By Patricia Engler, Crosswalk.com
Does this scenario seem familiar?
You’re strolling through a Christian bookstore, passing piles of plaques, bundles of Bibles, and forests of figurines when you come across (*insert harp music here*) the “relationships” book section.
You survey shelves upon shelves of marriage manuals offering seasoned advice about everything from conflict resolution to communication tips to date night ideas.
There—down in the corner by the electrical outlet.
It’s a shelf labeled “singleness resources.”
Stepping closer, you spy books explaining how to date while anticipating marriage, how to live purely while anticipating marriage, how to search for a godly spouse while anticipating marriage…
Wait a minute.
Do virtually all these resources somehow feature…marriage?
Choose Your Own Adventure
At this point in your book-browsing endeavor, do you:
Option A: Walk away. Obviously, people who aren’t married, nearly married, or thinking of getting married must not belong in Christian bookstores.
Option B: Stick around. These books offer biblical principles, and God’s word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Even if the teachings aren’t geared for you specifically, you’re bound to learn something from one of them, right?
A Second Glance at the Shelves
I’ve stood in front of bookshelves like those too. Sometimes, they do include titles that celebrate singleness as the unparalleled opportunity for growth, adventure, and communion with God that it biblically is. (Check out 1 Corinthians 7 to see what I mean.)
But when I tried typing “singleness” into a major Christian bookselling website, about 60% of the hits seemed to be more about dating, “waiting,” spouse-shopping, or “coping” as a single desiring marriage.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with any of that, and I’m deeply thankful God has equipped authors to share these messages. But I’m not the first to point out that overall, the mountain of relationship-centered resources seems to overshadow the monument of singles-geared materials.
Is that a significant problem? Not necessarily. For one thing, marriage truly is the key institution God established from creation for raising godly families and reflecting Jesus’s love for his church. So, biblical marriage resources fulfill a vital role—especially in a fallen planet where hearts shatter, relationships crumble, and the institution of family encounters constant attack.
Besides, as singles, our value doesn’t stem from the number of resources that do (or don’t) discuss singleness. We don’t need to be served to be significant. Christianity was never about us anyway—it’s about Jesus.
Jesus commanded us to love. And I’d wager that certain types of marriage resources can teach us all to love better. Obviously, some marriage-related resources will be more instructive, relevant, and edifying to singles than others. Yes, viewer discretion is advised.
But to see which types of materials may be the most useful, let’s run through 4 ½ ways that singles can benefit from marriage resources:
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
1. Develop Interpersonal Skills
A key theme I’ve noticed in marriage resources is relating well to others—especially others who are different than you. For instance, the top two sub-categories that popped up when I typed “marriage” into the Christian bookselling site were communication and conflict.
Well, communication skills and conflict resolution strategies apply to any personal interactions and relationships, including within families, friendships, and workplaces.
For example, one especially helpful communication tip I’ve heard both through a marriage podcast and an interpersonal psychology course involves using “I-statements.” To see what that means, consider the following scenario:
Girl: You were a pretty big jerk to ignore me last night, talking to your friends like I didn’t exist.
Guy: I was a jerk? You weren’t even trying to get involved.
Nasty, right? Now watch what happens when instead of flinging accusations, she uses the word “I” to communicate her feelings in response to his actions:
Girl: I felt a bit hurt when you didn’t include me in the conversation last night.
Guy: I didn’t mean to hurt you—I just wasn’t sure whether you wanted to get involved.
Smoother, wasn’t it? These types of communication tips, which marriage resources often feature, are just as relevant to singles as to couples.
2. Boost Your Emotional Intelligence
Practicing “I-statements” is just one way to exercise your emotional intelligence—your ability to recognize and respond to feelings in yourself and others.
Multiple studies show emotional intelligence predicts life satisfaction, personal wellbeing, and professional and academic success. Best of all, emotional intelligence doesn’t have to stay fixed at a certain level throughout your life. It’s something you can grow.
And marriage resources that teach couples how to understand and communicate their emotions typically burgeon with tools for cultivating this essential trait.
3. Serve and Protect Families
Learning what helps marriages thrive also lends us insights into how to better love couples, defend families, and serve the body of Christ.
For instance, understanding why it’s so important for couples to spend time together could make us more willing to entertain their kids for an evening. On the flip side, recognizing how emotional affairs begin lets us understand how to prevent becoming entrapped in one with someone married ourselves.
Discovering marriage’s God-ordained significance from Genesis to Revelation also motivates us to stand up for family in a world which attacks it.
Marriage resources may explain not only the biblical basis for marriage, but also the scientific case for following biblical relationship guidelines. For instance, decades of research have revealed that compared to marriage, cohabitation predicts lower psychological wellbeing and higher future divorce rates.
Ultimately, the more we learn to value marriage, protect purity, and support couples, the better we can defend the family unit God designed.
4. Learn to Love Better
Serving and defending families is all part of fulfilling Christ’s command to love others. And marriage resources can offer specific insights into how to better love anyone.
Think of Dr. Gary Chapman’s best-selling book, The Five Love Languages, which reveals how to love others in the ways that matter to them most. Clearly, teachings like that don’t only benefit couples!
Of course, the ultimate resource on learning to love better is Scripture itself. Whether biblical love stories, the “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13, or the greatest example of selflessness Christ showed us, God’s word reveals what real love looks like. Single or married, this is the love that will mark us as followers of Jesus (John 13:35).
Bonus! Become an epic future spouse.
Oh yeah. That. Even though you’re not tapping into marriage resources with the intention of getting married yourself, those teachings will still provide an awesome foundation should God ever lead you into marriage. Bonus, right?
Particularly Encouraging Resources
With these benefits in mind, which relationship resources are likely to be the most relevant to singles? Materials that offer insights for boosting interpersonal skills, cultivating emotional intelligence, and learning how to love selflessly are all great bets.
But personally, the relationship resources I’ve found most edifying center around real Christian couples’ stories.
I didn’t consider marriage teachings relevant to me until I began listening to podcasts of couples sharing their testimonies. These stories sometimes discussed hardships of the type Paul referenced in 1 Corinthians 7:23, including relationship struggles, communication difficulties, infertility, infidelity, parenting challenges and family tragedies.
On the bright side, they also frequently included encouraging accounts of God’s leading, provision and faithfulness.
Couples’ stories often come interwoven with relationship insights, communication tips, and biblical teachings that singles can harness to their lifelong advantages. Hearing about others’ experiences also helps us understand practical ways to love, serve and empathize with those facing difficult situations.
But most of all, couples’ testimonies are powerful because they teach us more about God—our first love.
Back to the Bookshelves
That said, let’s return to the shelves in the Christian bookstore—you know, the ones holding more relationship advice than you could shake a figurine at.
But this time, scanning those shelves means embarking on a deeper mission: to find not only books geared toward serving us, but also resources that can help us better love and understand others.
And who knows?
We might even uncover a few great stories along the way.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/David Lezcano
Patricia Engler is a Christian apologetics speaker, writer and Youth Outreach Coordinator for Answers in Genesis Canada. After 12 years of homeschool and a B.Sc. degree, she backpacked 360°around the world documenting how Christian students keep their faith at university. You can follow her stories and get connected at www.patriciaengler.com or answersingenesis.org.