Life Hope & Truth

What Does God Expect of the Unmarried?

We expect the desires of our heart from God, and He promises He’ll provide, in the way and at the time He knows is best. But what does He desire from us?

What does God expect from us as unmarried people? Are we fulfilling His desire? That may be a key to His responding to our deepest desires (or redirecting our desires to be even more in line with His).

Where does the Bible cover this? Sometimes the Bible seems to be written for the married, but the things God asks us to do and wants us to become are not dependent on marriage. God wants all of us to constantly build and improve our relationship with Him and other people, the first and second great commandments. Married people have a special opportunity to do this, but God has given singles other opportunities.

Actually, a significant portion of the Bible was written about or by people who were unmarried, as it seems Jeremiah and the apostle Paul were (Jeremiah 16:2; 1 Corinthians 9:5). The life of Jesus Christ is the center of another four books. The book of Ruth starts with the story of widowed women with serious disadvantages in that society.

The Bible does not ignore singles, and it gives examples all of us can follow.

Biblical role models

When we think about the ideal woman in spiritual terms, we may think of the Proverbs 31 wife. But the Proverbs 31 character traits don’t just “happen” once you are married. They are a way of life, and they should begin before marriage.

The qualities that describe this amazing woman take years of work to acquire and constant exercise to maintain. It’s interesting to note that many of the attributes she has are not marriage-specific. Different seasons in life will bring out and enhance different qualities.

The Bible also has many role models for men, from the married Abraham to the unmarried apostle Paul. Joseph, David, Josiah and others began serving God as young people, long before they were married. Timothy also began his devotion to God as a youth. Their usefulness to God was not dependent on whether their status was single or married.

Steps to finding the fulfillment God intends as an unmarried person

What do we do while we’re waiting, perhaps skeptically or in painful loneliness, for the right one? What does God expect us to do during this time, or lifetime, of being single?

God wants to see us happy in every situation. He even tells us to rejoice in trials (James 1:2). For some, being unmarried is an extended trial. Paul said he was able to be content, whatever state he was in (Philippians 4:11). He was not only unmarried, but also tortured, persecuted and at death’s door numerous times.

So how do we find contentment and live our unmarried lives as God expects us to?

  1. Find and create joy.

Earlier in the same chapter, Paul tells us to rejoice. It was so important, he repeated it for good measure. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

Studies show happiness, which is sometimes used interchangeably with joy, can protect your heart, strengthen your immune system, combat stress (as well as disease and disability), and lengthen your life.

Ultimately, it is God who helps us find true, deep, meaningful joy, but there are simple things we can do to aid the process. We can spend time with friends and family, help and serve others, think positively, be thankful and develop skills and creative hobbies.

  1. Reach out, not in.

After rejoicing, Paul tells us to let our gentleness be known to everyone (Philippians 4:5). It’s easy to turn inward, especially when we’re lonely, but Proverbs 18:1 says, “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.” Other translations add more light: he starts quarrels, lashes out at common sense and resists all sound advice.

Don’t forget that one reason God may allow us to go through difficulties is to enable us to reach out and help others who are going through similar things (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

People sometimes accuse singles of being self-centered. This may be true for some. Unmarried people don’t have the opportunity to really give and mold their lives around another in the same way that is required in marriage.

But selflessness is a state of the heart that doesn’t show partiality; it must be developed and worked on by both the married and the unmarried. Studies show that many singles find other ways to give, volunteering in many different ways. We need to become those unmarried people who are reaching out to keep from turning in.

  1. Take your desires to God and seek God’s will.

Paul tells us not to be worried or concerned about anything, but to take all our concerns to God (Philippians 4:6-7). That includes our loneliness and fears of never getting married. God promises His peace that will guard our minds and hearts.

God promises to give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4-5), though that doesn’t include every desire because sometimes we ask amiss (James 4:3). It is important that we seek God’s will in our lives, attitudes and thoughts so that our desires are properly focused.

But be aware, when you truly seek God’s will, it will come. It will bring incredible opportunity, but it will often require great sacrifice. And it may not always be what you had thought you wanted!

We don’t need to fear God’s will. If we’re seeking it, He will lead us and give us peace of mind, even when things are difficult. It will be a life worth living if we keep our eyes on what’s really important.Sometimes God has a different plan than we do (Isaiah 55:8-9). In Philippians 4 He promises that if His plan is different, He will bring us inner peace. But we must remember to take all our anxieties and concerns to Him.

So building our relationship with God is exceedingly important because His plan will be done, whether it is what we want or not. He gives us choices, but depending on our choice we may only make it harder on ourselves, as Jonah did. We don’t need to fear God’s will. If we’re seeking it, He will lead us and give us peace of mind, even when things are difficult. It will be a life worth living if we keep our eyes on what’s really important. (Read “What Is God’s Will for You?”)

  1. Be thankful.

Having peace of mind is contingent not only on taking our requests to God, but on bringing them with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). This implies that we are to find something to be thankful for in each request we make. This is reiterated in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (emphasis added).

Besides the incredible spiritual blessing peace of mind brings, gratitude has been the subject of many studies in recent years, revealing the dramatic effect it has on every other part of our being. It provides health benefits, mental strength, positive effects in relationships, increased empathy, better sleep and more.

Common suggestions to foster gratitude are praying, keeping a gratitude journal, sitting down once a week to count our blessings, meditating and writing thank-you notes. Above all, we need to remember to thank God.

  1. Consider your thoughts.

Then Paul says to take stock of our thoughts (Philippians 4:8). We are told to contemplate—really think on—the things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue and praiseworthy.

Why? Consider an example of the opposite, described in Proverbs 23:7, where a stingy person offers you something to eat, but begrudges every bite you take. It says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” His selfishness doesn’t make him happy, and you won’t enjoy the food either. It’s such a negative experience it follows you home and you get sick.

Negative thoughts can have a similar effect on other areas of life. There are many studies showing the bad effects of negative thought patterns.

Instead of negative thoughts, we need to focus on the positive, which can have equally dramatic positive effects.

Choose your path

Those who are married have blessings in ways the unmarried don’t, but the unmarried have different blessings. It’s up to us to figure out how to use those blessings to serve God.

I grew up wanting to be a young mom, married to the most amazing man in the world. That didn’t happen as I anticipated, so I determined to live an interesting life, one I wouldn’t regret if I never had the blessing of marriage.

I’ve been blessed with a number of interesting jobs, a year volunteering in Jordan and a year attending Foundation Institute. I’ve traveled throughout the world and gallivanted on sundry adventures.

Besides this, I’ve also had not-so-great jobs, been jobless when my car needed significant repairs, had health challenges, been lonely and been the odd person out at more than one social occasion. So it always strikes me as ironic that married friends will occasionally, with a twinge of regret, say of my adventures, “I wish I could do that.” It was because my dream didn’t happen that I had these opportunities.

Of course, our ultimate example, Jesus Christ, never experienced marriage and having children. God knows what He wants from and has in mind for every one of His children. Jesus understood that His disciples—those who shared a common faith and purpose in life—were His family (Matthew 12:46-50).

In like manner, singles in the Church of God today are part of the very large, loving family that makes up the Church and, as a result, can feel the support, encouragement, love and affection of a family.

What we need

The point is, we can’t always have everything we want. We can’t have the freedom to do what we want when we want and a family and the perfect career and the ideal social life and everything else we dream of.

We must trust that our Father will provide the combination of these things that He knows is right for us at the time. If that combination does not include marriage at this time, we must always remember He will provide exactly what we need to develop into the kind of individuals He wants us to be (Romans 8:28).

That’s not to say we shouldn’t dream about marriage, pray about it and long for it, but it cannot be our sole focus. Our focus must be on living a godly life. We need to work on creating joy, reaching out to others, seeking God’s will, being thankful, and overhauling our thought patterns. God will take care of the rest.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

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