Singleness in Hard Economic Times
“I WANTED to marry when I was 25 years old,” said Chuks, who lives in West Africa. “I had a girl in mind, and she was interested in me. The problem was money. My father and my older brother were out of work, and my younger brothers and sisters were in school. Everyone looked to me to support the family. Then, to make matters worse, my parents became sick, and that meant finding extra money to pay for medical expenses.”
Chuks, a Witness of Jehovah, did not want to enter marriage unable to support a wife. He was mindful of Paul’s words found at 1 Timothy 5:8: “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.”
“I worked hard,” Chuks continued, “but the money was never enough. As a result, our marriage plans had to be delayed time and time again. Finally I received a letter from the girl saying that someone else had approached her father to ask for her in marriage. The father agreed. A few days after her letter came, the family had the engagement party.”
Like Chuks, many Christian men have seen their marriage plans shipwrecked or delayed because of bad economic conditions. In many lands there is hyperinflation. For example, in one central African country, prices soared 8,319 percent in one year! In some countries jobs are difficult to find. Frequently, too, the wages are so meager it is difficult for a man to support himself, much less a wife and children. One young man in Nigeria lamented that the full-time job he was offered in a factory paid only $17 a month—less than the monthly bus fare to and from the place of work!
Many single Christian women are also finding that economic difficulties are frustrating their marriage plans. Often they must work to support family members. Some single men, seeing the situation, shy away from it, realizing that the man marrying under such circumstances would need to earn enough to support not only a wife but also her family. Ayo, a university graduate, struggles to support herself, her mother, and her younger brothers and sisters. “I want to get married,” she laments, “but when others come and see my long trailer [financial responsibilities], they run away.”
Despite financial difficulties, many unmarried Christians find themselves pressured by relatives and others to marry and have children. Sometimes this pressure takes the form of ridicule. In parts of Africa, for example, it is customary when greeting an adult to ask about the welfare of his or her spouse and children. At times, such greetings are used to mock unmarried persons. John, who is in his late 40’s, says: “When people tease me and say, ‘How is your wife?,’ I reply, ‘She is coming.’ The truth is, how can I get a wife if I cannot support her?”
For John and countless others like him, the situation is summed up by a Yoruba proverb: “Getting married quickly is not a matter to boast about; the cost of food is the difficulty.”
Make the Best of Your Situation
How easy it is to become distressed when we yearn for something that does not come about. Proverbs 13:12 says: “Expectation postponed is making the heart sick.” Perhaps this is how you feel if you yearn to marry but are not financially able to do so. This may be especially true if you are among those whom the apostle Paul described as “inflamed with passion.”—1 Corinthians 7:9.
Coping may not be easy, but there are things that you can do to endure and even to find joy in your situation. Jesus Christ, an unmarried man, set out a practical Bible principle that can help you to overcome the disappointment that results from expectation postponed. He said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
You can apply this by doing good things for your family and for others in the congregation. Perhaps you can also increase your activity in the Christian ministry. If you occupy yourself fully in unselfish giving, you may find that you become ‘settled in your heart, having authority over your own will.’—1 Corinthians 7:37.
Another unmarried man, the apostle Paul, wrote this helpful advice: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Many unmarried Christians have found ‘refreshment for their soul’ by using their time to draw closer to Jehovah through prayer, study of God’s Word, and participation in Christian meetings. (Matthew 11:28-30) If you do this, you will be able to cope more successfully with a difficult economic situation. It will also help you to manifest even greater spirituality, making you a better husband or wife if you do eventually marry.
Never forget that Jehovah cares for all those who serve him. He is aware of problems and difficulties you are suffering. Our loving heavenly Father also knows what is best for you in the long run, both spiritually and emotionally. If you patiently apply the principles of his Word in your daily life, you can be sure that he will bring relief in his due time and satisfy your needs and desires in a way that is for your everlasting good. The Bible assures: “Jehovah himself will not hold back anything good from those walking in faultlessness.”—Psalm 84:11.
Look at the Positive Side of Things
Keep in mind, too, that there are definite advantages in being single. The apostle Paul wrote: “He . . . that gives his virginity in marriage does well, but he that does not give it in marriage will do better.”—1 Corinthians 7:38.
Why is singleness “better” than marriage? Paul explained: “The unmarried man is anxious for the things of the Lord, how he may gain the Lord’s approval. But the married man is anxious for the things of the world, how he may gain the approval of his wife, and he is divided. Further, the unmarried woman, and the virgin, is anxious for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in her body and in her spirit. However, the married woman is anxious for the things of the world, how she may gain the approval of her husband.”—1 Corinthians 7:32-34.
In other words, married Christians are rightly concerned about the needs, likes, and dislikes of their mates. But single Christians can focus on Jehovah’s service with greater concentration. Compared with those who are married, single Christians are in a better position to be in “constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction.”—1 Corinthians 7:35.
Paul is not saying that the single Christian has no distractions. If you are burdened with economic problems, you may feel that there are many things that threaten to distract you from your ministry. Nevertheless, personal freedom to serve God is usually greater for the unmarried man or woman than it is for those who are married.
While recommending singleness as the better course, the apostle Paul did not say it was wrong to marry. He wrote: “Even if you did marry, you would commit no sin.” Yet, he cautioned: “Those who do [marry] will have tribulation in their flesh.”—1 Corinthians 7:28.
What did he mean by that? Marriage brings certain anxieties. In hard economic times, such tribulation may include a father’s concern about providing for his wife and children. Sickness too can bring added financial and emotional burdens to the family.
So while your situation may not be what you prefer, you may be in a better position than you would be if you were married and responsible to provide for children. The difficulties you face now are temporary; they will be done away with in God’s new system—and some perhaps even sooner.—Compare Psalm 145:16.
Can You Enlarge Your Ministry?
While not everyone can do so, some have been able to enter full-time service despite financial problems. Chuks, mentioned earlier, bought and sold stationery to support his family. About the same time that his marriage plans failed, he received a letter inviting him to do temporary construction work at the local branch office of the Watch Tower Society. Concerned about money, his older brother discouraged him from going. Chuks, though, reasoned that Jehovah had helped him establish his stationery business, so he should put Kingdom interests first and trust in God’s ability to provide. (Matthew 6:25-34) Besides, he thought, it was just for a three-month period.
Chuks accepted the invitation and turned over the business to his brother. Six years later, Chuks remains in full-time service, is an elder in the Christian congregation, and is financially ready to marry. Does he regret the way events have unfolded in his life? Chuks says: “I felt bad when I could not marry when I wanted to, but things really worked out for the best. I have experienced many joys and privileges of service that I would probably not have enjoyed if I had married then and had a family.”
Security for the Future
In difficult times many seek the security of marriage as a hedge against future financial difficulties. Some countries, burdened with debt, offer little or no help to the elderly. So parents frequently rely on their families, and especially on their children, to support them in old age. Consequently, single men and women are often pressured to marry and have children, even when their financial position is precarious.
But marriage and childbearing do not guarantee security. Some worldly children are unwilling to care for elderly parents, others are not able to, while still others die before their parents do. Christians look for security primarily elsewhere, being mindful of God’s promise: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.”—Hebrews 13:5.
Those who have delayed marriage to serve Jehovah full-time have not been forsaken. Christiana is single and 32 years old. She has served as a regular pioneer in Nigeria for the past nine years. She says: “I put my trust in Jehovah, who assures us that he will never abandon his servants. His promise is my confidence. Jehovah takes care of me both spiritually and materially. He has proved to be a generous Father. For instance, I moved to pioneer in an area where the need for Witnesses is great. Although there are few amenities, I have learned to manage. When I was hospitalized for typhus, brothers in my former congregation rallied to my assistance.
“I am greatly satisfied with the full-time service. I view it as a grand privilege to be working with the Creator of the universe and with so many brothers and sisters around the world. I see many young people who are frustrated and hopeless as a result of the things happening around them. As for me, my life is meaningful; I look to the future with confidence. I know that being close to Jehovah is the best solution to the problems we face today.”
If you yearn to marry but are unable to because of economic difficulties, take courage! You are not alone. There are many who are enduring similar trials with Jehovah’s help. Make the best of your situation by applying yourself to doing good things for others and by improving your spirituality. Draw close to God; he will help you because he really does care for you.—1 Peter 5:7.