India is the youngest country in the world. The average age of its 1.3 billion people is 29, according to an article on IndBiz. Its youth population of 261 million people is more than the total population of Pakistan, as reported in an article on The Indian Express.
Indian, Christian, single men are a sub-culture of our youth population. They face unique challenges and opportunities. In a nation swelling with young, single people, how can India’s young Christian men apply the gospel to their singleness?
Neither Despise Nor Idolise Singleness
All of us experience singleness one way or another—before marriage, after being separated by the pain of death or divorce, or as a vocational calling (1 Cor. 7:7). How we think about it can deeply affect our experience of it.
Firstly, we can despise our singleness. On one hand, we hear about “the perfect someone” who is out there somewhere. Our life will be full of meaning and all our sorrows will end, if only we can find her. So we end up despising our singleness.
Bollywood is constantly selling this narrative to us. Deep inside we are all hoping we would be swept away in our own fantasy love story.
If we are honest, even in Christian culture marriage is glorified and provided as the ultimate solution. As a result, single people feel pressure on them to get married.
We need a better story of singleness than simply idolising it or despising it.
Alternatively, we can idolise our singleness. Conversations around singleness have had a major shift over the last decade in our country. Indian women increasingly prefer singleness to marriage. Single men bemoan the difficulties but prize the opportunities of singleness in India.
Singleness is often presented as a “no holds barred” life. It comes with no restrictions or responsibilities and a free fall to seek the life that you truly want. “Do not be tied to someone for life,” we are told.
In the words of a famous song, “You do you.”
We need a better story of singleness than simply idolising it or despising it. How can Indian, Christian, single men thrive in the gospel without squandering or loathing their single-hood?
Self-care has gained much prominence during the pandemic and rightly so. But as single men, we are prone to look at self-care in a very self-centered way. God calls us to consider caring for ourselves in the light of loving our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:31).
Our care for self is a means to living a Christ-centered, people-serving life. This helped immensely during my single years.
Devoting myself to daily rhythms of exercise, nutrition, and weekly practice of Sabbath played a key role in finding satisfaction in singleness.
Nurturing healthy rhythms of reading, meditation, exercise, and prayer go a long way to keep our hearts fixed on Jesus during this journey of preparing for marriage.
We rush into a relationship with all our baggage, or remain commitment-averse to “protect our heart.”
I am an avid reader but it would be folly to think I can keep up reading the same number of books I read as a single person. Invest in this time of singleness by reading good books that help you think through things that really matter to the heart of God (Phil. 4:8).
How would God want you to care for yourself in this season?
Allow the Father to Work Through Your Wounds
Many Indian, Christian, single men come from wounded homes—experiencing neglect, apathy, loss, or abuse. For many of us these wounds inform the narrative we lean towards in our singleness—either despising it or idolising it. We rush into a relationship with all our baggage, or remain commitment-averse to “protect our heart.”
Our Heavenly Father wants to father us through this season. He wants to remind us that he is engaged, attentive, and pursues us intimately. This was (and is) so pivotal to my experience of God’s love for a single person.
When we do not apply the power of the gospel to the power of these destructive narratives it can set us up for unwanted pain that can be avoided. Instead of being a source of strength for our wives-to-be, we can become overbearing and controlling.
In matters of a wounded heart, prevention is better than cure. Spend time with one or two men in your community whom you respect. Be intentional about asking them to father you so God can use them to fill up what was lacking in your family.
As you allow them to speak his love into the narratives of your past, deep healing and restoration will take place.
How do you sense God is wanting to father you in this season?
Develop Friendships for the Journey
One rhythm that really helped me was yearly getaways with my buddies to Goa. We spent time kayaking, swimming, and talking about God’s heart for us. We laughed together and shared our struggles with each other.
When I despised my singleness, these times lifted me from my self-imposed misery. God often met me in these trips—healing my heart and refreshing me for the season ahead.
Serving people was central to the apostle Paul’s argument in his teaching on singleness to the Corinthians.
As we cultivate healthy friendships and seek the adventure in front of us, ideally our life partner will come as a healthy interruption rather than someone who becomes the object of your adventure.
Even after marriage, these friendships continue to help. I look forward to hanging out with them and ‘doing life’ together. Jesus, a single man, elevated our understanding of friendships when he says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
During my singleness, this was pivotal for my spiritual formation—friends who helped me walk with Jesus and continue to run the race with me.
Who are a few people with whom you can cultivate this kind of deep friendship?
Serve People in the Community
Serving people was central to the apostle Paul’s argument in his teaching on singleness to the Corinthians. He wanted them to be wise in using the time they had been given (1 Cor. 7:7).
If you are single, do not waste the time you have. Jesus has blessed you with gifts and resources. Use this time to serve people in your community with what he has given you. Serve the married people, your neighbour, the needy, and the elderly in your community.
What are the needs around you that resonate with your heart? Are there some burdens in your heart to see the gospel intervene and make a difference?
How can you freely give to someone as you have freely received?
Pursue As You Are Pursued
As we look for our life partner, I often joke with my single friends that Jesus called us to “watch and pray” (Matt. 26:41).
God wants us to be actively seeking and pursuing in our posture towards life. He wants us to ask, seek, and knock (Matt. 7:7-12). But as single men, we are prone to the passivity we have inherited from Adam. We find it hard to pursue goals we feel passionate about or the women we find appealing.
As you live out your singleness before God, as Paul did, you carry in your body the resurrection of Christ.
There is a place to wait and seek God’s wisdom before rushing into something. But often the motivation for our waiting is procrastination, passivity, and fear.
Our hearts need the courage to take risks and live in pursuit. This courage grows in us as our hearts grow in the knowledge of how Jesus actively pursued us.
His relentless pursuit of us helps us overcome our passivity.
Is there a project the Lord is calling you to pursue? Is there a person you feel drawn to?
How can God’s grace empower you to be bold in pursuit so you can find out what pleases the Lord? (Eph. 5:10)
Seeking God’s Life of Adventure and Service
Ultimately, singleness presents us with a unique opportunity to seek a life of adventure and service. In my single years, I swung between despising and idolising my singleness. At times, I was afraid of commitment. I wanted a life of self-preservation. At other times I was desperate. I was looking for a life partner, hoping it would give me a fulfilling life.
Both these narratives keep us from accepting God’s invitation to a life of adventure and service in our singleness. We can squander the opportunity to live a life of meaning and purpose and exchange it for a self-centered life. A self-preserving life will ultimately rob our hearts of true joy.
The apostle Paul lived as a single man. His life was marked by daring adventure and self-giving, sacrificial service. Christ himself was a single person whose life was adventurous obedience to God and sacrificial service so that we become the bride to whom he will be faithful through all eternity.
As you live out your singleness before God, as Paul did, you carry in your body the resurrection of Christ. Every single man has the opportunity to bear witness to the sufficiency of Christ in singleness. You visibly demonstrate to the world that the Lord is more than enough. He truly is.