of life is a good one, and I don’t think I’ll look back on it with a sense of relief if it ends, only a sense of gratitude for having gotten to live it.
So singles, go out there and live your lives. Don’t sit around and wait for the next big thing. This IS the big thing, right now. This is where God has put you, to do great things, whatever they are. Don’t ever belittle that.
And if you want to be married, like most of us still do, then pray. Pray that God will bring a Godly husband for you, just as He prepares you to be a Godly wife to that man. But don’t ever let that stop you from getting out there and glorifying Him now.
Remember that marriage is hard. It’s a lot harder than most single people think. I guarantee you it’s harder than I think, because I haven’t tried it and I don’t know. But I do know that my best friend, Hana, for whom I am unendingly grateful and who is deeply in love with her husband of almost a year, told me, “Katie Beth, if I had wanted my life to be easy I would never have gotten married.” It’s even hard for the most euphoric couple I know. So savor this time of singleness. It is a good thing.
Remember, too, that your calling now will not necessarily be the same in five years. Change is part of sanctification. If it weren’t, none of us could hope to ever be with Christ in heaven, because we would never have been pulled out of our sin.
Wherever you are in life, that is where God has you right then, at that moment. That status may change, or it may not. But whatever it is, it’s now that you have to worry about. We worship a glorious and merciful God. He is (probably) not punishing you with singleness for something you did in the past. He has you here for your good. Rejoice in that!
A Higher Calling
I'd like to end with a reminder in the form of a question: What is our highest calling?
The Westminster Shorter Catechism answers this in Question 1, which reads, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer? Take a guess.
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
If you don’t believe me, Paul says this in Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Phil 4:4) That's a command, and such an emphatic command that Paul felt the need to repeat himself. And this from the man who was single!
If we think that marriage is a higher calling than rejoicing in the Lord, we have sadly deluded ourselves. If we are idolizing marriage in that way, then if we are ever blessed with the gift of marriage, it will not go well. God must always come first, no ifs, ands, or buts.
So go fulfill your calling, without worrying about all that sideline stuff, like whether you’ll get married and who it will be. God has given each of us the overarching calling. Don’t worry about the rest. Leave it up to God and He will reward your obedience.
"He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?"