The January 2016 edition of Orthodox Presbyterian Church‘s monthly magazine New Horizons includes an encouraging article for singles by Boyd Miller, pastor of Covenant OPC in Lagrange, Georgia. Pastor Miller is himself single, so he writes not only as a wise pastor but a good companion in singleness.
Some people do choose singleness, but many times singleness chooses you without your permission. Jesus reminds us that while some are eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom, many remain unmarried as a by-product of the fallen human condition (Matt. 19:12). Congenital disorders, unfaithful spouses, same-sex attraction problems, premature death, war, disease, paucity of like-minded believers, and “bad luck” all complicate and exacerbate the matter. Yet through, above, and against all the secondary causes of singleness, the sovereign hand of God’s providence remains for our good and his ultimate glory.
Yet, contentment in the middle of God’s providences is hard won. For our good? Yes. For his ultimate glory? Yes. Obviously good and glorious? No. Instead, contentment in singleness can be a great battle, “a terrible battle of the soul, with setbacks, fits, sighs, tears, discouragements, and even rebellious outbursts,” a hard-won virtue as the Spirit carries a person through “loneliness, rejection, and alienation.”
Miller’s prescription for such a malady is life in Christ: looking to him as our whole righteousness and joy. Singles are not going to grow in contentment by being told over and over to be content:
The law’s demand for contentment can produce a rebellious response from us, for discontentment is at work within us (Rom. 7:8, 23). “Wretched (single) that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25).
Therefore, when applying the tenth commandment, the church should direct her unmarried members to Christ, who willingly became single for us, that we (the church) might become married to him. In the fullness of time, the eternal Son of God became a single man, born under the commandment not to covet, and fulfilled that law with a life of sinless contentment. Now those who believe in him have a pardon for their discontentment and the graces necessary to endure suffering for him. When tempted to kick at the goads of providence or murmur against the unmarried condition, the gospel gives us many soothing glances at our beloved Jesus. Our Lord Jesus Christ provides us with delight in his person, work, fellowship, and promises. He assures us that, as the single believer increasingly treasures him, she also finds moments of peace in accordance with the law.
If the Father has not withheld his only Son, will he not also give me all things for this single life and eternity (Rom. 8:32)? Indeed, he does. The Lord graciously gives the single Christian his Spirit to comfort, console, and sanctify (Rom. 8:15–17). The Lord also provides us with his church as our new family in Christ, where we find many mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters in the household of God (Matt. 12:50).
Christ is the true Physician who came for the sick, not the well. Turning from our self-righteousness and remembering that he is our whole righteousness, we have the true, healing balm for the conscience, the blood and righteousness of Christ and his promise to aid the helpless. That constant cleansing we have before God’s holy throne, loosens the bonds of despair or pride from the Christian. And drawing from Christ by faith, we are both encouraged and challenged forward in the “terrible battle of the soul.”
As you can see, Miller’s article is a great theological encouragement to the Christian single, but he also gives some very helpful practical counsel:
…singles would do well to immerse themselves deeply within the life of the local congregation. Hospitality, visitation, fellowship, prayer meetings, and Lord’s Day worship provide wonderful avenues of blessing to those who find themselves without a spouse. I cannot imagine the single life without the loving fellowship of my local congregation.
We need perspective as singles. In view of my sins, who am I to complain about my sufferings (Lam. 3:39)? We must take care to have no other gods before us. Marriage is not a god to be served, but a vehicle to glorify him. Singleness strengthens my empathy for others. Knowing loneliness, rejection, and alienation, we serve others who are deeply affected by a broken world. We look upon the homebound, the divorced, and the fatherless with compassion, as those who often view life ourselves from the outside.
Count it a privilege to serve as a single. Singleness can be a great blessing. Biblical and ecclesiastical history is replete with famous and eminently useful singles. Our minds are not divided between pleasing a spouse and pleasing the Lord (1 Cor. 7:32–34). During a season of trial for the church, Paul actually recommended that singles and widows not marry (1 Cor. 7:26–27). We do not know what a day may bring (Prov. 27:1). Distress and persecution by perverse and wicked men may visit the church in our nation and that may make singles an even greater asset to God’s people.
Finally, as a single man or woman, do not say in your heart, “I am a dry tree.” Rather, remember the Lord’s promise that those who love him by keeping his sabbaths and covenant shall receive an eternal inheritance from the Lord that is better than children (Isa. 56:3–5). The present sufferings of singleness are not to be compared with the glory to come (Rom. 8:18). Our inheritance is eternal in the heavens as we travel to a perfect world where there is no marrying or giving in marriage (Matt. 22:30).
Read the whole article here: Contentment in Singleness