I spent 34 years of my life single and, several years later, most of my friends are still unmarried. It’s common to hear phrases like “It’s too hard to be single,” “I’m all alone,” “My eggs are drying up over here,” and “I just don’t feel like God called me to be single.”
I get it. There are real biological, physical, and emotional sacrifices made in years of prolonged singleness. And in those long and sometimes lonely years, the way a thing feels can seem more real than the truth of what it is, especially when we don’t look the lies straight in the face and call them out.
In his new book, 7 Myths about Singleness, Sam Allberry—a pastor, global speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and editor for The Gospel Coalition—stares down the lies we can easily believe about singleness. It is the book on singleness I’ve been waiting a long time for, and Allberry was the right person to write it.
Using personal illustrations, Scripture, cultural insights, and his trademark dry wit, Allberry tenderly helps us see the the folly of believing these myths about singleness. He never sugarcoats the difficulties of singleness, but he doesn’t allow us to sulk in them either. He shows that it’s possible to have fruitful, deep, intimate, and familial relationships within singleness, but he also acknowledges the real feelings of sadness and pain. In other words, he tells the truth.
While singleness is often widely misunderstood by many in the church today and often viewed in negative terms, the Bible speaks about it very differently. This book sets forth a positive vision of singleness by responding to seven common misconceptions, such as the notion that singleness is too hard, requires a special spiritual gift, is a hindrance to ministry, or is a waste of sexuality.
Addressed to the church as a whole and written by a single pastor, 7 Myths about Singleness will help readers better understand, support, and empower the singles around them to contribute to the flourishing of the church as a whole.
Singleness, Intimacy, and Friendship
The strongest chapters in 7 Myths about Singleness are “singleness means no intimacy” and “singleness wastes your sexuality.” In the former Allberry makes a case that friendship isn’t simply a stand-in for the kind of intimacy we hope to get in marriage, but is the foundation of all relationships between humans:
When we find we’re able to cultivate these Proverbs-type friendships, we find it’s possible to enjoy a huge amount of intimacy in life. It is deep intimacy any of us can enjoy, and yet many around never experience (sadly even sometimes within marriage). As a single person, there is a depth of intimacy my married friends enjoy that I am not able to experience—to share pretty much all of life with one other person. But it is not as simple to say that I have less intimacy in my life as a result. Singleness gives me a capacity for a range of friendships I wouldn’t be able to sustain if I was married. (61)
Allberry argues that although sex is part of intimacy in marriage, it isn’t as foundational to intimacy as friendship—and friendship is available to the unmarried as well as the married. This concept, if truly believed and adopted, would free many unmarried Christians who worry they’re missing out on intimacy because of their singleness. And, if God does give the gift of marriage, this understanding of foundational intimate friendship could help address the complications many marriages have around sex.
Every person, married or unmarried, will face unfulfilled longings for intimacy at times, so how much better to learn as a single the richness to be found in intimate friendship. Allberry shows it’s not just possible; in some ways it’s better. He is free, as a single man, to drop everything at a moment’s notice and join his friends in moments of difficulty. “While I might not know the unique depth of intimacy a married friend enjoys, there is a unique breadth of intimacy available to singles that married friends would not be as able to experience” (62).
He’s right. I rarely missed a wedding for one of my faraway friends before getting married; since then I’ve missed most. Marriage, for all its beauty and depth, stunts our ability to stretch with the breadth we previously had. Allberry’s encourages his fellow singles to press into that breadth of intimacy, knowing it is good in itself and may someday be unavailable to them.
Singleness and Sexuality
In the chapter on “singleness wastes your sexuality,” Allberry tackles the lie many in seasons of prolonged singleness feel most potently, even if they say it rarely. It can often seem like the best physical years of life are being thwarted by the lack of a partner. For women, their eggs are in limited supply, and for men and women, both their sex drive and also appeal may be dwindling, or perhaps their drive is strong and there seems to be no outlet for it. It’s difficult to not feel shriveled or squashed in those years. Much of the church ignores these conversations, or pretends the answers are easy and just a matter of self-control. Allberry doesn’t back away from the hard questions but uses deep thought, adept counsel, and tender empathy to shepherd his readers.
It is the book on singleness I’ve been waiting a long time for, and Allberry was the right person to write it.
He communicates the beauty of a created being with a sexual nature designed by God for procreation, and how that fits in the narrative of singleness. Singles aren’t anomalies in God’s created order; they poignantly convey an aspect of the gospel as those who are married do. While marriage tells the story of the age to come, the marriage between the church and our Groom, “singleness now is a way of saying that this future reality is so certain and so good that we can embrace it now. It is a way of declaring to a world obsessed with sexual and romantic intimacy, that these things are not ultimate and that in Christ we possess what is” (120).
Read in Community
7 Myths about Singleness isn’t a book for married people to simply hand off to their single friends when they’re tired of hearing them grumble about their season of life. It’s a book that would be best used in small groups of both married and also unmarried people, especially among mixed genders. Many of the lies singles believe are reinforced by the way they’re treated by married people. There is an equal onus on the married, then, to fight the lies about singleness. 7 Myths about Singleness will help us do so.
Allberry is like a sculptor in this book, chiseling away everything that isn’t singleness, so he can show us the spectacular and intrinsic goodness within seasons of singleness, however long or short. This is what singleness isn’t, and once we see that, we can see what it truly is: a sometimes hard, but always good, gift of God today for the one he loves.