Marry or Stay Single?

Stay Single - AdobeStock_107232408So, you are a mature adult, have never been married or have been single a long time and you are considering marriage. This may pose an issue for you based upon your desire to most effectively serve the Lord. “To marry or not to marry” may be the driving question as you try to ascertain God’s “calling” for your life. In this post I will try and unpack this a bit.

I was a happy and fulfilled single most of my adult life. I had no trouble navigating all of life’s events, oftentimes in a sea of married couples. That changed abruptly when I was introduced to a widower, fell in love and married. That commitment ignited multiple life changes for both of us.

To Stay Single or To Marry?

Recently, I met with a single woman who has never been married. She is starting a relationship with a man who is widowed. She had many questions for me about adjusting to a first-time marriage later in life (in my case I was 60 years old). One question in particular stuck with me. That question was: did I think marriage is a “calling” or a does God give us freedom to decide whether to be married?

All my adult life God gifted me with the ability to be single and contented. I did not have a burning desire to be a mother, did not feel incomplete or lonely and was not envious of my friends as they married.

God’s Word confirms that, “singleness” is a “calling”. In Matthew 19, Jesus is having a conversation with the Pharisees about divorce. He reprimands the Pharisees for their skewed interpretation of the grounds for divorce. He then restates God’s original marriage plan — one man, one woman for life. This disturbed the Disciples who were accustomed to the flimsy excuses often used by the men of the culture to swap out an old wife for a new one. They concluded that God’s plan was so difficult that it was better not to get married. Jesus affirmed that they said so rightly:

Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by people; and there were also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who is able to accept this, let him accept it.(Matthew 19:11-12)

Choosing Singleness

Here, Jesus states that choosing “singleness” in order to better serve Him is preferable. Jesus also acknowledges that to stay single is difficult because most people cannot sustain such a solitary life. Implicit in His statement is that this is a unique calling and one that is sacrificial.

The Apostle Paul also illustrated that the state of singleness is a calling. In I Corinthians 7 Paul engages in a lengthy discussion about marriage versus singleness. In several verses he clearly states that the person who is single is much better situated to serve the Lord than the individual who is married and needs to tend to his/her family. (See: I Corinthians 7: verses 6, 7, 8, 17, 20, 24, 26, 27, 29, 32, 35, 38 and 40.) Paul even goes so far as to say the one who stays single does better and is happier (I Corinthians 7: verses 38 and 40). In the end, Paul confirms that there is no sin in either decision, that is to stay single or marry (I Corinthians 7: verses 7, 8, 9 and 17).

The only provision in Scripture that gives what appears to be a specific mandate regarding marriage is the calling to be equally yoked with believers (2 Corinthians 6:14). While marriage is not specifically mentioned here, it is entirely reasonable to apply this principle to marriage. The Old Testament is full of prohibitions to the Jewish people about intermarrying with pagans. Likewise, to effectively live out marriage according to New Testament principles, you must marry a believer. (See: Ephesians 5:21-28.)

The Stay Single or Marry Question

Now, back to my friend’s question. My answer to her was two-fold. First, God has given us liberty regarding marriage. There is no commandment to be married in order to follow Jesus. However, the vast majority of believers desire to be married for companionship, intimacy, and to have children. This desire is a worthy one implanted by God, by virtue of how He has designed men and women.

Second, the Bible explains that to remain single is a unique “calling”. Speaking from experience the calling of singleness is oftentimes a gift from God. If God calls you to serve Him as a single, He will equip you to flourish and live a fulfilling life apart from marriage.

In sum, God has provided freedom to each of us to decide to remain single or to marry. Either choice is consistent with Biblical principles.

If God calls you to a life of singleness, He will provide the grace to operate as a single individual within the believing community. For those that happily embrace the single life that will generally be an easy road to travel. Likewise, if you have the desire to be married realize that this desire comes from God. Seek to fulfill that calling with a like-minded believing spouse.

The Call to Be Content

For those of you who are single and really desire to be married and have children the waiting can be difficult. In these circumstances, as many others in life, God has called us to be content where we are at and to trust Him. As Paul said, “…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…(Philippians 4:11). Paul teaches us in Philippians 4:11-13, that true contentment is possible regardless of our situation. Such contentment comes from Jesus Christ and is not based upon any outward circumstances. This includes our marital status.

To live victoriously we must remember that we are called to be content in the state in which we are currently in. We need to walk out our faith this way in order to experience all the blessings and peace that God has promised us. Align your desires with the purposes of God and press into the Lord and He will grant you the desires of your heart.

Deborah Coxe is the Marriage Missions contributing author of this article. She is a retired judge who enjoys mentoring and discipling women and seeing them flourish in their walk with the Lord. In her spare time, Deborah enjoys writing, hiking, coffee shops, old movies and great conversations with her husband.

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Filed under: Preparing for Marriage Single Yet Preparing

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