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Single and Happy
Society wraps our desire for intimacy with people into one solution—a romantic partner. This "cure" has often led people to place unrealistic expectations on the one they marry.


I'm one of the 16 million people in Canada who are not married. It has been my observation, though, that singles are generally treated as if they have a disease, one that needs to be cured by a romantic partner. This message is in our music, on television, in the movies and in the books we read. The question most often asked of singles is: Have you found someone yet?

Single and Happy

Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth

Three single women in the Bible interest me — Naomi, Orpah and Ruth. Naomi was an Israelite and mother-in-law to Orpah and Ruth, who were Moabites. Sadly, all three women experienced tragedies in their lives. Naomi lost a husband and ten years later she lost her two sons (who were married to Orpah and Ruth). They were left single and alone.

Naomi was living in the country of Moab because of a famine in Israel. She decided to return to Israel with Orpah and Ruth after the famine ended. Naomi's advice to her daughters on the way back is insightful: "Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, 'Go back, each of you, to your mother's home. May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband. Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me — even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons — would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you because the Lord's hand has gone out against me" (Ruth 1:11-13).

Naomi was most concerned about the marital status of Orpah and Ruth and the repercussions that being single might have on their living conditions. Widows experienced greater challenges during those days, but the idea that marriage could cure their problems is something we still find today.

Myths of marriage

In Fit to be Tied, Bill and Lynn Hybels dispel four myths of marriage. The first is that it will end one's loneliness. They admit that there are millions of lonely married people who might even be in an ideal marriage.

The second is that it will heal one's brokenness. Some have become victims themselves, and others even victimize their own spouses as they seek healing that could never come from a human being. The psalmist rightly proclaimed of God that it is He who "heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (Psalm 147:2).

The third myth is that marriage will ensure one's happiness. The Hybels' comments are insightful here: "In most cases, an unhappy single person will be an unhappy married person."

The last myth they discredit is that marriage is for everyone. Neither Jesus nor Paul was married, and both spoke of the advantage of being single in order to be involved in ministry to a greater degree.

Three choices

Orpah decided to go back home where she might find a man to marry. That was her choice. Sadly, we never hear about her again.

Bitterness can lead to resentment, depression and sin.

Orpah is like many in society. She desperately wants someone to love, so she does whatever it takes to be married. Some Christians even end up marrying non-Christians because of this heart attitude, which leads them outside of God's will.

We can see something else in Naomi. She has become an embittered person — so much so that she wanted people to call her "Mara" which means "bitter". She even blames God, saying His hand is against her.

Blaming God is the second choice many singles make, often asking, "Why hasn't God done anything about this?" Bitterness can lead to resentment, depression and sin.

Ruth's reply to Naomi's advice is intriguing: "Your people will be my people and your God my God" (Ruth 1:16-18). She chose to stay with Naomi.

True greatness

We all have a yearning for two levels of relational intimacy. We desire relationship with God and other people. Ruth was committed to both kinds of intimacy.

Society wraps up our conscious (or unconscious) desire for intimacy with God and people into one solution—a romantic partner. This "cure" has led to discontentment among singles and couples, often due to unrealistic expectations of a partner.

Ruth had her priorities right. We should be developing intimacy with God and meaningful relationships with a variety of people. In the Book of Ruth, a wonderful love story unfolds between Ruth and Boaz. God blessed Ruth with a new husband. In fact, she eventually became the great-grandmother of King David. Ruth's decision to maintain her relationship with Naomi (even if it meant she may never marry again) positioned Ruth for greatness.

What choices have you made lately? Where are your priorities today?

Endnotes

1) Statistics Canada, "Population by marital status and sex, by provinces and territories." [cited 11 December 2004]. Online http://www.statscan.ca. This is a 2004 statistic. The total Canadian population is 31,946,316. There are 15,540,151 married, 13,338,363 singles, 1,545,813 widowed, and 1,521,989 divorced. When adding singles, widowed, and divorced together, the total unmarried is 16,406,165.

2) Fit to be Tied: Making Marriage Last a Lifetime. Bill and Lynn Hybels. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991. See chapter one for a thorough discussion of these myths. This is an excellent book for both singles and married couples seeking to hear a married couple's honest insights on this important topic.

3) Fit to be Tied: Making Marriage Last a Lifetime. Bill and Lynn Hybels. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991, p. 33.

4) See Matthew 19:11-12 for Jesus' comments on this, and 1 Corinthians 7 for Paul's discussion on this idea.

5) In 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, Paul clearly conveys that it is contrary to God's plan for Christians to be united with non-Christians in intimate fellowship, which is especially true for marriage which is a very intimate union. See Genesis 2:24.

6) Ruth 1:20

7) See Matthew 1:5-16

8) Hybels. Fit to be Tied, p. 26.

Josh Samuel, young adults pastor at Malvern Christian Assembly, Scarborough, Ontario, is completing a MTh, Old Testament studies. He can be reached at jsamuel@mcassembly.com

Originally published in Testimony, February 2005.
www.paoc.org

 

 
 
 
 

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