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.