One of the main reasons given for Christian marriage is sanctification. There’s no denying that living with and loving another human being shows you all the icky stuff about yourself and tests your ability to show grace and mercy to others. It also makes sense that secret sin is a lot less likely to be secret if you are in a marriage relationship. It’s hard to hide your faults from someone you spend every day of your life with. But we know that God desires for all of us to be sanctified even those of us who are not-yet-married. So are we forever destined to be immature, unholy Christians?
”Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” -Hosea 10:12
Notice that the time to seek the LORD and sow righteousness is NOW. Not when your circumstances or more given to producing righteousness in you according to human wisdom. Then how does a single Christian actively pursue sanctification?
- Pray. As believers, more often than not our first action is prayer. James 5:1 says that he who lacks wisdom let him ask. If you ask the Holy Spirit to show you areas where you need to repent and grow he will do it. And he will also give you the wisdom to know how.
- Have the right attitude! If you go about seeking growth thinking you can do this all on your own or if you don’t see any need for growth at all you will never be willing to take the following steps and invite God to bring about real change in your life. Humility is the starting point from which real maturity and wisdom can flourish.
- Don’t do it alone. Singleness, my friends, contrary to common belief does not equal loneliness. I’d dare to say I am on average a lot less lonely than many married women in the world. Why? Because having people physically near does not necessarily mean being known. If you are not actively cultivating genuine community then you may well be surrounded by many and known by few to none. There is a degree of convenience in being able to go to a spouse and ask for help. Singleness does require an extra measure of intentionality. Especially if you live alone. But deep relationships, vulnerability, and speaking the truth in love are all completely possible. And vital for our sanctification. Maybe there is no one in the house to see your sin nature manifest in disobedience or a lack of spiritual discipline. But if you confess to a trusted and wise friend they can be your eyes even from afar by checking in through phone calls, messages, and direct questions over coffee. What’s more, if you are actively seeking out ways to receive this kind of accountability and feedback, it hopefully means you are receptive and willing to take it in and apply it. Something that can nurture growth much more effectively than having someone at home who sees you, calls you out, and is met with defensiveness or denial. Work hard not to be that person as a single. And I’m willing to bet it will give you the tools and humility to not be that person when you find yourself married either.
- Trust and obey. Have faith that God is working for your good: bringing about transformation and change in you that will point others to his glory. And listen to what he says. God speaks to us through wise friends, mentors, his word, prayer, sermons, and a variety of other means. When God is clearly telling you to trust him and be obedient: do it. If we obey in the little things we will be more sensitive to his voice and guidance in the big things. And the path he leads us on will always result in our being more like him and more sanctified with each passing day.
In summary, sanctification during singleness is not only possible; it’s God’s will for us! Trust that he will always give you the tools necessary to live out his will. Cultivating an attitude of humility, learning to build community, and obediently trusting in God’s plan for your life will serve you and those around you not only now but wherever (and with whomever) God may lead you in the future.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification.1 Thessalonians 4:3