How can I know if I am called to be single?

Dear fellow seekers,

Are we called by God to be single or is this a conscious decision that one can make?

Even if one decides to, is there an institutionalized system that Evangelical Christianity offers that I am not aware of, somewhat of an alternative to what Catholicism has.

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Hi Geetha (@Geethab)! What a great question! As a single myself, I have wondered the same. If you have not had the opportunity to read Sam Allberry’s book “7 Myths About Singleness”, I would highly recommend it. He really gives an excellent treatment of biblical singleness.

I am not sure that God truly “calls” us to the single life or married life as much as wanting us to prioritize Him in our lives regardless of which path we find ourselves on. As far as I understand it, physical marriage (here on earth) is a temporary foreshadowing of the marriage between Christ and His church for all eternity. As Sam Allberry puts it:

“Both marriage and singleness testify to the gospel. Marriage shows us the shape of the gospel in that it models the covenant promises that God has made to us in Christ. Singleness shows us the sufficiency of the gospel because it shows us the reality of what marriage points to—which is our own relationship with Jesus.”

I certainly believe that singleness is a conscious decision that one can make. This choice is spoken of in Matthew 19:12

"For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.” (ESV)

More recently, the Anglican priest/theologian John Stott made the conscious choice to remain single for the purpose of futhering God’s work. The following article may be of interest to you:

I am not sure what you mean by the following:

Are you referring to the discipline of becoming a nun or a monk? If so, I am not aware of any evangelical Christian alternative. I think that there is a difference between deciding to live a single life, dedicated to God’s purposes and doing so in the context of communal living with like-minded individuals. Both can yield a fulfilled life, but the every day is obviously going to look very different.

I’m not sure if this gets at the intent behind your question. Please let me know if it does not. I would love to engage further on this topic.

Blessings to you as you seek His will😊

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Hi @Geethab! Welcome to RZIM Connect. So delighted that you have raised this question.

I think my perspectives on this align with what @tpauls8 has already expressed; she has also highlighted my current go-to resource on thinking about Christian faithfulness in the context of singleness! I believe @Sam_Allberry’s 7 Myths about Singleness is a gift to the people of God. I’ve been so blessed by his articulation on this important topic. For a taster of the kinds of conversation this book prompted in the #podcast-discussions:cover-to-cover category on Connect, check out these topics: Finding a calling in singleness and not living in limbo, or perhaps Stewarding singleness? Does Gen. 2:18 "It is not good for the man to be alone" imply that we are obligated to at least desire to be married? The podcast went through the book chapter by chapter, and we had a great time engaging on some questions it raised for listeners!

There have definitely been movements of intentional community in the evangelical church which I think represent protestant alternatives to the monastic orders of the Catholic tradition. Granted, there is not a consistent organized tradition as there is in the established Catholic tradition; but there is a recognition that a life of faithfulness in singleness or celibacy (whether chosen or unchosen) is in need of the support of robust Christian community.

Ironically, it has been largely ignored in Christian culture that married people need a Christian community for many of the same reasons single people do: for challenge, for accountability, for support, encouragement to faithfulness, and for fellowship. Disillusion with the individualism of modernity (including within Christianity) seems to have birthed new exploration of how we might rethink what it means to do “life together,” as Bonhoeffer puts it—both as married and single people. It seems to me that this is a beautiful and significant move of God in our time.

The specifically single need for a day-to-day relational household context, however, has seen creative engagement in recent years (interestingly, this is also a trend among millennials outside the church, as society grapples with the loneliness produced by our individualism). Some Christians have sought to recover the extended household, with singles living with couples or families and walking in an intentional life of committed friendship with one another (I think here of a celibate brother, Wes Hill and his emphasis on Spiritual Friendship). Others have established community houses, sharing household duties, meals, and ministries (whether just for singles or mixed with families) as one author reflects on here.

Personally, I lived for over 15 years in community houses as I served with a missions organization, sharing a common “rule of life,” a routine of household duties and ministry, communal meals, and twice a week worship gatherings (in addition to our participation in local churches). I am deeply grateful for the familial relationships formed with my Christian brothers and sisters with which that context furnished me. Our way of life required sacrifice and service, but it was a true means of grace…and of sanctification.

These initiatives are not “institutionalized” in the church (as per your question) but do these movements and examples open up any new thoughts or possibilities for you? Can you imagine ways in which one of these varieties of intentional community could be a place of support and spiritual formation as you seek a context for faith and service as a single person?

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Dear Tara,

What a wealth of information and careful insights you have shared with me. I am truly blessed. My very question was an after-thought having listened to Sam Allberry in a youtube video.

I have always been very confused if marriage was for me and I long for a direct revelation from God asking me to be single so that I will know for sure one way or the other. I completely agree with you that making God our priority is our highest calling and this “seems” easier for a single, though I have seen many Godly families live out their faith with conviction.

In my country and culture, being single has a lot of negative connotations and raises many eyebrows. My own family has a hard time accepting it. I was looking for an alternative to the monastic orders of Catholic tradition in desperation as it would somehow communicate to the world around me that I am making my single status benefit me in pursuing God.

Having grown up in a family that did not share my faith, I find myself increasingly looking for that environment even on a daily basis - the only choices I seem to have here are to be married to a believer or join a religious order of living in community and seeking God.

To summarize, I am encouraged in my spirit to make a choice to being single, but at the same time, if I knew a way for individuals like me to live and serve together, I would certainly be inclined to explore it.

So thank you for reinforcing my thinking with the resources you shared and also being open to engage further.

Geetha

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Dear Liz,

Thanks much for taking the time to share all that you did. There is a lot of those threads I need to look into. Please allow me some time to revert to you. I appreciate your love and concern in writing back.

Geetha

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@Geethab, thank you for posting this. My heart goes out to you as you seek God’s will for your life. I’m praying for wisdom for you and for peace and joy along the path.

My experience of singleness has been slightly different from yours, but I’m touched by your questions. I’m in my 40s, and I never married. This is not what I would have chosen, yet I’m confident God wants me to remain single at this time to fulfill the ministry He has for me.

I can’t make a commitment to lifelong singleness because I have a hard enough time discerning God’s will for me today. I have no idea what kind of ministry He’ll want me to do in 20 years. Maybe then it will be better to be married. I think of James 4:13-15 (ESV):

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

If God warned against making absolute statements concerning tomorrow’s business dealings, I’m not sure He wants us to make these statements about marriage either. However, @tpauls8 is right that Matthew 19:12 implies it is sometimes noble to make a commitment to singleness. I’m not sure how to fit the Matthew passage with James. I welcome input.

Since I’m uncertain about God’s desires for my future, I turn back to Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV):

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Acknowledging God in all my ways today is a big enough challenge. :slight_smile:

I feel for you because you’re facing certain difficulties in singleness that I don’t have to worry about. I was born into a Christian family, and my parents are happy to let my sisters and me live with them since we’ve all remained single. I’m blessed with life in a family unit.

I sometimes struggle with the disapproval of society. Here in the States, it’s perfectly acceptable for a woman to be single and independent. Independence is admired. It’s okay to live with a roommate. Living with your parents when you’re in your 40s isn’t supposed to happen. Since I’m confident God wants me here, I try not to think about society’s opinion, but I find myself making excuses when I have to admit to people where I live.

Living in a communal setting with other Christians can be a great solution if you have that opportunity in your area. I don’t think there’s anything like that close me, so I’d have to give up the ministry God has called me to do in order to move to a different city or state. Not worth it.

Do you have a good church community? Is there something we can do as the church to better serve singles who have to live alone? Sam Allberry’s book convicted me that I don’t reach out to the singles in my church enough. They don’t have the same family unit that I have, and I need to be there for them.

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Dear Jennifer,

Thanks so much for being so open and honest in your response. I was greatly encouraged by you turning my attention to trusting God for the here and now. I believe single or married it is important to pursue God with all our hearts.

I am part of a good church community that is very warm and welcoming. I think reaching out helps as mentioned in Sam Allberry’s book (have not read it yet). A lot of church events are family based and a simple invitation from church members to us singles to share a meal or time of prayer would be greatly encouraging:)

Thanks again for your wonderful thoughts.

Geetha

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Hi Geetha (@Geethab). I am so sorry it has taken this long to get back to you.

Thank you for sharing some of the background to your struggle with singleness. This puts a much different perspective on it for me. I apologize if I sounded callous in my response. It never occurred to me that there could be such hostility against singleness.

It must be a much more difficult road for you to travel being single than for me. Living in Canada, the main challenges I face being single come from within the church. The only hardship I face from outside is from my non-Christian friends who don’t understand my decision to remain celibate. And I would hardly even call this a hardship - barely a nuisance.

I am so sorry that you are facing such resistance to remaining single where you live, and from your own family. That can’t be easy. I can totally understand why you seek an alternative to the monastic orders in the Catholic tradition.

I truly commend you for your heart to live and serve as a single in a community of believers at a younger age. Personally, I have experienced different struggles with singleness: I had always fought to be in relationship and it took me until my early to mid 40’s to relinquish this dream to God. I know that we each have a different journey but I have tremendous respect for those who are not as stubbornly self-focused as I was.:blush:

Gheeta, I pray for you God’s wisdom and the Holy Spirit’s guidance as you forge your way forward in this challenging situation. I am so thankful to have met you. May His peace also rest upon you, in Jesus’ name.

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Dear Tara,

Sorry for my delayed reply and thank you for being so open and honest in expressing your thoughts. I am increasingly more convinced that God uses our circumstances and struggles to mold us into the likeness of Christ, and like you mentioned, we each have a different journey.

Thank you for your prayers and I pray for you to bear fruit for Him according to His plans for you:)

Geetha

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Hey @Lizibeth,

That’s so cool that people do that! I heard of communal homes within the church and I thought they were a cool idea. Maybe I’ll explore it one of my future books…! I’d love to know more on what it’s like.

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Thank you so much for asking this question. This is exactly what I want to ask. I got my answers here. I was born in Hindu family . I came to Christ when i was in Indonesia. Currently I’m living in India. God bless you

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