Shortly after my thirtieth birthday (many years ago!), I was the recipient of comments such as, “You’ve obviously made a choice for a career”, and “Prince Charming won’t just appear; you’ve got to start looking”. I was startled by this. Was I now an inferior being because I was over thirty and, gasp, unattached? Yet I felt that I was following my appointed path. I was in a God-given profession that demanded many focused and undisturbed hours alone, and the men that I met were either unsympathetic or unsuitable. So, why marry the wrong person just to be married?
I became aware of expectations from family, society and sadly, even the church. From my mother who knitted booties and dreamed of grandchildren to the movies which portrayed women as 1) young and attractive (to be dated) 2) married with husband, two kids and a dog (to be congratulated) 3) divorced but available (to be berated…but then dated) 4) elderly widow (to be celebrated, or medicated) 5) psychopath (to be eradicated), there was always a pointed reminder that single women who remained single didn’t fit in (unrelated?).
Even in church one was made to feel not quite complete. Single women were useful for minding the Sunday school, taking up the offering, working in the office, but leading a home group, leading a prayer meeting, leading anything? She would need a helpmate, preferably a husband. The response was not necessarily wrong but the way it was conveyed indicated that single women were in the “too hard” basket and that married women were easier to deal with. Is that because churches, like most human organisations, prefer to think in “group” mentality? But Jesus called the church to be an organism, not an organisation; a community, not a corporation. More specifically, “God setteth the solitary in families” (KJV, Ps 68:6), and as God’s children, single women are an integral part of his family, the church.
So, what is the Christian response to women who may never marry? Is it God’s will that some will always be single? Are single women complete persons or do we need a “life partner” to be considered whole? Statistically, there are more women than men reaching adulthood in certain parts of the world. Not everyone therefore will get a husband. Does the Bible have any reassuring words about this? Actually, very few! It’s as if one’s marital status is irrelevant. None of us is born married and Jesus himself said that “at the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage” (Matt 22:30; Mk 12:25; Lk 20:35). It seems that God wants to relate to us as individuals whose wedded state is not a prior condition of that relationship.
There is the oft-quoted passage from 1 Corinthians 7 about it being better to be single than married. I believe Paul wasn’t advocating celibacy (as elsewhere he extols the married state), but he was addressing a specific congregation that beneath its Christian veneer was still basically immoral. The fact that one could live a wonderful fulfilling life without sexual activity was probably a revelation to many in the Corinthian church (and to many today!). Paul was showing them that it is possible, and even better, to be single than to be indulging in sexual gratification or being married just for the sake of it.
The sort of Bible verses I find encouraging as a single woman are found for instance in 1 Tim 6:6—“Godliness with contentment is great gain”. Not a mention of marital status but simply aiming for that “peace that passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7). Another is in Ps 37: 3-4. Many read it and desire that God will grant them the husband of their dreams. Maybe, but only after we have trusted in him, reached out of our aloneness to others, been content with what we have in abundance so far, and worshipped him in true joy and delight. By then our dreams should have changed so much that our desires are his desires for us, and that may not include a husband!
God doesn’t treat us as second-class family members just because we’re not married. He made us in his image (Gen 1:27) and always does his work perfectly, never by halves. Find your place in God’s family—missionary, intercessor, teacher, women’s group leader, encourager, adopted aunt—and enjoy it! Blessed are the single, for after a rich and marvellous life, we too shall see God!
By Susan Pierotti | Susan is an aunt to two lively nephews and adopted aunt to several other children. She is a full-time musician, editor and proofreader, and has been a Christian for over forty years. She belongs to a house church which meets in Blackburn with a healthy supportive mix of singles and couples.
All Bible references are from the NIV unless stated. (KJV = King James Version)