Ah, the question of the century! One I’ve asked more than a handful of times. I know God asks me to be content with singleness. But how?
To be honest, this post has been an unfinished draft for a long time. Singleness, even though it’s a topic that touches many of us, is daunting to bring out into the open! Why is that? I’d be willing to bet it’s because “singleness” often comes with a deep sense of vulnerability. It’s hard to admit to feelings of longing, loneliness, or even insecurity.
The reason these words are finally coming out of the vault is because I know that I’m not the only one navigating the challenging (but rewarding!) terrain of singleness. I’m not the only one who has asked these questions:
Did I do something wrong?
Am I even lovable?
But more than that, the Lord has revealed to me a truth about singleness that’s so liberating, I just really want to share!
This truth wasn’t one I stumbled upon while dancing in the sunshine of singleness and singing hallelujah for the blessed gift. Ha! I wish! Nope, this truth was more of a treasure-of-darkness, so to speak: one stored deep in a pit of muddy questions I asked of a holy God.
Maybe you can relate to the two-sided struggle I was facing: you enjoy the fun, free, and faith-building nature of singleness, but in your most honest moments, you know you’d trade it in .25 seconds if the right person came along. Or it could be that you’ve been given the wonderful calling to celibacy, but you still wonder what it looks like to always stay at peace with it.
Maybe you’ve even voiced this struggle to someone, and they have given you the same encouragement I have heard and read and tried to beat into my own stubborn heart: be content in all circumstances. If so, these words are for you.
While the command to remain content in every circumstance is powerful enough to bring you peace, it can often come more like a hard slap than a blessing. Like someone is telling you to be happy watching your friends enjoy a 6 course dinner when you haven’t eaten in weeks.
So how can I be content with singleness?
I have two words for you: Idol, and Servant. They might not seem like much right now, but trust me, between these two words is the doorway to contentment during singleness.
So let’s have it out:
What does that mean to you? The first half of the Bible tells the story of Israel (God’s holy people) repeatedly replacing Him with hand-made idols. We see all sorts of idol worship in the Old Testament, from bowing down to wooden statues to praying to nature.
Um… what is an idol?
Fair question to ask. Most of us haven’t bowed down to a wooden figure in the past two weeks. Idolatry looks a little different today, but the definition is still the same. When God’s people make anything (even if it’s good!) a replacement for Him, it’s an idol.
If God is everything you and I could ever need, then we should think of an “idol” as any sort of cheap filler we go to instead of Him. An idol is like coffee when you’re dehydrated… might taste good, but ultimately it will just make the need for water worse.
Any conversation about true, lasting contentment in singleness has to begin with the shameful truth that you and I may be worshipping an idol.
Maybe we’re pouring coffee when we need water. Or haggling for human love when we need God’s love.
Tim Keller says in his book, Counterfeit Gods, “An idol is anything more important to you than God. Anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God. Anything you seek to give you what only God can give. Anything that is so central and essential to your life, that should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”
Yikes. By that definition, I’m already pegged. One ten-minute slice of my life is enough to show it.
If romance, dating, or marriage is your idol, the most natural thing in the world for you to experience is discontentment.
Discontentment is the direct result of idol-worship.
That’s why contentment starts with renouncing your idols. Clear the throne so Jesus can be what you need– that strong leader, gentle support, head-over-heels forever companion you were made to crave. I’ll be the first to admit it isn’t easy. When Jesus asks me to relinquish my idols of human affirmation, relational security, or a fantasized future, it’s no less than bloody battle. If the challenge to not only expose your idols, but trash them too, sounds cruel, I feel it too.
“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”1 John 5:21
I had a friend who used to joke, “burn those feelings!” whenever a gal cared about a guy who couldn’t take the hint. I’d change that up just a bit and say: “burn that idol!” Ditch it. Drop it like it’s hot. Run, Forest, run. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should “burn your feelings.” True contentment with singleness doesn’t always erase our ache for romantic relationship. What it does do is provide an outlet for those feelings, an outlet that glorifies God and gives you peace.
How? Time for that next magic word:
Friend, Christ gave us the authority of a servant. The biggest dream we could ever have for life on earth is to be Christ’s servant. Cushy calling, eh?
While the thought of becoming a servant may feel like a dinger, servanthood is actually the moment-by-moment means by which we experience contentment.
When we drop our idols and trust Jesus to be the love we’re seeking, Jesus gives us a purpose: servanthood.
Until the past year, I didn’t completely grasp the weight of that calling. I’m embarrassed to admit that servanthood seemed more to me like a side-job than a full-time gig.
But this is the secret that has rocked me so hard: The simplest definition of marriage is a life-time surrender to servanthood. Marriage is the decision to die to your wants for the sake of someone else’s, whether he or she meets your needs or not, as long as you both shall live.
Marriage is servanthood. And so is singleness.
The apostle Paul was one of the most outspoken advocates for singleness. He was single, and in 1 Corinthians 7 he says he wishes everyone had the gift to be like him! Singleness allows for a type of single-hearted service to God that is truly unique. Singleness is not a disease to cure; it’s a gift to steward for the sake of the Kingdom, whether that be permanently or temporarily.
From a Christian perspective it is so important to be reminded that in Christ, no one is really single. Even someone called to a life of celibacy is not spiritually single; rather he or she is always in communion with God as the bride of Christ.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”Philipians 2:5-7
There’s a way to be content with singleness. It starts with renouncing your idols. It ends with servanthood. And in between, there is joy and peace so crazy-sweet that anyone who experiences it can’t help but bless the heck out of everyone they meet.
Contentment with singleness is the same as contentment with marriage. It’s Jesus-praising, idol-crushing, people-loving service all day long.
And can I be one to say that it is good.
So dear soul, be brave enough to trust that Jesus Christ is it. He’s your storyline. He’s the beginning, the middle, and the end. Marriage is a great symbol of his servant-hearted love. But so is singleness. Don’t waste it.