A Balanced View on Singleness

JP: Interesting read from Focus on the Family’s Boundless Webzine.

A Balanced View on Singleness


The Desire For Marriage Can Be Too Strong

Many singles are repeatedly asked the dreaded question, “So when are you going to get married?” This can be an embarrassing reminder of a lack of relational success. Worse, it can lead some into thinking their Christian life is somehow on hold, or that they should immediately marry at any cost.

But that raises the question: Can our desire for marriage be too strong? Many say it cannot; after all, marriage is a good thing (Prov. 18:22). The logic seems to be that a God-given desire cannot be too great — you can’t want a good thing too much. To that I reply with David Powlison (in his paraphrase of John Calvin): “The evil in our desires often lies not in what we want but in the fact that we want it too much. Natural affections (for any good thing) become inordinate, ruling cravings.”

What if you’re saying, “Yep, that’s me. That describes my desire for marriage — an inordinate, all-consuming craving”? Then repent that a good desire — a natural, God-given desire — is (at least momentarily) getting the upper hand and becoming all-controlling.

But should you stop pursuing marriage? No. Your desire for marriage is in no way a bad thing — God gave it to you. It should lead you to act in appropriate ways to secure a spouse, even as you pray for contentment in Christ and pursue other appropriate goals (like growth in godliness, a college or graduate degree, freedom from debt, and proficiency in your vocational skills or areas of service).

The Desire For Marriage Can Be Too Weak

OK, so can a single person have too little desire for marriage? I think so. There are some whose comfort in singleness is grounded in spiritual dullness and a general inertia, the desire for merely preserving the status quo and not being particularly bothered. This can be displayed in extended adolescence, or fear of commitment, permanence and responsibility.

Such folks need a kick in the pants, pure and simple. Their sanctification would best be served by getting married.

But I think it is also possible for otherwise mature, responsible Christians to have too weak a desire for marriage. I think that’s where I was for much of my 20s. For a while I spent up to 15 hours/week in ministry while holding a demanding job. But recurring sexual temptation and a gnawing, deep-seated, visceral awareness that something was missing3 interrupted and detracted from my otherwise positive spiritual devotion.

Since my life was generally fruitful, I was advised to “just serve the Lord, brother” and that “Christ would meet all of my needs.” That fed into my natural inertia and avoidance of major change.

In retrospect, I think my lack of interest in marriage stemmed from an undefined, somewhat unconscious Gnostic idea that wanting sex or intimacy was either bad or (at best) less godly than wanting to serve in the church or give more time to Bible study. Yet sexual temptation and pervasive loneliness were just as “distracting” (1 Cor. 7:9) as what Paul said the married person experiences (1 Cor. 7:33), but with moral hazards to boot.

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