Christians who are single often feel acutely the hardness of their singleness. Deep sadness, boiling anger, overwhelming disappointment, bitter grief. What am I to with these emotions? I am convicted that God’s word is true and good, yet my experience doesn’t seem to line up with the Bible’s description of singleness being ‘good’. It feels anything but good.

How on earth is singleness ‘good’?

Before Jesus, singleness was not good. It is only with the new covenant that singleness becomes good. As the Old Testament unfolds we see that the blessings of the covenant are associated with procreation and therefore with marriage.[1]Danylak, Barry.  Redeeming Singleness How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life. (Illinois: Crossway Books, 2010) p52 Life without marriage and children is a tragic picture.

Thankfully, the New Testament offers fresh hope for singleness and a dramatic shift. Singleness is now good as it demonstrates that the family of God grows not by procreation but by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.[2]Colon & Field. Singled Out, 161. We see the great blessings of being in Christ (Eph 1), which far outweigh the blessings of physical offspring.[3]Danylak, Redeeming Singleness, 137 Single Christians point the church to the reality of heaven and encourage us to fix our eyes firmly on it. As blessing is now experienced through union with Christ (Eph 1), serving this spiritual family is the highest priority for the Christian. Singleness provides the individual with the opportunity to be ‘anxious about the things of the Lord… holy in body and spirit’ (1 Cor 7:34).

Yet it still hurts

That’s all well and good, but I still find singleness hard.

What then is the place of my emotions in this situation? Are they to be dismissed or suppressed? Am I to put on a happy face and pretend that I love being single? Not so! The Bible is clear that there is a time and place for a range of different emotions (Ecc 3:1-4). Emotions are integral to being human.[4]Richard Gibson, ‘Whose Tears? the Emotional Life of Jesus’ in True Feelings: Perspectives on Emotions in Christian Life and Ministry. (Jensen, Michael P., ed.  Nottingham: Apollos, 2012),138 In and of themselves, they are not necessarily a sign of sin or failure, [5]Gibson, ‘Whose Tears?’, 138 and yet they are not amoral. We are responsible for how we feel and we are to exercise self-control and to cultivate certain emotions while getting rid of others (Col 3:12, Gal 5:22 and Col1:5, Eph 4:13 respectively).[6]B. Borgman, Feelings and Faith: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life. (Illinois: Crossway Books, 2009),25 Throughout the scriptures the heart, mind and will are intimately connected. Our emotions are influenced by our thinking and vice versa.

Renewed feeling

Thankfully our bodies are being regenerated by the work of the Holy spirit, and so too are our emotions. As our mind is renewed (Rom 12:1) there comes also a new way of feeling and new reasons for feeling.

So many feels

However, there is a rightness that Christians feel grief at being single, as it is a type of loss when we do not experience one of God’s very good gifts. As with any kind of grief there are many significant emotions, deep sadness, despair and even anger, both at God and at fellow man. In these often overwhelming emotions we must be careful not to think that emotions are more powerful than God.[7]Rhys S. Bezzant, ‘From Sad and Mad to Glad: the Pilgrim’s Passions’, in True Feelings: Perspectives on Emotions in Christian Life and Ministry. (Jensen, Michael P., ed.  Nottingham: Apollos, 2012),187. God is powerful and can change and redirect our emotions.

Fill your mind with the Truth

Christians, whether single or married are people of the truth. As we seek to reorientate our emotions we must begin with the truth, the truth about God.  While it may be helpful to be reminded from scripture of the truth that singleness is good, it is infinitely more helpful to fill our minds with the truths which are foundational to the Christian faith- the character of God; his kindness and goodness, the fact that we are justified by faith alone and that we have hope of future glory.[8]Borgman, Feelings and Faith, 70-78

Pray like the Psalmist

As we pray, following the model of biblical writers can be really helpful, as we seek to reorient our emotions. The Writers of the Psalms cry out to God, expressing their emotions, then recall the truth about God; that He is good, that he hears prayer and that He is faithful. (some examples to model your prayers on Ps6, 16, 42-43, 77). As we pray, we too should do it in a way which acknowledges and verbalises the grief, anger or despair at singleness that we feel, then recall the truths that we know about God.  In the Psalms we see there are emotional results: gladness, rejoicing, and felt security.[9]Borgman, Feelings and Faith, 86 There is hope that God can and does change our emotions.

Ask yourself hard Questions

If our emotions reflect what we believe and think and we are struggling to feel the goodness of our singleness, there may be merit in asking ourselves some questions about whether we believe what the Bible says about God and singleness. These questions are quite uncomfortable and confronting to ask but they can help us to think through whether we trust God and his goodness.

Wait expectantly

As we live in the now and not yet, our emotions are partly subject to our ordering and cultivation of them through discipline and habit.[10]Jensen, “On being moved,’ 181.  Perhaps our emotions will never line up fully with what we know to be true about the goodness of singleness but we wait together with expectant hope, knowing that when Jesus returns he will transform us completely to be like him, to love what he loves and to hate what he hates.

References   [ + ]

1. Danylak, Barry.  Redeeming Singleness How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life. (Illinois: Crossway Books, 2010) p52
2. Colon & Field. Singled Out, 161
3. Danylak, Redeeming Singleness, 137
4. Richard Gibson, ‘Whose Tears? the Emotional Life of Jesus’ in True Feelings: Perspectives on Emotions in Christian Life and Ministry. (Jensen, Michael P., ed.  Nottingham: Apollos, 2012),138
5. Gibson, ‘Whose Tears?’, 138
6. B. Borgman, Feelings and Faith: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life. (Illinois: Crossway Books, 2009),25
7. Rhys S. Bezzant, ‘From Sad and Mad to Glad: the Pilgrim’s Passions’, in True Feelings: Perspectives on Emotions in Christian Life and Ministry. (Jensen, Michael P., ed.  Nottingham: Apollos, 2012),187
8. Borgman, Feelings and Faith, 70-78
9. Borgman, Feelings and Faith, 86
10. Jensen, “On being moved,’ 181