What to Do About a Surplus of Singles
- Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Lots of verbiage fills corners of the Internet and entire rows of bookstores about the “pesky problem” of an excess number of single adults these days.
Whether it’s a dating solution with a money-back guarantee or an apologetic for the contributions and worth of singles, everyone has a published opinion. So do I. As an author of a book affirming biblical femininity and purpose for single women, I have added to the swirling sea of opinion.
That’s why I can’t seem to escape the conversation. Every new opinion on the topic is forthwith forever to be e-mailed to me, with a note asking what I think. So to save everyone some time, here’s what I think:
There simply is no one-size-fits-all “solution” for single adults.
Singleness, rather, is like a multi-faceted gemstone. If you view it from one angle, it seems like that’s the correct and complete view, but then you turn the stone and you see an entirely different facet to consider. Yes, there are consequences to the choices we singles make that contribute to our singleness, but yet there are also influences from our mainstream culture that negatively affect our churches. Yes, the church could do more to help singles get married, but yes, the church also could do more to affirm the valuable and godly contributions that singles make. Yes, there can be problems with many singles ministries, but there is also good that comes from some singles ministries. Yes, Scripture has a high view of marriage. Yet it also calls singleness good and a charisma, or gracious endowment of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 7:6-8).
There is no one-size-fits-all demographic description of single adults, either. Generally speaking, being unmarried is the only thing that unites an otherwise completely disparate set of people — a 20-year-old male college student, a 35-year-old divorced mother of three, a never-married and childless 40-year-old man, and a widowed 55-year-old grandmother. But for those who are believers in Christ, we have an identity that trumps being single, and we must never lose sight of that fact. It is of far more eternal value than our current marital status.
So, with that said, I’d like to offer 10 perspectives on the multifaceted concept of singleness:
It’s not possible to know why someone is single. Though many are sure that a particular character trait or physical feature is the reason why someone they know is still single, empirically that can’t be true, for many married people are guilty of those same qualities. And I’d like to gently point out that making such claims assumes a level of omniscience that none of us possess.
What you believe about God informs what you believe about singleness. Christians who believe that we serve a loving and wise God who ultimately will accomplish His plan and purpose for us also believe that singleness can be part of that good plan at various times. Though there is an obvious tension between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, the Bible’s accent is on God’s rule and reign in our lives. So we are called to trust Him in all circumstances, even ones we would not choose for ourselves, such as extended singleness. This is my position. For those Christians who don’t hold to this theological view, I’d like to submit that this belief is not the same thing as blaming God for our singleness or not taking any responsibility for the choices we’ve made that contribute to singleness. It means that unwanted singleness is one of those “all things” that God is working together for good in His mysterious providence (Romans 8:28).
Those of us who are single today can know this is God’s will for us today and still give thanks for it. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As for the future, let’s leave that in the Lord’s loving hands. It’s impossible for us to know what tomorrow holds so there’s really no need to fret over whether we are “called” to lifelong singleness or how to parse that concept. Married people don’t know whether they are “called” to lifelong marriage, either. Our circumstances can radically change in only one day.
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