Make the Most of Your Singleness
“Let him that can make room for it make room for it.”—MATT. 19:12.
1, 2. (a) How did Jesus, Paul, and others view singleness? (b) Why might some not think of singleness as a gift?
MARRIAGE is unquestionably one of God’s most precious gifts to mankind. (Prov. 19:14) Yet, many single Christians also enjoy a rich and satisfying life. Harold, a 95-year-old brother who never married, says: “Although I enjoy being with others and showing hospitality, when I am alone I am never lonely. I guess it can truly be said that I have the gift of singleness.”
2 Indeed, both Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul referred to singleness, like marriage, as a gift from God. (Read Matthew 19:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 7:7.) Admittedly, though, not everyone who is unmarried is single by choice. Sometimes circumstances make it hard to find a suitable partner. Or after years of marriage, some unexpectedly find themselves alone because of a divorce or the death of their spouse. In what sense, then, can singleness be a gift? And how can single Christians make the most of their singleness?
A Unique Gift
3. What advantages do single Christians often enjoy?
3 A single person often has more time and greater personal freedom than a married person does. (1 Cor. 7:32-35) These are unique advantages that may allow him to expand his ministry, widen out in love for others, and draw closer to Jehovah. A number of Christians, therefore, have come to appreciate the benefits of singleness and have decided to “make room for it,” at least for a time. Others may not have initially planned for singleness, but when their circumstances changed, they prayerfully reflected on their situation and realized that with Jehovah’s help they too could be settled in their heart. Thus, they accepted their changed circumstances and made room for singleness.—1 Cor. 7:37, 38.
4. Why can single Christians feel complete in God’s service?
4 Single Christians know that they do not have to get married to be recognized or appreciated by Jehovah or his organization. God’s love reaches out to each of us as individuals. (Matt. 10:29-31) No one and nothing can separate us from God’s love. (Rom. 8:38, 39) Whether married or single, we have every reason to feel complete in God’s service.
5. What is needed in order to obtain the full rewards of singleness?
5 Still, as with such gifts as musical or athletic talent, the gift of singleness has to be cultivated in order to realize its full potential. So how can single Christians today—whether brothers or sisters, young in age or up in years, single by choice or because of circumstances—make the most of their situation in life? Let us consider some encouraging examples from the early Christian congregation and see what we can learn.
Singleness in Youth
6, 7. (a) What privilege did Philip’s virgin daughters receive in God’s service? (b) In what ways did Timothy make good use of his single years, and how was he blessed for his willingness to serve in his youth?
6 The evangelizer Philip had four virgin daughters who shared their father’s zeal for evangelizing. (Acts 21:8, 9) Prophesying was among the miraculous gifts of the holy spirit, and these young women used that gift in fulfillment of Joel 2:28, 29.
7 Timothy was a young man who made good use of his singleness. From infancy he was taught “the holy writings” by his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother Lois. (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14, 15) But they likely embraced Christianity only during Paul’s first visit to Lystra, their hometown, about 47 C.E. Two years later, when Paul visited a second time, Timothy was perhaps in his late teens or early 20’s. Despite being relatively young both in age and in the truth, he was “well reported on” by the Christian elders in Lystra and neighboring Iconium. (Acts 16:1, 2) So Paul invited Timothy to join him as a traveling companion. (1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14) We cannot say for certain that Timothy never married. But we do know that as a young man, he cheerfully accepted Paul’s invitation, and for many years thereafter, he enjoyed serving as a single missionary and overseer.—Phil. 2:20-22.
8. What enabled John Mark to pursue spiritual goals, and what blessings did he receive for doing so?
8 In his youth, John Mark also used his single years to good advantage. He and his mother, Mary, as well as his cousin Barnabas were early members of the Jerusalem congregation. Mark’s family may also have been comfortably situated, since they owned their own home in the city and had a servant. (Acts 12:12, 13) Despite these advantages, however, even as a young man, Mark was not self-indulgent or self-centered; nor was he content to settle down and lead a comfortable family life. His early association with the apostles likely instilled in him a desire for missionary service. So he eagerly joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary tour and served as their attendant. (Acts 13:5) Later, he traveled with Barnabas, and later still, we find him serving with Peter in Babylon. (Acts 15:39; 1 Pet. 5:13) How long Mark remained single, we do not know. But he earned an excellent reputation as someone who was willing to minister to others and do more in God’s service.
9, 10. What opportunities are there today for young single Christians to expand their ministry? Give an example.
9 Many young ones in the congregation today also gladly use their single years to expand their share in God’s service. Like Mark and Timothy, they appreciate that singleness allows for “constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction.” (1 Cor. 7:35) This is a real advantage. Opportunities abound—pioneering, serving where the need for Kingdom preachers is greater, learning a foreign language, assisting with Kingdom Hall or branch construction, attending Ministerial Training School, and serving at Bethel. If you are still young and unmarried, are you making the most of your opportunities?
10 A brother named Mark started pioneering in his late teens, attended the Ministerial Training School, and has served in various assignments around the world. Looking back on 25 years of full-time service, he says: “I’ve tried to work with everyone in the congregation, sharing in the ministry with them, making shepherding calls on them, inviting them to my home for meals, and even arranging gatherings with a spiritual focus. All these things have brought me a great deal of joy.” As Mark’s comments reveal, the greatest joy in life comes from giving, and a full life in sacred service offers many opportunities for giving to others. (Acts 20:35) No matter what your personal interests, skills, or experience in life, for young people today, there is plenty to do in the Lord’s work.—1 Cor. 15:58.
11. What are some benefits of not rushing into marriage?
11 Although most young people would like to marry eventually, there are good reasons not to rush into marriage. Paul encourages youths to wait at least until they are past “the bloom of youth,” when sexual desires are most powerful. (1 Cor. 7:36) It takes time to understand yourself and acquire the experience in life that is needed to choose a suitable mate. Making a marriage vow is a serious decision, one that should last for life.—Eccl. 5:2-5.
Singleness in Later Life
12. (a) How did the widow Anna cope with her changed circumstances? (b) What privilege did she receive?
12 Anna, mentioned in Luke’s Gospel, likely was deeply saddened when her husband died unexpectedly after just seven years of marriage. We do not know whether they had any children or if she ever considered remarrying. But the Bible reports that at age 84, Anna was still a widow. From what the Bible says, we can conclude that Anna used her changed circumstances to draw closer to Jehovah. She was “never missing from the temple, rendering sacred service night and day with fastings and supplications.” (Luke 2:36, 37) So spiritual things came first in her life. That took real determination and effort, but she was greatly rewarded. She was privileged to see the young child Jesus, and she witnessed to others about the liberation that was due to be effected through this coming Messiah.—Luke 2:38.
13. (a) What indicates that Dorcas was actively involved in the congregation? (b) How was Dorcas rewarded for her goodness and kindness?
13 A woman named Dorcas, or Tabitha, lived in Joppa, an ancient seaport northwest of Jerusalem. Since the Bible mentions no husband, she was likely unmarried at the time. Dorcas “abounded in good deeds and gifts of mercy.” She evidently made many garments for needy widows and others, and this greatly endeared her to them. So when she suddenly fell ill and died, the whole congregation sent for Peter to implore him to resurrect their dear sister. As news of her resurrection spread throughout Joppa, many became believers. (Acts 9:36-42) Through her extraordinary kindness, Dorcas herself may have had a share in helping some of them.
14. What moves single Christians to draw closer to Jehovah?
14 Like Anna and Dorcas, many in congregations today find themselves single later in life. Some may not have found a suitable marriage mate. Others are divorced or widowed. Having no marriage mate to confide in, single Christians often learn to lean more heavily on Jehovah. (Prov. 16:3) Silvia, a single sister who has served at Bethel for more than 38 years, sees this as a blessing. “Sometimes I get tired of being the strong one,” she admits. “I wonder, ‘Who will encourage me?’” But then she adds: “Trusting that Jehovah knows what I need better than I do helps me to draw closer to him. And the encouragement always comes, sometimes from completely unexpected sources.” Whenever we draw closer to Jehovah, he always responds in a most tender and reassuring way.
15. How may unmarried Christians “widen out” in their love?
15 Singleness affords a special opportunity to “widen out” in love. (Read 2 Corinthians 6:11-13.) Jolene, a single sister who has spent the past 34 years in full-time service, says: “I’ve tried to work hard at building warm relationships, not just with people my own age, but with all types of people. Singleness is a real opportunity to give to Jehovah, your family, and your brothers and sisters, as well as to your neighbors. The older I get, the happier I feel about my single state.” The elderly, the infirm, single parents, youths, and others in the congregation certainly appreciate the unselfish support that single ones offer to them. Indeed, whenever we show love to others, we feel better about ourselves. Can you too “widen out” in your love for others?
Single for Life
16. (a) Why did Jesus stay single for life? (b) How did Paul make wise use of his single state?
16 Jesus did not marry; he had to prepare for and carry out his assigned ministry. He traveled extensively, worked from early in the morning until late at night, and eventually laid down his life in sacrifice. Singleness was an advantage in his case. The apostle Paul traveled thousands of miles and faced great hardships in the ministry. (2 Cor. 11:23-27) Although he may have been married earlier, Paul chose to stay single after he was commissioned as an apostle. (1 Cor. 7:7; 9:5) For the sake of the ministry, both Jesus and Paul encouraged others to imitate their example where possible. Yet, neither of them set celibacy as a requirement for ministers.—1 Tim. 4:1-3.
17. How have some today followed in the footsteps of Jesus and Paul, and why can we be sure that Jehovah appreciates those who make such sacrifices?
17 Today, some have likewise made the conscious choice to remain single so that they can better pursue their ministry. Harold, mentioned earlier, has enjoyed over 56 years in Bethel service. “By the time I completed ten years at Bethel,” he says, “I had observed many married couples leaving Bethel because of sickness or the need to care for an aging parent. My parents were both deceased. But I loved Bethel so much that I did not want to put that privilege in jeopardy by getting married.” Similarly, years ago, a longtime pioneer named Margaret observed: “There have been opportunities for marriage in my life, but I just never got around to it. Instead, I was able to use the extra freedom and mobility that singleness affords to keep busy in the ministry, and this has brought me great happiness.” Surely, Jehovah will never forget any who make such unselfish sacrifices for true worship.—Read Isaiah 56:4, 5.
Make the Most of Your Circumstances
18. How can others encourage and support single Christians?
18 All unmarried Christians who are doing their best to serve Jehovah deserve our genuine commendation and encouragement. We love them for who they are and for the significant contribution they make to the congregation. They will never have to feel lonely if we truly become their spiritual “brothers and sisters and mothers and children.”—Read Mark 10:28-30.
19. What can you do to make the most of your singleness?
19 Whether you are single by choice or simply because of circumstances, may these Scriptural and modern examples assure you that you can lead a happy and productive life. Some gifts are eagerly anticipated, while others are completely unexpected. Some are immediately appreciated, while others are valued only over time. Much, then, depends on our attitude. What can you do to make the most of your singleness? Draw closer to Jehovah, have plenty to do in God’s service, and widen out in your love for others. Like marriage, singleness can be rewarding when we view it from God’s perspective and make wise use of this gift.
Do You Recall?
• In what ways can singleness be a gift?
• How can singleness be a blessing in youth?
• What opportunities do single Christians have to draw closer to Jehovah and widen out in love?
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Are you making the most of your opportunities in God’s service?