If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand … Who am I kidding? I’ve definitely heard it more than once. Most recently just last week, when I overheard a married couple reiterate it to a single friend: “While you’re single, you should prioritize your relationship with Christ.” (Implied: ”You know, before you’re married and busy with life.”)
I’ve always struggled with this one. I know, I know — it’s from the Bible, based on 1 Corinthians 7:
“I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.”
But do Paul’s words in this chapter mean that I, as a single person, should be more spiritual, more focused on my walk with Christ that people who are married? Following that line of logic raises questions as to why God would ever call anyone to get married — if it leads to less spiritual commitment.
On the other hand, does my prolonged singleness mean I have yet to achieve a specific level of spiritual maturity while my married friends are apparently so far ahead? That sometimes seems to be what’s implied in others’ well-intentioned comments about singles’ priorities.
It’s easy to be dismissive of comments like this. Annoyed, even. But instead of questioning others’ logic and taking offense, maybe I should first ask myself if I am truly living this out. What would it look like to be “anxious about the things of the Lord” and to focus on growing closer to God at this stage of my life?
A great place to start
There are probably a billion different ways to answer that question. God’s leading in our lives will look different from Christian to Christian, and I have too many questions about His leading in my own life to even pretend I know what specifics He is calling you to. But there are questions all of us can ask ourselves. Here are four areas where we can start.
Goals. What shapes my idea of what I should aspire to? When setting goals, do I only think about my own aspirations, or do I consider what God may have me do — even if those goals appear to work against my own plans for my life? How much stock do I put in what my ideas are instead of seeking out God’s leading?
Priorities. Career, relationships, personal growth — these are all good things in their proper place. But am I keeping them in their proper place? Who do I think about first? Is it my own needs or wants or ideas, or am I looking for what God is doing and reaching out to the people around me?
Routines. What is first in my daily schedule? Am I consistently spending undistracted (yes, undivided) time with God before the rest of the day starts? How much time do I spend with Him? (This isn’t something to get legalistic about, but are we allotting enough time to meaningfully focus on Bible reading and prayer? Or do we settle for a five-minute devotional or speeding through a couple of Psalms?) What in my schedule gets crowded out first when my day gets busy? Do I let the cares of the day keep me from spending time in my Bible, as if the God who bids me to bring Him my burdens couldn’t multiply the hours of my day?
Decisions. What is my first action step when deciding how God is leading me in any given situation? Do I first seek counsel from others, weigh pros and cons, or look at how different choices might affect my life? These are good things to do, but they shouldn’t be my first step. Instead, have I asked God himself? Have I sought His will in this? There’s a place for knowing that God will work in any decision we make, but we need to balance that with making sure we are confident enough in God’s direction as we take a step. Take time to wait. Seek God. Listen before you leap.
No time wasted
I’m still occasionally irked when marrieds toss “focus on Christ” sentiments like I mentioned my way. But let’s separate the truth from the messenger: God says there are blessings for the single person who utilizes his or her single season to focus more on Him. We would be foolish not to take His guidance to heart.
Maybe we’ll be married one day. Maybe not. But either way, time spent fully pursuing God now will never be wasted. Even in singleness, God has a plan for each of us that will only be sweeter the closer we are to Him. As Paul also told us in another oft-quoted and no-less-true verse: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”