Absurd Person Singular? What does the Bible say about being single?
Social purgatory— that’s what we call singleness. “Old maid.” “Spinster.” “Set in his ways.” “Nobody would have him.” These are the epithets we hurl at unmarrieds.
Then there’s the jokes. “Man is like a worm. He wonders around aimlessly until some young chick picks him up.”
All this from society. But what does the Bible say?
“Singleness is Good”
Scripture affirms singleness as good. Genesis 1:31 explains how God created Adam as a single and set his hands to farm labor. Then looking at the bachelor, God judged things “very good.”
Now, being single did not mean Adam was without vital relationships. For Adam there were primary relationships with God and his very own self. Adam had the chance to enjoy God, to walk with Him, talk, and learn to obey. Then, too, Adam had the opportunity to experience his own selfhood, to appreciate his own uniqueness.
There are also relationships we call secondary. These include spouse and children and parents. And as a bachelor, Adam didn’t enjoy such. But there are tertiary relationships which include friendships, and even pets. And the Bible explains that Adam related to the animals. So, you see, Adam, as a single, was rich in vital relationships. There was no reason for him to be lonely.
1 Corinthians 7:32 tells us there are advantages to being single. “The married man,” Paul writes, “Is anxious to please his wife. He has a divided attention, worldly troubles. But the single man is anxious to please the Lord, is more focused.” Very simply, as a single one can take his relationship with Christ to greater heights— witness Jesus, Paul, Mother Teresa and the like.
Then, too, singles can so focus on their tertiary friendships that they, too, become sublime. Ruth and Naomi did this in the old testament.
Often singles get into the “all-or-nothing” syndrome. “If I can’t be married I just won’t have any relationships. I’ll let myself go, have a pity party, and become a lonely, bitter old cynic.” We so make an idol out of secondary relationships that we completely overlook primary and tertiary opportunities.
Elizabeth Eliot wrote, “Don’t let your longing for marriage destroy the zest for living the relationships you have today.” Indeed! Some of life’s most wholesome persons have been single— George F. Handel, Jeremiah, George W. Carver, Johannes Brahms, Mother Teresa, Emily Dickinson and more!
So, singleness is good.
Now, notice in the text, a second important principle.
God Judges When Our Singleness Should End
The first negative statement in the Bible is in Genesis 2:18. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’”
We are not told how long Adam lived as a single. However, there are several hints in the narrative.
Verse 20 explains how Adam gave names to the mammals and birds. The science of zoology reckons there to be about 13,000 different species to name, a considerable and time consuming undertaking.
Some young wag wrote on a bathroom wall at Duke University, “Where will you spend eternity?” Underneath, another scrawled, “The way it looks now, in Zoology 101!”
However long Adam lived a single man, when he met his wife on their wedding day, he looked at her and spoke poetry, “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh…” (2:23). Hear that? “At last!” Some translations say, “Finally!” So, there seems to have been some exasperation in Adam as he waited for romance.
The average American will spend 1/3 or more of his life single or single again. Tragically, much of it will be spent lonely, under self-judgement, and criticized by society…
“Something must be wrong with me. Nobody wants me.”
“When are you going to settle down, get married, and give me grandbabies?”
So, we go out and try to fix it. Singles’ bars, church hopping, match-making services, affairs…
We end up frustrated, abused, depressed, pregnant, diseased, and angry at God!
How desperately we need to find contentment as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:17, “Only let everyone lead the life which the Lord has assigned him.”
Marriage is God’s general plan for the human race. Singleness is God’s specific plan or His plan that breaks from the norm. Scripture calls singleness a gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of celibacy. It is mentioned in Matthew 19:10 and 1 Corinthians 7:7. One may see this calling applied to an individual’s life in Jeremiah 16:1-2.
When my kids were young, I’d call them to me and hand out chores. “Claire, you vacuum the rugs. Bryan, empty the trash. And David, you scrub the tubs.” Then would begin a litany of groans, a chorus of complaints! “Why do I always have to vacuum!” “My job takes longer!” “It’s not fair!”
We, too, gripe to God about His call on our lives— how we look, our job, our church, our marital status. We act as if God is not there, as if He doesn’t care, as if He is not fair.
Ever notice the flies on the outside of a window are trying to get in? But what are the flies on the inside trying to do? Get out! In the same way we humans express our general discontentedness. If we’re single we’re trying to get married. If we’re married, we’re trying to get divorced so we can be single again!
And such discontentment is really unbelief, lack of faith, and rebellion against God.
There’s an old saying, “You be the judge!” And it should be our prayer to God. “Lord, you be the judge of my relationships! You decide when, and if, my singleness should end.”
So far we’ve seen that single is good and God judges when it should end. Now, for a third abiding principle from the text!
God Takes Responsibility for Creating Our Married Mate
In Genesis 2:18 God tells Adam, “I will make a helper fit for you.”
Notice God’s grace here. “I’ll do the work,” God promises. “Your mate will be a helper” as opposed to a hindrance. And your spouse will be “fit for you,” a good match. Isn’t that what we all want?
There is a sign on the wall of a local mechanic’s shop. It reads, “If I work on your car it’s $25 an hour. If you watch me work on your car it’s $50 an hour. If you help me work on your car it’s $200 an hour.”
It’s like that with God. We decide He needs our help. We know better than He does when our singleness should end. So we dress sexy, throw ourselves at any eligible person, become a seductress, and try so hard to do God’s work for Him. We succeed in only making things worse.
Fact is, God doesn’t need our help in doing a work that only He can do. And this brings us to a fourth principle from the text…
All We Have to Do Is Sleep
Genesis 2:21 explains, “God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept God made the woman.”
See the capable labor of the Lord here? While Adam rested, God worked.. At his own speed. Behind the scenes. Unhindered by man. Doing a work only God can do.
It’s interesting that the medical art of anesthesiology was discovered from this passage. In the mid 1800’s a surgery patient was given a big swig of liquor and a bullet to bite, then the physician cut off his leg. In the late 1800’s Dr. Crawford Long, practicing medicine in North Georgia read Genesis 2:21 and wondered if certain gases like ether, known to cause sleep in humans, might make surgery more humane. He tried it and the rest is surgical history.
Likewise, this passage can take the pain out of singleness. For when we ask God to put us to sleep, cease our anxious longings, sleep the sleep of trust, God does His best work!
This is part of what it means in the song of Solomon 2:7 when the lovers intone, “I beseech you, awaken not love until it please.”
So, single is good. God is the judge when one should give it up. And He takes responsibility for making our mate. All we have to do is sleep in Him. Now, a fifth principle…
God Awakens Us When All Is Ready
In verse 22 God awakened Adam when all was in readiness. And the Lord brought the woman to the man.
Adam didn’t have to set an alarm. Adam didn’t have to sleep with one eye open.
When I was young and single in college, I decided I wanted to be married. And I tried to make love happen with a variety of lovely females. While I experienced many a good time, I usually ended up in a breakup with heartache.
Well I recall my senior year, complaining to God, “I quit! If you want me married you’re going to have to do it yourself!”
Little did I know I was praying a faithful prayer, that God was putting me to sleep, that He never wanted my help anyway.
It was within the year that I met Kathryn, the woman who was to become my wife.
A single woman up in years, growing increasingly desperate over her lack of marital prospects, went to her church minister for help. He was polite, but hid behind pious platitudes saying, “God has a plan, one man for one woman. You can’t improve on that!”
She blurted out, “Pastor, I don’t want to improve on it. I just want to get in on it!”
Start by realizing that singleness is good, that it can be the gift and life-long call of God upon one’s life, and that there are plenty of vital relationships to practice.
Find your farm and tend it. Know God. Learn to enjoy Him.
Discover yourself. Celebrate your own uniqueness. Mature in your body, spirit, emotion, will and intellect. For, in the end, marriage is not so much finding the right person as it is being the right person.
Practice the relationships you do have. Friendships, church, pets, parents…
And sleep. Abide in the deep slumber of faith knowing God is able.
And know this. If in this brief life no suitor calls offering marriage, surely Jesus will call. Christ, eternity’s most eligible bachelor, thinks you are beautiful.
The Bible is His love letters to you.
The Sacrament of Communion is a romantic meal.
Each Lord’s day in worship is a date.
You are to be this Groom’s bride. And He will come soon to take you to Himself for all eternity. This is life’s primary relationship in which all others eventually pale by comparison!
Lord Jesus, grant me now the sweet sleep of contentment. In Jesus’s name. Amen.