How to Celebrate and Steward the Gift of Singleness
If for a season or a lifetime, singleness offers incredible opportunities. Here’s how to celebrate and steward it as the blessing it is.
Feeling near the end of the acceptable age to be single, and with mounting pressure from fellow ministers that I find a “helpmate,” by the end of my twenties, I ramped up my dating game. It did not work.
Several years and relationships later, I was left frustrated because I strangely sensed more peace outside of a relationship than I did inside one. Most chalked this up to not yet finding the right “one.” “Keep looking,” they urged. But deep down, I heard God whisper something different: “Gift.”
The “Gift” of Singleness
Over the years, although rarely, I heard people speak of a “gift of singleness” (mostly those petrified they might have it). This premise was usually based on Paul’s writings about his decision to remain unmarried.
“For I would that all men were even as I myself,” Paul insisted. “But every man has his proper gift from God” (1 Cor. 7:7, MEV).
I discovered that singleness is the same—a gift of supernatural power given for great feats.
Feeling God’s leading, I dug deeper into Paul’s words, particularly his curious use of “gift.” Of the two Greek words for “gift” in the New Testament, Paul selected charisma to describe his singleness. Not coincidentally, I have learned, this is the same word he later used to catalog what many call the “charismatic gifts.” These include prophecy and healing, which among others, are all given by God to help believers fulfill tasks they could not otherwise do on their own (1 Cor. 12:8–10).
As I studied Paul’s words, I discovered that singleness is the same—a gift of supernatural power given for great feats.
Unfortunately, for most evangelicals, such an idea is revolutionary. The modern church all but idolizes marriage so that many subconsciously believe a single person is incomplete, immature, or even a problem to be fixed. Therefore, singleness is hardly considered any kind of blessing.
Not to me, though.
As an unmarried minister approaching my mid-30s, looking back on life up until now, my singleness afforded me opportunities to extensively travel, write, and make the financial sacrifices necessary to launch a ministry. I have accomplished tasks that, knowing myself, would have been difficult if also juggling marriage and family obligations. For that, I celebrate my singleness.
Who Has the Gift?
Many quiver at the suggestion that they might have the gift. “I could not … would not … should not,” some protest, mentioning their craving for intimacy and the promise, “God gives the desires of your heart” as reasons (Ps. 37:4). But this thinking is misguided.
God’s gifts do not remove our humanness. Rather, they empower us to accomplish His will in spite of it.
While it is true some singles have greater ease dealing with their desires than others, almost all battle desire at some level, even those who choose singleness for life. This is because God’s gifts do not remove our humanness. Rather, they empower us to accomplish His will in spite of it.
Just as Jesus gave various reasons people are not able to produce children (some from birth, some because of people and others by choice for the sake of His Kingdom), so it is with singleness (Matt. 19:12). Sadly, some are single because of biological conditions due to the fall of creation. And some are single because there are no suitable options. Still, others choose the single state for the sake of undistracted ministry.
In short, those who are single, whether by choice or circumstance, have the gift. This will scare some, but it need not. If for a season or a lifetime, singleness offers incredible opportunities one would not have if married. Whether it is celebrated as a blessing and stewarded accordingly is up to the individual.
The Solution to a Single’s Greatest Need
Every God-given gift is accompanied with the support necessary to handle it. Unequivocally, the greatest need a single person has is relationship. This reality is what leads many evangelicals to dismiss the “gift of singleness,” citing Genesis 2:18: “It is not good that the man should be alone.”
A healthy church recognizes the gifts of both singles and married couples in support of each other.
While it is true we are made for relationship, being single and being alone are two different situations. Both Jesus and Paul were single men, but they were far from alone. In fact, it could be argued their singleness allowed them to have more relationships and at greater depths.
To ease loneliness, it is crucial singles be intentional about developing friendships. Perhaps ironically, the place where singles often feel most misunderstood—the church—is also the greatest solution to loneliness.
Jesus established the church as a family of believers that care for each other. Paul wrote, “If one part suffers, all the others suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). Accordingly, a healthy church recognizes the gifts of both singles and married couples in support of each other. Married couples can provide a family for their single friends with which to enjoy dinner, movies, holidays, or vacations. Likewise, singles can assist their married friends with their children, cooking, or home projects. This is the church in action, where each celebrates the other’s unique situation.
A Powerful Witness to the Gospel
Finally, singles should be encouraged that they are not left out of God’s plan. Actually, quite the opposite is true. Like God established marriage as the earthly representation of the eternal union between Christ and His church, God established singleness as the earthly demonstration of Christ’s sufficiency in an eternity of perfect communion with Him. Indeed, the single life is a powerful witness to the gospel—one that, perhaps now more than ever, both the church and world desperately need to see.
[Posted with permission from Charisma, February 2018. Copyright Charisma Media, USA. All rights reserved. www.charismamag.com]