Let me paint you a picture. Each year I spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with my extended family in beautiful east Tennessee. It’s a time I look forward to each year, one that I don’t take for granted, because I recognize the uniqueness of our close-knit family. I’m the second oldest of nine cousins. Six are married, including my two younger sisters, and most of them have at least two kids. Needless to say, it’s a full house with lots of love and family time.
With me still being single, this time can also be difficult for me. It can serve as a constant reminder of what the Lord—for whatever reason—hasn’t allowed in my life: a family of my own. As I reflect on these things, recurring themes of surrender and sovereignty flood my mind.
I grew up in church and have been told since high school that the most important thing I could do was surrender my singleness to the Lord. Once I did, I was given the impression that God would instantly bring me a husband because that was the magic formula. For years, I beat myself up because since the Lord hadn’t allowed marriage, it must mean I hadn’t surrendered something to him. In my mind, according to all those well-meaning advisors, I had messed something up.
Despite those feelings, the Lord cultivated in me a deep sense of surrender and trust early in my life, specifically regarding dating and marriage. I knew he didn’t owe me anything. Determined to live my life for him and to be open-handed with whatever that meant, I sought to live out his purposes one day at a time. Remaining single was harder at times than others, but the Lord sustained and enabled me to surrender my singleness to him, granting extra grace when circumstances made it more challenging.
Even still, I took that marriage advice to mean I should never struggle with singleness. But that sentiment felt impossible, especially being in Christian contexts that questioned singleness, viewed it with suspicion, or even suggested that I wasn’t fulfilling my biblical role as a woman. Time and again I wondered, don’t we believe in a sovereign God?
Thankfully, in his kindness, the Lord has helped me realize that the understanding of singleness I grew up with wasn’t always biblical. He taught me a lot over the years, and hopefully what I learned will encourage you if you are struggling this holiday season.
Lessons Learned from Singleness
Singleness isn’t a curse or disease. Yes, it can be a lifelong calling, but it’s also a season. And it’s a season that accords with God’s sovereignly designed plan for your life, written in a book before you were even born (Psalm 139:16). If you believe God is sovereign, that means he is sovereignly in control of every aspect of your life, determining when and where you would live and come to know him (Acts 17:26–27).
If you’re single now, it’s a calling in this present season. Thankfully, the Lord has cultivated that mindset in me. God, in his sovereignty and providence, could change that season tomorrow. He could change it in two years or twenty. At the same time, he may leave you or me in that season for the rest of our lives, but that’s a reality he won’t ask us to accept today. What he will ask each of us to do is accept it on this day and every other day that he keeps us in this season. So, look for what God is doing in your life now. Surrender yourself to whatever that is, and you just might find he’ll do immeasurably more than all you could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
At some point in your adult life, the chances are that you’ll be single. Maybe you’ll wait longer than others to get married and experience singleness in your younger age. Or, if your spouse dies before you, you will experience a time of singleness at an older age. Either way, singleness is a season most will encounter at some point during their adult lives. This is a sober recognition that can comfort those who are single now, while also helping those who are married not view singleness with suspicion but as part of God’s good, sovereign plan.
Honoring God in Your Single Season
If you find yourself presently single, how can you honor the Lord, especially around the holidays when being alone may be more difficult?
No matter your relationship status or season of life, remember that discontentment should not characterize believers. God directs his children to give thanks always and for everything (Ephesians 5:20), to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4), to trust that God will supply our every need (Philippians 4:19), and to let Christ’s peace dwell in our hearts while being thankful (Colossians 3:15). Paul also writes that he learned to be content with whatever situation the Lord had him in (Philippians 4:11). He went through times of need and times of prosperity, humbling seasons, and flourishing seasons. These experiences taught him how to trust the Lord and live for him with a thankful, rejoicing spirit despite his life circumstances. It is the same for us today. Contentment doesn’t come naturally (1 Timothy 6:3–10) and must be learned, whatever our situation.
While cultivating contentment has numerous applications in life, it certainly pertains to those who are single, and even more so during the holidays. Circumstances that require contentment are inherently unwanted. We tell the Lord our desires, and when they aren’t fulfilled according to our plans, discontentment can grow and fester into bitterness. But as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7, believers should live the life the Lord has assigned and called them to live. We will all endure various seasons during which it is harder to rejoice and live for the Lord, when our circumstances are not what we would have chosen.
Fighting for and learning contentment entails knowing, trusting, and resting in God—his sovereign control over the seasons of life, his perfect wisdom in knowing what is best, and his gracious provision for us as our good Father and caring Shepherd. Clinging to these truths will enable a contentment that is learned, one strong enough to withstand undesirable seasons and circumstances.
One final encouragement and a word of warning for singles: If discontentment characterizes your current season of life, chances are you will lack contentment in the next. Rather than defining your life by what you lack, seek to define your usefulness for the kingdom by the way you utilize your present stage of life—the one God has for you now—at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and all year round.
Be Well: Learning to Steward Your Health
Lainey Greer helps us see that the body matters to God and Christians are called to be faithful stewards of our physical health. Our faith should inform both our spiritual and physical practices, as we are immaterial (spirit) and material (physical) beings. Taking care of our bodies by adopting healthy habits is one way we reflect their value.