I imagine that the first two reasons to remain unmarried, outlined in Part 1, will have left some readers unconvinced. Being “often” able to cope better in a crisis is all well and good. But can that really outweigh the burden and stress of having to face some crises alone? Because there are obviously situations where having a spouse could help. So when I’m ill and in need of someone to care for me, for example. Or when I come home feeling desperate to unburden myself at the end of a stressful day at work
In a similar vein, the joy of being spared the “many troubles” of marriage may seem insufficient to combat the heartache of dealing with the various troubles of the single life. We could perhaps debate which troubles are harder to cope with. But the simple fact is, each marital state does bring its own set of troubles.
Well, if the first two reasons didn’t convince you of the merits of remaining unmarried, hopefully the final three will be more persuasive.
- I’m free from the anxieties of how to please a spouse
“I would like you to be free from anxieties. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).
Christian marriage involves three parties. There’s the husband, the wife and the Lord. But let’s be quite clear – this is not a relationship of three equal partners. Oh husband and wife are certainly equal. Equal in value, albeit different in God-given role and function. But the Lord is not equal. Not equal because, well, he’s the Lord. He’s God. He reigns over both husband and wife and demands to be number one on the throne of each of their hearts.
Add to this the truth that the Lord is a jealous God – indeed his name is “Jealous” according to Exodus 34:14 – and we can perhaps begin to understand one of the “many troubles” of marriage. Christian marriage brings together two people who, although gloriously redeemed, still have a sinful nature. A nature that, when it rises up, causes each spouse to want to “be like God” (Genesis 3:5).
But in reality, of course, neither can be like God. Because the Lord named Jealous is God. So each marriage partner will (or ought to) face a continual tussle. Will I let my husband or wife be God? Will I worship him or her and put them first? Or will I learn instead to worship the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30) and consistently make love for my spouse subservient to this first and greater love? What a challenge!
This explains why, by very nature, the married person “is anxious about worldly things” and why their “interests are divided.” If you love someone, then of course, you’ll want to make them happy. But even the godliest of spouses will struggle to keep that desire to be like God chained and under control. Even in subtle and unintentional ways, a spouse can demand to be number one and expect their own personal happiness to take priority in the marriage.
Thank you Lord that, as an unmarried man, I am free from this concern of how to keep my (non-existent) wife happy. Isn’t this a fantastic reason to remain unmarried? Less anxiety! Praise God!
- I can live in undivided devotion to the Lord
The flipside of being free from the anxieties of pleasing a wife is that I have no excuse for not being completely devoted to the Lord. The single life can so very easily become the selfish life. I find myself having to constantly battle against the temptation to devote myself to the little world of me! But that is not what God intends for those of us who are unmarried.
Let’s put this more positively. I’m blessed with the freedom to be able to devote myself to the Lord. My interests are not divided between pleasing him and pleasing my spouse. This is a privilege that married people, however much they love the Lord, simply don’t have. They have to consider how to please both the Lord and their spouse.
Now, of course, many married couples consistently manage to do both things well. And throughout the history of the church many married Christians have accomplished incredible things in the service of God. But even so, the tension is always there.
By contrast, single people can focus all their attention on being “anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit” (1 Corinthians 7:34) or “devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit”, as the NIV puts it.
Now, of course, there are other interests that might compete for my attention as an unmarried person. Caring for a sick parent or for another relative, responsibilities at work or at church, the needs of my friends and my brothers and sisters in Christ. But let’s not underestimate the incredible freedom that not being married can give. Freedom to be completely devoted to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Freedom to to do gospel work.
Just think for a moment about the life of the Apostle Paul, the writer of 1 Corinthians 7. As an unmarried man he evidently knew what he was talking about. He used his unmarried freedom to preach and teach the gospel, to plant churches, to train younger ministers, to serve and encourage others, to write letters and so on.
In reading Paul’s writings, you don’t get the impression of a man who was sad, lonely and frustrated. Far from it! His writings ooze with evidence of love for and devotion to the Lord. In another letter, he writes of desiring “to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23) and of “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8).
If you’re currently unmarried, here’s a question to ponder and pray through. And it applies even to those reading this who are hoping, planning or longing to get married in the future: What am I doing right now with my unmarried freedom?
I ought to be using it to devote myself to the Lord’s affairs. To constantly look for ways to please the Lord. Can there really be anything more satisfying and rewarding than unbridled devotion to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords?
- I can look forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb
My intention in these two articles has been to set out some positive aspects of the single life. In doing so, I want to avoid giving an impression of the unmarried life as one of perfect, uninterrupted bliss. It isn’t. Staying single in a relationship-obsessed culture – whether through circumstance, or out of love for Jesus and for the sake of the kingdom of heaven – will prove tough at times.
But it’s also great preparation for the future. Because, according to Jesus, “at the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).
And whatever we might miss out on by not being married in this life, it will be made up for countless times over in the life to come. Because if we’re trusting in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of our personal sins, we’re destined for something far greater. Every one of us, single or married, is betrothed to Christ. And we can look forward to the day when we will finally be presented as his bride. John recounts in Revelation how a great multitude in heaven shouts about that day:
For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory!
For the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen bright and pure” –
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:6-9)