Walk through a Christian bookstore – or any bookstore for that matter – and you will see many books on marriage. How-to books and fix-it books abound. Marriage seminars abound to help people be successful in the hard work of building the closest relationship they will have on earth. Anniversaries are celebrated and long-lived marriages are honored.
When was the last time you heard someone celebrate and applaud the successful living out of a faithful Christian single life? My guess is that it is never.
As I share aspects of my own singleness journey, I look forward to hearing from many of you to help shape this blog as we talk about how best to live in faithfulness and fulness. Jesus said in Matthew 5:6 that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled. Some translations use the word, satisfied.
I also decided to make this blog public as I am in the process of developing it. So, you will see my attempts to become better acquainted with all the details of WordPress.
Thank you for reading!
The Psalmist continues in chapter 73:15-20 to be shown by God what will happen to those who indulge in their temporal pleasures apart from Him. He uses words like “slippery ground,” “terror,” “ruin,” and “destruction.” Whoa! Surely not for us! Many unmarrieds today think that God either cannot understand the strength of desires which appear irresistible in content, or He is the epitome of meanness in dangling the proverbial carrot before our noses – a carrot which we may never have access to.
Then we come to (NIV) Psalm 73:23-15: Yet i am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Commentaries give insight to the word, “portion:” source of happiness, ground of my hope; that which I regard as most valuable; the lot with which every man can be contented; abundant sufficiency; soul satisfying; safe and secure; never ending.” (Barnes Commentary, John Calvin, Gill’s Exposition – all in public domain)
What seems interminable to us is actually temporary. Even if something lasts all our lives, physical death brings an end. What we have in our spiritual life in Jesus Christ simply “keeps on giving” at physical death. Faithfulness, purity, and righteousness are all given to us by God as ways to conduct our lives, unmarried and married. The impression that the single life is simpler because there is not the concern of spouse or children is sometimes misguided. Clearly, singles have the same material and financial concerns as marrieds. Handling them alone can be very daunting. We all have the same admonitions to holiness and purity – being chaste, pure in thought and deed. Some do it together, some alone. We all have access to fruit of the Spirit, which includes self-control. (Galatians 5:22-26) Obviously, every earthly marriage, even Christian marriage, is not happy, as is made abundantly clear in real life as well as in movies. But, the desire and hope for it to be all God intends, continues.
Paul ends Galatians 5 by saying in verse 25: Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (James 1:2-5; Romans 5:1-5) The refining tools are different, but they are intended to bring us to the same end: to be transformed into Christ’s image with unveiled faces. (II Corinthians 3:18)
Now, what does all this have to do with the unmarried person who aches for marriage to the glory of God? How does one in my circumstance, “ancient never-married,’ maintain relationship hope? I have found great comfort in Psalm 73. The Psalmist, Asaph, is bewailing the fact that remaining pure is hard because he finds himself poor, cold, hungry, and subject to violence. He says in essence, “what’s the point? I see those around me who do not honor God and who are rich and live in luxury, warmth, and abundance.” He says in verse 13, (NIV) Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.Unfortunately, too many unmarrieds who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ are saying the same thing, particularly in sexual faithfulness and purity. There are a couple of options: Pray for God to remove the desire for sexual closeness while not having it, or yielding to the admittedly strong desire because it is too strong to resist. Neither one is a satisfactory answer. I can admit to a certain amount of fist-shaking at God for giving desire and then saying, “wait.” Years of fist-shaking, to be honest. While He may remove the desire from some, for most he does not. I’ve come to believe that that desire is a small illustration of what my longing for God should be. Just as God’s husband relationship with His chosen people was a foreshadow of Jesus Christ’s bridegroom relationship with His church, our life in turn is a foreshadow of what will take place in heaven. (Revelation 19:9: We are always in a state of waiting. All our desires and longings are meant to be an illustration of what we really want from God.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I certainly want to please Him and be “concerned about pleasing the Lord in all respects.” For quite a long period of my life, however, I didn’t live in that reality. Loneliness and disappointment brought me to an angry place where God seemed to be ignoring my deepest heart cries. I knew Scripture was true when talking about His love, but it seemed to be only for others. Not for me. Conversation with friends rarely brought comfort. They simply did not know what to say. The church didn’t know what to say, either. The “single” label was applied to anyone from college age through old age who hadn’t found a soul-mate, or to widowed and divorced folk or to single parents. Singleness was painted with a broad brush stroke with one color, “one size fits all.”
There are a number of books and articles telling us that “singleness is a calling,” and “celibacy is a gift.” Personally, I have never felt “called” to singleness, and I see celibate faithfulness as a result of consistent and continuing practice of the spiritual fruit of self-control, with constant training from the Holy Spirit. A gift? Not so much. Possible? Absolutely! Reasonable? Perhaps not! Difficult? Yes!
Celibacy is reasonable only when it is taken out of the realm of “what you cannot have,” or abstinence by the gritting of your teeth. Abstinence is “all up to you.” Celibacy is a relational issue! It is “up to God and you!” Celibacy points to relationship you can have! This makes it not only possible, but eternally reasonable. It is a faithfulness which not only enhances the unmarried life, but is meant to move seamlessly into an earthly marriage should that occur, and certainly to move seamlessly into our eternal life in heaven where Ephesians 5:21-32 talks about this mystery between Christ and the church, and he uses marriage terms. Celibary for the Christian unmarried person is never a waste!