About a year ago, several of us young adults were sitting around talking about marriage and singleness at a church fellowship. A friend of mine spoke with concern about her older sister, who was in her late 20s and lonely. My heart twisted. How well I could relate! Had I been honest, I would have admitted that I had been moping about that all weekend.
Then Jared* spoke up. He suggested that my friend should encourage her sister to purposefully redeem the time, listing several excellent ways to do so. I have no idea if my friend was invigorated by Jared’s excitement for his subject, but I was. It was the attitude adjustment I needed, a call to return to excellent things that I had more or less abandoned.
Galatians 6:9-10 says, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” I can’t remember all the things that Jared suggested, but here are the things that I have been doing for years (and especially since that little conversation) to make the most of my singleness.
- Devote yourself to the Scriptures and the teaching of the apostles. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul pointed out that a married person’s first concern and ministry is to his or her family, which is a good, proper, and holy use of her time and resources. However, a married person’s opportunities to develop faith knowledge isn’t quite as plentiful as during the single years. Husbands and wives must devote long hours to the pleasant (and sometimes unpleasant) work of strengthening their marriage. When they become parents, they must nurture, train, and strengthen their family.
As a single, this time —when you don’t have to worry about pleasing your spouse (1 Cor. 7:33)—is the ideal time to concrete yourself in your faith. Study the Bible and our faith with other Christians. Read the Bible on your own. Listen to Biblically grounded sermons. Learn to pray unceasingly. Go to that spiritual retreat your church is hosting next month. Develop your appetite for the excellent things of God. Get into the habit of asking deep, purposeful questions of your church leaders. All of these things will build a solid foundation that will carry you through life, whether that includes marriage or not.
- Find your ministry. And no, I don’t mean that you necessarily have to watch the nursery at church. I mean, find what God has made you to do to further His kingdom and then do it. If you’re not sure what your bent is, discover it. One great resource for finding your passions is a little booklet called Life Purpose Planning. I’m not the only one to think so, either! Lumerit Education requires it for all their new-coming students, many of whom say it was instrumental in helping them discover who they were and what they wanted to do.
- Take advantage of opportunities. Today is something you’ll never have again. Live it to the fullest, but remember that someday you’ll have to give an account of it to God. Don’t waste or abuse time. It’s a resource that is far too precious.
Now, let me tell you what I don’t mean. Don’t fill your schedule with every fun and holy activity that you are invited to. Don’t misuse other resources (health, money, relationships, skills, etc.) so that you can stay busy.
Here’s what I do mean: maintain a godly, healthy balance. Figure out what your God-given goals and desires are and live up to them. If that means that you spend next Saturday at a conference to improve your professional skills, do it. Or perhaps you really, really want to take a mission trip to Israel. Maybe that means cleaning the house so your mom doesn’t have to. Then again, perhaps the best way to enjoy today to the glory of God is to take your journal or favorite book outside and lay down on a blanket in the sun-shiniest corner of the backyard. Whatever it is, live a Christ-centered abundant life.
- Develop your skills. You have been given the gift of a body. Use it. Train your body to be your one of your best resources. Make your hands more useful than just winning Mario Kart. Find ways to improve yourself so that you can better benefit those around you (and when/if God gives you a family of your own someday, you will have more skills to bless them). Decide what habits and characteristics you want to have and develop them. However, remember that good planning is only the beginning. The hardest and most time-consuming part of developing skills is actually doing it. Don’t get discouraged, though. It’s totally worth it.
- Develop your mind. Thomas Edison once said, “Only 5% of the people think. 10% think they think. 85% would rather die than think.” What a waste. As Christians, we are called to excellence in all things. That includes our mental capacities. I’m not saying, “be a genius” and I’m certainly not saying, “pretend to be smarter than you think you are.” I’m saying: don’t be content with where you are. Expand your knowledge and learn to be a thinker. Don’t just follow the crowds’ opinions because it’s comfortable or convenient. Learn to think for yourself. Live outside of the culture’s mental box.
- Surrender yourself and your desires to God. It seems so basic. Every child who grew up in evangelical Sunday School has heard the plan of salvation like, a gazillion times. Rest assured, I’m not going to talk about gospel basics. I’m talking about the next step: sanctification, defined as “The work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”1 More specifically, let’s talk about the whole “dying… and living unto righteousness” part. Sometimes, that means surrendering something very good, like a desire for marriage, trusting that God will give it back when and if He deems it good for us (and glorious for Him). However, surrendering it also means that if God chooses not to give it back, we will still praise and glorify Him.
Dying to self is never easy (and often very painful), but in my experience, it results in this concept that I call “multiplication by subtraction.” We subtract something from our lives, either repenting of and submitting it to Christ (sin) or giving it to God (sacrifice). Then, God multiplies His blessings in our lives in the absence. It makes no sense on paper, but I have seen this realized time and time again in the lives of God’s people. Surrendering something like this takes time, energy, and perseverance. But God is faithful, therefore you can be, too.
*Not his real name.