There’s nothing worse than being single while all your friends are dating or getting married. Of course that’s not true — there are far worse things that can happen — but when you feel singled out, it can feel true.
Being single isn’t out of the ordinary. Billions of people around the world are single every day. Yet you can feel you’re in the minority as a single person, particularly as TV shows, movies and popular books often follow a common plot: Single person tries to find true love and the happiness that comes with it.
Even in some church cultures — intentional or not — being single is seen as something to rectify. Churches can treat marriage and starting families as the norm, and if you don’t fall within those categories, then there must be something wrong with you. People encourage you to attend singles groups, meet a single friend of theirs or many things that — despite trying to help — make you feel incomplete.
If you’re not careful, you can be singled out. You can do it to yourself or you can let other people do it to you. You can get so focused on being single and all the complications that presents in friendships, culture and church that you lose sight of who you are as a Christian. Before long, being single becomes less of a circumstance of your Christian calling and more of a problem to fix, a disease to cure or a crime against the natural order of things.
If you’re a single Christian and you’re worried you’re being singled out, here are three things to watch for.
Is being single dictating your friendships?
Looking back at my high school and college friendships, I abandoned almost all of them because:
- I wanted to date someone, but she wanted to be friends
- Someone wanted to date me, but I wanted to be friends
- A friend started to date someone, and I couldn’t stand being around them anymore
When I was single, friendship lost meaning, and I avoided close relationships that didn’t serve my purpose of finding my true love.
Regarding relationships with the opposite sex, I saw friendship as a bad thing. I wanted to be more than friends or I didn’t want to be friends at all. Friendship was not enough, or it was a risky liability. What if she or I had feelings that weren’t mutual? I thought it was better to avoid friendships with the opposite sex altogether.
As a result, I was more than single. I was alone.
Just before God created Eve, He said it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). The Hebrew words translated “alone” are used almost 40 other times in the Old Testament. Not once are they used to describe being single though. Rather, God uses them to describe His self-sufficiency or to describe people’s lack of friendship and fellowship.
Don’t let being single dictate your friendships.
Friendships can be complicated when you’re single, but don’t use that as an excuse to push people away. Remember, you might not be alone because you’re single and haven’t found true love yet. You might feel alone because you’re neglecting friendships with people who care about you and enjoy spending time with you.
Is being single defining how you love others?
How we define “love” matters.
Our English bible translations interpret several Hebrew and Greek words with different meanings as “love.” In Greek, there are at least four words to describe types of love. In English, every type of love is wrapped into a single, complicated word. We can say “I love you,” and “I love pizza” three seconds apart without offending the target of our affection or taking things too far with our food.
When you’re single, it’s easy to define love narrowly and ignore the many ways God calls us to love one another. If you’re not careful, you can reserve love for that special someone and forget that love isn’t an exclusive action or feeling.
As Christians, we’re called to love others because God created everyone in His image. As special recipients of God’s love and mercy in Christ, we’re called to welcome all people into our lives and love them unconditionally.
When I was singled out, I forgot this. I wanted a specific love, and I rejected other forms of love. Discontent and jealous, I felt I deserved a special love, and as long as I didn’t have it, then no one should.
Let God define love in your life. God is love (1 John 4:8). Don’t ignore the many ways God shows his love for you by focusing on the love you think you deserve but don’t have. Also, don’t just show love for those you’re interested in and neglect the many ways God calls you to love others (even people you don’t enjoy).
If you’re not sure whether you’re singled out, and being single is warping your definition of love, read 1 Corinthians 13 and then read Romans 1:28-32. Which one best describes the way you treat and love others?
Is being single defining who you are?
Don’t let being single define who you are. This might be the most prominent and most destructive way you can be singled out.
If you’re resting in Christ, then “single” shouldn’t define you. Christ should define you. You should find your life’s purpose and meaning in Christ, His finished work and His calling for your life.
When you get singled out, you define yourself or let others define you by what you don’t have rather than by Who has you. Rather than letting people define you negatively as “Not dating or not married,” let God define you as “Forever Mine to love.”
As Christians, we’re called to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) — to go out into all the world and share the gospel with every person regardless of their circumstances or our own (Matthew 28:18-20). The Apostle Paul spoke to single Christians when he wrote:
Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.… Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.
God calls single people just as much as He calls married people to do His work. You don’t have to change your relationship status before God uses you. Both being single and being married have their advantages and disadvantages, and neither is to preferred over the other.
As the saying goes, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
Being single isn’t a disease or condition in your life that that needs to be fixed or cured. God can and will use you — single or married — to complete the calling He has on your life. Let no one single you out and convince you otherwise. Not even yourself.
Copyright 2018 Matt Stickel. All rights reserved.