Book Review: 7 Myths about Singleness (Sam Allberry)

It is in the interests of all of us, the whole church, single and married, to understand the positive vision the Bible gives us of singleness. (p. 15)

In the introduction of 7 Myths About Singleness, Sam Allberry explains why his intended audience is the whole church, not just single Christians. Our world is obsessed with romantic and sexual fulfillment, so the church needs to rightly understand the place of these things in the Bible. This excellent book helps married and single alike to think biblically about relationships.

Summary of book

The premise of Allberry’s book is straightforward, and obvious from the title: he dispels seven of the biggest myths single people (and the wider church) tend to believe about singleness:

  1. Singleness is too hard
  2. Singleness requires a special calling
  3. Singleness means no intimacy
  4. Singleness means no family
  5. Singleness hinders ministry
  6. Singleness wastes your sexuality
  7. Singleness is easy

In each chapter he grounds his response in Scripture. Instead of offering comfortless platitudes, Allberry does the hard work of digging into the Bible to address our misconceptions.

Why married people should read it

I’ll start by making the case for why married people should read this book, before expounding on its value for singles.

By addressing common myths about singleness, Allberry is exposing our myths about marriage too. In the first chapter he highlights some of the blessings of singleness, like flexibility and freedom, but in the process teaches us about marriage. He writes:

The temptation for many who are single is to compare the downs of marriage with the ups of singleness…Whichever gift we have—marriage or singleness—the other can easily seem far more attractive. (p. 30)

The relative difficulty or ease of our relationship status isn’t actually the most important thing. What we ought to think more about is the opportunity that status gives us to serve God.

In addition, Allberry helps married people to better care for single people in their churches. He tells many stories of families who have included him in their lives. By better understanding the joys and challenges of singleness, married people are also better equipped to love.

Lastly, those who are married will benefit as Allberry explores, with robust exposition, various themes that are important for both married and single people to understand, like calling, family, and sexuality.

Why single people should read it

The strong biblical foundation is one of the primary strengths of 7 Myths. Each chapter includes exposition of Scripture texts; for instance, chapter 1 surveys Jesus’ teaching on marriage, chapter 3 looks at friendship from Proverbs, and chapter 6 provides a theology of sexuality.

By grounding his arguments in God’s Word, Allberry addresses and challenges our hearts. He chips away at our excuses and complaints, exposes our sin, and challenges our selfishness. His advice is nuanced rather than simplistic. For example, he speaks to pastors in chapter 2 about how to counsel single people:

There is a need to challenge those who defer marriage for ungodly reasons without demeaning those whose singleness is either not their choice or in fact has been chosen for the sake of the kingdom. There is also a need to affirm the goodness and advantages of singleness without unwittingly playing into selfish motivations of those for whom singleness seems easier. (p. 46)

In all this biblical exposition and careful thinking, 7 Myths is not dry and academic. Allberry includes plenty of personal stories, making it interesting to read and easy to connect with him. Through his life we see the truth about singleness in action. He acknowledges the hard things about singleness while still loving and trusting in Jesus with great joy.

My favourite chapters upon first reading—which I’m sure will change throughout my life—were chapter 3 on friendship and chapter 7 on the challenges of singleness.

Chapter 3 helped me to be thankful for the numerous, rich, and varied friendships God has given me in my life. He shows that singleness can actually be an advantage in friendship because we don’t have one person who (naturally and rightly) takes up a lot of our time and relational energy:

Singleness lends itself to this kind of intimacy; it provides the opportunity and freedom for it. So 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 able to experience. (p. 62)

This is not a matter of looking on the bright side, trying to find a glimmer of good in the barren wasteland of singleness. Rather, Allberry encouraged me to value the unique joys of singleness and thank God for this season (whether it lasts a short time or a lifetime). He also challenged me about the dangers of making friendship into an idol, such as being threatened when a friend develops a close bond with someone else. Marriage and friendship are not interchangeable, and jealousy has no place in the latter. We can rejoice in our friendships but must never make them the ultimate thing.

Chapter 7 deals with the myth that singleness is easy. Allberry goes into some detail about what he finds difficult about singleness—mainly relational aspects, like how a friend getting married changes the relationship, or the difficulty of not having people to do nothing with. I could relate to much of Allberry’s pain, and it was cathartic to have him put it into words.

The first half of this chapter has the heading ‘The Difficulties of Singleness,’ but then it moves in the second half to ‘The Trustworthiness of God’. In the midst of hardship, Allberry reminds us that Jesus is with us through all of it. We must not forget that marriage doesn’t offer the security we expect it will:

…the provisionality I both feel and fear about friendship applies to everything else as well. It is actually no less true for married people…Getting married is no guarantee of companionship and care for life. (p. 140)

In learning contentment, being thankful for the joys of singleness certainly helps. But ultimately they can’t sustain us. Our joy must be firmly rooted in Jesus: “The key to contentment as a single person is not trying to make singleness into something that will satisfy us; it is to find contentment in Christ as a single person.” (p. 142)

This chapter cuts through self-pity to lift our eyes to the all-sufficient God who is with us throughout our whole lives.

Allberry has written an excellent book that will be immensely helpful for single and married people alike. We need this kind of robust theology about relationships in the church, as well as his insight into its practical implications. Single people like myself can learn to grow in joy and trust. Married people will benefit from thinking rightly about their own marriages, as well as including single people in their lives. I commend this book to any Christian, and suggest reading it alongside a friend so you can discuss and pray about each chapter.

In the conclusion of 7 Myths, Allberry talks about how the process of writing this book changed him. May reading it do the same for you:

…through it all I have been increasingly preoccupied with something else—not the goodness of singleness but the goodness of God. The issue is not whether this path or that path is better, whether singleness or marriage would bring me more good. The issue is God and whether I will plunge myself into him, trusting him every day…Let’s aim for more of God, assured that whatever happens, we will never outpace his kindness to us. (p. 149)

 

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