As my church has been going through 1 Corinthians, we’ve talked a lot about marriage and singleness. Ever since we looked at 1 Corinthians 7, I’ve had interesting conversations with my single and married friends.
In my experience, here are five things singles wish married couples knew.
1. God settles the solitary in a family—and it might be yours.
Psalm 68:6 says, “God settles the solitary in a home.” One way God does this is through the church. He creates homes both from biological families and from beautiful friendships that become like family.
The first time I dealt with the difficulty of being single, my community group leader noticed I was struggling. We talked about it, but that’s not what helped most. What helped most was becoming part of her family. It was celebrating birthdays and holidays, going to dinner with them, spending time with her children, and just being loved by them. They were and will always be family to me.
I encourage you to make your single friends part of your life and your family. Don’t assume we’re too busy to have dinner with you on a Friday or Saturday night. We love your kids! (Babysitting doesn’t count. Your single friend isn’t just your babysitter.)
2. Marriage is sanctifying, but so is singleness.
Marriage is hard, and you grow a lot through it. Nobody doubts that. But singleness is also hard, and you grow a lot through it. Marriage paints a picture of Christ’s love for the church; singleness paints a picture of Christ’s sufficiency and the joy of a life that accepts the Father’s will, as Jesus did when he prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
In my singleness, I’ve had to learn and relearn that I will not be put to shame for trusting God with my life (Ps. 25:1–3). I’ve needed reminders that I’m not trying to have “my best life now” or to singlehandedly realize my hopes. No, I need to live and serve with my eyes on the happiness that awaits in heaven. My desires may be partially fulfilled today, but they will be completely fulfilled when I’m in the presence of Christ.
God is growing and sanctifying us all the time. Want to know what’s most sanctifying? Wherever God has placed you right now. Sanctification comes from God, regardless of our life stage.
3. Our singleness doesn’t define us. You can help us remember that.
Think of a time you felt like the only one who didn’t fit in. What felt true, even if it wasn’t? How did you try to make up for your nonconformity? Did you feel defined by the one thing that made you feel different?
Welcome to the life of Christian singles in the South. Most Christians here get married in their 20s, and while we who aren’t in our 20s anymore are happy for them, we stick out. At least it feels that way. When I’m surrounded by people whose lives don’t look like mine, I either try to fit in or overemphasize my differences. Either way, I allow that one detail to define me.
All of us, not just singles, need to remember we’re not defined by our work or our differences. We’re defined by our identity as children of God redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Because of that, we all have more in common than we have differences—regardless of age, marital status, or ethnicity.
4. Culture lies to us a lot.
Both secular culture and Christian culture send mixed messages. The world says we’re not living to the full unless we’re independent and pursuing sexual intimacy outside of marriage. Christian culture, though well-meaning, often says that if we’re content enough, or if we stop looking for a spouse, then God will finally pull back the curtain to reveal the spouse he’s handcrafted for you. (Seriously, people say things like this.) Both assume singleness is nonstop fun and that anyone whose social calendar isn’t full is failing at being single. (Singles in their young 20s may have full calendars, but the older you get, the harder you work to have evening and weekend plans.)
All of these messages are self-focused—how we should improve or do better. Yet what we really need is to look to God and believe he’s good to us and in control. Only then can we begin to trust his plans are best for us. Offering suggestions about why God hasn’t given marriage is empty, but resting in him brings fullness and joy (Ps. 16:11).
5. Don’t expect all your single friends to get married.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve never met a single person who didn’t want to get married. But marriage isn’t a quick fix. Part of being human is that we will always want what we don’t have. Desire for marriage is good and God-given, but it’s a terrible expectation.
Think of it in these terms: desire, expectation, and hope. A desire is something you want, such as marriage or friendship. Desire then grows into either expectation or hope. An expectation is an idol—a desire that morphs into a must-have and rules your life. The only cure for an expectation is true hope in the God who knows and loves his children, gives them what’s best, and exercises sovereign goodness in relation to each of us.
Hope says, “God knows what I desire, and for some reason I don’t know, he hasn’t given it to me. But I do know he’s good and hasn’t forgotten me. When I’m with him in glory, he will fulfill all my desires far better than I could’ve imagined” (see 1 John 3:1–3; Rom. 8:23–25; Ps. 33:18).
Love Like God’s
Ask your single friends what being single means to them. Try to understand their experiences. Be a safe person to talk with. This means not treating them like their singleness is a problem to be fixed, or using them because it’s convenient.
I don’t talk much about my singleness for a host of reasons, but when a friend who has become family brings up singleness, it’s much easier for me to feel like I can be honest. They remind me of God’s love for me. So, married couples, love your single friends well. They’ll thank you for it.