An elderly missionary, in talking about answered prayer, explained to a group of young women how she prayed and prayed for a husband to share in her missionary ventures. In response, one young woman asked, "But you never married, so how can you talk about answered prayer?" The missionary then explained, "Somewhere there's a 65-year-old man who has been resisting the will of God for the last 45 years."

She had learned not to blame God just because things didn't work out the way she wanted.

Singleness can have its advantages when it comes to living out a life of service to others in accord with the call of Christ. The Apostle Paul said as much when he wrote in the second chapter of First Corinthians that it would be best if all Christians remained single. He made the point that once a person marries there are tensions between the justifiable demands of family life on the one hand, and the time commitments required for living out a lifestyle of radical discipleship on the other (1 Cor. 7:33-34).

A prominent Christian leader has said that once you marry, you have to cheat. He contends that, given time constraints, you either end up cheating your family or cheating God. You can't do all that is required for both. Then, shockingly, he went on to say, "Faced with that dilemma, it's best to cheat God—because He can handle it and your family can't."

Single people should be aware that when it comes to living sacrificially, giving all that they have to meet the needs of the poor (as Mother Teresa did, for example), not being responsible for the needs of a family can be a blessing. To this end, many have chosen singlehood and have sacrificed the ecstasies of intimacy to give themselves totally to ministry.

Roman Catholics who are priests and in religious orders are not the only ones who have made decisions like this. Many Protestant Christians have done the same. Some of my students from Eastern University, an evangelical school, have made a similar kind of decision to dedicate themselves to ministry rather than marriage and family. Living in simplicity in a run-down, inner-city slum, they spend their days and use up their financial resources caring for the poor and oppressed people who live on the streets of Philadelphia. Their lives are a witness to authentic Christianity, but the important thing to recognize is that for such Christians, singleness is deliberately and prayerfully chosen.

But what about the host of Christians who want to be married, and are single by no choice of their own? Almost every church has members like this. What do we have to say to them? All too often their churches are so structured to serve the needs of couples and families that they have a sense of being left out.

The Bible refers to some who have been given the gift of celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7) and have no problem missing out on sexual gratification. But what of those who do not have this gift and constantly long for erotic fulfillment? I wish I could say I have a ready answer for them, but I don't. Given that Christianity has rightly confined erotic sexuality to marriage, these good people are left with intense frustrations.

The church can do several things to alleviate some of this frustration, but it cannot ultimately resolve the problem. First, we can make deliberate efforts to ensure that these single Christians feel special and are guaranteed inclusion in the activities of the congregation. The church must diligently give assurance to these good folks that they are part of a church family that they can always count on to treat them as such.

Secondly, we should preach a Christianity that lessens American hyper-individualism. We should encourage singles to establish a sense of community (the Greek koinonia) with other same-gender singles and consider sharing a home to combat loneliness, which is one of the most painful consequences of singlehood.

Thirdly, the church should do some matchmaking whenever possible. Using eharmony.com or another online dating service has worked well for many single Christians who were hoping to find partners with similar convictions. Singles should be encouraged to use this type of service.

Finally, we should let it be known that it's better to be single and wish that you were married than to be married and wish that you were single. The Bible warns us about being unequally "yoked" with those who do not share our faith.

Many young adults are opting for singleness because they love being single, especially if their careers are fulfilling and their relationships with other singles are great fun. Others shy away from marriage because they've observed the heartbreaking failures of so many couples they have known personally. Whatever the reasons, there are a goodly number of singles out there who will make for great partners for social activities, vacation trips and church events. Christian singles should seek them out—but stay away from pickups at bars, because nine times out of ten that will prove to be disastrous.

To all singles, I say: Be proactive. There are many people out there who would love your company.

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