“But you – you get to show what Jesus is like without depending on anyone else!” my friend’s eyes shone as she excitedly pointed out the beautiful message that a single Christian is privileged to give to the world: that a relationship with Jesus is all-sufficient and all-satisfying!
Months before she had given me the book, Redeeming Singleness by Barry Danylak, and urged me to read it (which turned out to be a life-changing book for me). Married but childless, my friend knows the stigma that accompanies those of us in the Christian world who don’t fit into the idealized (and dare I say too-often idolized?) married-with-children category, and knows the encouragement we need to be to each other.
I would venture to say that most people long to have an all-satisfying relationship with someone, and for good reason: we were created to experience and enjoy such a relationship. Adam and Eve had it before they sinned – both with God and with each other. It was perfect.
Today, many imagine that a romantic relationship will fulfill this deep longing. And once that relationship is consummated in marriage, they eagerly anticipate – and sometimes go to great lengths to make happen – the next relationship they believe will complete them – having a child and forming a family. The child comes and perhaps another and another. But the experience of satisfaction is hardly all-encompassing or permanent. It is marred by the imperfection of each being that forms their family unit – beings that come with the sinful nature fully intact.
Still, the family is God’s perfect design for continuing the human race and nurturing children to adulthood, and it’s a good one. But He never created it to be what many anticipate and assert it to be: an all-sufficient and all-satisfying relationship unit. In fact, such claims and attempts to find that all-sufficiency in marriage or the family is idolatrous.
God has already given to each person the opportunity to experience an all-sufficient and all-satisfying relationship, and that is with Him because of Jesus. While sin destroyed that perfect relationship He had with Adam and Eve, Jesus restored it, and offers it to everyone, single and married alike!
But what’s that part in Ephesians 5 about marriage being like Christ and the church? Doesn’t that indicate that if we’re single we’re missing out?
Absolutely not! We’re not missing out on the real thing (relationship with Jesus), just the symbolism of the real thing that earthly marriage is meant to portray.
And that is what my friend was pointing out to me from her perspective as a married woman: yes, it is a beautiful thing and a privilege to be able to portray the covenant love between Christ and His Bride the Church, but because it involves two imperfect human beings, it isn’t always easy to do. The Apostle Paul said something similar in 1 Corinthians 7 – marriage doesn’t come without trouble and difficulties.
And that’s when she said to me, “But you – you get to show what an all-sufficient and all-satisfying relationship with Jesus is like without depending on anyone else!”
“Yup, just me and my imperfections, which are plenty!” I’ve often thought as I’ve pondered her words. And singleness certainly comes with its own set of trouble and difficulties. I’m not interested in trying to determine who has it easier and who has it worse: married people or singles. God has a purpose for both, and as long as we’re in this fallen world with sinful natures, neither will be perfect and each will have its set of troubles.
But each also has a purpose to give witness to the world what a real relationship with Jesus is like: the covenantal aspect that marriage exemplifies; or the completeness in Jesus alone that singleness portrays. This witness, whether married or single, doesn’t come automatically. It only comes as we grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus and surrender ourselves completely to Him.
Knowing Jesus More Fully
I haven’t always experienced the all-sufficiency of Jesus, and to be fully honest, I don’t always now. It is there for my taking, but I don’t always take it. As I was reading the book of Philippians, a letter written by the Apostle Paul (who was also single) to the church at Philippi, I realized he didn’t always, either. But learning to know Jesus fully was a continual goal of his:
“I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings …. Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.” (from Philippians 4 HCSB)
I love this passage because while Paul is telling about his own personal goal to know Jesus and encouraging his readers to have the same goal, he’s also pointing out that it is a journey as we mature in our relationship with Jesus and realize He has already “taken hold” of us!
If you feel like you haven’t yet experienced the all-sufficiency and all-satisfaction of a relationship with Jesus, let alone fully given testimony to the world what a relationship with Jesus is like, don’t despair! It truly is a journey and a process of sanctification by the Holy Spirit within us. But as we surrender everything to Him more and more, the satisfaction in Him deepens, and so does out witness to those around us.
In the meantime, let’s get a vision for the beautiful privilege we have as singles of showing the world that Jesus alone completes us, and that it is only in Jesus that anyone can experience an all-sufficient and all-satisfying relationship!