How to Find Joy in the Gift of Singleness
“AND they got married and lived happily ever after.” Words like these bring to a close many a children’s story. Romantic movies and novels often transmit a similar message—that marriage means happiness at last! Moreover, most cultures exert strong pressure on young adults to get married. “People make you feel that the only goal for a girl is to get married,” said Debby when she was in her mid-20’s. “They convey the idea that life begins after marriage.”
A spiritual person does not see things in such black-and-white terms. Though marriage was the norm among the Israelites, the Bible speaks of single men and women who had very rewarding lives. Today, some Christians choose a life of singleness, whereas many others remain single because of circumstances. Whatever the reason for their being single, the important question remains the same: How can a Christian make a success of singleness?
Jesus himself did not marry, which is quite understandable in view of the assignment he had been given. He told his disciples that some of his followers would also “make room for” singleness. (Matt. 19:10-12) Jesus thus indicated that to make a success of singleness, we have to accept, or make room for, this way of life in our mind and heart.
Does Jesus’ counsel apply only to someone who has deliberately chosen a lifetime of singleness in order to concentrate fully on theocratic assignments? (1 Cor. 7:34, 35) Not necessarily. Consider the situation of a Christian who might like to marry but who presently can find no suitable marriage mate. “Recently, a workmate who is not a Witness unexpectedly proposed to me,” stated Ana, a single sister in her 30’s. “In a way I felt flattered, but I quickly suppressed that feeling because I want to marry only someone who will draw me closer to Jehovah.”
The desire to marry “in the Lord” helps many sisters like Ana to avoid marrying an unbeliever.* (1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14) With respect for God’s counsel, they make room for singleness, at least for the time being. How can they do this successfully?
Learn to Look at the Positive
The ability to accept a situation that may seem less than ideal depends largely on attitude. “I enjoy what I have, and I don’t dream about what I don’t have,” says Carmen, a single sister in her 40’s. Granted, there may be times when we feel lonely or frustrated. But knowing that similar things are being experienced by many others in the whole association of brothers in the world can encourage us to press forward with confidence. Jehovah has helped many to make a success of singleness and to handle other challenges.—1 Pet. 5:9, 10.
Many Christian brothers and sisters have discovered a positive side to singleness. “I think the secret to happiness is being able to enjoy the positive aspects of whatever situation you find yourself in,” says Ester, a single sister in her mid-30’s. “I believe that whether I get married or not, if I put Kingdom interests first, Jehovah will not hold back anything good from me,” adds Carmen. (Ps. 84:11) “My life may not have turned out exactly as I planned, but I am happy and will continue to be so.”
Biblical Examples of Singleness
Jephthah’s daughter had not planned on staying single. But her father’s vow obliged her to serve at the sanctuary from her youth onward. This unexpected assignment no doubt altered her personal plans and went contrary to her natural feelings. She mourned for two months when she realized that she would not marry and have a family. Nevertheless, she accepted her new situation and served willingly for the rest of her life. Other Israelite women commended her yearly for her self-sacrificing spirit.—Judg. 11:36-40.
Some who were physical eunuchs during the time of Isaiah may have felt disappointed about their circumstances. The Bible does not say what caused these to be eunuchs. As such, they could not become full-fledged members of the congregation of Israel, nor could they marry and father children. (Deut. 23:1) Still, Jehovah understood their feelings, and he commended their whole-souled obedience to his covenant. He told them that they would have “a monument” and “a name to time indefinite” in his house. In other words, these faithful eunuchs would have the sure hope of enjoying everlasting life under Jesus’ Messianic rule. Jehovah would never forget them.—Isa. 56:3-5.
Jeremiah’s circumstances were very different. After commissioning Jeremiah as a prophet, God instructed him to remain single because of the critical times in which he lived and because of the nature of his assignment. “You must not take for yourself a wife,” Jehovah said, “and you must not come to have sons and daughters in this place.” (Jer. 16:1-4) The Bible does not reveal Jeremiah’s personal feelings about these instructions, although it does assure us that he was a man who took delight in Jehovah’s word. (Jer. 15:16) In later years when Jeremiah endured the appalling 18-month siege of Jerusalem, he doubtless saw the wisdom of obeying Jehovah’s command to remain single.—Lam. 4:4, 10.
Ways to Enrich Your Life
The above-mentioned Bible characters were single, but they enjoyed Jehovah’s support and immersed themselves in his service. Likewise today, meaningful activity can do much to enrich our lives. The Bible predicted that the women telling the good news would become a large army. (Ps. 68:11) Among these throngs are thousands of single sisters. As their ministry has borne fruit, many have been blessed with spiritual sons and daughters.—Mark 10:29, 30; 1 Thess. 2:7, 8.
“Pioneering gives my life direction,” explains Loli after 14 years of such service. “As a single sister, I lead a busy, active life, which helps me to avoid loneliness. I feel satisfied at the end of each day because I can see that my ministry really helps people. This gives me great joy.”
Many sisters have been able to learn a new language and have expanded their ministry by preaching to foreign-speaking people. “In the city where I live, there are thousands of foreigners,” notes Ana, mentioned earlier. She enjoys preaching to French-speaking people. “Learning a language I can use to communicate with many of them has opened up a new field of activity and made my preaching work so interesting.”
As singleness often means fewer obligations, some have taken advantage of their circumstances to serve where the need is greater. “I strongly believe that the more you do in Jehovah’s service, the easier it is to make close friends and feel loved,” says Lidiana, a single sister in her mid-30’s who has served where the need is greater in other lands. “I have made many close friends who come from different backgrounds and nationalities, and these friendships have greatly enriched my life.”
The Bible refers to Philip the evangelizer who had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. (Acts 21:8, 9) They must have had a zealous spirit like that of their father. Might they have used their gift of prophesying for the benefit of fellow Christians in Caesarea? (1 Cor. 14:1, 3) Today, many single sisters likewise build up others by their regular attendance and participation at Christian meetings.
Lydia, on the other hand, was an early Christian of Philippi whom the Bible commends for her hospitality. (Acts 16:14, 15, 40) Lydia—who was possibly single or widowed—had a generous spirit that enabled her to enjoy rewarding association with traveling overseers, such as Paul, Silas, and Luke. Having such a spirit brings similar blessings today.
Satisfying the Need to Be Loved
Apart from having meaningful activity to fill our lives, all of us have a need to receive love and affection. How can single people fill that need? First, Jehovah is always there to love us, to strengthen us, and to listen to us. King David felt “solitary and afflicted” at times, yet he knew he could always turn to Jehovah for support. (Ps. 25:16; 55:22) “In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, even Jehovah himself would take me up,” he wrote. (Ps. 27:10) God invites all his servants to draw close to him, to become his intimate friends.—Ps. 25:14; Jas. 2:23; 4:8.
Furthermore, within the worldwide brotherhood, we can also find spiritual fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters whose love will enrich our lives. (Matt. 19:29; 1 Pet. 2:17) Many single Christians find great satisfaction in following the example of Dorcas, who “abounded in good deeds and gifts of mercy.” (Acts 9:36, 39) “Wherever I go, I look for real friends in the congregation who will love me and will support me when I’m feeling down,” explains Loli. “To cement such friendships, I try to show love and interest in others. I have served in eight different congregations, and I have always found true friends. Often they are not sisters of my own age—sometimes they are grandmothers or teenagers.” In every congregation, there are those who need affection and companionship. Taking a sincere interest in such ones can be of great help to them and can satisfy our own desire to love and be loved.—Luke 6:38.
God Will Not Forget
The Bible indicates that all Christians must make sacrifices of some sort in view of the difficult times in which we live. (1 Cor. 7:29-31) Those who remain single because of their determination to obey the divine command to marry only in the Lord are certainly worthy of special respect and consideration. (Matt. 19:12) This praiseworthy sacrifice, however, does not mean that they cannot enjoy life to the full.
“I have a satisfying life that depends on my relationship with Jehovah and my service to him,” notes Lidiana. “I know married people who are happy and others who are unhappy. This reality convinces me that my happiness does not depend on whether I get married in the future or not.” As Jesus pointed out, happiness depends principally on giving and serving, something that all Christians can do.—John 13:14-17; Acts 20:35.
Undoubtedly, our greatest cause for joy is the knowledge that Jehovah will bless us for whatever sacrifice we make for the sake of doing his will. The Bible assures us: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”—Heb. 6:10.
Although we here refer to Christian sisters, the principles also apply to brothers.
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“I enjoy what I have, and I don’t dream about what I don’t have.”—Carmen
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Loli and Lidiana enjoy serving where the need is greater
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God invites all his servants to draw close to him