‘I AM lonely,’ laments a Christian woman who has been a widow for several years. ‘I have been hoping for a mate. Keeping busy helps. Having friends helps. But I want to be married.’
When you sincerely desire to be married but your search for a mate has not been successful, singleness hardly seems to be a gift—it may feel more like you have been sentenced to a prison of negative emotions that leave you weary and depressed. Or if you already have a family of your own but are single, you may have the sole responsibility of providing for all the needs of your children.
Therefore, you may not view your single state as a gift. Some others, though, regard singleness as something very precious, and they choose to live alone. So is singleness a gift, and if so, when and why? What does the Bible say?
Roadblock to Happiness?
Marriage can be a source of great delight. (Proverbs 5:18, 19) Some “are convinced that a walk down the aisle is the only route to happiness and fulfillment,” comments the Los Angeles Times. Is a marriage license the only “ticket” to happiness?
One mental-health professional, Ruth Luban, says, according to the Los Angeles Times: “Women [and men] will be surprised at how much fulfillment they can find when they stop putting their lives on hold in the hope that a man [or woman] will rescue them from the single life.” Yes, singleness is not something that stands in the way of a happy, fulfilling life. Many a divorced person would confide that marriage is not automatically a road to happiness. True happiness is the result of a good relationship with God. Thus, a Christian can be happy either single or married.—Psalm 84:12; 119:1, 2.
Besides mentioning self-induced hurdles, Marie Edwards and Eleanor Hoover, in their book The Challenge of Being Single, hold out another potential roadblock to happiness—social pressure. They say the “assumption is that if you aren’t married you suffer from some deep, dark, emotional malaise. . . . Something’s wrong with you, for sure.”
Even well-meaning friends can unwittingly put enormous pressure on single people by naggingly asking, ‘When are you going to get married?’ or, ‘How come a handsome man like you hasn’t found a wife yet?’ Although comments like these may be spoken in jest, they may ‘stab like a sword,’ resulting in hurt feelings or embarrassment.—Proverbs 12:18.
Each One’s Gift
The apostle Paul was unmarried at the time he traveled as a missionary. Was this because he opposed marriage? Hardly. The apostle Paul was single because he chose to remain unmarried for “the sake of the good news.”—1 Corinthians 7:7; 9:23.
Paul had the power to refrain from marriage, yet he recognized that not everyone can be like him. He said: “Each one has his own gift from God, one in this way, another in that way.”—1 Corinthians 7:7.
Singleness can become a road to happiness, even though it may not be the one you had intended to travel. Certainly, marriage is included among the many gifts received from Jehovah. But the Bible indicates that singleness can also be a “gift”—if you can “make room for it.” (Matthew 19:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 7:36-39) What, then, are some benefits of singleness?
Paul said that married couples are anxious for “the approval” of their mates, whereas the unmarried are “anxious for the things of the Lord.” This highlights one of the greatest benefits of singleness—the opportunity to serve Jehovah “without distraction.”—1 Corinthians 7:32-35.
The Bible does not say that a single person lives without distractions completely. A person living alone, however, generally has fewer distractions than one who is caring for a family, since he is the only person to be taken into consideration when he makes a decision. For example, when God directed Abraham to leave Haran and move to the land of Canaan, the Bible says: “Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot the son of his brother and all the goods that they had accumulated and the souls whom they had acquired in Haran, and they got on their way.” (Genesis 12:5) Although Abraham’s family situation did not hold him back, no doubt he spent considerable time organizing his household for such a mission.
Compare Abraham’s move with that of the apostle Paul. While Paul and Silas preached the good news in the city of Thessalonica, an angry mob formed against them. That same night, the brothers sent both Paul and Silas out immediately to Beroea. On another occasion, in Troas, Paul received a vision to “step over into Macedonia and help [them].” Now as soon as he had seen the vision, he left for Macedonia. Clearly, Paul’s having no wife allowed for great freedom of movement in a short period of time, something that would have been more difficult with a family.—Acts 16:8-10; 17:1-15.
Another benefit that singleness offers is greater freedom of personal choice. When you live alone, deciding where to live, what and when to eat, or even what time to go to bed is usually easier. This freedom also extends to spiritual activities. More time is available to engage in personal study of God’s Word, share in the public ministry, and take advantage of opportunities to be of help to other people.
Therefore, whether you are single because of choice or because of circumstances, be determined to use your time wisely. You will have a happier life when your singleness is spent helping others. (Acts 20:35) If you desire marriage, do not imprison yourself with negative emotions or live your life as though you were only half a person because that ‘special one’ has not yet come along. Keep yourself busy in God’s service, and as Paul said, you may find that singleness can be a gift.
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