How does the world view or encourage singleness? I want to be single because I want to be ultimately free. I don’t want to get married because my spouse may cramp my style. I want to be able to do whatever I want, when I want. This is the world’s view of singleness. But the Christian view of singleness is vastly different. Singleness is a calling by God for a purpose to devote one’s life fully, without distraction, to God. You have to give a lot credit to Catholic priests and nuns who have been called by God to a life of celibacy to serve God and His people. Singleness is a calling and the purpose of being single is so that one can devote himself fully to God.
If you are single, how do you know whether your calling is singleness or marriage? You may be in Paul’s camp. You are called to be single because you want to devote yourself fully to the Lord. So for you, the calling is clear. You want to serve the Lord.
Maybe this is not you. Instead, you may be a single now, but you feel a strong pull toward marriage. What are some clues that God’s calling for you might be marriage?
The first reason is loneliness. Even as a growing Christian, you love God, and you have many close same gender relationships, yet there can be a deep loneliness. I am sure Paul had days when he was lonely, but it was not a distracting or debilitating kind of loneliness. He could find his comfort in God and God’s people and move on. He must have been looking forward to being the bride of Christ because he knew no human being could fill that longing. To live is Christ and to die is gain. He couldn’t wait to be with Christ.
But this may not be your calling. Few are as single-minded and focused on God as Paul was. This means, many people in life will experience loneliness. God created marriage to be a deep consolation for loneliness.
There are only 3 human institutions that were created by God. There are many good human institutions that the Bible does not regulate. Why? Because they are anthropological in their origin. Humans created them. But 3 are theological in their sources. God created them: the family, the church, and the state.
There is nothing in the Bible about schools, or museums or art galleries. These are great human institutions, but God does not say anything about them because he did not invent them. But, marriage is not a human invention. People did not decide around a camp fire during the Late Bronze Age, I have an idea. Let’s invent marriage. No, it was God’s idea. This means that when you enter into marriage, you are going under God’s authority whether you will or not. Because God created marriage.
Why did God create marriage? God created marriage to be a deep consolation for loneliness. Why would anyone get married because they are lonely? Adam did. Everything in Genesis was benediction. It was good. It was good. It was good. And the first time there was malediction was when God looked at Adam and said, it is not good for the man to be alone. Malediction. Bad word. Adam was lonely and God got him married.
Inordinate fears about marriage, inordinate longings for marriage, an over-romanticized notion of marriage, all of these can give us a distorted view of marriage.
If you are single, you could be lonely. And the danger is that you can put your future spouse on a pedestal. You can place tremendous expectations on your future spouse to be your savior. This is a distortion of marriage. Your spouse was not supposed to be your savior. Instead, he or she was supposed to point you to THE Savior, Jesus Christ.
Also, if you are in a bad marriage, you could have an even more distorted view of marriage than someone who has never been married. Because you are far lonelier in a bad marriage than in a no marriage.
This brings us to the essence of marriage. The essence of a marriage is not a feeling. Your dog can have strong feelings for you, but that does not constitute marriage. The essence of marriage is not procreation. Rats and rabbits do a fine job, but they are not married. The essence of marriage is not sex. It’s not. Because if the essence of marriage was sex, or the essence of marriage was having kids, or the essence of marriage was feeling, then it can come and go. Feelings come and go. Does that mean that we are falling in and out of marriage? Even kids will grow up and move away. Does the marriage fizzle out during the empty nest years?
The essence of marriage is a covenant. In Genesis, it says man and woman will leave father and mother and cleave and become one flesh. The word cleave is literally to be glued together and it speaks to a vow. A promise. Listen to the wedding vows. It has nothing to do with how you feel toward that person right now. Because everyone on their wedding day feels like this person I am marrying is the best thing since sliced bread. He or she can do no wrong.
Strong feelings, but the wedding vows do not say anything about how one feels in the moment. The marriage vows do not read, I love you, I cherish you. No, the vows read, I promise to BE loving, I promise to BE caring, I promise to BE tender til we die. It’s a promise. It is future-oriented.
If the ESSENCE of marriage is a covenant, a promise, then the PURPOSE of marriage is to become one flesh, one person. For this REASON, man and woman will become one flesh. It is to find your best friend.
So if you are lonely, even while you are growing in your love for the Lord and you have many same gender friendships, that can be a sign, God has called you to be married. There is no shame in that. It’s a gift from God, a calling.
Another clue that you might be called to be married is given in v9–
9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
This is a hilarious verse. Paul must have had a sense of humor. When I was a college student, there was a lot of spiritual competitiveness among the brothers. It was all in good fun, but as single guys, we looked down on brothers who struggled with wanting to be married so badly. We were like, what? God is not enough for you? What about us? The brotherhood. Gals over pals? Come on! What’s wrong? And we just looked down on such brothers as spiritual weak sauce. Some even created a group known as BTR – bachelors til rapture. We committed to remain single until Jesus returns and raptures the church.
Of course, as you can see, I have since dropped out of that club, though I used to be the president. Brother Daniel was also part of that club at one time and he shared with me a funny story this past week that I have his permission to share with the rest of you. When Brother Daniel was a single guy, still in his early twenties, he went on a mission trip and 1 Cor 7 was the devotional text during one of the mornings. And this is a mission trip, every morning, the guys gathered to share and they opened their Bibles and this is the passage. And when sharing time came along, you could only hear crickets. Nobody had anything to share, or they were too embarrassed to share. Remember, all single guys were in the BTR club. Then, Brother Daniel broke the silence. He shared from v9. Brothers, I’m burning with passion. Please pray for me.
I think this could be one sign that your calling could be marriage and not singleness. You are burning with passion. It is better to marry than to burn with passion.
This is an obvious point, but physical attraction is one criteria if you are a single looking for a spouse. But in our culture, it has become THE dominant criteria. You walk into a room and out of 10 people, you rule out 7 of them because they are not your body type. They are too fat, or too skinny, too tall, or too short. And out of the 7 you ignored, there might have been someone who had great potential to be a best friend, but you overlooked them because you are evaluating people through your passions.
For the vast majority of you, if you are single, I know you want to be married. I was there. I was not a Paul. I was spiritual weak sauce. I rushed into dating and marriage spiritually unprepared. I wish I had learned about the Biblical picture of marriage. So before you go out there and look for a spouse, learn what the Bible says about marriage.
A minster is not a doctor whose primary task is to take away pain. Rather, he deepens the pain to a level where it can be shared. When someone comes with his loneliness to the minister, he can only expect that his loneliness will be understood and felt, so that he no longer has to run away from it but can accept it as an expression of his basic human condition.
The wound of our loneliness is indeed deep. Maybe we had forgotten it, since there were so many distractions. But our failure to change the world with our good intentions and sincere actions and our undesired displacement to the edges of life have made us aware that the wound is still there.
The Christian way of life does not take away our loneliness; it protects and cherishes it as a precious gift. Sometimes it seems as if we do everything possible to avoid the painful confrontation with our basic human loneliness, and allow ourselves to be trapped by false gods promising immediate satisfaction and quick relief… The awareness of loneliness might be a gift we must protect and guard, because our loneliness reveals to us an inner emptiness that can be destructive when misunderstood, but filled with promise for him who can tolerate its sweet pain.
I have heard many sermons on this text, specifically how God comes not in the wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in a gentle whisper. Elijah had experienced an amazing victory over the prophets of Baal, but the experience had left him exhausted and alone. And in his fatigue and loneliness, God came to Elijah tenderly. An angel came with a delivery of cake and water to strengthen and encourage him after he had rested. [Read more…] about Find Your Elisha: Reflection from 1 Kings 19:1-21