Last week we talked about a heart of gratitude. (You can review that post, if you’d like, via this link.)
Continuing along that vein, I am reminded how hard it was to give thanks for singleness when sitting in the middle of singleness that I didn’t necessarily want or was grateful for. Giving thanks is an excellent way to defeat discontent and focus on the Lord’s provision, but sometimes we fail to thank God for the things He’s given that we don’t actually like.
There are a good number of us who spend the entire season of singleness in mourning or waiting or wishing it away instead of actually living. However, if there’s one thing we want to encourage you about is not sitting around and frivolously wasting this time you’ve been given.
Singleness can be a tough season. So can marriage. There are difficult seasons of poor health, financial loss, and unemployment. In all of these, the true test of our gratitude is whether we’ll look up from our circumstances and find something for which we can give thanks to our gracious God. So, if you’re struggling to be grateful for your single season, here are five “starter thanks” to practice this week (and every day after that).
You can thank God for your singleness because:
1. You are being sanctified.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 5:23)
Every life experience God allows is meant to grow us up in spiritual maturity. As Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, “the God of peace himself will sanctify you”. That’s incredible! God Himself is refining your character in this season. Yes, marriage is one way God matures us. But it is not the only way.
Sanctification refers to the process of becoming spiritually mature or being set apart for holy use. For single adults, sometimes it feels like we’re just being set aside.
This is an unintentional byproduct of the typical marriage testimony. When couples speak of their first year of marriage, they often remark that they thought they were mature — until they got married. Then their selfishness was revealed. Yes, that’s one way God works, and it can be fairly intense. But it is not the only way. Every believer can (and should) pursue spiritual maturity.
Maturity is the process of training for discernment, which is the ability to distinguish good from evil. The good news is that maturity is not dependent upon marital status. All believers are called to train their powers of discernment through the constant practice of saying, “Is this good or evil in God’s eyes?”
For single adults, there are some common areas where it takes vigilance to distinguish good from evil. These hindrances to maturity can fall in three areas: identity, self-centeredness and secrecy.
Discerning True Identity
It can feel uncomfortable or even shameful at times to be solo. You upset the balance at dinner parties, present a problem for seating at wedding receptions and generally just become the third wheel. You can feel like a walking advertisement for failure or rejection. You may even become the object of speculation, maybe in your own church.
We live in a period where the church highly esteems the commitments of marriage and family. At times, this regular emphasis on our roles as men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and so forth can obscure the one aspect of our identity that we have in common: we are adopted children of our heavenly Father and siblings to one another. While many roles end in this life, this one does not. Since our “siblinghood” is not addressed as often as other relationships in the church, it is easy to forget. Because of that, some of the hardest work we will do is to hold fast to the truth of our identity in Christ.
A wise friend once observed that single adults become emotionally stunted when we do not push ourselves to love others sacrificially. Loving and serving others is how we grow in Christlikeness. While marriage and family do not guarantee maturity, it certainly creates the opportunity for it. Therefore, single adults who want to pursue maturity should look for opportunities to be self-giving in the face of boundless opportunities to be self-centered. Simply, we need to look outside of ourselves. As a single adult, it is so easy to get so caught up in our own thoughts and own issues that we stop looking outside ourselves. We need to focus outside of ourselves.
I have a friend who puts sticky note reminders on their calendar every month to think about ways to serve others. They’re honest. They know that their calendar will default to all about them without these bright sticky notes. By intentionally thinking about whom to serve, planning for other people’s milestones, and by putting down prayer reminders for the needs of others, we take small steps to battle self-centeredness.
Self-centeredness is a hard thing to measure by yourself — maybe impossible. The Holy Spirit will prompt us through His Word, but we need to assume we have huge blind spots. Having a prayer and accountability partner, one who has regular access to your life and thoughts, can be immensely helpful for this evaluation. More than one partner is great, too. I say prayer and accountability because grace and truth need to be equally present.
Throughout the New Testament, truth is described as light breaking into the darkness. We should be eager to live in the light. As John 3:20-21 says, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
We, as Christ followers, have to choose to live life in the light. This is true of every believer, married or not. But I think it is easier for single adults to live privately and nurture secret sin. Even in shared housing, it’s easy to slip away and not be known. But whatever we think we are getting away with, it is already known by God, and He brings it into His light so that we can experience the forgiveness we have already received in Jesus. But Satan wants us to remain in the shadows, feeding our secret sin, so he can use our actions to entrap us and disparage the name of Christ.
Spiritual maturity recognizes the seriousness of hiding things from others — habits, relationships, weaknesses, and temptations. But we have these struggles in common. Working within the Single Adult Ministry, over and over, we meet men and women who wrestle with unfulfilled hopes, sexual temptations, longings for intimacy, and dangerous daydreams. We strive to bring those things into the light, so we can learn that the Lord’s grace is sufficient to choose what’s right, even if it’s hard.
Finally, of the many things we need to learn as we mature, arguably the most important is what to prize. Some may not receive marriage and family in this life. Or, in the case of many single adults, it takes longer than expected. But whatever happens, don’t think that you have received less than anyone else. The prize is not marriage to another human. The prize is Christ. He has set you apart — for himself.
2. You have incredible freedom.
Another big opportunity to be thankful for is the freedom of singleness. We like structure and predictability, and the sheer magnitude of options in our single years can be overwhelming. We like to think that a relationship would give us focus, direction – some sort of path to walk into the future. But faith requires stepping out of the boat into the path of impossibility, letting God support you each step of the way. This freedom is an incredible blessing. At no other time in your life will you have the mobility that you have now. Don’t take it for granted – be grateful!
3. You have God’s complete attention.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings… (Psalm 17:8)
It’s true that God is present in every season of life, but sometimes the single adult needs this reminder. God’s eyes are on you. He knows His purpose for your life and He is waiting for you to align yourself with His plan. His righteous right hand is always available for you to take. God has not forgotten you. His attention is on you, but if you never seek Him, you’ll never experience the magnitude of His love. Use this season to make that a priority.
4. You’re learning what to look for in a partner.
Perhaps you’ve been single for a while. Think back to a few years ago – what kind of person would you have dated? How have you matured in this season of waiting? Singleness is not a holding pattern. It is one of the most productive seasons of your life – if you live it well.
5. You’re being equipped.
You can thank God for your single season because you are being equipped for His purpose. These days are your training ground! Each day you draw near to the strength and wisdom of God, you’re investing in your future.
Your influence as a single adult is more far-reaching than you know. You might feel like you don’t have much to offer, but as you submit the little you do have to the hands of Jesus, He will multiply that offering to meet the needs of many (Matt. 14:13-21). But you have to lay this season in His hands and leave it there.
It takes constant practice to take our thoughts captive to the realities of God’s Word, instead of thinking we are forgotten or less valuable than others simply because we are unmarried. We are loved by the Supreme King of the Universe. This is the real deal. The love of another human being is wonderful and exhilarating, but it is only a reflection of God’s love because we are His image-bearers.
So let’s pause for a moment and praise the Lord for all He has done for us, but especially for this period in our lives. May we continue to faithfully run the race set before us, whether we are single or married.
“…in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” [1 Thessalonians 5:18]
For God and you,