Spiritual Help for the Unmarried

Spiritual Help for the Unmarried

Spiritual Help for the Unmarried

Richard Hollerman

Many of us may be unaware of the vast number of unmarried people there are around us. We go to work, to school, to shopping places, and to other areas and see men and women around us but we seem to be oblivious to their marital status. What can we learn about these people? How do we view them? How does God view them?

I speak with some experience. At one time I thought I would be married by age twenty but this didn’t happen. I continued to look and wait—but still no sweet and eligible girl entered my life. I continued to wait—until age 25, then 30, then 40, and my age continued to pass me by.

I read the words of God at Psalm 84:11b: “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Was I not walking in uprightness or righteousness? Wasn’t it true that God’s Word also asserted: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22)? How could I reconcile passages like this? David also wrote, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Why had He not given me “the desire of my heart”? Other verses could be added. I prayed and prayed for many years, but still no woman, still no wife, still no marriage.

Those of you who know me and my background are aware that finally—after many years of waiting and praying—God did answer my prayers and I now have a wife, the delight of my heart. But why did I need to wait so many years? I really don’t know but I didn’t become bitter at God at all. After all, how could one be offended by a God who is absolutely “perfect” in any way (Matthew 6:48) and who knows me better than I know myself (Psalm 139:1-6)? God has His reasons and I assume that He will one day reveal them, if He so desires.

I give this background to let the reader know that I am acquainted somewhat with being unmarried. I know what single celibacy is like. And I also know that God is a wise and powerful Lord who does all things well!

Let’s now approach this difficult subject of being unmarried. It is not only difficult but also perplexing to some degree. Those of you who are presently unmarried but would like to be married will want to read every word of our discussion and be open to God’s plans and will for your life. We’ll be discussing a wide range of areas in this general issue of being unmarried.

The Numbers are Great

Let’s discuss first of all the vast number of people who are unmarried now in America.[1] We really don’t know what the situation may be in other countries—whether Japan or India, whether Iraq or Egypt, whether Argentina or Kenya or Germany. Let’s just focus presently on the United States.

  1. How many are now single?

There are 110.6 million people who are single! “The number of unmarried people in America age 18 and older in 2016. This group is made up 45.2 percent of all U.S. residents age 18 and older.” [2] We will admit that 45.2 percent of the population is high—very high. Keep in mind that the remaining 55 percent of people may be in troubled and unwanted marriages! Or the marriages may not be pleasing to God! Further, many of those who are married are now living in adultery (through a remarriage after illegitimate divorce). If we were to include people like this, it may be that 60 or 70 or 80 percent of people age 18 and older are either unmarried, wish they were unmarried, or should be unmarried. This surely is a tragedy of great proportions. Do you happen to be among this number? If so, we urge you to continue to read for we do have some helpful advice later.

  1. How many of this number are men and how many women?

There are many of both genders: “53.2%. The percentage of unmarried U.S. residents age 18 and older who were women in 2016; 46.8 percent were men.”[3] Thus, there are numerous men and especially women who are not married at this time.

  1. How many of these people have never been married at all?

We’ve read that some 63.5 percent of the number have never been married in their life. This would be for those age 18 and older.

  1. How many have been divorced and how many widowed?

The statistics tell us that 23.1 percent of unmarried were divorced and 13.4 percent were widowed.

  1. Now let’s ask about the older folks. How many of the unmarried are age 65 and older?

Some 19.5 million people fall into this category. This would be 17.7 percent of the unmarried people age 18 and older.

  1. How about the men and women?

The number of unmarried men age 18 and older would be 88 as compared to every 100 unmarried women.

  1. How many households are maintained by unmarried men and women?

There are now 59.8 million of such households. They comprise 47.6 percent of households in general in America. Thus, nearly half of all households are headed by unmarried men or women!

  1. How many people live alone?

There are 35.4 million people who live alone. This would be 28.1 percent of all households.

  1. Let’s consider parenting.

Some 35.7 percent of women, age 15 to 50, had a birth in the last 12 months who were widowed, divorced, or never married. Additionally, some 37.5 percent of “opposite sex, unmarried partner couples” who lived with at least one biological child of either partner. We also learn that 790,103 unmarried grandparents were responsible for most of the basic care of a co-resident grandchild. Furthermore, 30.7 percent of co-resident grandparents” were “responsible for their grandchildren were unmarried.”

  1. Tell us about unmarried couples.

There are about 7.3 million unmarried couples in the country. Some 433,539 were same-sex households. Thus, about seven million couples must have been living in fornication.

Note: This information came from a variety of sources, found from the original article. For further documentation and research, please check this source: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2017/single-americans-week.html

Comments on the Unmarried

We can see, from the information found above, that there are vast numbers of people—both men and women—who are unmarried in America. Some have never been married, while others have lost a companion, and still others are divorced or are homosexuals.

Do you fall into this category? As you can see, you are not alone. We don’t know if you are single because you want to be or because this was placed on you. The latter would bring more stress and concern, of course, and we hope that we can help to address your needs here. Here are a few comments to you who are unmarried. We’ll break this down by categories.

  1. The widows or widowers

God has a special regard for those who have lost their husband. Scripture says, “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation” (Psalm 68:5). It is also good to remember 1 Timothy 5:3-16 where much instruction is given to the assembly in dealing with widows—women who have lost their husband. Verse 3 says, “Honor widows who are widows indeed.” God cares for those who have no other means of livelihood, such as children or other relatives. In the first century, it would have been much more difficult for women to make a livelihood if they were widows. Today, it is not as hard, but generally when a woman enters the workplace, there are many different pressures on her. (It would be excellent for the body of Christ to face this problem directly, as Paul does in 1 Timothy 5.)

Our guess is that some of the same instruction above could be given to those who have been divorced unjustly by their evil and unjust husbands. We know that God also cares for widowers who have lost their beloved spouse after an honorable lifelong marriage.

If any of this applies to you, we urge you to find comfort and encouragement in God who is a “husband” to you as a widow. Remember that throughout Scripture, the Lord cares for and blesses ones who are without a spouse.

If you are a younger widow, you can seek another marriage companion. As Paul says, “I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; for some have already turned aside to follow Satan” (1 Timothy 5:14-15). If this describes you, it is well for you to be married to an eligible person and pursue an honorable second marriage, even with children. We know, of course, that merely “wanting” to be married will not bring about the remarriage. May God guide you in this difficult matter!

In another place, the apostle says that “if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39). Thus, it is not adultery at all to be remarried if your husband is dead. We assume that this is true for the man who is a widower also. But, as Paul also says, a person may be “happier” if he or she remains unmarried after losing a spouse in death (v. 40).

  1. The divorced

A growing number of people have divorced their mate or were divorced by their mate. As we noticed earlier, 23.1 percent of Americans age 18 and older were divorced. These millions of men and women fall into different categories, thus it is very wrong to stigmatize all who have been divorced in one way or another.

Of course, if a spouse just “gets tired” of a spouse and divorces, this would be wrong. (Some would call this divorce because of “incompatibility.”) As Jesus said, God is the One who created marriage in the beginning and wants a man and woman to continue as long as they both shall live (Matthew 19:4-6). He goes on to say, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (v. 9). Thus, a husband or wife must not divorce a mate (with the possible exception of “immorality”). If he or she does divorce and then remarries, that person commits adultery. And we also know that no adulterers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

We know that most people who are in the “divorced” category are not at all concerned about whether God approves of their state or not. They are only interested in seeking companionship from another spouse. This only compounds the problem and is like the proverbial statement, they have “jumped out of the frying pan into the fire”! Not only do they often take their problems with them into the new union (many more second marriages end in divorce than first marriages), but they surely will end up with more problems—in eternity.

What does one do if he has divorced his wife (for instance) and then found a second spouse and a second marriage? What does he do if he finds himself involved in an adulterous remarriage? We know of no other solution (but a hard one, at that) than for the person to repent of his adulterous remarriage and to cease committing adultery. As Paul would put it, that person must “stop sinning” (1 Corinthians 15:34).

Not all divorced people remarry. The younger ones usually do but the older ones generally do not remarry. They continue in a divorced state. Even if they initiated the divorce, it may not be possible to return to the original spouse. We know that there are millions of chaotic and intertwined situations today and this complicates the whole issue of marriage and remarriage considerably. Add to this mess any children and the union becomes even more complicated! There is much pain involved in these situations.

Whatever the situation, let us remember that God knows what He is doing and understands you. He cares for you. He wants you to repent (if you need to repent), to reconcile (if that is His will), to be content, and to go on with a trust in His providence. If you have never come to Christ yourself, you need to believe in Jesus, repent of your sins, and come for God’s forgiveness (Romans 5:6-11; John 3:14-18, 36; Acts 2:38-41; 17:30-31).

If you had nothing to do with the divorce yourself but were divorced by a selfish spouse, remember that God has a special regard for you—just as He does for the widow and widower. He knows your tears; He knows your sorrows; He knows your difficult circumstances; and He knows your perplexities about the present and the future. Let’s trust in God to work all of this out for His glory.

  1. The immoral

This category includes many different varieties. Perhaps you are a homosexual, with a preference or even a relationship with the same gender. Perhaps you are bisexual or transgender. Perhaps you are “living with” a boy or girl in fornication. As we said, there are many different forms of sexual immorality. Perhaps this describes you in some way.

We know that who created us, made us male and female, thus He approves of only a normal male-female relationship (see Genesis 1:27). This was reiterated by Jesus, the Son of God, as well (see Matthew 19:4-6). Thus, we read that “each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). This is God’s general will, for He said that the husband and the wife “shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Although this is God’s general will, we know that many factors can and do modify this.

Obviously, one of the immediate needs that you have (if you are living with someone who is not eligible for marriage or if you—yourself—are ineligible for marriage) is for God’s forgiveness of your sexual immorality. God’s Word is quite clear that those who are involved in fornication must repent if they wish to enter God’s kingdom (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:2-8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; Revelation 21:8). Fornication would include all wrongful and unlawful sexual sins. Those involved in homosexuality (whether lesbianism or sodomy or any other variety), must repent and turn from this perversion if they expect to enter the kingdom of God (Romans 1:26-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Revelation 21:8).

Any other form of evil and immoral relationship must be forsaken to find God’s forgiveness. “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Proverbs 28:13). God offers full forgiveness for all of your sexual immorality. He loves you too much to leave you in a wrongful relationship (and thus face His eternal wrath), but He will be compassionate and forgiving if you are willing to turn to Him in real repentance.

  1. The Separated

Not only do we find divorce growing but we also find that some people choose to separate from their spouse, without divorce. Some just don’t believe in divorce, others see this as a temporary measure (until the spouse repents or “they work things out”), while others just want to see if they can live without marriage to another person.

We can empathize with some of these people and know that there may be much pain involved in this decision to live separately from a spouse. But we also know that Jesus said, “’For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’” “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6). It is God’s will that an eligible man and an eligible woman united in marriage to become “one flesh.” They are not to separate and go their separate ways. Marriage was meant to last until one of the parties dies. It was meant “for life.”

This matter is addressed directly by Paul the apostle: “To the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). It is clear that the “wife should not leave her husband” and the “husband should not divorce his wife.” Separation is forbidden.

The only type of situations that may call for separation would be the case in which a wife is facing bodily harm. Or perhaps when a child is being physically or sexually abused by a wicked husband and father. Thus, there may be situations that would receive the Lord’s approval, but, as we have seen, separation is forbidden.

There must be thousands of spouses who weep over the departure of their husband or wife. What was meant to last for life and fulfill the common epitaph, “they lived happily ever after,” becomes a nightmare. So many tears have been shed. May God heal the hurts of the separated and grant His balm to these aching hearts.

  1. The unhappily married

Most people do marry sometime in their life and surely in most of these cases the husband and wife have plans to be together for life. They assume that they will be fulfilling the proverbial “happily ever after” scenario. They think that their problems will be solved, that they will find “the love of their life,” and that finally loneliness will be gone.

An article entitled   “Are You Among the Growing Number of Unhappy Married People?” points in the other direction (psychologytoday.com/us/blog/contemplating-divorce/201709/are-you-among-the-growing-number-unhappy-married-people). The article says, “Marriage these days seems to be falling out of favor. Not only are young couples choosing marriage less today than ever before, the number of those who consider themselves happily married is also in decline. In his 2012 book You Can Be Right or You Can Be Married, Dana Adam Shapiro wrote that as few as 17 percent of couples are content in their partner.” Obviously, 17 percent is far less than the general assumption that most people enjoy marriage.

The article goes on to say: “Vicki Larson, journalist and co-author of The New I Do, Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, sites [sic] that six of every 10 are unhappily coupled and four out of 10 have considered leaving their partner. A study done by the National Opinion Research Center in 2014 revealed that the trend is getting worse, not better. People are becoming less and less happy in their marriages as time goes on. While the actual number of discontented varies and the data is hard to pin down exactly, it seems clear that “happily ever after” is less common than we would like to believe. Despite the reality, fairytales will always happy.”

Whether only 17 percent of married people are “happy,” or whether the percentage is more like 50 percent, still this is less than most couples. We must also remember that many of these marriages are actually remarriages and this would probably constitute adultery. Scripture would say that “unhappiness” is not a legitimate grounds for a Biblical and honorable divorce.

If you are in an “unhappy” marriage and the marriage itself is legitimate, we encourage you to work through the problems that you are encountering. Sit down with a trusted and wise friend or a truly Christian teacher and discuss the issues. Determine that you will not allow minor differences to separate you. In many cases, these “unhappy” marriages can be made happy. This is especially true if both parties are determined to solve the problems with the help of the Lord.

If the husband and wife practice the fruit of the Spirit (nine of these are found in Galatians 5:22-23 but dozens of others are scattered throughout the Bible, especially the New Testament). If both parties come to the Lord with repentant hearts and are actually born anew (John 3:3-7) and become new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), there can be a “rebirth” of the marital relationship.

  1. The simple unmarried

We might call this category the simple unmarried. We mean by this that there are millions of men and women who have never been married before but they simply have not entered the marital state—at least, yet. They may be afraid of marriage to the “wrong” partner. They may not be able to find a partner to their liking. They may be “burned” by a previous relationship and are slow to find another mate to marry. Some people may feel that they are not “marriageable” for some reason:

Some are not physically attractive, others have health issues that cannot be resolved, still others may be unemployed or not able to find lucrative employment. Some are aging—perhaps in their thirties or still older. Some just find that marriageable partners are fewer and fewer as they age. They may be thirty or forty or fifty—then they conclude that there are very, very few of the opposite sex who have never been married. Some would like a chaste and pure spouse and they can’t seem to find such a person in this “crooked and perverse” age in which we live. And, of course, some men and women just don’t know where to look for an acceptable marriage partner. They have looked into “dating services” and have gone to meetings, organizations, or churches—all without success.

It might be good for you to read 1 Corinthians 7:1-40. There we read that Paul, the apostle, recommends singleness, providing the person in question has the “gift” of celibacy and is able to practice self-control (vv. 1, 7-9; 25-40). Paul points out that one who is married will be filled with “concern” that could be avoided by staying single. For instance, he writes:

I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).

The apostle says that he wishes to “promote what is seemly and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:35). He says that if one remains single, “she is happier if she remains as she is” (v. 40). As we see in the passage above, one who is unmarried can devote more of his or her time and efforts and interests to the things of the Lord than one who is married (especially with children).

At the same time, Paul acknowledges that in normal circumstances, a man and woman should be married and thus avoid immoral interests that pull one down to destruction (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:2-5, 9). We are living in a sin-saturated and sex-saturated society and the demands of living in this depraved world may constantly pull one down to immoral participation. With God’s help and the discipline of the Spirit, one can avoid the sin around him and, if this can be done, singleness with celibacy may be the better option. But this is an individual matter, with pros and cons for both decisions. The reader must seek to apply these principles to his or her own case and thus seek to please the Lord in all things.

We acknowledge that because of the many, many other elements to this matter, it may not be a simple decision to marry or to not marry. The complications of life, the difficulty of finding a spiritual and godly spouse, the problems with age, the financial factors, and so much more contribute to a difficulty faced by most singles. Whatever one does, we urge you to not be drawn into a compromising relationship that would bring a very sad marriage. This may ruin your marriage—and your life!

Seek the Lord’s Will in Marriage

We have seen some of the different relationships that are available in America today. Probably many of these are also found in other societies and cultures of the world. Some societies do provide ways to lessen the problems of finding a spouse and remaining in a marriage. In fact, in some cases, the parents may arrange the marriage for their sons or daughters. Sometimes this may result in a better match but in many cases it just doesn’t work. Imagine a Christian living in a Hindu or Islamic culture and the parent wants to have the Christian marry an unbeliever! This could result in tremendous pressure to do wrong. But how does one avoid this compromising situation?

As Scripture says, a widow (for instance) “is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39). The follower of Jesus Christ must only enter a life union with another Christian, not one who is part of a world religion. As we read, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers,” but “come out from their midst and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17).

After the decision to accept the call of the Lord and become a follower of the Lord Jesus, surely the matter of finding a spouse would be second in importance! Make no mistake about this. A Christ-honoring and Biblically-based marriage has the power to elevate and enliven two people as they seek to serve the Lord during this short life on earth. They may be able to raise a godly family to God’s glory (cf. Genesis 1:28; 9:1, 7; Psalm 127:3, 5). Many passages of Scripture would instruct us how to live with a godly and spiritual spouse and how to raise a wonderful family for the Lord (cf. Matthew 19:3-12; 1 Corinthians 7; Ephesians 5:22-31; 6:1-4; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Peter 3:1-7).

However, we must not overlook the facts that we have noticed earlier—that millions of people don’t marry for one reason or another. And many of those who do marry have had one or multiple sexual partners before marriage—which brings a host of problems in itself. If they can escape the quagmire that these issues afford, they may find themselves in a marriage with numerous problems. We don’t wish to pursue this line of reasoning here, but the bottom line is that there are many factors to take into consideration in marriage.

Determine whether it is best for you, under God, to stay unmarried or to marry an eligible spouse. Remember that there are many problems involved in staying single in today’s world. We are not living in a monastery (not that even this would eliminate all problems), but in a society that offers numerous temptations to compromise.

But if you do marry, in a way that is not adulterous, and your spouse is a godly, righteous, pure, chaste woman or man, now is the time to determine to put God first in all you do. Determine to practice the many instructions in Scripture about how to relate to the opposite sex as a husband or wife (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-7). Also, it is important that you seek answers regarding child-raising. (This is a huge issue in itself. The consistent Christian will want to avoid sending his children to the secular humanistic state school system with its many compromises. The believer will need to answer such questions as: Where can we find a place to live? How can I earn enough to afford a family? How do I find the time to raise a family? How would a family fit into a godly Christian assembly?)

While our intention here is not to address the many issues that arise in seeking a mate or raising godly children, we do want to write on this in the future. We have some articles on our website that may be of help. Simply type “marriage” into the Search feature. Because so many people want to be married, we urge you to seek one of the opposite sex who meets these criteria:

  1. Choose a person who is a Christian (1 Corinthians 7:39; 9:5).
  2. Choose a person who is a growing and spiritual person.
  3. Find someone who shares the same perspectives, views, and likes as you do.
  4. Seek someone who was raised by a godly father and mother who instilled moral, conservative, and Biblical convictions into the person.
  5. Determine to find someone who is pure and undefiled, one who is innocent and inexperienced.
  6. Seek someone who has deep Biblical convictions who will have his or her heart molded by these convictions.
  7. Determine that you will only relate to one who is Biblically eligible to marry.
  8. Seek one who will have the blessing of his or her parents and family in the marriage (although this may not be possible).
  9. Determine to find one who is willing to put God first in all things and who wants to serve Jesus Christ.
  10. Determine that you will use Biblical instructions to find and relate to a possible marriage partner.
  11. Work closely with the person’s parents (if they are truly saved) or with a knowledgeable and godly spiritual leader or leaders.
  12. Have the same view of children and having children. Children are very important in a marriage and it is important that you discuss all aspects of child-raising with each other and with your spiritual leaders.

This is sufficient for now. Our discussions should answer some questions about marriage (as well as perhaps raising unanswered questions). With God’s help and instruction in Scripture, seek the answers. In all of this, may God be glorified and may Christ be followed! And if God does lead you to marry a certain person, may you find a fruitful life of love and service to the Lord and with each other.

Suggested Reading

  • Family Man, Family Leader (Philip Lancaster)
  • Joyfully at Home (Jasmine Bauchman)
  • So Much More (Botkin)
  • Be Fruitful and Multiply (Campbell)
  • Preparing Sons (Steven Maxwell)
  • Family Driven Faith (Baucham)
  • Raising Maidens of Virtue (McDonald)
  • The Exemplary Husband (Stuart Scott)

Our Publications

 

 

[1] See especially “Unmarried and Single Americans Week” (https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2017/single-americans-week.html

 

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