On this edition of Truth in Love, Dr. Lambert talks with Hannah Carter about the blessings and struggles of singleness. Hannah Carter gives practical strategies single people can utilize to make the most of the gift of singleness as well as giving strategies for people in the church to care for their single brothers and sisters well.
Lambert: One of the gifts that God has given to his church is the blessing of singleness. But just like any situation in life which we can find ourselves, there are struggles which occur with this status. To talk about that reality I have invited Hannah Carter to speak to us today. Hannah is a counselor certified with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. She currently counsels in her local church, she has been a missionary, and she is a women who is single. Hannah, I am glad you are joining us. Let’s start with talking about what the Bible says about singleness.
Carter: I am glad to be here today. I think a very common passage that people would refer to in hearing or thinking about singleness would be 1 Corinthians 7. The Apostle Paul speaks of singleness as a good gift from the Lord where one is freed to do ministry for the Lord. It is highly regarded from that angle and I think in this context we can understand this scripture to say that there is not as strong of a desire to marry and so one is more content with doing God’s work. We see pictures throughout Scripture of Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and many others who were single. I think on the flip side for those who do desire marriage, we can view singleness as a trial. In 1 Peter 1, we understand that trials are there to grow us in dependence on the Lord and to test our faith. We want to understand singleness – while it is a longing for marriage – as a time to trust God who is worthy of our trust. Also, that he is not withholding anything good from us and that we can grow in Christ-likeness during this season of singleness.
Lambert: That’s great. You are mentioning that there are blessings to singleness and that the Bible endorses that. Why don’t you talk with us about some of the blessings that are available to single people in order to serve that are not available to married people. This is something that you have experienced as a women who has devoted a lot of her life to ministry as a single women.
Carter: In serving with the International Mission Board, I was able to live overseas in a different cultural context and learn language and see God’s world that He made. I was able to travel to sixteen different countries, which many families can do, but it takes quite a bit of financial need to be able to accomplish. As a single person you can pack up and go. I think other opportunities in which singles – myself included – are allowed to minister to the body of Christ are in ways of flexibility; you can minister at odd hours to different people. I was able to counsel several women and be able to be “on call” in the middle of the night for them to call if they had needs or even to go over to their house and cook for them or help them. A family from my small group at church once called and said they all had a stomach flu and I was able to leave right then and be able to go to the store and help them out. In those contexts you don’t have to worry about scheduling or talking to your spouse or kids and making sure they are taken care of when you leave. There are many opportunities that we can look at from that angle, that are a blessing to be able to bless others as a single.
Lambert: One of the realities of living in a fallen world is that in spite of all the blessings there are going to be difficulties that are going to attend every stage of and status in life. Young adults are going to have struggles that others don’t, elderly people have struggles that others don’t. Married people have struggles that aren’t shared by other folks. What are some of the unique struggles that a single adult will face?
Carter: I think one that stands out in my mind and having experienced a little myself is just feeling a little singled out; no pun intended. In the context of the church or maybe the context of a business world; you may feel that you may not have anything adequate to say or contribute to the conversation because you haven’t experienced marriage, having kids, or other “adult things.” I think in particular in churches, a single person can sometimes feel – because they haven’t experienced such and such – that they aren’t able to give encouragement or truth from God’s word in a capacity that a married person can give to another married couple. That is not really true at all and so I think that that is a challenge that a single person can face. I think a few others are being content with what the Lord has allowed in a time of waiting. For those that are content and have the gift of singleness, that they really devote themselves to the Lord and not neglect investing in other people’s lives. I believe another challenge is being patient and waiting. Many in the church and in the world face the problem of loneliness. Yet, that too is something that we can work through with the Lord’s help. I believe an additional struggle that a single person faces can be not managing their time or finances well and in a sense live for themselves; being very individualistic rather than community oriented and bringing themselves into a bigger family. All of this is done because they think they can just live and do as they please because they are not married. Those are challenges that different singles face.
Lambert: What can single people do and what can churches do to practically address some of those challenges?
Carter: That’s a great question. I think in many ways you’ll find for those that are single, if they start to engage in a small group or serving in the church, a lot of the challenges concerning being content or patient start to wither away because the focus is on Christ and on others. I think another practical way of addressing the challenges is to make the most of their time to pour into church. Singles should use the gifting that they have been given. They should not be afraid if they don’t know how to help kids or be in children’s ministry or preschool ministry but just jump in, learn, and have other people teach them. Maybe they could even teach Bible studies that they would love to do. I think another way is really to focus on growing in Christ and the knowledge of His word rather than trying to find someone that is going to meet their needs. This is for others in the church as well; we all need to be focusing on that truth to ready ourselves not only to serve each other, but for the single person to ready themselves to serve and bless their spouse. I think another thought is to acknowledge and be honest with those that are in their church or their friends of their desires for marriage. They can be honest with concerns that they have in their life and areas where they need prayer; not just going to other singles thinking that only they understand but really bringing in other married people and letting them know of what’s going on in their heart and how others can pray for them as well. Singles can share in that same way with others that are married, potentially walking through a difficult season of parenting or communicating with their own spouse by praying for them and having that mutual encouragement. I think lastly recognizing that as a single you are not alone in this trial. Others in the church and in the world face many trials as 1 Peter 1 describes that we face many trials of various kinds and they are for the testing of our faith and to encourage each other as we face such trials, not thinking of your trial as more difficult than someone else’s trial. A single person should not say to a married couple that’s facing difficulties, “Oh but you are married, at least you’ve got somebody to talk with.” Rather, you should be sympathizing with those that are going through different situations and guarding yourself against comparison; investing yourself in others to the glory of the Lord and for His kingdom.
If you would like more resources to help you respond to some of the difficulties that single people have that we talked about today, consider reading, Joy or Trust by Lydia Brownback.