Some time ago, I had a debate of sorts with a friend on the topic of being single and being in a relationship. As each benefit of singleness was listed during that conversation, I replied, perhaps annoyingly, with a counter point on the benefit of being in a relationship. Here, I will assume that relationships are entered into with the view of potential marriage. So essentially I’m looking at “singleness versus marriage” and considering how each of these may help or hinder us in following God. Needless to say, writing on the topic doesn’t mean I’ve properly learnt these lessons, whether in singleness or in relationship!
Knowing God as sufficient
1. In singleness – my friend’s point was that romantic love is frequently idolised and portrayed as the panacea to life’s problems. Singleness helps us to learn to rely on, and find our sufficiency in God rather than a significant other, in times of trouble, in times of loneliness.
True, Disney and most grown up movies are filled with happily ever afters that come after true love is found. True too, that songs like Frozen’s Love’s an Open Door implies that there will be no troubles when you’ve found true love – “say goodbye, to the pain of the past, we don’t have to feel it anymore, love is an open door!” To be fair, the guy turned out to be a scammer, and my sister learnt from this movie that love at first sight is silly because “you don’t even know them”! Or the Chinese oldie 至少还有你 that implies that romantic love alone will suffice, even if it means giving up everything else – “如果全世界我也可以放弃，至少还有你值得我去珍惜…” As much as I find the songs catchy and the singing delightful, the worldview here obviously contradicts the writings in Psalms and other parts of the Bible that emphasise on trusting in, and finding shelter in the Lord:
Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. – Psalm 62:1-2
2. In relationship – my argument was, that the same lesson of finding sufficiency can be learnt in relationship. Similar to how a single person would need to avoid idolising relationships, a person in relationship needs to be conscious not to put the other person before God. Take for example, the disastrous way in which Samson in Judges, a man filled with the Spirit of God, pursued love and his relationship with Delilah, rather than holiness and obedience to God. Even in good marriages, we need to first seek God’s kingdom, and live with the awareness that our time on Earth is temporary.
What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. – 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Also, whilst being in relationship does come with companionship, and someone to discuss the mundane details about your day that no one else wants to hear about, it doesn’t solve the problem of loneliness. There are always times when you have conflict, or wish the other person was there, but they can’t be, or just aren’t there. If God is truly our God, the unrealistic expectations that another person will always make you feel better needs to be corrected with an acknowledgement that only God is our joy, and fulfils our heart’s desires.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. – Psalm 28:7