The Savior gets the single life
The coronavirus has made being single very complicated.
There are, as you may have seen on Facebook, challenges that families are facing during these long days of social distancing, virtual learning, and extended waiting. Dads are figuring out how to do fifth-grade math. Working moms are trying to look professional on Zoom while their diapered two-year-old waddles around in the background. Countless Christians are praying for six straight seconds of quiet and peace in their homes.
But your struggles are different. Maybe the quiet is your problem. Maybe the dinner table silence is what you wish you could change. Maybe the isolation is increasing your anxiety, loneliness, and fear.
If so, you’re in the right place. Because I wrote these devotions specifically for Christians just like you. While I am a married father of two, I have been hearing from many of the single brothers and sisters from our church. They have told me what this has been like, what they need most, and what helps them get through.
In the days to come, I hope to share that wisdom, taken from our Father’s Word, and gift it to you.
Here’s where I want to start—Jesus gets it.
As a guy who can bounce his thoughts and fears off his wife, I might not get it. But Jesus gets it. As a father who is literally within 40 feet of those four little feet, I might not get it. But Jesus gets it. It’s true, in so many areas of your single life, that I might not get it. But Jesus gets it.
Because the Savior gets the single life.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
That’s the Bible’s fancy way of saying—Jesus gets it. He can empathize with our weaknesses, because Jesus didn’t stay up in heaven, far away from all struggles and temptations, but rather came down to earth, right where we are.
Does Jesus know what it’s like to be alone? He does.
Does Jesus grasp the feeling of hearing married friends gush (and complain) about their married lives? He does.
Does Jesus understand what it’s like when people assume everyone in the room has kids, even though you don’t? He does.
Does Jesus get what it’s like to wrestle with thoughts and have no one in the same bed to share them with? He does.
Isn’t that stunning? Jesus is not just the all-powerful Son of God, the one who can erase your sin and defeat death in your place. He is also the Son of Man, the one who took on flesh, humbled himself, and insisted on getting it.
Jesus insisted on getting you.
So when you talk to Jesus about what today has been like, picture the empathy in his eyes. He gets it. When you honestly admit that the loneliness is getting to you, see the sympathy in his kind smile. He gets it. When you pour out your problems in prayer, envision the compassionate nod of his head. He gets it.
Sooner or later, Jesus will fix it.
But already now, Jesus gets it.
And sometimes knowing that somebody gets it, that somebody gets you, is all you need to get by.
A single person’s purpose during the pandemic
Last year I attempted to count how many hours my wife and kids were costing me.
(Does that sound coldhearted? 🙂
Out of pure curiosity, I tried to tally up all the time I spent dating my wife, playing with my daughters, communicating schedules, and watching games from the bleachers. When the math was done, I learned that my family was costing me . . . a lot!
My dear wife and kids were a full-time job.
Then the coronavirus came along. And, somehow, that number went up. With no time at school and virtual learning done by 11 A.M., my daughters expected daddy time to deal with their boredom. My wife had more to communicate, more problems to solve, more routines to create.
I’m not complaining. I know that God has given me a sacred purpose and that this is my new purpose as a family man.
This might seem like an odd way to start a devotion meant for singles. You may or may not have children, so why am I spending my time talking about the amount of time I have to devote to my spouse and kids?
Because that’s what Paul did when he talked about a single person’s purpose.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 7, a breathtaking chapter on biblical singleness, marriage, and family, Paul wrote, “An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord” (verses 32-35).
Paul’s point is not that it’s better to be single or married. His point is that each relationship status has a wonderful purpose. Married people are called to love and respect one another, which takes quantity time. Unmarried people are called to carry out the Lord’s affairs, which they can do even better, since their interests are not “divided.”
So what does that mean for you during the coronavirus?
It means you have time that I don’t. While I’m checking my girls’ spelling tests, listening to their piano practice, evaluating their driveway chalk art, and picking up the six (billion) things they left lying around, you can devote yourself to loving your family, friends, and neighbors. You might have time to . . .
Call that woman from your church who recently became a widow.
Leave a few thoughtful ratings/reviews on ministry podcasts that have been a blessing to your soul.
Encourage a great leader whom you know to keep on the same humble path.
Invest in a teenager who respects you, even during that stage of life when they have lost respect for their parents.
I envy that. Truly, I do. I often regret not finding more time for such good works, but you have that capacity.
So what might be your purpose during this strange season of our lives? What would your “undivided devotion to the Lord” look like as the weeks of our self-isolation wear on? Please answer that question with intention. Write down the good works that you (and maybe only you) can do.
Because your singleness is not a problem. It’s part of your purpose.
Pandemic prayer party
The apostle Paul understood isolation.
Arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, Paul was stuffed into a jail cell for years of his life (Acts 25:27). As his mockery of a trial wore on, as those first unjust days turned into one thousand imprisoned nights, we would not have blamed Paul for pouting.
But he didn’t. Paul used those lonely times to pray.
The proof is in the letters that Paul wrote while under arrest. Check out this repetitive theme:
“Ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:15-17).
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5).
“Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” (Colossians 1:9).
“I have not stopped.” “I keep asking.” “I always pray.” “We continually ask.” All ways of revealing how this single saint spent his time. He prayed for the people of God and the glory of God.
Maybe that’s part of God’s purpose for you too. The coronavirus has left many of us with less human contact than Paul had while under house arrest, which tempts us to throw a pity party. But God would prefer that we turn this pandemic into a prayer party!
After all, you don’t need to leave your house to pray.
After all, if your income gets slashed, you’re still rich enough to pray.
After all, whether you’re healthy or sick, God still invites you to pray.
After all, when you’ve run out of things to do (or haven’t even begun), it’s always good to pray.
As a single person like Paul, this might be the perfect time to pray. Your prayer life might be as weak as a Covid-19 patient, but God’s Spirit is a respirator that can strengthen the lungs of your soul.
Need some advice? Let me offer two points:
- Start Local—After praying for yourself, organize your prayers by distance. Your closest family and friends, followed by more distant relatives and acquaintances, followed by people you haven’t met and mission fields “out there” in the world. This prayer structure will keep your thoughts organized, checking mental boxes as you envision your life. (Most of us mentally wander quickly as we pray, so this system will help you visualize your prayer list.)
- Start Spiritual—Paul, as he proved in the passages above, would beg you to start spiritual. Good health in the midst of a global pandemic is a good prayer. But even better are prayers that have eternal impact. Pray for God’s name to mean everything to people, becoming the refuge they run to in times of trouble. Pray for God’s kingdom to come, as Jesus becomes King and Lord over more hearts in more places. Pray for God’s will to be done, drawing people to the cross and refining his family through trials, coronavirus included.
Being single in this situation is, without a doubt, hard. But don’t throw a pity party. Throw a prayer party.
That’s what pandemics are for.
Replace secrecy with community
The empty room tempted me.
I can recall that night, years ago, when I was hundreds of miles from home, alone in my hotel room. Tired from a long day of grad school and lonely without my wife and daughters, I felt the lure of Satan’s attack.
I was alone. No one was watching. And the hotel TV (with its many channels) was right there.
As I recall that night, I think of my single brothers and sisters living through the coronavirus. These days there is more than enough exhaustion, frustration, and loneliness. And, unless you have kids still in the home with you, there is plenty of privacy. No one is watching. And temptation is right there.
There’s the bottle of wine, which you could finish all by yourself.
There’s the internet, which would love to sell you things you can’t afford.
There’s the internet, which has gluttonous amounts of gossip.
There’s the internet, which is filled with more fear than a horror movie.
There’s the internet, which has more sexual immorality than you could see in 70 lifetimes.
There’s the internet . . .
Okay, you get the point. The world has always been filled with temptation, but this isolated world makes that temptation even more tempting.
Which is why I want to encourage you to replace secrecy with community.
Satan and your Savior are in a daily duel. The former wants you to keep secrets; the latter wants you to make confessions. The former wants you to hide; the latter wants you to connect. The former wants you to be an army of one; the latter wants you to be an army of some.
Jesus’ view is well summarized in the proverbs—“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
I love that verse. It implies that you have already sinned, that you fell, that you failed. Yet it still offers mercy, specifically to those who confess their sins. In addition, it promises spiritual prosperity to sinners who refuse to stay stuck in the darkness and keep secrets.
Maybe today is God’s way of bringing you back into the light—of shoving you to that bright, initially painful, place where darkness has to flee. The spot where you open up to your community and hear their words of mercy, words they have mentally copied and pasted from the Scriptures.
“God is love. Even now. You know he loves you, right?”
“Great is his faithfulness. His mercy is new every morning. This morning too. Do you understand that?”
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. So I guess he died for a sinner like you too, huh?”
This is the best reason to confess. Yes, the accountability is great. But the gospel, spoken to us from outside of us, is even greater.
So if corona has urged you to sin in secret ways, it’s time to share those secrets. Come out into the light! Tell someone! And give them the chance to tell you about Jesus.
A word for widows/widowers
I can’t imagine what you’re going through.
Singles come in many shapes and sizes. The young man who wants to, and probably will, marry some day. The older bachelorette who is comfortable in living like Jesus, a lifelong single. The guy who didn’t want the divorce, but his wife filed anyway.
But then there’s the widow (or widower). The one who found love and, hopefully, sustained that love until death did them part.
If that’s you, I can’t imagine what you’re going through. What you wouldn’t give to be isolated with the one you love! What you wouldn’t pay to be quarantined for weeks with that voice, that face, that laugh! Corona would lose its sting if only they were still here . . .
But I refuse to believe that you widows or widowers are less than blessed. As a Christian, I cannot agree with that conclusion, no matter how wonderful she was or how deeply you still grieve his death.
Because, through faith in Jesus, you have Someone even better than your spouse— you have GOD.
I left his name capitalized so that you would not think too little of GOD. Reduce GOD to a so-so “God” or a generic “god” and you will be in spiritual and emotional trouble. But force your heart to remember that GOD is glorious, exalted, magnified, and sufficient, and you have discovered the secret to being content, even living through a global pandemic.
Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, eventually remembered this fact, which freed him from bitterness and restored his joy. He sang, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (verse 26). GOD is your portion too, and he will keep your heart strong, even after your spouse’s heart has failed.
In addition, if you have wonderful memories of your spouse, you are one step away from worshiping today:
If your husband was thoughtful, always finding the right words to make you smile, how much more thoughtful is GOD whose words have changed billions of hearts?!
If your wife was selfless, sacrificing her comfort to bring joy to your day, how much more selfless is the GOD who gave his one and only Son?!
If your husband was patient, putting up with your personal struggles and opening his arms to your tears, how much more patient is the GOD who waits for his prodigal sons and daughters to come home?!
If your wife was beautiful, taking your breath away when she put on that dress, how much more beautiful is the GOD who created beauty so you could catch a glimpse of his?!
I could and should keep going. You should too.
Because this GOD is the eternal GOD. He doesn’t die. We never have to attend his funeral. We never have to cry at night, wishing we could only have one more day with him.
Because he is the great I AM, the GOD who always is. He is with us. He is with you.
The coronavirus might have stirred up in you new feelings of grief. Oh, how you wish your spouse was still here! But please remember to grieve with hope, recalling Who is still present in the room.
GOD is here! And he is all you need to be okay today.