Is Singleness Really a Gift?

Sandra Ostapowich

“I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34)

Unless your family is rather unusual, being unmarried is pretty much the default for American teenagers these days. A lot of your friends are probably dating, and thinking and dreaming about marriage to their “special person” one day. Maybe you are, too!

Or maybe not.

It can be difficult when it seems like everyone else is dating and has a special someone with whom to hang out and rehash the day’s drama. When the winter semi-formal or spring prom comes up, you can cover your lack of a date by collecting a group of friends to all go together. Or you just don’t go at all. Maybe it’s just too awkward. Who likes being lonely in a crowd…of couples?

Being single, especially once you’re out on your own, can be really hard. It’s so, SO easy to give in to the temptation to despise the vocation you’ve been given. Family (even strangers) will pat you on the shoulder and encourage you to do just that! “Don’t worry dear, it’ll be your turn soon. Someone as wonderful as you is just too good not to be snatched up yet!” they say, consolingly.

I get it. It weighs on us when so many things in society revolve around couples and families. Ironically, it’s often worse in the church, where the ideal man is a husband and father and the ideal woman is a wife and mother. And then there’s you: none of the above. Less than ideal. Maybe not even a real man or woman.

Everyone says it’ll get better…but what if it doesn’t? What if you end up watching your friends and (younger) relatives check off those significant milestones of engagements, weddings, and births, never getting to experience them yourself? What if that person never walks into your life and you’re stuck alone, forever?

[Cue the Accuser’s whispers in the back of your mind, “You’re alone because there’s something wrong with you. You don’t deserve to be loved. You’re so pathetic. You really are going to be alone for the rest of your life.”]

But singleness isn’t a curse. It’s not the anti-vocation to the real vocation of being a husband or wife. And it’s definitely not a prison sentence to a life of solitary confinement, as you wait (oh-so-impatiently) for some romanticized, idealized, significant-other to swoop in and save you from this miserable existence so you can finally start living a real life. A married life.

Repent of this kind of thinking! You already have a Savior—One who has loved you to death, and has raised you to new life again.

The reality is that being single is a perfectly good, God-given, God-pleasing, genuine vocation. St. Paul even says it’s better than marriage (1 Corinthians 7:8, 38)! The very fact that you are not married is an actual vocation all its own. It’s not even the “not-married” vocation, it’s just you! Not alone—but you, as a unique, individual child of God; you, set apart in Christ, for the Lord to serve your neighbor through you; you, holy by virtue of your baptism.

Regardless of how you feel, you’re not alone. You just aren’t married. That’s a huge difference. When you’re not oriented around a spouse, you are free to take advantage of a whole world of opportunities around you! Not for sexual relationships, mind you, but for all sorts of relationships in which you can invest your time and energy and love, with all that you have been given in Christ—and without worrying that you’re neglecting a spouse and children as you do. What a gift your singleness is to your neighbors!

So when you’re feeling lonely, fight against the swirling vortex of self-pity. Go visit someone stuck in a nursing home, whose friends have all died and who hasn’t seen a relative in weeks. When you want someone to hold your hand and tell you everything is going to be okay, go sit at the bedside of a hospitalized member of your church for a while. Hold her hand and remind her of her baptism. When you long for someone to tell you you’re wonderful and matter to him or her, volunteer to mentor a kid who has probably never heard another person telling him that he’s good for anything.

And if the day comes when He gives you a spouse, then that’ll be a gift for you. Each day that He doesn’t is another day for you to turn your attention toward serving Him in the place where He has put you, caring for the neighbors that He has put in your world.

And so your singleness can never be a curse; it is a gift. After all, the curse of sin was already borne by Jesus. He has no curses for you. The One who was truly alone is the One who suffered and died for the sins of the world. In Him, you are never alone. He is with you always, each day, in the Word which forgives you, in the baptism that washes you, and in the Sacrament that feeds you.

Sandra Ostapowich is the conference executive for Higher Things and served for 9 years on the Higher Things Board of Directors. She lives with her son in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, where she is also studying for her Ph.D. in Missiology at Concordia Theological Seminary.

Created: April 29th, 2014