She wanted to serve God with all her heart. She also loved her husband, and wanted to do what it took to make her difficult marriage better. But she struggled to know how to do both. “God is supposed to be first, right? Then how can I still be a good wife?” she asked me.
I know some single women (perhaps men too – they just don’t talk to me as much) who seem to feel and act as though their singleness makes them a little more holy. They take Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 as meaning that God in some way thinks more highly of unmarried people because they have more “freedom” to devote themselves to His work without the “distractions” of marriage and family.
Others in the church act as though God’s ideal is for people to be married, and you haven’t quite lived up to that ideal if you’re still single. There’s a heavy focus on marriage and family in many churches. Perhaps that’s a good thing, in light of how the decline in the family may have led directly to the decline of Christianity in western culture.
So, which is it? Is being single better? Is married better? Which pleases God more?
I’ve experienced both singleness and a godly marriage.
I lived 48 years as a single woman – with all the struggles and “freedom” that the single life provides. I’ve now been married over 7 years, and have never ceased to be grateful for the man God brought into my life. After living that much time in both worlds, I can speak to how both singleness and marriage may impact how one serves God. Without a doubt there are both serious dangers and big opportunities with each.
The Single Life
The biggest freedom of the single life is also its greatest danger – selfishness. You can spend your time, energy, and money the way you want. You may think your boss, your parents, your friends, or others have a significant say in how you live your life, but compared to married life you can do as you please. It’s relatively easy to ignore the parts of your character that are unpleasant or abrasive. Nobody is forcing you to change. It’s true that your choices affect other people, but you can conveniently not think about that if you wish.
One of the complaints most single people have is loneliness, and that becomes your greatest opportunity to connect with God. Being “forced” to learn to be intimate with God can lead you to develop a uniquely close relationship with Him. You can learn that He truly is enough – in every way. You may think you’re busy, but you have the ability to choose to spend time with God without anyone questioning you or wondering why. Your heart’s devotion toward Him can grow pure, strong, intimate, and personal.
The Married Life
If you’re married, one of the biggest benefits is also its greatest danger – someone else is there. You don’t have to go through life alone, and that’s as God intended it. But you can easily mistake the spouse God blessed you with for someone that will meet all your needs. You naturally look to your spouse to fill you up, to meet your needs for intimacy and more, to complete you. It’s only human to look to them to fulfill parts of you that only God can. And in doing so you may miss much of what God has for you.
The challenges of married life truly become one of its greatest blessings if you allow God to so use them. To have a good marriage you are forced to learn some impressive godly lessons – unselfishness, forgiveness, flexibility, communication, and more. (I’m not talking about accepting abuse; that’s another topic.) You can choose to either be miserable or to learn those lessons; you can’t have it both ways. As your closeness with your husband or wife grows, you learn more about the intimacy God desires with His people – including you.
It’s Your Choice
Whether you’re married or single, you can choose whether you will fall into the traps involved, or whether you will learn the lessons available. I’m eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to truly mature as a single woman, and learn to rely on God prior to getting married. I’m absolutely convinced those lessons made my marriage happy and successful. You can learn the same lessons whether you’re married or single; I think I learned the easier way.
I’m also incredibly grateful to now be experiencing a godly marriage, and the human love, intimacy, and closeness that involves. I’m convinced my husband and I are accomplishing more for God’s kingdom together than we ever could have by ourselves. I treasure the days we have together.
So what about you? Here are my suggestions if you’re married or single.
If you’re single:
- Consciously and repeatedly turn to God, and ask Him to help you learn to know Him as ENOUGH.
- Look for ways to learn unselfishness. That lesson is always uncomfortable. Don’t shy away from it.
- If you desire to get married, focus on becoming the right person – the kind of person your ideal spouse would want to be with.
- Learn to feed yourself – emotionally and spiritually.
- Enter fully into God’s work in the ways He places in front of you. Right now, you’re “free” to do so!
If you’re married:
- Ask yourself if you’re looking to your spouse for something that only God can give. Get that right, and you’ll be much happier.
- Lean into the lessons of unselfishness, flexibility, forgiveness, and communication. The quicker you learn them, the less miserable you’ll be.
- Be alert for, and enter fully into, the purpose God has not just for you as an individual, but for you as a married couple/family.
- Don’t expect your spouse to “feed” you. Learn to feed yourself.
- Enjoy the dimensions of God’s love that marriage makes explicit. Part of the way He loves you is through your spouse.
I agree with Paul: don’t try too hard to get married or unmarried – at least as far as serving God is concerned. (1 Corinthians 7:27) There are pitfalls and blessings in either circumstance. God can use your current marital status to teach you much about Himself. Take advantage of that opportunity.
May you come to know Him as your ENOUGH whether you’re married or single! That’s the best way to serve God better.
Your Turn: What have you learned about God from your current marital status – married or single? Leave a comment below.
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