When we hear the word “single” we usually think of one kind of single – someone maybe 25-50 who has not married. But there are other kinds of singles: widows, single parents, divorcees, those who suffer with same-sex attraction, and even those who are in loveless marriages – perhaps the most painful singleness of all. But for all singles, there are twelve struggles that must be faced at different stages and to different degrees:

1. Submission not rebellion: Accept and approve God’s will as good, right, and wise. That is not easy when every part of you is crying out for intimacy, as Fabienne Harford explained in Sex and The Single Woman:

In some ways—in dark and frightened places—I feel forgotten and betrayed and confused because I know he [God] knows me. I know he knows my body and my heart, and I know he designed and wired this desire inside of me.

2. Trust not anxiety: Rest in God’s provision now and for the future. Again, that’s extremely difficult, as actress Anne Hathaway explained in a recent interview:

Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.

3. Friendship not loneliness: First, cultivate friendship with Christ. Draw near to him through verses such as Jeremiah 3:14; 31:3; Haggai 2:23; Isa 62:12; Isa 43:4; 49:16; 54:5.

Fabienne Harford put it like this when speaking of her painful hunger for physical intimacy:

This pain has blessed me by forcing me to be all in with God: banking on him for my joy. Our God is a God of pleasure. He is not calling us to hunger because he wants us to be miserable. He is calling us to hunger because he wants us to experience the greatest pleasure available to man: himself.

Second, build strong friendships within your church family. Every single will tell you that the biggest help to living with singleness is friendship. Regarding those who fight against same-sex attraction, Corey Widmer issued this challenge to the church:

I’m now convinced any church that holds a traditional view of sexuality must also foster a radical practice of Christian community in which living out a biblical sexual ethic becomes possible and even attractive.

4. Opportunities not difficulties: Instead of focusing on the difficulties, use the single state to serve God and His people. It’s an opportunity to do things and go places that married people cannot do or go (1 Cor. 7:25ff).

Also, there are many lonely people you can serve and bless with understanding and sympathy. Fabienne Harford wrote of how the pain of lacking physical intimacy has become a gift that helps her serve others:

That pain has taught me how to hold my infertile friend and cry with her when Mother’s Day rolls around again. That pain has given weight to my words when I explain to a mom with three kids that Friday nights alone on your couch really aren’t as amazing as they sound.

5. Contentment not envy: Don’t be looking enviously or angrily at happily married couples. Although it looks picture-perfect as perfectly groomed children pour out of the minivans every Sunday morning, the reality is often very different. There are challenges and trials in every life situation.

6. Forgiveness not bitterness: Don’t get angry with God for His providence or with others for their insensitivity or thoughtless neglect of you.

7. Patience not rush: If your singleness is involuntary, don’t be so anxious to marry or re-marry that that you end up in a disastrous relationship. God provides escapes from temptation (1 Cor. 10:13), but the escape for you may not be marriage. As Jason Helopoulos said:

Loneliness in a godless marriage can be even more severe than the loneliness one experiences in singleness.

8. Hope not despair: God may change your state sooner than you think. So, don’t give up praying and hoping. Paul Mathies an unmarried church elder, expressed this hope:

Run after Jesus with all you are. Then, one day, you may look up and see a woman beside you running on the same path. But regardless of if that day comes, you gain Christ in the end, whether she comes or not.

Yes, God will definitely change it in the future when you will experience the closest possible marriage forever (Rev. 7:17; 19:7). Listen to these beautiful words forged in the fire of Fabienne’s singleness:

It might be that the pain of a life without physical intimacy was part of what equipped Paul to proclaim through the Spirit that to die is gain. To die is to gain a glorified body that feels and experiences the truth that all our needs are met in Jesus. To die is to gain the heavenly reality that earthly intimacy can only reflect in shadows. To die is to gain full oneness with God, fullness of joy, and pleasures forevermore.

9. Spiritual parenting not physical parenting: There are so many young men and women who would value your input into their lives as a mentor and model. You can become a spiritual mother or father without having any children of your own.

10. Spiritual identity not marital status: You are not defined by your marital status or your sexual orientation. You are defined by your spiritual identity – in Christ, a child of your heavenly Father.

11. Ask don’t assume: It’s a great mistake to assume that singleness is a punishment from God. However it may be that God is keeping you back from marriage because you have made an idol of it. Ask God to show you and deliver you, if this is the case. Also, ask friends if there’s anything really obvious to others, though not obvious to you, that may be putting others off.

12. Holiness not sin: You will often be tempted to sin mentally or even physically. Fabienne Harford wrote:

Singleness presents a series of hardships, but for me learning to live without physical intimacy has provided the biggest challenge and deepest suffering of this season.

Remember Jesus was able to live 33 single years, tempted in all points like as you are, and yet without sin. He is therefore able to sympathize, support, and strengthen you when are tempted.

He is THE SINGLE. He lived a life of perfect singleness and died a death of perfect singleness – experiencing the greatest possible sense of abandonment, desertion, and loneliness – so that we could be brought into the deepest marriage relationship of all.

  • Jacob Bluebaugh

    Very accurate. As a single in the church, these are very real for me. Yet, in the midst of all the struggles that present themselves in this state, Christ’s school has taught me that it is a gift for His service. In being single, I am able to dedicate myself to His service in the church in ways and places that my married brothers and sisters may not be able to. It has been a great relief of burdens to recognize the joy of #3 & #4.Can I dare say that I have come to be thankful for my singleness whether it is for a season or a lifetime? The church has been my haven (as it is for all of Christ’s people) and has greatly aided in removing the sting that can accompany singleness.

    Perhaps one day He will grant the desires of my heart to be a husband and father, but even if He does not, I still gain Him and His infinite goodness.

  • http://whatfoodisfor.wordpress.com/ RStarke

    This list was not what I was expecting, and it really ministered to me today. Thank you so much. David.

  • http://www.twitter.com/debwelch deb welch

    Thank you, David, for this excellent post!

    You might also be interested in my positive take on being an older Single Woman in the Church. I got to share about it at my local church recently and shared my write up here:
    http://solofide.blogspot.com/2014/11/sex-and-single-woman-reprise-neither.html

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  • paigepark2121

    I agree with every point exept in the beginning where it said ” those who suffer with same sex attraction. ” People who are gay are not suffering. There’s no reason why they can’t be happy just like straight people. Being straight myself I don’t think being true to yourself and being happy with the person you love even if it’s of the same sex is wrong.

    • Lorna

      Dear paigepark,
      God doesn’t call us to be ‘true to ourselves’.
      He wants us to love, honour, worship and obey his son King Jesus.
      It’s all about Jesus, not us. And in loving Jesus and living for him, not for ourselves, we are to live how he tells us to in the bible.
      We are to find our happiness in him, he is always our most important relationship.
      God gives us marriage between a man and a woman as a gift – and also to reflect the relationship between us as the church/bride of Christ and Christ himself our husband.
      Hence ‘those who suffer with same sex attraction’. In honouring King Jesus only marriage between a man and a woman is honourable, and so we recognise the difficulties christians face when they are ‘gay’.

      • paigepark2121

        That statement just shows ignorance. Being gay has already been scientifically proven to be genetic. It’s no more a choice than choosing the color of your skin or eye color.

        • J_R2100

          Paige, there are single people who are not gay and are called to remain single in this life. We, just like folks who experience (I will not say suffer) same sex attraction, remain unmarried and await a greater blessing in the resurrection. (Check out Isaiah 56)

        • Lorna

          Paige, I’m not at all disputing your last 2 sentences!

        • Boris bear

          You are wrong that is has been proven to be a genetic aberration. It is a choice

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  • TLC

    Here’s suggestion 13: Don’t throw tired, worn-out platitudes in the faces of singles, especially if you’re married.

    You have no idea what it’s like to live this life, day after day, and wonder if you’ll ever find a mate, what’s wrong with you, why God can’t pair you with someone. And the last thing we need is smug married men condescending to us, then running away screaming from us because we’re single and we’ll “contaminate” your marriage if you spend any time with us.

    I was treated horribly as a single, divorced person in evangelical churches. It is one of the main reasons I will never set foot in one again. This post is the perfect example of why.

    • Lorna

      Dear tlc,
      I’m so sorry you were treated this way in evangelical churches.
      As a divorced person (and a member of an evangelical church!!) who sometimes struggles with singleness, I actually find this post grounded in the bible and therefore helpful to me personally.
      There honestly is more to life than finding a spouse. I hope you can find contentment in living for the Lord Jesus Christ until He meets your deepest desires.

    • Hames Forero

      I’m also an unmarried divorced evangelical person. Unlike you I have never experienced such rejection in my church; however, if such a thing happened to me I guess I’d just find myself another church. When the Lord says nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ, that includes Churches of course. I mean to cheer you up and encourage your faith in Christ! Find a new church where the love of Christ is evidenced in the way they treat others!!! You can come back!!! :)

  • pl

    I am fifty two and never married. I in my youth thought I had to have a man. I don’t think I am good wife material. I love to be by myself now. .Men really pretty much scare me. I think I would enjoy it if my husband could provide for me and release that burden I have always carried. I would need someone to love me as I am warts and all. I would want strength to protect me, but always tenderness. My heart breaks to easy with harshness. Someone who would always think I was beautiful. But then again if God had given me a provider, I know I would have quit and left many times in tough places for me. The Lord has become my husband, I trust Him.

    • Lorna

      Beautiful words, Thankyou for sharing.

  • Boris bear

    Though I’m a senior, living on my own, I found that volunteering to help others brought me out
    of my “woe me” shell of self-pity; and now I attempt to bring comfort, encouragement, and to uplift my fellow seniors in Nursing Homes and Assisted living facilities. As well as starting a Bible class. Life is so much more fulfilling and joyful when I consider others’ lives to be more significant than my own.

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  • HowVeryTrue

    Well in my real honest opinion as to why many of us Good men are still single today as i speak is that with much more women today that are very high maintenance, independent, selfish, spoiled, and very greedy is a very good reason since many women now would certainly want the best and will Not settle for less which really does make it very difficult for us since we really Can’t blame ourselves at all.

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