The last few days, we’ve been celebrating how significant of an impact the Yuans had on our church family a few weekends ago. And we’ve desired to provide follow-up resources to help us think more deeply and practically about what we started to learn together. Yesterday, we posted a series of links to resources regarding same-sex attraction. And today, we want to point you to valuable resources regarding singleness, an issue Christopher spoke about while he was with us.
Singleness can be lonely and difficult. Singles often feel like spare parts that don’t fit into our culture, or the church, which caters to couples and families. Life outside of marriage involves moments of fear, doubt, discouragement, loneliness, and deep-seated selfishness. While these burdens also exist inside of marriage, they feel more frequent and intense for singles. Not only this, but singles are plagued with fierce emotional and sexual temptation. Their loneliness and unfulfilled longings can sometimes make life feel unbearable; singleness feels more like a curse than a gift.
But, as Christopher Yuan pointed out, the Apostle Paul is very clear that singleness is a spiritual gift, despite the fact that most singles would rather exchange it for marriage. By “gift”, Paul does not mean a “present” intended to make us happy, but rather a spiritual gift through which God wants us to serve others. Singleness provides unique opportunities for sanctification and Christ-like service that cannot be found (in the same way) in marriage; and the same is true for marriage in regards to singleness. Both gifts—marriage and singleness—display God’s glory in distinct ways by communicate certain truths about who He is and what He has done. And no matter which gift we have received, God supplies the grace necessary for us to embrace and employ them for His glory and the good of His people.
I (Gabe) have compiled a list of resources that will encourage our single brothers and sisters; and help married couples better understand and walk alongside of them:
BOOKS on SINGLENESS
Andy Farmer, The Rich Single Life: Abundance, Opportunity, & Purpose in God (1998): The single life often feels like being half-full, incomplete at best. But, Andy Farmer reminds single men and women of the fullness of life in Christ and how they can enjoy the richness of all that he supplies. He doesn’t minimize the struggles of singleness, but advocates a life of Spirit-empowered wisdom and purpose in which singles discover God’s will through loving Him and serving others. Farmer describes how singles can invest in God-honoring friendships and pursue healthy dating relationships. He encourages growth in doctrine and spiritual disciplines, as well as enjoying the fellowship found in community. Finally, he emphasizes a life rooted in humility and the hope of God’s promises to us.
Carolyn McCulley, Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred (Crossway, 2004): As a middle-aged, single woman, Carolyn writes about pursuing Christ through the joys and sorrows of singleness. She has come to recognize that her identity in Christ, rather than relationships, is crucial to her joy, purpose, and pursuit of holiness. She’s transparent about her disappointments, deferred hopes, and broken dreams that come with singleness, but describes the life-giving hope and fulfillment that Christ provides. She models practical ways that singles can live fruitful, joy-filled lives that build up the body of Christ rather than wallowing in self-pity as a “spare part”. While this book is written for women, I actually found sections of it incredibly beneficial when I read it as a single man.
Barry Danylak, Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life (Crossway, 2010). This is the most theologically thorough treatment of singleness available—it’s the equivalent of taking a graduate level “theology of singleness” class. I recommend it for those who enjoy a more in-depth study!
ARTICLES on SINGLENESS
Betsy Childs, “Should I Be Content with My Singleness?”
William Farley, “The Poison of Self-Pity” (CCEF)
Stephen Altrogge, “Three Crucial Things for Single People to Know”
Vaughan Roberts, “Four Things God Says to Singles”
John Starke, “Letter to a Frustrated Single Woman”
Jackie Knapp, “What If Your 20s Weren’t What You Expected”
MEDIA on SINGLENESS
David Powlison, “Struggling with Singleness” (6min Video):
Brief Interview: “What Does God Say About Singleness?” (5min video):
UNDERSTANDING & MINISTERING to SINGLES
“10 Heart-breaking Truths (About Loneliness) That Single People Never Talk About”: Disclaimer: This article is not written from a Christian perspective, but I think it transparently communicates some of the painful realities of singleness.
“How to Honor and Encourage Singles in Your Church” (9min video)
SEXUALITY & SINGLENESS
Hafeez Baoku, Sex, God, and the Single Life: An Honest Journey to Satisfying Intimacy (CLC Publications, 2014): Baoku writes from the vantage point of a single man striving to walk by the Spirit but battling the temptations of the flesh. He provides candid insight (often from others) on the topic of sex and singleness. This book provides great insight for single men and women seeking to live in holiness.
Justin Taylor, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ (Free PDF): Justin Taylor has compiled an excellent series of messages from the Desiring God conference on sexuality. A few of these are especially pertinent to singles. You can find the “table of contents” on pp. 6-7 of the pdf, but I highly recommend reading the following chapters: “Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken (Ch. 4),” “Sex and the Single Man (Ch. 6),” and “Sex and the Single Woman (Ch. 8).” Each of these chapters will guide and encourage you as you seek to understand and express your sexuality within the sometimes-confusing context of singleness.
Tim Challies, Sexual Detox: A Guide for the Single Guy (Free PDF): This book is geared toward men who struggle with pornography and masturbation. He calls men to reject a self-centered approach to sex and instead, by the Spirit’s power, embrace a biblical understanding that will lead to repentance, joy, and freedom from sexual sin. [**For further reading on this topic, see Heath Lambert, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, excerpts from Desiring God here.]
DIVORCE & WIDOWHOOD
Miriam Neff, From One Widow to Another: Conversations on the New You (Moody, 2009): Life after marriage comes with all sorts of difficult changes. This book comes as one of the most highly recommended from a dear friend of mine who lost her husband of 35yrs. It gives hope and encouragement, as well as practical insight into understanding the various internal and external challenges that accompany losing your spouse.
Sam Louie, “Overcoming the Culture of Shame”
Winston Smith, “Divorce Recovery: Growing & Healing God’s Way” (CCEF Booklet)
Joseph Kniskern, “When the Vow Breaks: A Survival & Recovery Guide for Christians Facing Divorce” Many who have experienced divorce describe it as feeling like you’ve been torn in two. Divorce results in deep brokenness, and often, deep shame. This book appears to be a practical, biblical guide to navigate through the heart-wrenching pain as you seek healing and peace during (or after) divorce. While I have not read this book personally, I’m recommending it based on my cursory review of its content as well as what I gathered from several online reviews.
Check back tomorrow for a post with recommended resources for parents as they teach their children about sexuality.