Randy Cho is the campus liaison for both Pepperdine and UC Irvine and the Associate Pastor at Exchange Church.
The first job I’ve ever had was working at a video store as a freshman in college. I probably watched over a hundred movies during my short six-month stint of working there. My go-to pick for a movie would be a romantic comedy or drama. Because I’m such a big feeler, I would get very invested in the narrative and felt like I was one of the main characters. I even fantasized of someday having a similar romantic relationship portrayed by these fictional characters (like Noah and Allie from The Notebook).
At the end of the day, all of these romantic movies (and Korean dramas) communicate that being in a relationship is the ultimate end in life, and I bought into this lie. The song “City of Stars” from La La Land captures this idea in a nutshell:
“City of stars, just one thing everybody wants
There in the bars, and through the smokescreen of the crowded restaurants
It’s love, yes, all we’re looking for is love from someone else.
A rush, a glance, a touch, a dance.”
Everyone is looking for love from someone else. Everyone is looking for a relationship. It’s that one thing we crave in life, and let’s be honest with ourselves: perhaps we are more “thirsty” than we admit to be. Perhaps desiring a relationship has become an idol.
Our culture teaches us that if you’re single, especially in your late-20s to early-30s, then you are considered a second-class citizen and something is wrong with you. All my peers face this pressure, so they rush into finding Mr. or Mrs. Right through Coffee Meets Bagel or online dating. Not saying that these things are bad (of course good marriages can come out of online dating), but the temptation is to rush and pursue a relationship out of cultural pressure and personal insecurity than consider how singleness and marriage can make us better followers of Christ.
This pressure and insecurity deepens when we see our friends get into relationships. We often compare ourselves to others, which lead to feelings of jealousy, bitterness, and ultimately distrust in God’s faithfulness and goodness. Then we fall into Satan’s trap into thinking we’re not making any progress in life: we’re just a bunch of bums that no one would love.
Do you feel incomplete because you’re not in a relationship? Do you feel like a second-class citizen? What can we do to embrace and make the most out of our season of singleness? How can we step away from the mindset that singleness is a curse?
Here are three suggestions that helped me in my singleness:
- Surrender your plans to God and put him first
4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. (Ps. 37:4-6)
This passage is very important because it’s an essential step we often skip, when we pursue our careers and relationships. Christianity is not about Jesus being there for you whenever you need him. He ain’t your side chick. Rather, Christianity is about centering everything in your life around Jesus. This implies that we surrender all of our plans, desires, hopes, and dreams (yes, even our expectation of relationships) at the foot of the cross and let Jesus do whatever he wants with the lives that he has ransomed from sin. Why? Because our plans suck. On the other hand, God’s plans and his timing are always better than ours. When we surrender and trust in God, our lives will flourish. However, if God is not the foundation of our lives, everything else we pursue, including relationships, will eventually crumble and fall.
- Learn to be content in all circumstances
“If you cannot be contented in singleness, you will not be contented in marriage” (Holding Hands, Holding Hearts, p. 170). For some odd reason, we think that marriage is the key to contentment and the cure to our relational blues. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, marriage is one sinner joining another sinner in a covenant relationship. With simple addition, we end up with two sinners, which actually means more problems. If you’re looking for marriage to cure you of your sinfulness, you need to check yourself. Marriage does not sanctify us. The Holy Spirit is the one who sanctifies us (even in our singleness) and uses the institution of marriage to bring us closer to Jesus. Marriage will not cure loneliness. Marriage will not bring true satisfaction and joy. We can only find that in presence of God (Ps. 16:11).
11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:11-13)
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
Are you content with your singleness? Are you content with not having everything in your life go the way you’ve planned? Paul’s contentment is not found in a favorable circumstance. On the contrary, he can still be content when his circumstances suck. He’s content in suffering, hunger, and weakness. Why? It’s because the never-ending grace that he finds in Jesus is sufficient to carry him through every hardship and obstacle he faces in life. Do not be a slave to your circumstances, but daily rest on God’s amazing and unchanging grace.
- Utilize your gift for God’s glory and to bless others
32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Cor. 7:32-35)
Believe it or not, there are actually advantages in being single. Paul writes that the focus of those who are unmarried is on Jesus, whereas the focus of those who are married is divided. When we’re single, we can devote so much time, resources, and energy to advance God’s kingdom. This is why Paul views singleness as a gift. According to Paul, gifts are meant to be used for the good others. In some sense, both the Paul and Jesus embraced their gifts and used it to advance the Gospel for others, without having a nagging wife and a family to take care of. God used their singleness to accomplish amazing evangelistic feats.
Likewise, being single gives us the privilege of using what God has given to us (time, energy, resources) for his glory and for the good of others. Don’t waste your singleness. Serve your church with all you got, go on STSM this summer, and think of creative ways where you can use your spiritual giftings given by God to bless others.
As you may have congregated with other singles and celebrate Valentine’s Day or “Singles-Awareness Day” (SAD) with a bowl of jajangmyeon (black bean noodles), consider how you can maximize your singleness for the glory of God.