Today on the blog we have a book reiew written by Grace Maples.
Grace Maples is a member of RBC and a sinner saved by grace, starting her first year online with Boyce College later this year. She enjoys reading books, teaching little ones, music, discussing theology and worldview, writing and blogging, and baking. She blogs about her Savior and her experience as a Christian young woman over at Proclaiming His Excellencies.
Not Yet Married is a book by Marshall Segal on singleness and Christian dating. I read this book earlier this year after it was recommended by a few friends. I have read many different books on singleness, dating, and Christian living, so I was honestly skeptical as to how this one was different. Mostly I was used to checklist books, focused on rule-following more than anything else.
However, Not Yet Married is the best book I have read on this subject because of its simplicity, and its concentration on finding joy in Christ over the circumstances of our love life.
Not Yet Married is different. It is both philosophical, and practical. It gives good advice as well as calls its reader to take a look at Scripture to see how it impacts our singleness and relationship status. Segal calls all his readers, whether single, dating, or married, to find their satisfaction and joy in Christ, something that goes beyond the simple joys of this life. It calls us to something higher, something holier, than just waiting around to get married.
“Not Yet Married is not about waiting quietly in the corner of the world for God to bring you ‘the one,’ but about inspiring you to live and date for more now. If you follow Jesus, the search for a spouse is no longer a pursuit of the perfect person, but a pursuit of more of God” (back of the book).
In 16 chapters, Segal goes through many different aspects of singleness and dating, such as living for purpose while we are single, avoiding procrastination while we are single, being sexually pure, and how to date for more than just marriage. The book is divided into two parts: the first eight chapters on singleness, and the last eight chapters on dating and beyond. Each section develops a theme that is present throughout the entire book: we are to find our joy and satisfaction in Christ because singleness and dating do not satisfy.
“We’re in the pursuit of joy, not marriage… The surest love, the fullest happiness, and the highest purpose are all available to you in Jesus, just as you are. Find them first in him, and you will have a far happier and more meaningful marriage if God brings you a husband or wife one day. And, if, in his wisdom and his unfailing love for you, he chooses not to, not-yet-married you will enjoy more than you ever could have dreamed or found for yourself apart from him.” (pg. 18-19)
In the first section, which quickly became my favorite, Segal points out why singleness can be looked at as a problem instead of a gift. Segal calls singles to a higher standard. He calls singles to live with purpose and urgency. He tells us that our purpose in life is “to show others a bit of who God is, to share and display the love we’ve experienced with him.” (pg. 28) Not only that, but Segal highlights the struggles that singles tend to have: procrastination and purposelessness. He calls singles to live for the gospel, and to be open to serving wherever God has placed them.
“A season of singleness is not the minor leagues of marriage. It has the potential to be a unique period of undivided devotion to Christ and undistracted ministry to others. With the Spirit in you and the calendar clear, God has given you the means to make a lasting difference for his kingdom.” (pg. 38)
Segal tells us to direct our attention, not on our marital status, but on making Christ known. This gives purpose and meaning to our single years more than anything else can. It helps us to remember the big picture of how our single years can be used by God, rather than being used by us to wait for Mr. or Miss Right. Singleness is not an excuse to sit back and relax. It is a gift, an amazing opportunity to serve God.
Segal points out a reality in singleness that I think most of us might miss. He points out the urgency of the gospel, and how it should shape our single years. He says, “but God intends to use you, your faith, your time, and your singleness in radical ways right now, as you are. You don’t have to wait to get to the most important work you’ll ever do.” (pg. 37) He calls us to forsake distraction in our single years, and live a life of purpose, whether single or married. This looks like practising selflessness, helping out as much as you can in areas that would be difficult for married people, serving the church, and sharing his gospel to a dark and dying world. We must be faithful to use our single years well.
“A brave few of us will develop not-yet-married habits of knowing him deeply and sharing him freely, likely far beyond what we would be able to do after our wedding day. Singleness has the potential to be a garden-or a gym, or a kitchen, or a school- for undistracted devotion to Jesus unlike any other season of our lives.” (pg. 48)
Segal moves on to a couple of chapters about longing and unfulfilled desires in the single years, and about the importance of your local church community in your pursuit of singleness.
Segal finishes the section on singleness by addressing lies in the single life and talking about the importance of prayer in the life of a single believer. The author says single brothers and sisters must ask God for help, even when they have unfulfilled longings, and they feel broken. He says, “We can’t let prayer sit on the edge of our priorities. We have to bathe all our priorities in prayer. Our waiting and longing should be shaped by and filled with prayer. Our search for purpose and direction in singleness should begin with prayer. Our pursuit of joy should be a journey of prayer.” (pg. 101)
Segal ends the section on singleness where he began it: speaking about the pursuit of joy. From the beginning of this wonderful book, until the end, the author points to the fact that whether single, dating, or even married, we will never find our satisfaction or joy in people or circumstances. It is only in Christ that we get what we are looking for: true lasting joy, purpose, and love. “The most important thing we could accomplish here on earth, then, is to give ourselves completely to telling the world with our whole life that God is truer, greater, and more satisfying than our widest imagination-than the most successful career, the biggest platform, or the happiest marriage.” (pg. 29)
The next section, on dating and marriage, offers helpful advice on how to make Christ your greatest joy as you date. Segal starts out this section by talking about why we date. In a world where dating is not taken seriously, the author calls us to date for a higher purpose, just as he encourages his readers in the single section to do.
“The vision of marriage we see in God’s Word- the beautiful, radical display of God’s infinite, preserving love for sinners- makes it worth it to date, and date well.” (pg. 106)
Segal also gives practical advice throughout this section. He talks about when you know you are ready for marriage, how and why to set boundaries, how to include your community in dating, and how to practically apply the Bible in your relationships. He tells us not to settle for a worldly view of marriage, but a biblical one focused on making Christ known through how we date.
Dating is not just about marriage, however. Segal points out in chapter 10 that we are to date for more than just marriage, because, “God did not make us to be married but to make much of him. Marriage is about knowing God, worshipping God, depending on God, displaying God, and being made like God. If our dating – any given night out or a decade of trying – ends in marriage and not worship, it will ultimately be empty and unsatisfying.” (pg. 124) Segal points out what life and marriage should ultimately be about: God. We date for a bigger purpose than self-fulfilment. We date that Christ might be glorified and displayed in our lives.
Segal next moves to a chapter encouraging his readers with a biblical view of marriage. He says that some people may be discouraged and ask if it is even worth it to get married, and therefore he spends a chapter showing us how we can actually want marriage. Segal explains how marriage is a picture of Christ, how marriage makes us more like Christ, and how marriage was a part of God’s perfect creation. (pg. 130) He tells us the love in marriage, a covenant love, shows the gospel to a dark and dying world.
“That might sound scary to some, but we were made for this kind of love – covenantal, enduring, lavish, promise-keeping love. It’s how God loves us, and it’s the kind of love that parades – tangibly and consistently- the gospel of grace, hope, and forgiveness before our needy world.” (pg. 133)
He says that “the beauty and joy of Christian marriage are Christ, shining in our joyful and unwavering commitment to each other, even when we’re least compatible and least deserving of each other’s love.” (pg. 135) With this strong, Christ-centered, gospel-displaying kind of love in mind, we can and should date well!
Segal then moves on to extremely practical advice, basically for the rest of the section on dating. He has a chapter on clarity on who we should pursue marriage with. He says, “as we date, we’re looking for a settled sense of calling and conviction that this relationship is of God and that this marriage would be for God.” (pg. 143) In a spouse, Segal says we are to look for God, rather than something physical or fun. (pg. 142) He then teaches about sexual freedom and purity. He says that we will avoid much of the worldly ideas of sexual freedom outside of marriage when we focus on showing the other person Christ’s love – a love that is pure and self-sacrificing. Segal then talks about boundaries – how they are important in dating, and how they help us pursue clarity above intimacy when we date.
Dating also includes a “third wheel”: your friends, your family, and your church. These three types of people in your life will help bring clarity to your relationships and help you to be accountable. He says, “we draw others into our dating – the third wheel we all need – because we want our lives, our relationships, and marriages to count for Christ, and because we can’t risk the devastating consequences of letting sin persist or thrive anywhere in our hearts.” (pg. 180)
In the final chapter, Segal gives principles on how to deal with difficult breakups, and how to learn from them. Then, in the conclusion, the author shares his dreams for our marriages and tells us to, “pursue and build a marriage that makes more of Jesus than you could have by yourself. Date and marry with specific dreams in mind.” (pg. 195)
Not Yet Married is a book for everyone, whether you’re single, dating, or even newly married. It’s not a book about do’s and don’t’s or a checklist of rules. No, it is about pursuing Christ and finding joy in him in whatever season of life you find yourself in, whether single or dating. It’s a book about Christ and making much of him.
I encourage you to take up this book and read it! We have copies available in the discipleship library that you are able to borrow, read, and grow from. You can also download it for free on the Desiring God website using this link. Please do so, and when you do, I would love to hear your thoughts about this great book.