Gereja FOCUS Indonesia

Gereja FOCUS Indonesia

Sebuah Bentuk Pelayanan Campus Bible Study untuk Mahasiswa Indonesia di UNSW, Sydney, Australia

The Single Issue – Book Review/Sharing

I’ve recently read a book called The Single Issue by Al Hsu….

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I have to say that this book gives me quite a lot of new perspectives about singleness.  And I would like to share it with you all.

Let us begin…..=D

What is the common thing that we do, when we have friends who are singles? Many times without even thinking much, we’ll straight away match them up, or we introduce them to some other singles hoping that they’ll get into a relationship and then get married. It is as if singleness is a problem, and the only solution is marriage.

But… Have a think again… is singleness really a problem?…

Is marriage really the solution to singleness and the cure to loneliness?

The book tries to answer the question above by looking at what the Bible says about singleness. It also discusses other interesting topics such as “the gift of singleness”.

  • So… is singleness really a problem?

Although Genesis 2:18 indicates that it is good to marry, in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul conveys that it is good for a man not to marry. In the Bible, both marriage and singleness are said to be good because they are gifts from God. So clearly  singleness is not a problem and Paul actually presses on to say that by being single, you can devote yourself fully to the Lord.

  • How do I know that I have the gift of singleness or the gift of marriage?

Many people wonder with this question, and many have wrong understanding about this issue. The author lists several erroneous views of how you decide whether you have the gift of singleness or not. I don’t want to spoil it all to you guys, so I’ll mention just one of them below.

Wrong view: “Deciding which gift you have based on subjective feeling. “

It goes like this, “If I feel I wouldn’t be happy as a lifelong single, then I probably don’t have the gift of singleness, and if I desire to marry and have children, I most likely don’t have the gift of singleness.”

There is a problem with this view because, imagine if we apply this to the state of marriage.

Would a married person ever ask, ” I wonder if I have the gift of marriage?” What if after years of marriage – the partner gains a few pounds, is no longer attractive and the romance has gone?

What if this person feels that the pressures of marriage are too much to handle? Saying, “I really don’t feel like married anymore. I probably don’t have the gift of marriage. Would that person then be allowed to leave his marriage?

Of course not!!… That person must work hard to fix his marriage. Whether or not that person thinks that he has the gift of marriage, he is still married and must work hard on his marriage!

The same goes to the single people, whether or not that person thinks that he has the gift of singleness, the reality is that he is still a single and must work hard on his singleness.

  • Wrong understanding about “spiritual gift” and ‘gift’.

There are many other incorrect views about the gift of singleness, and many stem from wrong understanding about “ the gift” in 1 Corinthians 7 and “the spiritual gift” in 1 Corinthians 12. Those two passages are actually not talking about the same thing. 1 Cor 12 talks about spiritual gifts that can be used to empower and build up the church. While in 1 Cor 7, the gift  is more about “a state” that is given by God. It is talking about your current condition that is a gift from God.

So if your state is single right now, then you have the gift of singleness and if your state is married right now, then you have the gift of marriage. Furthermore, it is worth noting  that both states are not permanent. You as a single will have the gift of marriage once you get married.

To be honest it is quite a new perspective for me to know that singleness is a state, and is not permanent. The author explains that, in fact, everybody starts out with the gift of singleness. It is the first normal state of every human. There is nothing special about being a single because everybody is single at least once and often single again after his or her spouse died. The gift of singleness is descriptive, not restrictive. It does not prevent you from getting married if you desire so, and circumstances permit.

So to have the gift of singleness doesn’t mean you have to do a vow of celibacy for the rest of your life because it is just a description of a state. You have the freedom to get married or to stay single. It is your choice.

But be careful with your decision to get married…

  • What drives you to move from singleness into marriage? Loneliness?

Many people think that singleness means loneliness and to solve that problem, they have to get married. The author, however, argues that loneliness has nothing to do with being single.

One can be alone but not feeling lonely…, and one can be surrounded by people but feeling very lonely. The author points out that if you go for marriage solely because you feel lonely, chances are you will still feel lonely in your marriage.

Loneliness is an emotional state of feeling disconnected from other people, a sense of being alone and yearning for relationships with others. It has a deeper root of a problem than being single. It could come from issues of abandonment or disconnectedness we suffered in childhood; or it could be rooted in a trauma we experience later in our life; a sense of being excluded by someone or from some groups and feelings of not being loved. These kinds of things could be very much the result of the lack of relationship with God. Having the right relationship with God will solve the problem of loneliness.

The author, however, also acknowledges that we are created by God as social creatures.  It is normal for us as human to want to belong to a community. Having a right relationship with God will drive you to community, and that community is the Church. It is the place where we find the sense of belonging as God’s people, a place to find encouragement and to encourage one another. =D

So here is the solution for loneliness!

This is a reminder for Christians, especially for the singles. You will never be alone in this world!! Even if you have lost all your biological family, you will always have your true family (the church), bought by the blood of Jesus that will endure forever, giving you support during your sojourning  on this earth.

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  • What did I get from the book?

It is that singleness is not a problem at all. It is a gift from God, and it is good. Those who do not like to be single and think that singleness is not for them are actually very rude because it is like refusing a gift and throwing it back on the Giver’s face. Bear in mind that the giver is God.  Many people try to deny the gift of singleness because they assume the gift is permanent, and they don’t want to be single all their lives. However, nothing inherent in singleness will prevent someone from leaving the single state to be married. When they say, “I do” then they receive the gift of marriage.

Moreover, singleness is the major part of our life. We all start as singles. We may get married later in our lives but will most of the time go single again unless we die first before our spouse. Rarely, a married couple dies together at the same time.  So we have to admit that marriage is not a permanent state, and that singleness is the default state. Like it or not, we have to deal with it now or sometime in the future.

So… Like it or not, we have to deal with it then?

It sounds as if singleness is an uncomfortable state that we have no choice but to deal with it now or later in our life. But think again… there are so many opportunities  that you can have by being a single. You can have all the time for yourself doing all the things that you want. Single people have mobility advantage; at any moment’s notice, you can just pack up your stuff and get going.

A huge opportunity to meet and to befriend a lot of people and being able to travel around the world doing mission without any restriction. You do not need to be anxious about whether you can feed your family or not. All the money that you earn can be solely devoted to ministry and doing all other new  stuffs that you would like to try, such as learning new languages, do new sports, arts, music, community services, missionary trainings… you name it.

You, as singles, have huge freedom, including the freedom to get married!! No one can deny that many great works came from the unmarried or the childless, because they simply have more time and whole devotion to what they do. That’s why Paul in 1 Corinthians encourages people to stay unmarried because they will have bigger capacity and undivided attention in serving the Lord.

Ask those who are married… I believe many of them will say that, deep down inside they missed some of the privileges that they once had when they were still single…. The alone time that you can easily have when you were single is going to be a luxury when you get married. I’m not saying that singleness is better than being married. Both are equal because they are gifts from God. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

They both can be likened to the situation of flies at the window. Those on the inside want out, and those on the outside want in. Singles think the end goal of man is to get married, while many married couples secretly long to be single again. The grass is always greener on the other side.

However, the ultimate key is contentment in both situations. If you are single, be content and live as a Christian in that state, and if you are married, be content and live as a Christian in that state as well. Your state is a gift from God, and He knows the best for you.

  • How should the Church treat the singles?

Bear in mind that the key is contentment with your situation, so we as a Church, as the body of Christ, should be careful about many things we do, and we should try to be more loving to the singles. There are many things that could be unhelpful to them. Jokes that are common such as matching up singles can be annoying to them. It can make them feel discontent with their situation, and it can even destroy friendships between the singles. Though the book does not list much about how we should act in front of singles, it is obvious that after knowing all these, we as a church have a responsibility to think critically about many things that we do in order to be able to encourage everyone to be content whether they are single or married.

  • The lastbutnotleast question,

 If the key is contentment, then how come singleness and marriage are two states that are interchangeable? If a single starts to look for a potential partner, doesn’t that mean that he/she is not content with the situation?

The author explains that it is not wrong for you singles to hope for marriage or to recognize marriage as a possible future. But the question is, are you ready to recognize as well the possibility of being single for the rest of your life? If the answer is yes, then you are content with your situation.

It is a problem when you think that you’ll definitely get married in the future! “Definitely!”
You are building your live around events that are uncertain, and that is unhealthy. God never promises that!

It is not wrong to have thoughts of marriage. It is wrong however when that thoughts dominate our thinking. When you look at every person of the opposite sex, you view all of them as potential marital partners. That means the desire of marriage has become idolatrous!

Anyway, we make too huge of a deal about marriage. The truth is marriage on this earth is an earthly matter. It is not much of a concern to the Lord.

The true marriage is in heaven;it is the marriage of the lamb and we as the bride of Christ. That is the marriage that is promised by God in the future, and it is that marriage that we should prepare ourselves for. At the moment, whether we are single or married; we live our lives looking forward to that glorious moment.

As Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7: “In whatever we do, do it all for the glory of God”.

  • Last Comment:

For those who are currently single, stop halting your life thinking that when you get married, that is then the start of your life. The state of highest freedom and opportunity is now!!!

Stop locking yourself in your room, wasting your time and grieving for being single! You are in one of the best states that God has given you.  Start going out, meet new people, build good friendships, and learn new things, travel around, and most of all, serve God with all your capacities, your undivided attention and with a cheerful heart!!

  • Lasto LAstooo Commentoo!!!

I encourage you to read the book ‘The Single Issue by Al Hsu’. You can get this book at Koorong. Fairly cheap price compared to all those magazines and textbooks that you bought. Not to mention, it is a very encouraging book. All the things that I have shared above just touch some parts of the book. There are more encouraging things in it, and I encourage you to read it for yourself.

It’s summer holiday for the student right??…. Grab your friends and read it together!!…

Hope this sharing helps you to live a life full of contentment in Christ!

 


2 Comments

  • Charles Gajus says:

    Great review and summary Mike. Thanks. Any thoughts about people who are going out? Should they see themselves as singles or marrieds? Any good books you’ve read about godly dating?

    • Foeng Jong says:

      Hi Charles, for those who are going out, I think they have to see themselves as singles. The reason is, Even though they are in the state of finding out whether they are going to marry that person or not, they have not been joined by God. If you are not married, then you are to consider yourself as a single because I don’t think there is a state called “dating” in the Bible. So for those who are currently going out, they have to take care of each other, not like husband and wife, but like brothers and sisters in Christ.
      Some good books that I’ve read about godly dating, I would say:
      “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and ”Boy Meets Girl” by Joshua Harris
      Both are great books. The first book is more about how dating these days have become very physical and no commitment. So it is redefining dating the way God wants it. They called it “Courtship” – it means dating with a purpose of finding out whether you want to marry this person or not in a godly way. The second book (boy meets girl – say hello to courtship) is the sequel of the first book on some of the example of how the courtship has been done. It’s filled with quite a lot of practical tips about godly dating. Though, in my opinion, for those who are not currently going out, some part of the second book may not be very helpful. I don’t quite agree on the way the authors portray marriage as a happily ever after the kind of thing. It may cause unnecessary desperation and unrealistic expectation about marriage.

      To give a more realistic expectation about what you are going to face when you get married.
      Here is what I think some of the good books (recommended for those who are going out and not):
      “Married for God” by Christopher Ash – gives good biblical understanding about marriage.
      “Fatherhood” by Tony Payne – It gives biblical understanding about fatherhood, what it is, what it is for and responsibilities as a father (Very tough job, I would say… ) here is an excerpt from the book:
      “Fatherhood is not for the soft. It is an adventure, and a battle. It will take all the strength, courage, resourcefulness, hard work and honesty that you can throw at it – not just for a week or a month, but for years of your life. The enemies will be weakness, dishonesty, selfishness, faithlessness, laziness, compromise and plain cowardice”

      “What did you expect?:Redeeming the reality of Marriage” by Paul David Tripp – It’s a recent book that I read. It makes me realize that I may have unrealistic expectation about marriage. Marriage is not as simple as when you say” I do”, and then everything will be fine and happy for the rest of your marriage life. When a sinful human married to another sinful human, they’re bound to be conflicts. This book shows that marriage is a constant hard work. In order to make it work, it has to prioritize God above all and should model God’s Grace. It is a process of continual forgiving, building trust, and sacrifices.

      I think those are some of the good books that I’ve read. I suggest those who consider dating to read books about godly dating and marriage as a whole package. If you are interested in dating, then you have to be interested in marriage. You can’t just go for dating without considering marriage. If you do, then your purpose of dating is most likely a selfish one. It could be just for the sake of fun or curiosity and that unfortunately is not the right purpose of dating.
      More books to read for everyone during the summer holiday=P…Hope this helps =)
      Any good books about godly dating that you have read as well Charles?