Our Calling in Singleness

Calling in Singleness

Purpose. Calling. Mission. These words get thrown around and we don’t always know what they mean or how to differentiate between them.

When God created us He designed us for a unique purpose – one that is different from anyone else who has ever lived or ever will live. It is part of who we are – who He created us to be. It is something we can fulfill no matter our age or physical ability. As long as we have breath in these earthly bodies, we can be living our purpose. I’ve observed that when people know their life purpose and consciously live it, they experience freedom, fulfillment, and contentment. And that feelings of loneliness, defeat, and discouragement make only fleeting appearances, and usually only when one loses sight of their God-given purpose.

So what, then, is a Calling?

While our purpose has more to do with who we are, our calling or mission has more to do with what we do. Our purpose is lifelong and doesn’t change, from the time we take our first breath until we take our last. A calling or mission is God’s assignment for a specific period of time or to a certain group of people.

Lately, as I’ve written about before, I’ve become aware through reading Barry Danylak’s excellent book, Redeeming Singleness, that single Christians have a unique testimony to give the world: that a relationship with Jesus is all-sufficient and all-satisfying.

After reading Redeeming Singleness, I knew this intellectually and it excited me. But I didn’t actually own it until one night I woke with a jolt and a feeling of aloneness overwhelming me. I hadn’t felt that in a long time. Immediately I asked the Lord, “Why this feeling now, and why DID You choose singleness for me when I would have enjoyed the companionship of marriage?”

Immediately He replied, “So you could demonstrate to others that I am all-sufficient. That I am enough.” His presence was so real, and the feeling of aloneness disappeared. I was satisfied with His answer, and soon fell contentedly back to sleep.

Sometime soon after I wrote this in my journal:

My calling in singleness is to give witness that a relationship with Jesus is all-sufficient and all-satisfying and provides immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine!

 In reality, this is God’s calling to every Christian, single and married alike. Expecting anyone or anything else to provide what we need, rather than God alone, is idolatry. God alone is our Provider. Sometimes – in fact, often – He uses another person as His instrument to meet our needs. But our needs being fulfilled isn’t dependent on the person God is using as His instrument, but rather on God Himself. If that person would disappear for whatever reason, God is still our Provider and will provide our needs by some other means.

But while all Christians are called to rely on God alone, single Christians have an especially effective testimony when they demonstrate that Jesus truly is all-sufficient in the absence of what most of the world considers to be a necessity for a satisfying life: a romantic or sexual relationship. When Christians remain celibate without a spouse or family and live joyful and purposeful lives sold out to Jesus, they give witness that Jesus is truly is all-sufficient and all-satisfying. Those who have lost spouses by death or divorce have incredibly powerful testimonies to Jesus’ all-sufficiency when they continue joyfully onward with the life purpose God has given them.

This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t grieve, or that never-married singles shouldn’t grieve over what never was. Grief is a God-given process for healing and it’s important we walk through it when we lose someone or something significant to us, including dreams that never come true.

Does Jesus Being All-sufficient Mean We Don’t Need People?

I know this can be a bit confusing, because we do need people! We don’t need marriage, but we do need relationships with others. After all, God said in Genesis 2:18 that it’s not good for man to be alone. At the time Adam had a face-to-face relationship with God, so he truly was experiencing God’s all-sufficiency, but God said he also needed other humans. Some think God meant it wasn’t good for Adam to not have a spouse, and if that were true for Adam in a perfect relationship with God, it’s true for all the rest of us, too.

But that’s not what God said. Adam was the only human being on the planet at the time. He needed another human to converse with and relate to in ways he couldn’t with the other creatures God had already created.

In Redeeming Singleness, Danylak writes:

Paul is not affirming [in 1 Corinthians 7] that it is good to be alone but only that, in appropriate circumstances, it is good not to marry. Conversely, when Genesis 2: 18 affirms that it is not good to live alone, marriage is given as a provision. But this does not imply that marriage was designed to be the sole provision for one’s aloneness. We recall that Jesus was a single man but not a man alone, one devoid of family and relationships. Although Paul may have had some extended time of solitude immediately after his conversion, he, like Jesus, was a man immersed in new family relationships. We are struck by how many different companions, partners, co-laborers, and underlings are mentioned from the period of his Gentile ministry. His use of family language is robust as he addresses those in his church constantly as “brothers” (Rom. 1:13; 1 Cor. 3:1; Gal. 4:12; Phil. 1:12; 1 Thess. 1:4), and “sisters” (Philem. 2), “children” (Gal. 4:19; 1 Cor. 4:14), “legitimate sons” (1 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4), and “kinsmen” (Rom. 16:7)…. Though Paul did not have his own wife and family, he experienced profound familial intimacy within the spiritual family of God in which he had utterly invested himself. [1]

Danylak goes on to explain the difference between these intimate relationships and the intimacy of marriage:

As men free to invest all their time and energy in advancing the kingdom of God, neither Paul nor Jesus lived a life alone. This is not to suggest that the relationships that come through the new family of God are a substitute for a spouse, a way to fill the relational gap of not having a spouse and family. There is something unique in God’s joining man and wife in “one flesh” that is never replicated in other types of human relationships. In remaining single, one sacrifices such physical intimacy.

But intimacy has other dimensions, beyond the physical. A bond of spiritual unity as brothers and sisters in Christ can emerge through a oneness of mind in corporate prayer and worship, a shared eternal hope, and a common mission of proclaiming the gospel and making disciples that also powerfully transcends human day-to-day experience. The freedom and flexibility of the single life will often open access to levels and opportunities of spiritual intimacy with other believers that those who are married do not have available in the same way and to the same degree.[2]

This, I believe, is part of the “immeasurably more” part of the singles’ calling (to give witness that a relationship with Jesus is all-sufficient and all-satisfying and provides immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine). It is in reference to Ephesians 3:20-21 that says,

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Of course it means so much more, too! “Immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” means it’s not definable, predictable, or measurable. After all, the Sovereign God is our Provider, who has the resources of the universe and beyond at His disposal to provide all that we need – in abundance!

How to Experience the All-sufficiency of Jesus

You may be wondering, “This all sounds wonderful, but I’m not feeling it. How do I make it a reality in my life?”

I totally get that! We often understand things in our heads, but can’t feel them in our hearts. Faith, after all, is not knowing things intellectually but experiencing them.

The key to experiencing the all-sufficiency of Jesus is simple, but it may be one of the most difficult things ever: full surrender to God – your will, your plans, your desires given in exchange for His. We can’t experience Jesus to be all-satisfying until we relinquish our goals and dreams in exchange for His for us. The incredible thing is, no matter how wonderful we think our goals and dreams are, His goals and dreams for us are incredibly more wonderful – immeasurably more, in fact!

Oswald Chambers says it this way in My Utmost for His Highest:

‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself.’ The surrender here is of my self to Jesus, my self with His rest at the heart of it. ‘If you would be My disciple, give up your right to yourself to Me.’ Then the remainder of the life is nothing but the manifestation of this surrender. When once the surrender has taken place we never need ‘suppose’ anything. We do not need to care what our circumstances are, Jesus is amply sufficient.[3]

Amply sufficient. Can you give witness that Jesus is amply sufficient and more? That He is all-satisfying? If you haven’t yet experienced this abundant life in Jesus, take a look at what you might be holding back. Are you hanging onto a specific dream or goal? Perhaps one you’ve had since childhood? I know I was! The abundant life is found in relinquishing those dreams and saying, “God, I don’t know what You have planned for me, but I KNOW that it is good, and that it is ‘immeasurably more than all I could ever ask or imagine!’”

[1] Danylak, Barry. Redeeming Singleness (Foreword by John Piper): How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life (pp. 201-202). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

[2] Danylak, Barry. Redeeming Singleness (Foreword by John Piper): How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life(pp. 202-203). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

[3] Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest, Classic Edition (Kindle Locations 4142-4145). Discovery House. Kindle Edition.

 

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Community open 24/7

Join the 24/7 Community for Singles

The need for single Christians to have fellowship and connection with others is very real, but often lacking. I’m excited to be able to provide this 24/7 Community for Singles! A modest monthly fee of $4.97 will help cover costs for running the community, developing future exclusive content, planning possible in-person events, and insuring that members interact under their real identities, enabling genuine and real friendships. You may cancel at any time if you feel the 24/7 Community is not for you. 

Join the 24/7 Commmunity!

http://singleness.org/membership-account/membership-levels/

Where Everyone Knows Your Name

Membership community - a place of belonging!

“It’s the only place open that time of night,” my friend said, imploring I understood his dilemma. And in fact, I did. Though not in his exact shoes, I knew that loneliness and the need to connect with others is no respecter of time, whether day or night.

“The doors of churches are closed and locked then, and no one is there,” he went on. “But the bar is open and people are there I can talk to or just be with.”

I truly did understand. But I also worried about his tendency to drink too much, and wished he could find  friends who would encourage him in his newly rediscovered walk with Christ.

Cheers - where everyone knows your nameIt was the early 1990s, and the television show Cheers with its opening theme song, Where Everyone Knows Your Name, was still in its heydey. Its setting in a friendly bar where staff and customers interacted with familiarity day after day presented a place of knowing and belonging that most everyone longs for. It’s no wonder Cheers was a popular show for more than a decade, and that reruns are still enjoyed.

I knew my friend was right. Somehow bars had gotten it right, and most churches hadn’t figured it out: it isn’t just Sunday mornings when people needed connection with others. It is day in and day out, night and day.

It was then that my dream of a coffee shop was born – a place that would be open until the wee hours of the the morning just like the local bar, giving an alternate choice for connecting with others.

I never did open a coffee shop. But I did start a website with a forum, and named it Purposeful Singleness. For many years people from around the world would visit the site at all hours of the day or night, reading and connecting with what others had written since they had last visited, and contributing their own thoughts for the next visitors to be encouraged by or to offer their encouragement.

It wasn’t ideal. Nothing is. But we learn from past experiences and discover ways of improving on them for next time. Many good things happened on that old-style discussion board. Most people were real and honest and caring. But many hid behind pseudonyms and some behind more than one, creating havoc. And then there were those who had discovered the ideal place to bully others: online, where no one knows their name.

After awhile moderating the board became overwhelming, even with help, especially as other events in my life also became time-consuming. And then there came a time where caring for family members took precedence over moderating a discussion board, and it was shut down.

Coffee shop open 24 hours a dayBut the need for single Christians around the world to have connection with others, especially those with similar life experiences, is still just as real as it was then. It’s impossible to have a coffee house where we can all gather in person. But we can have an online community. And this time it will be with better foresight and perimeters to provide freedom to be our true real selves, and to develop real relationships without fear of bullies hiding cowardly behind false identities. It will be a place we can come and go according to our own schedules, and be a place of knowing and belonging, because “everyone knows your name.”

A few have asked in the comments of the membership community survey the reason for charging to be part of the community, and that’s a reasonable question. There are multiple reasons. Here are a few of them:

  1.  The costs for operating such a community need to be covered, which is something I was not realistic about before, and is the only sustainable way of operating and growing such a community.
  2. It will provide funds to hold possible future in-person events, such as conferences or retreats, though there may be additional fees to cover the extra costs for those.
  3. It will help cover costs for producing content for the community, such as videos, workshops, Bible studies, and more.
  4. It is the most accurate way to insure members are operating under their true identities and not hiding behind a pseudonym or even multiple pseudonyms.

Where Everyone Knows Your [First] Name

 I asked in the survey what your preferences are for usernames. The options were 1) use real first names, 2) use real first and last names, or 3) post anonymously. The majority voted for using real first names, and I think that is the safest way to interact, while still using our real names as we develop real friendships with each other.

Not Another Matchmaking Site

As before, this new community forum will not be a dating site or matchmaking endeavor. It will be a place to make friends and enjoy community where we can “be there” for each other. Could romantic relationships develop naturally out of the community? Perhaps, and that’s fine if they do. But that’s not the goal or the purpose of the PS Membership Community.

Name That Community!

Speaking of “Membership Community” — that’s such a boring, generic name! I’m not great at naming things. I need your help to come up with a better name. Make your suggestions in the comments section below, or use the contact form to let me know! Thanks for your help!

Grand Opening

 So when will the doors of this where-everyone-knows-your-name community open? My best answer: as soon as feasibly possible! I’m working hard at it, but as I’ve discovered my life purpose I’ve also come to realize why it takes me so long to do technical things: it’s not the best I was designed and created to do! But I do already have website development skills under my belt, and until I can afford to hire those tasks out to those God created to excel at such things, I ask for your patience as I wrangle the technology to create a community of familiarity and belonging that I trust we’ll all come to love!

Don’t forget to let me know your suggestion for a name for our Membership Community! I would also love to hear your thoughts on finding community, whether in person or online. Has that been easy or difficult for you, especially as a Christian single?

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God is Always Awake

Sleep in peace. God is awake.

Sleep in peace. God is awake.

Do you ever lay awake at night because of thoughts that refuse to quiet down? Do you often wish you had someone to talk to at those times? Are those the times when you feel most alone?

I could say “yes” to all three of those questions, especially during specific periods in my life.

In last week’s post, Alleviating Loneliness – Membership Community for SinglesI introduced the possibility of starting a membership community here on the Purposeful Singleness website. You can read more about it in that post if you haven’t already, and be sure to take the survey embedded in that post or on the sidebar of any page on the site.

The response to the survey so far is an overwhelming “yes,” so I am moving forward in wrangling with the technology to make it happen! I’m excited to open the doors as soon as possible, so pray for me that I have a clear sense of how to pull it all together to make it a place where we can gather to develop real friendships and offer encouragement in real life situations.

One of the great aspects of an online community is that it can be available night or day and in every time zone and spot on earth where internet access is available! We are blessed to live in such a time, and it is my intent to implement the positive aspects of technology to connect with others and serve the Lord in ways not possible before this era we live in now.

But even more wonderful than the technology available to us in this modern era, is Someone who is available to us night and day and in every time zone and spot on the earth, whether internet is available or not! And He’s been available to every person from the beginning of time. I’m so grateful that God is always present, listening, talking, and giving His peace when the rest of my world feels upside down.

As a young adult attending Bible college, I owned a poster that I tacked to the wall above my bed in every dorm room I inhabited. “Sleep in peace, God is awake” was its message, and one I took to heart many times, and still do! I later discovered those words are an excerpt from a longer quote by Victor Hugo, a French writer who lived in the 1800s:

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” -Victor Hugo

My hope and prayer is that our Purposeful Singleness Membership Community that will be open and available 24/7 will be a huge blessing to all who choose to take advantage of it. But it will never be a substitute for committing our every care to the Lord, talking it over with Him, and then going to sleep in peace because we know He is awake keeping watch over all!

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