Christ-focused Singleness As A Medical Student – Dr Irene

Is there a unique breadth of intimacy available to singles?


From Luke’s Journal Jan 2023  |  Vol.28 No.1  |  Evolving Professionals

mage Tawatchai07, Freepik

Singleness is upheld in the Bible as a worthy vocation, one with a different set of trials, joys, temptations and opportunities to that of married life, and one with greater freedom to serve the Kingdom (1 Corinthians 7). For Christians who believe that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, with sexual intercourse made to serve that union, being single (or unmarried) means living without a partner and abstaining from sex. It includes those who have never married, those who are divorced, those who are widowed, and people of all ages and backgrounds.

Despite the Bible’s high view of singleness however, singleness in Christian circles is often spoken of as second-best, or something terrible to endure. Often the only pastoral advice given to single people is how to ‘wait well’ for marriage, as if single people are in a relational holding pen until their ‘real lives’ start. A Christian may be single for a season or a lifetime, by choice or by circumstance. Their experience of singleness may involve grief, joy, pain or all of these, yet it is the situation God has placed that person in, the gift he has given for now, and one that can be cultivated for His glory.

“If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency” – Sam Alberry

Although I am only a student in her mid-twenties and in no way represent the entirety of the ‘Christian singleness’ experience, my own thinking and reading on this topic has helped me to have greater joy and wisdom in working out the pragmatics of this season. I share some thoughts in the hope that it may help other brothers and sisters in Christ who are single, single-again, or married but seeking to love and care for their single brothers and sisters.

1. Staying connected

The single life does not have to be a lonely one. God declares in the creation story that, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18), and the apostle Paul, who was single, constantly talks about other people in his letters (most of Romans 16!) including Titus who he calls “my true son” (Tit 1:4) and Onesimus who he calls “my very heart” (Philem 1:12).

One single Christian woman once pointed out to me that out of the ’12 dimensions of intimacy’1 frequently cited in relationship counselling (see below), single Christians can still enjoy eleven out of twelve – with only sexual intimacy being exclusive to marriage.

Intellectual Intimacy: Closeness in the world of ideas
Emotional Intimacy: Being tuned to each other’s wavelength
Aesthetic Intimacy: Sharing experience of beauty
Creative Intimacy: Sharing in acts of creating together
Recreational Intimacy: Relating in experiences of fun and play
Work Intimacy: Closeness of sharing common tasks
Crisis Intimacy: Closeness in coping with problems and pain
Conflict Intimacy: Facing and struggling with differences
Commitment Intimacy: Mutually derived from common self-interest
Spiritual Intimacy: Unity shared in religious expression
Communication Intimacy: Mutual understanding and affirmation
Sexual Intimacy: Sharing passion and physical pleasuring

Single Christians are better positioned to say “Yes” to a last minute dinner invitation, read bedtime stories to the kids from their church, or accept hospitality from strangers when travelling. At my brother’s church, there’s a sharehouse of single guys who go and have breakfast with a family every Sunday, and I’ve heard of families who give a house-key to their single friend or invite them along on holidays. Sam Alberry writes in his book the ‘7 Myths About Singleness’ that “while I might not know the unique depth of intimacy a married friend enjoys, there is a unique breadth of intimacy available to singles that married friends would not be as able to experience”, echoing the Biblical promise that “God sets the lonely in families” – Ps 68:6

In order not to get burnt out by the breadth of relationships and scheduling logistics of singleness, I’ve found it helpful to aim for varying frequencies in my relationships – making sure that there are some people I spend time with nearly everyday (usually my housemates), some weekly, and some monthly. By trying to lock in as many of these as possible (sometimes being fairly direct in asking for this), I can usually avoid the loneliness that sometimes accompanies singleness, and the despair that can result from not feeling truly known.

2. Solitude

Even my closest friends who know my very heart, however, are not constant companions, and so another important element of Christ-focused singleness is knowing how to embrace solitude. Because most single people spend more time alone than their married counterparts, I think it’s important to learn how to enjoy your own company and embrace doing things alone (e.g. visiting a beach, park, going out) rather than wasting entire weekends at home (not that a weekend at home is always a waste, but it is easier for me to waste my downtime with less accountability). Single Christians also do more decision-making and processing on their own, and so it can be helpful to find individual outlets for this (e.g. journaling, exercise, prayer) as well as sharing these burdens with others whenever possible.

3. Sexuality

God created us as sexual beings, so we should expect to be tempted – but he also gives us the power to resist temptation and live a holy life. “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Tit 2:11-14)

Many Christians have written about living with self-control in this realm before, but because we can do with all the help we can get, here are a few things to remember:

a) Flee from sin – especially during the times when you are particularly tempted! That might be when you’re lonely, when you’re tired or stressed, when you like someone, when you’re travelling or less accountable… Make sure you put extra safeguards in place. Confess to a trusted friend and ask them to keep you accountable.

b) Remember that your personhood is not attached to your sex life, despite what wider culture would have you believe. God made sex to serve marriage, not as a means to discover and express our individuality – and so the celibate person is still a whole person.

c) Desires are suggestions, not commands – we can and should deny them when they go against God’s will for our lives.

d) There can be a degree of emotional strain in saying no to temptation, so finding non-sexual ways to enjoy your body can useful for reminding yourself that God made your body good – e.g. dancing, running, rock climbing, pilates, having fun with your appearance. It doesn’t eliminate desire, but it helps us to stay emotionally healthy and remember that God made our bodies ‘good’.

e) Consider that there is more underlying our sexual desires than just the physical. Underneath there may be a longing for comfort, intimacy, fun, connection, approval, enjoyment, stress relief etc. Many of these can be filled in healthy joyful ways as single people, either in relationship with others and relationship with God – and whilst it won’t eliminate desire entirely, it can help us to pursue holiness in more than just a ‘grit-your-teeth-and-say-no’ way.

(diagram adapted from Monica Cook’s advice on “With All Due Respect” podcast episode, 10/09/2020)

4. Serving others

It’s worth acknowledging that there is less accountability for single Christians in how they spend their time/money/energy, and yet usually single believers have more time & flexibility than their married brothers & sisters to serve the Kingdom. And so I find it useful to keep on asking myself: “Am I actually using my singleness maximally for the Kingdom of God?”

For some single Christians this means leading on more summer camps than they’d otherwise be able to, or being more involved in their youth group or the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES) group, or joining a church plant, or devoting more time to prayer. The particulars will be specific to your circumstances and gifting, but it is all motivated by the call to be “concerned about the Lord’s affairs, [the] aim to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit… [and to] live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Cor 7:34-35)

Finally, let me leave you with an exhortation from Dani Treweek, a sister in the faith who is not only single herself, but has made it her ministry to study, proclaim and exhort believers in a Christian ethic of singleness, so that together we might glorify God and live as His people.

“What single Christians in this situation need to be shown is that, in Christ, there is a sure and certain marriage which awaits them. That there is a wonderful, beautiful, incredible, ultimate marriage to come. A marriage whose intimacy will far exceed any earthly human marriage. A marriage which will never fail or falter or disappoint or end. A marriage in which the bride and the groom will truly be ‘equally yoked’, because the blood of Jesus has made it so. A marriage which will see us standing side by side as siblings as we, the beloved bride, gaze rapturously upon our husband.

Such a vision helps us put the deep longings of our hearts here and now into perspective. It helps us to develop patience as we wait for the better thing to come. It provides the hope that sustains us through the aching grief of missing out on something wonderfully good in this life. It reminds us that a life lived in response to the cross of Christ will itself be cruciform in shape, that godly obedience will at times be deeply costly. And it comforts us that we have a Saviour who not only knows this, but who lived it… perfectly.2

Suggested Resources:

Dr Irene
Dr Irene is a recent graduate who rejoices in God’s gift of singleness, whether that is for a season or a lifetime. She loves sharing the gospel with unreached international students and integrating faith with medicine – but loves Jesus most of all.


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  1. Smith, R. (2010) How many types of intimacy do you and your partner share? RhettSmith. Available at: (Accessed: November 7, 2022). 
  2. Treweek, D. (2020) The costly obedience of not marrying a non-christian. Single Minded. Available at: (Accessed: November 7, 2022).