Feb

14

2013

Chris Smith|4:00 AM CT

Fight for Joy on Valentine's Day

You know the routine. It's Valentine's Day, that special holiday set aside to celebrate love and romance. But you're single. You don't have a girlfriend, a date, or even a female friend willing to be seen in public with you. So you invite over a few buddies to watch Braveheart, play Halo, and talk about how you don't understand girls. "Happy Singles Awareness Day" is your Facebook status. You tell all your married friends you're content, enjoying the freedom of your singleness, and that you're glad you didn't have to plan a date and pay for a fancy dinner this year. You do all these things and yet, at the end of the night as you climb into your empty bed, loneliness and despair come crashing in, leaving you wondering why no one—perhaps not even God himself—loves you.

Valentine's Day is hard for many single people. The cynical humor of the typical Christian single offers little more than a thin veneer over the pain and worry lurking within his heart. Cultural pressures to find his worth, identity, and security in a romantic relationship only exacerbate the inner struggle. And those pressures are often amplified in conservative Christian communities, as singles become collateral damage in the battle to defend marriage and the family. To many married believers, the singles in their midst are pitiable at best, dangerous at worst. But in the face of all these worries and pressures, Christian singles can lay hold of some glorious biblical truths to propel them in their fight for joy this Valentine's Day—and every day thereafter.

You Are Loved

God loves you. That simple statement should blow you out of your chair. Sadly, however, the truth has lost its power for many Christians. Our culture assumes and even demands God love everyone the same—no exceptions. Even within the church, God's love can be tossed around so lightly believers begin to think he's required to love them. If we're honest, his love rarely shocks us anymore, since we rarely pause to ponder the scandal of a holy God embracing a rebellious people.

We've all sinned and fallen short of divine glory. We were children of wrath, dead in trespasses and enemies of God. But God, being rich in love, while we were yet sinners, gave up his Son as a bloody substitute for us. And now, resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father, he intercedes for us and has sent his Spirit to be with us.

God's love is unearned, unfettered, and unending, and it's given to everyone who relies on Jesus as Savior and Treasure—regardless of your relationship status. It's easy to feel unloved when you're single. But the truth is that as a Christian single on Valentine's Day, you couldn't be more loved. Rejoice that the Lord of creation has delighted to set his affection on you!

You Are Not Alone

Not only are you loved, you are, in fact, never alone. God built you to be in relationship with himself. Again, let that sink in for a moment. The one lacking nothing, the one surrounded by a heavenly court that praises him without ceasing, and the one who's been satisfied in love and communion with his triune self from all eternity, that God made you by hand and wants a relationship with you.

Of course, we're all relationally broken because of our sin. But if you're trusting the Son, the Spirit dwells inside you, and you can commune with the Father at all times. An overflowing fountain of joy—God himself—is within you. Friend, you are not alone.

You Are Family

Jesus didn't die to save just you; he died to save his bride. Your relationships within the church, then, surpass mere friendship. Jesus said those who do his Father's will are family (Mark 3:35); "brothers and sisters" is the most common way of addressing Christians in the New Testament; Paul went to Thessalonica "as a nursing mother" (1 Thessalonians 2:7); he became "a father through the gospel" to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:15); and when he wrote Timothy, he called him a "true child in the faith" (1 Timothy 1:2; cf. Titus 1:4).

The New Testament reveals that family ties—the strongest human bonds—are redefined not by biological relationships, but by mutual faith in Christ. Even human marriage is limited: the institution won't continue into the next (Matthew 22:30) but will instead give way to the reality to which it was all along pointing—the marriage of Jesus and his bride (Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 19:6-10; 21:1-4). This means that in your church you're interacting with men and women who are closer to you than your biological brothers and sisters. You're forming relationships that will carry into eternity, in fellowship with one another and the Godhead forever. What joy is there to be found in the communion of the saints! Christian single, you are far from being alone.

So be honest with yourself, your friends, and, most of all, with the Lord about how you're feeling this Valentine's Day. When you begin to feel unlovable, ponder the height and depth and breadth of God's love for you (Eph. 3:14-19). When you begin to feel lonely, spend time communing with him through his Word and prayer and surrounding yourself with brothers and sisters who will lift you up and encourage you, as you do the same for them. And most of all, when you feel the urge to make that cynical "bachelor till the rapture" joke, fight it. Fight the bitterness, the loneliness, perhaps even the despair. Fight for joy in the Savior.

Chris Smith has an MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he is employed as he explores PhD options. He is 30 and single.

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  • http://AandBAcademy.com Dr. Don

    Encouraging word for many, especially on Valentine's Day. Joy is often difficult to come by. It is a fruit of the Spirit but is often the result of a victorious thought life also.

  • http://sayable.net Lore Ferguson

    Great encouragement here, Chris. Particularly the section on being part of a family. Thanks for sharing.

  • SG

    "And those pressures are often amplified in conservative Christian communities, as singles become collateral damage in the battle to defend marriage and the family. To many married believers, the singles in their midst are pitiable at best, dangerous at worst."
    Is this really true? It seems sad and unbiblical. I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt that it is not widespread (I've never witnessed it but I guess I've never witnessed a "virginity cult" either).

    • Barbara

      Yes, it's true. I don't think the marrieds realize that as much as we singles feel it.

      • SG

        Barbara-- I understand what you are saying. I didn't marry until later in life (close to 40) and I definitely felt incredibly lonely and a bit on the fringes as a single. I guess I used to think married people felt sorry for me but I don't think I ever felt that I was pitiable or dangerous-- these seem a bit extreme and if I knew someone thought this about me I would think they were pretty ignorant. It's possible that because I live in a big city I just went to churches that weren't as obsessed with the marriage and family culture. So, in the end, maybe I don't understand the full context in which this post was written, with the exception of the universal loneliness of singleness...

    • Fight For Joy

      "For many, being single imprints upon them a meaning that touches their very identities: They are defective, second-rate, somehow less than others who marry."

      http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/11/17/singleness-with-purpose/?comments#comments

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  • Solomon Tingsam Li

    Singleness in churches is not the problem. Though many may read this blog and be comforted, the underlying truth is that churches often mishandle singles. The research in Julia Duin's book among quite a few people who address it in blogs as such confirm this.

    Hopefully the church can convey Christ effectively, but much like everything else in this world we as people simply fall short of this. More than taking responsibility for realizing you are loved it needs to be combined with simply loving others.

    BTW, I didn't know people used "S.A.D" over in Kentucky! Back in 1995 when I was in High School in LA I thought I came up with the term as subsequently over the years I've been hearing it again and again. Almost makes me wish I copyrighted it and started marketing it as the answer to a commercialized Valentine's Day.

  • John Michael LaRue

    "This means that in your church you're interacting with men and women who are closer to you than your biological brothers and sisters. You're forming relationships that will carry into eternity, in fellowship with one another and the Godhead forever. What joy is there to be found in the communion of the saints!"

    Fantastic point. Thank you for writing this, Chris.

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  • Chad Mower

    beautifully written. As 33 years old, single, and in my undergrad work here at Moody, we need to read stuff like this

  • Brooks Waldron

    Excellent article!

  • http://twitter.com/mattsmethurst Matt Smethurst

    Thanks, Chris. Excellent work.

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  • http://www.iphonephotophun.com/ Phil
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  • http://chsmithjr.wordpress.com/ Chris Smith

    You all don't know how much it has blessed me to see so many reading, liking, and commenting on this article. I pray that many singles are encouraged and, most of all, that the Lord is glorified in all things.

  • Bryan

    Thanks for this article. It is a great comfort to me and I can say for sure it is for many others as well.

  • nel

    Love this charge to "fight for joy". Good truth to preach to ourselves. Ephesians 3:14-21 are my favorite verses on Valentines Day! Thank you.

  • Allie

    Thanks for sharing that truth! This may not be as theologically "deep," but this woman posted some wise words on the subject the other day. Feelings are not what we cling to!
    http://kindredgrace.com/sweet-sadness-and-st-valentine/

  • Paula

    Ok, I'm disappointed. I thought this was going to be about married people.
    :-)

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  • http://www.darklure.com Sophia

    Thanks for sharing this truth which mostly people forget.

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