A few days ago I woke up with a thought. One of those that just hits you over the head and you have to process and fill in the gaps and then get it out in a straight line to see if it all makes sense and then you stare at it thinking why did I never think of this before!? And why have I never heard this topic spoken of this way before. And because I have never heard this topic spoken of this way before…am I wrong?
The thought stemmed from the night before reading a terrible article on the gift of singleness. I hadn’t realized before reading this article exactly how much it bothered me that ‘the church’ (for lack of more precise term) whenever presented with a young (or old) person who is not in a relationship and/or has never been in a relationship immediately they get slapped on ‘you have the gift of singleness, next!’. Sometimes, I hear it referred to as ‘well, you have the gift of singleness but this can be a temporary gift.’
This has always bugged me, but I had been too lazy to sit down and figure out *why*. I know part of the why, and that is often it’s like a brush off and comes across as a ‘stop whining’. But there was something else and that was my lightbulb moment.
Taking it back to Scripture, I want to start with the passage where we get this concept of the gift of singleness. For context, read all of 1 Corinthians 7. But I’m going to pull some passages to copy here:
“But this I say by way of concession, not of command. Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” 1 Corinthians 7:6-9
Here is how I have heard this section taught, outside of a directed at singles context. If you have the self control, stay single and focus on the Lord. If you crave intimacy- get married.
“But I want you to be free concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided.” 1 Corinthians 7:32-33
Through the Christian life there will tribulation, and especially when Paul was writing to the Corinthians- it was difficult times, what he is saying here is it is easier to focus on the Lord when you don’t have a spouse to focus on! If you read through the whole chapter (which I highly recommend) you will see how Paul is basically saying don’t commit sexual sins if you ‘burn’, get married! But if you don’t burn, and are alright with being alone- that’s great, focus on serving the Lord.
The single person being referred to in this passage is someone who does not desire marriage. That is why I do not think it is inaccurate to call it a ‘gift’. I do not believe Paul is referring to a single person who desires marriage.
God is not a cruel God. His gifts are good gifts. Let’s stand on those two truths for the rest of this post. If we are going to accept those two facts as truth, then why would He give a ‘gift’ of singleness to a person who craves marriage with their heart and soul? That is not a good gift, that is the act of a cruel God.
I am firmly established in my later 20s, and I have seen older singles who desire marriage and a family with every ounce of their being. They have cried out to God, and begged Him for a spouse. And before you prepare your list of ‘well if they only..’, these are intelligent, sociable, handsome/beautiful people. They have done everything ‘right’, and for reasons only the Lord knows, they are single. I do not believe these people have the ‘gift’ of singleness. They remain pure because God commands it, not because they don’t desire intimacy.
So, if we’re stripping away that singles who desire marriage do not have the gift of singleness, and establishing that God is a good God who loves us, what does that leave us with? I believe this passage is the answer:
“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me- to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
God gave Paul a ‘thorn in his flesh’. We do not know what it was. But when Paul asked God to remove, God answered with an amazing answer that literally gave me chills as I typed that out: My grace is sufficient for you.
I want to argue that for the single who does not want to be single, God is not giving them the ‘gift of singleness’, but instead for that time in their life (or their whole life) that is their thorn in their flesh. Their challenge that God has given them so He can shine brighter through their weakness. And His grace is sufficient.
This is how I choose to view it. And the mere concept of Christ being reflected all the more powerful through my weakness? Amazing. Simply amazing. I’ll lean on His grace through my weakness, and hopefully encourage others.