This is an edited version of a talk presented at the Copperbelt Women’s Rally in Ndola in 2005

People have often asked me, “Are you called to singleness?” I don’t believe there is such a thing as being called to singleness. There is only grace for living out life as a single person. A good friend of mine put it this way, “Single is what you are… the calling is unto marriage.” We are all born single and remain so for twenty or more years.

Singleness is a state of being whole but unattached, unmarried and free from marital ties. I’m almost 45 years of age and have been single all my life. I’ve been a Christian since I was 12 years of age and this has been of great advantage to me. Its funny how when I tell Christians that I am single they go on to ask me if I have children… and I think, “Wait a minute… the place for children is in a marriage. Don’t you think you have things upside down in your mind or have children outside marriage become the norm rather than the exception?” My life as a single person has had it joys, challenges, and opportunities. In it all, I am grateful to God for his sustenance, presence, and friendship.

Challenges

  1. Disappointments: I have had to deal with disappointment from failed relationships, betrayed trust, and deferred hopes. I have known the joy of being in love and the pain of being heartbroken as well as the agony of having to break someone’s heart for good reasons. I thank God for the positive growth in my personality and my faith as a result of these experiences and, looking back, I’m convinced that those relationships served their purpose in developing my character, revealing me, revealing men, revealing God, and in enabling me to identify with people who are heartbroken.

I am grateful for those who have encouraged me and helped me though my times of pain, brokenness, and confusion. By God’s grace, I have no regrets, no bitterness, and no lack of forgiveness in my heart towards those people whose relationships with me failed. This is because they are, first of all, my brothers in Christ before they are anything else. That relationship still stands because of Christ as far as I am concerned in spite of everything else.

As a teenager I heard married people speak of their spouse as “my other half” and I grew up believing that a single person was only half a person and needed to be married in order to be whole. I have since discovered how wrong this was, but not before this lie had done its damage to my person and self esteem. 

  1. Lack of self-esteem: In a society that values marriage above singleness I have had my battles with self-esteem. At some point in my life I was made to feel that there was something wrong with me; that was why I was single—that I was not open enough, that I was too strict, too choosy, too plain, etc. But over the years I have come to know that people have a right to their own opinions and I must not let their opinions rule me or oppress me. I am no longer irritated by those who think they know why I am single, or by those who think that marital status makes one person more important than others. That is just their opinion. I count all the joys and privileges the single life offers me and I am grateful for who I am and what I am.

I have not had any pressure from my immediate family to marry and I am grateful for their quiet understanding. God will not withhold from me what is good for me and will bring glory to his name; so I rest in him.

Lack of acceptance by fellow believers who are married, suspicion and insensitive questions or comments, and disrespect from younger women who are married are an everyday experience. They ought to know better but I have learnt to forgive them. They are only human. 

  1. Loneliness: I have experienced abandonment from friends once they get married. Well, I don’t blame them because that is what they are told in their premarital lessons—to keep away from singles because they will be influenced wrongly. But I ask, “If I did not exert wrong influence on you as a single person, how can I do that now that you are married?” Anyway, I thank God for those who have continued to be friends for every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above.

Loneliness can be quite a pain if given a chance. It is always around the corner waiting to capture me. But loneliness is in fact not unique to single people. The cure for loneliness is a vibrant relationship with God. As to “aloneness”, I have to remind myself that I am never alone. I need to live by faith and not by sight. God is always with me and there are a host of angels assigned to watch over me!

Being idle in mind and body can make being alone very difficult. I keep busy by exploring all the various talents and gifts God has given me—singing, sewing, writing, all sorts of artistic things, and each season has a slightly different emphasis. I have learned to enjoy my own company and am not desperate to have people around me all the time.

Longing for companionship is there, on and off, but it’s not an obsession, a must have. It is strongest when I begin to get dissatisfied with what I have and envy what others have and so the cure is right there in the midst of the problem—count your blessings, name them one by one, occupy yourself with meaningful things, seek meaningful friendships with other singles, regardless of the age difference. 

  1. Stigma and suspicion: This is something I often have to deal with from those who are married. They think they know what I am up to but they are wrong all the time. Because marriage is a temporary earthly joy—“until death do us part”—married people must not burn the bridges of friendship with singles, sow seeds of suspicion, stigma and discord. Whatever is sown, is reaped in due season.

Opportunities

Being single offers many opportunities to be creative while having few distractions. There are many opportunities to serve God and be involved in Christian service. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:32 tells us that being single affords you an opportunity to be wholly devoted to God and his cause. “An unmarried person is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord.”

There is more time for prayer, worship, Bible study and meditation, evangelism, and discipleship. I have been actively involved in my church, along with a fulltime occupation in the Nurses’ Christian Fellowship. I have been able to support and share my life with my younger brothers and sisters and other family members in the body of Christ. It’s been a joy to see them grow and become independent—a satisfaction of the mother instinct, I guess. 

Pitfalls

As with all people, Satan sets traps for singles. So, every single person needs to be aware of themselves and aware of their weaknesses in order to remain standing in the Lord. The feeling that singles are less significant than married people is a pitfall that leads many to desperation. As I approached 30 years, I learned to appreciate the fact that Jesus lived a single life. My significance and my importance are as a result of Christ and not whether I am single or married.

Temptations abound just as with any other normal adult. Longing for intimacy, desire to have children, non-believing men proposing, and sometimes even married men proposing—both Christian and non-Christian! The key to overcoming these temptations has been for me the fear of God, being principled, keeping busy with kingdom business, and accepting life as a single person.

Relationships with the opposite sex must be guarded because emotional entanglement takes place the more you spend time with one particularly person. As a single person I have learned to guard my friendships with married men. Respect for God and God’s ordinance of marriage is key to guarding the heart from emotional entanglement with those who are married. I have learnt to watch out for signs of this and distance myself. If a married person of the opposite sex begins to shower you with praises or to make negative comments about his/her spouse, then flee from that person as from a cobra or a lion!

Envy is wishing what another has was mine and thinking you could do a better job at it. When I was between the ages of 22 and 25, a wonderful Christian woman rebuked me when I used the statement, “If it was me, I would….” I didn’t understand it then. In fact, I was offended. But later, I came to see how the enemy can take advantage of that to bring envy and pride which are both poison for the soul of a single person.

Strength along the way

Apart from God’s grace it is very hard to maintain one’s integrity as a single person, but is it not the same for those who are married? Scripture tells us in Ephesians 6:10 to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. True, my strength has come from the consciousness of the presence of God in and around me. One of my very first memory verses as a child was ‘Fear not for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God, I will help you, I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand’ (Isaiah 41:10). To this day I hold on to that promise.

I made up my mind long ago to count my blessings and enjoy being single and to maximise my life and time in the service of God and in the service of others to the glory of God. My goal is to live a fruitful life so that if I don’t ever get married what I am and do will continue to speak long after I’m gone. I’m counting my blessings not mourning over what I think I should have. God knows what is best for me. God loves me and I know I am precious and honoured in his sight. I have daily to make up my mind to fix my eyes on Jesus, fix my mind on things above (Hebrews 12:2, Colossians 3:1.) I am open to what God has for me. Most assuredly He has in store for me special grace for every moment of my life.

In conclusion I would like to say to singles

Learn to count your blessings as a single person. Discover the joy of being unattached—your time and your freedom are assets in serving God. Do not allow yourself to be pushed into desperation for marriage or childbearing by society’s myths. Holding on to relationships that have failed or to people who have broken your heart is unhealthy and hinders full commitment to God and realisation of your potential. Forgiveness is key in letting go of the anger and bitterness that can arise out of failed or lost intimate relationships, misunderstandings, and negative comments by insensitive friends and relatives. Do not allow yourself to be trapped in the past by refusing to forgive. Do not let the lack of forgiveness quench your joy in life.

Like the stumbling of a child learning to walk, my life as a single woman has had its wrong attitudes and wrong decisions. But God has used them as stepping-stones for growth. God’s love has held me up and I owe to him every victory, every right decision, and the courage I have had to pay the price of obedience. Every one of us has a different path marked out for us (the paths of the righteous are ordered by the Lord). God’s presence, peace, and power abides with us. To God be the glory. Amen!