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Monday, April 22, 2013

"Thrive" (Lina AbuJamra)

TITLE: Thrive: The Single Life as God Intended
AUTHOR: Lina AbuJamra
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2013, (288 pages).

In this book, readers will find that there are five attitudes to embrace, four obstacles to overcome, three categories of readers, two questions to ponder, with one single objective: Helping single Christians thrive well through the season of singleness, no matter how long it may take.  The two questions to make is whether one ought to marry or not to marry. The three categories of readers are the married, the unmarried, and the loved ones of the author. I will discuss the five attitudes and the four obstacles later.

Beginning with her own personal journey of waiting, AbuJamra reflects on what it means to be single, that one's life is naturally good. There is no need for marriage additive make it any better. Instead of anxiously hoping for a mate to make one's life better, why not remember that one's singleness at any one phase in time is itself a gift? In other words, there is no need to be distracted by an unknown future when one can live gratefully in the existing present state. Using God's Word as a guide, the author points out the sacred value of singlehood as something to be cherished while it lasts. It is a gift from God. According to 1 Corinthians 7, it is personal, unique, and given to us by God. This gift can be understood in three ways.
  1. Singleness by gifting: for the purpose of fervent exercising one's gift for the benefit of God's kingdom;
  2. Singleness by personal choice: for a personal choice of desiring more after God;
  3. Singleness by God's choice: called by God for a purpose that God will reveal in due time.
AbuJamra then recommends five attitudes to embrace. Firstly, learn to be content with our present state. For if one cannot find contentment in singleness, how can one find content in marriage? This may be arguable, but I can see where the author is coming from. It is not the state that defines the identity of the person. It is the person that defines the kind of relationship one brings into, whether single or married. Secondly, there is the attitude of self-control to counter the culture of perverse sexuality, lust, sexual addictions, and all kinds of unnatural relations. The author defines self-control as that "restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires." One important thing that AbuJamra highlights is that self-control is not human control but submission to the will of Christ. She touches on pornography, masturbation, fornication, and any forms of unrestrained sexuality, and warns that they not only hurts other people, it hurts the self. Thirdly, pursue and embrace holiness as a lifestyle. When we are free to embrace the path of holiness, one will realize how liberating this path is from the ways of the world, and from the deceitful desires of the flesh. After clarifying what holiness is and what it is not, she provides practical steps to pursue holiness. Fourthly, there is true freedom as one senses the essence of singleness. There is potential for freedom from anxiety and worry, freedom from pleasing people, freedom financially, freedom of time, distractions, and many others. That is not all. There is also a positive freedom in terms of delighting in God fully. There is the freedom to love people without expecting any obligation of marriage. Most importantly, there is the freedom to embark upon a Christ-love, that only singleness allows. Fifthly, and most powerfully, there is the single-minded focus on God and on serving the Lord. This is exactly Paul's point. AbuJamra also points out the single biggest competitor for our undivided attention: Money or Mammon. 

Having listed the five attitudes to adopt, AbuJamra lists the four obstacles to beware of, that can easily throw us off course. Beware of self-pity that swirls one inward, and sends one heading into implosion. Beware of bitterness that sucks away joy. Beware of idolatry and beware of the lie of loneliness. These four attitudes are not easily separable as they often appear in different combinations. Yet, they come with one goal: To knock out the person away from following God's will and purpose for their lives, whether single or married.

The final part of the book shows readers how to embrace the path of singleness with devotion to Christ, purpose in life, and satisfaction in one's existing state.

My Thoughts

This is a great resource for anyone struggling with their season of singleness. In fact, everyone will experience singleness at various stages of life. This is not just talking about young unmarried individuals. This also applies to divorced persons, widows and widowers, and anyone unable to get married for whatever reasons. One critical point that the author makes deserves attention. If we buy into the idea that marriage is for everyone, how then do we explain God's will to the 45% of the world's population that is unmarried?  After all, Jesus is single. Paul is single. Many pious, humble, believing Christians are also single.

There is a lot of wisdom in this book. AbuJamra has used her own life as a testimony to say that life in God as a single is no less important for the kingdom of God. In fact, it can even be more beneficial as far as serving the kingdom of God is concerned. The points are clearly laid out, with convictions and convincing arguments. This begins only when one is able to overcome self-pity and erroneous thoughts about companionship or loneliness. All things have to be put in its proper perspective. Rather than for singles to be distracted and worried about something they do not yet have, the biggest benefit in reading this book is to be reminded that singles are free people, chosen by God. Free people will freely choose the One who liberates them freely and fully. That is exactly where faith comes in. If you are in a singles ministry, or know of someone who is single and discouraged about his/her singleness, gift this book. It may help lift up a life for God. Even better, it may breath new life to an undiscovered potential.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Moody Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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