No state of life – single, married, widowed, young, old – has an advantage to being spiritual. Likewise, none has disadvantages greater than the other. The greatest barrier to spirituality is not our circumstances in life arranged by God but the pull of our flesh toward a self-centered and self-pleasing life. So the good news is that a spiritual life is open to every single single person. The bad news is that every single single person has a tremendous barrier to spirituality – the flesh.
Whether we are looking at the single years which prepare for marriage or the single state as a permanent position which has been ordained by God, these years afford unique opportunities for spiritual development and growth. The wonderful reality is that our God is so resourceful that He is able to use whatever circumstances He has brought into our lives to further spiritual dependence and growth. The critical, and life-altering, issue is how we react to those circumstances. Bitterness, self-pity, anger, living only for the prospect of marriage, and a host of other rebellious responses serve to move us away from the lessons God would teach and the development He is seeking to foster in our souls. Submission, being marked by being “willing and obedient,” will result in eating “the good of the land” (Isa 1:19). The choice confronts every person in single years.
Paul spoke of the single state as a time when an individual could more fully “care for the things of the Lord” (1Cor 7:34) and be able to devote time to the Lord “without distraction” (v 35). Some might sneer that these are small compensations for the loneliness and sense of rejection which may accompany being single, but an appreciation of the fellowship of the Lord can hardly be viewed as minor compensation.
Consider the single person in several different scenarios. Think first of the home. While a single person, if living alone, will have to attend to issues such as cooking, cleaning, washing, etc., all these can be done on a personal schedule without regard to meeting the time demands of a spouse or children. As a result, time can be set aside for personal study of the Scriptures, for special occasions of prayer when burdens are greater, and for entertaining other young believers to share in spiritual conversation and mutual encouragement. Contrast this with the married brother who, after work, comes home to help care for children, taxi them to and from school events, maintain the upkeep of a home; or the mother who has endless laundry, a mountain of dishes after the family dinner, children to bathe and put to bed, and a large home to clean, before she can sit down with her Bible or think of praying. By then exhaustion has robbed her of the mental freshness so needed for time with the Lord.
What about assembly meetings? Next time you are at a conference, ask one of your married friends who comes with three children, a stroller, five bags of books and snacks, small soundless toys for the infant, and maybe her Bible, how much she was able to hear and get from the conference. Our sisters who are married bravely and sacrificially come to conferences with their husbands and children, yet are able to get very little from the ministry, at times, as they attend to the needs of children.
In local assembly meetings, many sisters sometimes miss night meetings due to small children, school schedules, and the fear of small children disrupting a ministry meeting. You can attend unfettered by all that and gain the good of the meeting. You are able to serve “undistracted” as Paul said. Few mothers are able to get to special ministry throughout an entire week or two. You are able to reap the blessing and profit of that without any hindrance.
But spiritual growth primarily occurs in private, alone in the presence of God. Whether married or single, the society in which we live is geared to rob you of that time. With increasing technology has come the paradox of increasing isolation yet constant intrusion into our lives. You will have to learn how to limit those intrusions and make time for private reading and praying; for not only reading but also for thinking about the Scriptures you have read. We used to call this meditation, a word that has fallen on bad times.
There will of course be the pull of the flesh, that tendency to look on the green grass on other fields and feel neglected, forgotten, and denied. Nothing will so hinder spiritual growth and usefulness as self-pity. Contentment with our circumstances is crucial. The contented man of Psalm 16 could say, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places. Yea, I have a goodly heritage” (v 6). Prior to this, however, he owned, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; Thou maintainest my lot” (v 5). Notice two distinct things here: the portion and the cup. The former, the portion, is what God has provided. The latter, the cup, is what I enjoy of it. Each believer has the same “portion” to enjoy. Unfortunately, our cups are not always the same size or drunk from as often.
A quick perusal of the Scriptures will reveal the value of the lives of many single believers. While we do not know the status of all with absolute certainty, some who were single and knew God in unique ways and served Him faithfully would include: Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Paul, Dorcas (most likely, from the context, a widow), Anna (a widow), likely some of the women who ministered to the Lord of their substance, possibly the apostle John, and others.
While many view the single life as a unique opportunity for “doing” things, spirituality is primarily about “being” and not “doing.” The time you have is precious time for learning God, looking upon Him, and developing in your capacity as a worshiper of the Living and True God. It is a time for becoming the spiritual person which God intends every believer, single or married, to become.