In fact, most days, if you were to ask me and I was to be honest with you, I’d say I don’t *want* to be single. It’s not the life I would have chosen, it’s not dream I would have wished for, it’s not the plan I would have made.
And there are days when all of this makes it really difficult to enjoy the life I have and have joy in my singleness.
Because that’s a thing I do want: to not only be content in singleness but to enjoy being single.
I think most of us who are single would say we desire this. We desire to not just endure our singleness as a season we’re wishing will end, but to enjoy it as a way of being that truly is a gift from God.
But what if we’re just so ready to be married? What if we’re worn out with the hoping and praying and waiting for our dreams? What if there’s this undercurrent of discontent in all the goodness? What if we desire joy in our singleness, but it feels like singleness is the very thing stealing our joy?
Can we enjoy being single when we don’t *want* to be single?
The Possibility of Joy
In order to answer if we can (and how we can) enjoy singleness when we don’t want to be single, there’s another question we must first consider: Where am I finding my joy?
In my early-to-mid-twenties, when the discontentment I had in my singleness came to a head, I was confronted with this question, and realized my answer to it was the reason for my discontentment: Where am I finding my joy? In my dream of marriage being fulfilled.
And really, I was finding more than just my joy in this; I was also finding my purpose, my fulfillment, my worth, my peace, my hope in this dream coming true.
This was evident in my repeatedly thinking If only I were married…
When I felt lonely, insecure, or anxious, when I needed support, direction, or courage, when I longed for happiness, a sense of belonging, or a just hug, I would think, If I only I were married, I wouldn’t feel alone; I would have purpose and direction for my life; I wouldn’t have these insecurities; I would be more happy.
In my mind and heart, I was relying on, abiding in, and drawing from marriage (or the ideal of marriage) as my source of joy, purpose, and worth.
If we’re finding our joy (and any of those other blessings) in whether or not we’re married, it will be hard for us to enjoy our singleness. It will feel like singleness is stealing our joy, because we’re not believing it’s even possible to have joy in singleness.
But it is possible.
The Invitation of Joy
In John 15:11, Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Jesus offers a joy that is complete—not lacking or less than, but whole and full; not shaken and stolen by our situations and circumstances, but steadfast and abiding. Because He offers His joy—a joy that finds its very source in Jesus Himself.
He says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Not, “I have given you marriage.”
Not, “I have made all your dreams come true.”
Not, “I have taken away all the hard and heartbreaking stuff in your life.”
The this refers to His invitation and instruction to abide in Him as the True Vine: to abide in Him as our life-giving Source; to have His words abide in us as our light-giving Way; and to abide in His love as the inspiration and motivation of our life and love. (Jn. 15:1-17)
To abide in relationship with Him—our Life, our Light, our Love.
Depending on which translation of John 15 you read, instead of the word “abide”, the word used could instead be “remain” or “dwell” or “stay”.
Here are some quick definitions of those words:
These words really speak of putting down roots.
The question is, what are we rooting ourselves in?
When the sorrow of unfulfilled dreams is overwhelming, when we doubt our worth and belovedness, when the waiting and praying becomes long and weary, when we’re lonely and left out, when we’re unsure of what step to take next—what are we going to stand on as our firm foundation? What are we going to cling to as our hope? What are we going to lean on for strength and courage?
Abide is also a word of intimacy: the branches are literally in the vine—finding their being in and drawing their life from.
This is a strong word picture. The branches apart from the vine can do nothing. They are void of what makes life alive.
On the flip side, Jesus says when we abide in Him, there will be fruit. (Jn. 15:2; 4-5; 8; 16)
In Scripture, fruit often signifies the evidence of God’s working, cultivating, growing, and blessing in our lives as we live in relationship with Him.
Galatians 5 describes it this way:
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves...
This imagery of the vine and branches and fruit shows us a relationship in which the fulness of life is found. Because it shows us a relationship that is life itself.
So in John 15:11, Jesus is essentially saying, “I have told you all this: I have instructed and invited you to abide in Me—to sink your roots into Me as your Life, Light, and Love—that My joy—joy that comes from knowing Me and following Me and being loved by Me—may be in you and that your joy may be complete—whole and steadfast.”
This is why it’s possible to enjoy singleness even when we don’t want to be single: because Jesus promises our joy, our purpose, our fulfillment will be found in relationship with Him, not in our relationship status.
The Growth of Joy
We may never got to a place where we *want* to be single.
And that’s okay.
And it’s okay to experience sadness and frustration about our singleness.
Because there’s another image the vine and branches and fruit give us: growth.
Our relationship with Jesus isn’t a static point at which we arrive. It is alive! Going ever deeper in our knowing, drawing ever closer in our trusting, becoming ever more full of the joy and delight of this love and intimacy.
Singleness may not be the life we would have chosen, but abiding in Jesus as our Life means it is still a full life. Singleness may not be the plan we would have made, but abiding in Jesus as our Light means we can walk in His good and beautiful plans for us. Singleness may not be the dream we would have wished for, but abiding in Jesus as our Love means there is fulfillment for all our longings.
Singleness may not be what we *want*, but we can still enjoy singleness, because we have relationship with Jesus, and that is joy.