1 Corinthians 7:7 NKJV) For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.
What do Jesus, Paul, John the Baptist,Barnabas, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, St. Augustine, St Francis, Mother Teresa and even John Stott (famous English preacher) have in common? They are or were single. Singleness does not mean that God has neglected your needs. It may mean that He has an adventure for you so big that domestic life cannot contain it.
Let me start by saying that I am 40 and single. I was single and chaste until I married at the age of 34. My wife had some deep hurts from her past which affected our marriage and I was too immersed in my ministry to see the explosion coming. I've been single, married and divorced. This is not ideal. Its not society's ideal and I'm sure its not God's ideal. As Christians we think that anything less than the ideal is sin, or at least abnormality. I suppose I "should have" been married at 25 and stayed that way forever. But my life didn't and many lives don't follow that path. So what should us who have no families and who sit in front of our computers to all hours do? First the destructive alternatives we are to avoid - here are a few of them:
1. The Sulk - Get even at God, married people and the church by being obnoxiously miserable. Stay away from church to see who will phone up and when no-one does go and feel indignant for at least three days.
2. The Flirt - You don't actually "do it" but you make everyone think you are! You flirt with everything that moves.You start rumours then you feel holier than thou because "they" are accusing you of sins that you aren't committing. You feel justified, indignant and superior and have lots of friends of the opposite sex all of whom are incredibly frustrated.
3. The Frozen Chosen - You have imploded into yourself and are like an old maid peering out at the street through the lace curtains. You distrust everyone of the opposite sex. You feel extremely proud of your chastity and vaguely morally superior but you are terribly alone. Plead with God to give you life that you can rejoice in - with a capital L.
4. The "Prayer Warrior" - Pentecostalism has given us a new term for a "busybody"! .You often pray alone (sometimes for hours) with members of the opposite sex. Nothing untoward ever happens but you like the intimate feelings Dependency is your element. You feel excited when you encounter a bizarre counselling case. You like the look on people's faces when you pray such eloquent, passionate fervent prayers for them. Actually you are taking revenge but don't know it.
5. Sarcastic Sally/Sam - The witty single. Insulated by five layers of sarcasm. You are good at clever conversation but never let the emotions run deep. There's hurt under there and a soft heart too - unless you have let it turn bitter. Be careful. Don't end up trapped in your own defense mechanism.
6. Castle Constructions Pty Ltd - As soon as you meet someone of the opposite sex and are attracted to them you have plans for marriage! You build fantasy castles on the slimmest of excuses for information. You rarely get to really "know" the other person before they have headed for the hills so your fantasy stays intact. Only facts can bring you to earth. You don't really love the other person - they are just a "peg" to hang your dreams on!
There are much better alternatives than these. (And much worse ones too I might add!). The New Testament points out that single people have unique opportunities to serve God unhindered. This magazine consumes up to 70 hours a week and would be impossible if I was married. There are many ministries that we can only take on if we have large chunks of time to give to them. Single people can have single hearts and single minds. Marriage pulls you in many directions trying to please God and partner. Most marriages , even Christian ones, are difficult and only 20% are truly happy. Many couples "just exist". Its better to battle with the constant bouts of loneliness and be fulfilled in the Lord's work than to be in a marriage that "half works" a ministry that never quite takes off and a job you are just doing to feed the family. Some marriages do work and some people are very happy and there are always two or three families in every church that make me wish, fervently wish, that I was them. However I know that "on average" I am happier and more fulfilled than most married people. I can take risks that no married man can responsibly take. I can work hard or enjoy peace and quiet. I can socialise with friends or just watch TV. Above all I can spend hours in uninterrupted prayer and my face shines. It really does now.
When I was 28 I thought singleness would kill me. It hasn't. I used to call it "the tiger" because intense feelings of loneliness and wanting a partner would "pounce" on me out of nowhere with quite some force. When I was 38 and divorced I though singleness would kill me because I had all the sexual drive of a married man and it had nowhere to go - and it hurt. The grace of God kept me from giving in to some of the temptations that came my way. But I'm not dead, and those feelings have been brought under control and life's OK. Here are a few of the principles that have helped me get through. I hope they help you.
i. Focus on the goodness of God and be grateful. Someone once wrote a book called "Gratefulness-The Heart Of Prayer" . Focus on the 99 things you do have rather than the one you don't.
ii. Don't get obsessed with singleness in your prayer life. I went through a stage when all I prayed about was getting a partner. The lost didn't matter, missions didn't matter, my church didn't matter, my bible college students didn't matter. All I wanted was "her".I was "the most miserable of men". As I re-focused I became happy. You can't blackmail God by saying "I won't pray for anything else until I get this". It just doesn't work.
iii. Stomp on the flesh. Be very careful about your thought life and about the movie theatre of your mind. There are some excellent books on renewing your mind- read them. I have found Romans 6 to 8 an enormous help along with 1 John chapters 2&3.
iv. Keep so busy that misery hasn't got a chance to get in. The worst times were times I tried to enjoy idleness. Laziness is an enemy of the soul. I enjoy my work so this helps. Take up exercise, get involved at church. Join a voluntary Christian organization. The Devil finds plenty of use for idle hands and idle minds and will have a program of unhappiness mapped out for you if you don't map out a better one.
v. Love your church. Its easy to get disappointed with the local church when we are single. Our emotional needs can be very deep and "the church" doesn't seem to care. Persist, a few true friends will eventually emerge.
vi. Don't play games and don't be devastated if people matchmake you or start rumours. There is a fruit of the Spirit called forbearance.
vii. Prize the friendships you do have and work on them. They can be richly rewarding. Don't make the mistake of neglecting all friendships while you search for "the one".