I’m a married man. What qualifies me to say anything about singleness? I mean, I got married right out of college when I was 21. I didn’t have to struggle through any time as a single adult. So why should you listen to me?
We spoiled married people love to offer trite advice to you Christian singles in our churches, like, “You are so lucky, you get to pour yourself out for Christian ministry! By the way, when can you serve in my kid’s Sunday school class?” Or, “Stop focusing on yourself! Isn’t Jesus enough?”
On top of that, we beat you down and make you feel guilty with Paul’s exhortation: “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34a).
Here Is My Confession.
Methinks Paul doth assume too much. Really, Paul? You think that’s what my single years looked like? You really think that as a teenaged single young man that my primary anxieties arose from a hypersensitivity toward doing the will of God?
Allow me to set the record straight. I may have only lived for eight years as a single young man, but that was long enough for me to see what drove me: selfish desire. Yes, I was active in my church. Yes, I did devotions. Yes, I spent time with Christian friends. But underneath it all, my primary anxieties were about doing the things of Chad — not the things of God.
I look back at my years in high school and cringe at how self-consumed and proud I was. [Pride is just a nice word for acting as though you are a god.] I think of all of the foolish and self-centered actions I committed without thinking of how they would affect my family, my church, or my friends — let alone God’s purposes. I was a Christian, but I was not primarily driven by a desire to be about my Father’s business.
In college, I went to the gym when I wanted to. I stayed up as late as I wanted to. I slept in when I wanted to. I ate what I wanted to. I did what I wanted to. I went to church, but I only went to church. There was no active Kingdom-building happening. I led Bible studies and I built Christian friendships, but I think the good that came from those things was only by God’s grace despite me, not because of my intentionality.
It wasn’t that I had been intentionally selfish, like I woke up every morning thinking, How can I please me? It just comes naturally for each of us to focus on ourselves. We don’t have to seek it out. That’s how we as sinful people naturally think and act.
As a single, I was self-focused and self-centered. I was a me-monster. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 did not describe me. I didn’t lay my tired head down each night from an exhaustingly satisfying day of doing Kingdom work. I laid my tired head down each night from playing and doing what Chad wanted to do.
Enter My Wife
Marriage was a rude awakening. The new covenant relationship that I was forging with my wife was exactly how Paul described it: “The married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:33). Paul means this as an unfortunate inevitability. I think it was God’s grace in my life. You see, Paul regrets that a single man’s devotion to God would be distracted by marital concerns. However, for me, a man whose main focus was self, marriage drew my focus away from self and forced me to care for someone else.
I wonder whether God had me marry so young in order to save me from myself. After four years in college, living a life centered around my desires, now everything I did had to be done with another person’s interests in mind. Even down to when I ate lunch or chose to exercise or did homework, I had to consider how to love her through it all. I failed. Frequently. More often than not. Why? Because I was having a hard time getting over me. And I still am.
Then God gave me a child. Then another child. And now as I await the arrival of my third child, I am learning quickly that my life is no longer mine. It belongs to these three (soon to be four) other people that God has tasked me with loving more than I love myself. Marriage was God’s way of forcing me to serve Him by loving my family more than I loved myself. Praise God, He gave me such a forgiving wife.
Singleness Is for Champs
I wish I could say I lived up to Paul’s ideal in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35. Unfortunately, it took marriage to awaken me to just how self-centered I was. Don’t allow that to happen to you. If you are single, you are single for the Kingdom of Christ. It takes a true champ to run with perseverance as a single Christian. It takes young men and women who are wise beyond their years to realize that their singleness is a gift to be offered as a sacrifice to the Lord, not to be spent on personal pleasures and selfish desire.
Don’t waste your single years shopping for yourself, playing video games, doing what pleases you. Run your Christian race like someone who wants to win the prize. Singleness requires self-control, and I don’t just mean sexual self-control. It requires this kind of attitude: “I beat my body and make it my slave, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Spend yourself for your church. Pour yourself out for the saints. Love the elderly and care for the marginalized. When you lay your head down on that twin bed at night, may you be worn out and exhausted — because you spent all day seeking “how to please the Lord” (1 Corinthians 9:32).
Posted with permission from ChadAshby.com.
Chad Ashby is the pastor of College Street Baptist Church in Newberry, SC. He graduated from Grove City College where he studied Mathematics and Christian Thought. He then went on to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, where he graduated with an M. Div. in Biblical and Theological Studies.