1. Marriage doesn't make life easier.
Perhaps the greatest temptation in singleness is to assume marriage will meet our unmet needs, solve our weaknesses, organize our lives, and unleash our gifts. Far from the solution, Paul (in 1 Corinthians 7) makes marriage out to be a kind of problematic Plan B for Christian life and ministry. Marry if you must, but be warned that following Jesus is not easier when you join yourself to another sinner in a fallen world.
While marriage may bring joy, help, and relief in certain areas, it immediately multiplies our distractions, because we’re responsible for this other person, his or her needs, dreams, and growth. It’s a high calling and a good calling but a demanding one that will keep us from all kinds of other good things.
2. You have purpose regardless of your relationship status.
Every single person on the planet was made to say something about God. The Creator and Sustainer of the universe made each of us, and filled us, along with the other seven billion people on the planet, with a purpose. Most of us have a hard time really believing we were created by someone, and for something far bigger than ourselves. We’re raised, trained, and spent in a much smaller world, a world centered on ourselves and reaching only as far as we can see.
But God made you and me for far more than marriage, business, or whatever else we each might choose for ourselves. If we miss this, we risk wasting our lives running in wrong directions, pursuing pitiful dreams, and serving tiny gods. The earlier we answer the biggest questions about our life, though, the better we’ll answer all the smaller ones—like what we will study, where we will work, and whom we will marry.
3. Time is on your side.
If God leads you to marry, you may never again know a time like the one you’re in right now. A season of singleness is not the minor leagues of marriage. It has the potential to be a unique period of undivided devotion to Christ and undistracted ministry to others.
With the Spirit in you and the calendar clear, God has given you the means to make a lasting difference for his kingdom. You’re all dressed up, having every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3), with literally everywhere to go.
4. You need the church.
Joining a church is one of the most radically countercultural and spiritually beneficial things you can do in the not-yet-married life. When everyone else your age refuses to be tied down and resists being accountable, submit yourself to a body of believers. Drive a stake into the ground and say to the whole world that you belong to Jesus, that your life is his, and that you’re willing to have others hold you to that.
5. You can be friends with married people.
The longer you’re not yet married, the more time you have to learn about marriage from other people’s successes and failures. While you can’t avoid your own set of marital missteps and sins, you certainly can increase the odds of successes, small and large, by being a good student beforehand.
Look for opportunities to be a regular part of a married person’s life and family. If you’re not around enough to see any ugliness or messiness, you might not be around enough. Don’t impose on people, but don’t be afraid to initiate the conversation either. Offer to babysit on date night or help with yard work or bring a meal when one of the kids goes down sick. Then be a student. Ask questions. Take notes on what to imitate. As our minds and hearts are being shaped by Scripture for marriage, we need examples of flawed but faithful marriages.
6. God's plan for you isn't all about you.
The gospel is a story for you but it is not a story about you. This good news—the news that rescued you from hell and promised you to heaven—was not about God making you happy apart from him and his glory, but about satisfying you now and forever with himself. He loved you enough to give you himself.
Why did God save you? Not just so that you could escape hell or relieve some shame and regret, not even so that you could get into heaven. God saved you for God. The Bible says God loved you, chose you, saved you, and made you his own “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6).
7. Make Jesus your greatest treasure . . . not a relationship.
Most people will strive just to survive singleness and wait to get serious about Jesus and his mission later, when things have settled down in life. A brave few of us will develop not-yet-married habits of knowing him deeply and sharing him freely, likely far beyond what we would be able to do after our wedding day. Singleness has the potential to be a garden—or a gym, or a kitchen, or a school—for undistracted devotion to Jesus unlike any other season of our lives. To believe that, we need to learn some things about this life. Those who live for God’s glory—who live for the next life in this one—will feel a persistent, even painful urgency.
The work we have to do, in our own hearts and for the sake of the lost, is the most important work that’s ever been done in history. We develop spiritual muscles now by saying, with everything we have and do now, that Jesus is our greatest treasure. Life is short, and everything we have and see here is passing away. Everything but Jesus.
8. Don't forget your calling.
We are saved to go out into the world for the glory of our Jesus, to make him known—single or married—as our Lord, Savior, and greatest treasure. Redemption is a life-saving rescue, but it also involves a profound rewiring and repurposing. Conversion is about commission, not just salvation, because we’re not saved to be saved, but saved to be sent.
9. Remember that your heavenly Father knows what you need.
That almighty God of holiness and mercy is not just a judge or a king, but he’s a dad. He watches over and loves you as one of his own sons or daughters. You have an all-wise and all-powerful Father in heaven, who knows everything you need and promises to deliver it precisely when you need it. Jesus says:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matt. 6:25, 32–33)
God is with us, and he cares for us. Before Jesus left the earth, as he commissioned his disciples to go into a dark world with the hope of the gospel, he says to them (and to us), “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). God’s infinite wealth and power will meet and provide for God’s weak and suffering people with God’s relentless compassion and care when they are clinging together to God’s Word, especially to his promises.
10. Prayer is fuel.
God means for our lives—married or unmarried, student or employee, young or old—to run on the power of prayer. Prayer fuels the engine of our heart and mind. We need God in and through prayer more than we need anything else. We will not do anything of any real and lasting value without God, which means we will not do anything of any real and lasting value without prayer.
Our waiting and longing should be shaped by and filled with prayer. Our search for purpose and direction in singleness should begin with prayer. Our pursuit of joy should be a journey of prayer.
And in the same way that a little bit of leaven makes bread rise, a little bit of sin left unchecked will grow.
Episode 156 | Dr. Michael Horton interviews Barbara Duguid on counseling, depression, and addiction.