Single: Should you pursue marriage?
As an unmarried person, you have distinct opportunities to grow in your faith and to make a substantial contribution to the kingdom of God. In fact, the season you’re in has the potential to be the most formative period of your life. How can you best honor God in this time?
Many Christians wonder if they should move toward marriage or embrace the kind of single life St. Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 7. Paul shares that he feels blessed to be single and able to put all of his energy into furthering the kingdom of God rather than the cares of the world that are part and parcel of family life. He recognizes that God gives some people the gift and calling of singleness and others the gift and calling of marriage. In order to evaluate your vocation, ask yourself two questions.
Have I Been Stalled?
Popular American culture tends to discourage marriage, implying people can live a more exciting, fulfilling life by remaining unmarried. Even Christians with the best of intentions often drift into a single lifestyle marked by recreational relationships, hyper-individualism, consumption, and leisure. Following this cultural path, it’s no surprise some Christian singles find their lives stalling out in a cycle of loneliness, a series of broken relationships, and a general lack of purpose. If you find yourself in this cycle, take the opportunity now to pause, pray, and reflect on how to become intentional rather than passive with regard to the single life.
To what am I called?
In the Scriptures God calls adults to follow one of two callings—either a path to the sacrament of marriage or to a life of celibate service. The best way to honor God in your singleness is to be intentionally set apart for His purposes, recognizing that God’s call to both marriage and singleness is much different from the images portrayed in our popular culture. God’s vision for the single life includes a commitment to chastity, active engagement in Christian community, and faithful stewardship of your talents and resources. Singles who cultivate such qualities find it easier to discern if God is calling them to pursue marriage or celibate service. If you are currently single, it is vital to prayerfully contemplate if the Lord intends this state to be temporary or long term/permanent. As Fr. James Martin has said in his book, The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, “Everyone has a vocation…the most fundamental vocation is to become the person whom God created. And it’s both the person you already are, and the person that God calls you to be.”
Celibate Service as a Vocation
Celibacy means sacrificing the companionship of marriage, the pleasures of sex, and the blessing of children. In that context, full engagement in the body of Christ—giving and receiving fellowship—is vitally important. It is not a “consolation prize” for those who haven’t yet found a spouse, but is a purposeful life devoted to serving God and others. If you think you may not be called to not only a single life but a monastic life in a religious order, talk to a priest about this special calling that God may be laying on your heart.
Marriage & Family
Singles who don’t feel called to celibacy should pursue the sacrament of marriage with hopeful preparation. While you may not know how and when you will marry, you can become intentional about eliminating roadblocks. You can remain faithful in purity, stewardship, and community. You can also take initiative and pray purposefully for a healthy marriage.
Others find themselves called to a more long-term single state, while they may desire marriage in the future.
During this time, remember that even while waiting for one part of God’s plan for you to materialize, you are still able to live fully in the center of God’s will for your life. St. Paul extols the gifts of the single life in 1 Corinthians 7. One gift of singleness is to have greater freedom of movement, activities, and choices. Seek out ways to use your time and talents in service to the church, the poor, and the needy. You may also be able to more freely explore and pursue the other callings that God has for you, such as your career, education, or service to your family and friends. As many stories from the Scriptures illustrate, waiting on God’s timing can be very painful. Perhaps that is why so many verses from the Bible were written to encourage those who wait! Proverbs 3:5–6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Each state in life—single, pursing marriage, and married—has value in God’s sight. As you seek to walk the path that the Lord has for you, deep purpose and fulfillment can be found as you break away from cultural norms to live intentionally for Christ.
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 832
For the Right Use of God’s Gifts
Almighty God, whose loving hand has given us all that we possess; Grant us grace that we may honor you with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 827
- See also the Bringing Faith Home resource
• Hope to Marry: Proactively Pursuing Marriage.
- The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything by Fr. James Martin
In an accessible way, Fr. Martin covers topics such as celibacy, chastity, finding freedom through discipline, vocation, and discernment.
- Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams Are Delayed by Betsy Childs Howard
This book addresses the spiritual side of waiting for one’s deepest desires. The author also published the article, “Should I Be Content with My Singleness?”
An evangelical website by Focus on the Family that offers young adults encouragement to live abundantly as singles while seeking God’s best in either celibacy or marriage. boundless.org
- The Book of Common Prayer
The BCP contains all of our services, prayers, and many resources for private devotions. It can be purchased on Amazon or at the Incarnation Bookstore. bcponline.org
- Get Connected.
Join with others from our church who are meeting together to study and connect and pray. Go to the Growth Groups web page for more information. Church of the Incarnation has a thriving young adults ministry. It is comprised of both married and single people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. View the Youth Adults page on Facebook.
- Get Involved.
Use your gifts! Take our Spiritual Gifts Assessment to discern ways to get plugged into the life of Incarnation.
- Serve the Poor.
Go to our local outreach page to find out how your gifts can change lives.
- Talk with a priest.
Any of the priests on staff at Incarnation are happy to meet with you for direction, counsel, or simply just to talk. Email a priest to set up a meeting. Or call the parish office at 214-521-5101.