If you’ve been at an Aspire event where I’ve done comedy, you’ll know that I joke about being single in the church.** Sometimes it feels like the church’s message to singles is this: “Get married! It’s great! You’ll hate your life, but it’s the good kind of hate that God uses to sanctify you!”
Despite frequently proclaiming the challenges of marriage, church folk are quite eager to see singles tie the knot. One thing I’ve heard numerous times in Christian circles is that marriage is God’s primary tool for sanctification. (“Well,” I joked to someone recently. “Then God must think I’m already sanctified!”)
Occasionally I’ve heard church leaders push singles toward marriage because that’s how God will move you to holiness. Though they don’t always say it outright, the logical conclusion is that if you stay single, God’s ability to make you more like Christ comes to a standstill until you get married. (My response: “But if Jesus never married, wouldn’t being single make me more like Him?”)
Telling singles they’re not going to be truly sanctified until marriage is an unbiblical message, and I cringe when I hear any version of it. Marriage undoubtedly reveals and refines on a daily basis and it isn’t something to be avoided or put down. It’s a beautiful institution designed by God to accomplish wonderful, gospel-filled things both in the lives of those married and the church as a whole.
However, God is not limited by our relationship status when it comes to moving us toward Christ-likeness.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
God promises to complete the good work He started in us. He doesn’t promise to complete the work He started in us only if we have a spouse. God refines us not because we’re married, but because we’re His children. Some of us will be sanctified through marriage, some of us through singleness, some will be sanctified through seasons of both.
While singleness may be the less common (and sometimes more misunderstood) path, it’s one that the Lord uses in magnificent ways to both refine you and impact the kingdom. It’s a lifestyle that allows unique opportunities to lay down your own agenda and serve God and people. If you’re single, I want to encourage you in two ways:
First, be on the lookout for ways to build friendships and serve. Seek to know the people in your church, work, and neighborhood. Since opportunities to serve aren’t always “hardwired” into our day, sometimes we have to be on the lookout. Go spend some time with an elderly person, offer to watch your neighbor’s kids while she takes a child to the pediatrician, or run an errand for someone if they can’t get out of the house. These simple things can make a world of difference to those around you.
Second, pray and ask the Lord to keep you from bitterness as people assume, misunderstand, and try to “diagnose and cure” your singleness. Singles, especially as they get older, are painfully familiar with the bizarre questions, admonishments, and assumptions people make about why we’re still in this season. Choosing to love the church and encourage its members builds an incredible amount of character. By loving people—especially people who don’t “get you”—you’re being the salt and light of Christ.
At the end of the day, neither marriage nor singleness are deemed “better” by scripture. They are simply different gifts, each with a different set of trials and blessings. We do no service to the church or God’s kingdom by pitting the two life stages against each other.
If you’re walking with Jesus faithfully–married or single–take heart, because He is tenderly and lovingly finishing the work He began in you. Long seasons of hoping, waiting, and striving for joy–knowing full well you may never get what you desire this side of heaven—give way into the revelation that Christ, indeed, is enough.
Lastly, if you’re married and reading this, I want to encourage you to keep an eye out for the singles in your sphere. Fight the urge to judge why they are in that season. Instead, invite them over for lunch or dinner, or to the soccer field to visit with you during your kid’s game. Your life doesn’t have to be perfect or flawless before you invite them into it. Just aim to include them. You just might open the door to a friendship of a lifetime.
**You can watch a clip of my single jokes here: CLICK HERE
Kristin Weber is a comedian on the 2019 Aspire tour. She has written two books, speaks and tells jokes all over the place, and is in a common law marriage with Chipotle. You can find her at www.kristinweberonline.com