Loneliness in singleness is not often talked about. Single people don’t talk about it because we don’t want to sound desperate. Not to mention we want to avoid the patronizing platitudes we get from couples. “The minute you stop looking for love, God gives it to you.” “You don’t need a boyfriend. You have Jesus.” While these well-intentioned statements may be true in part, I don’t think there is anything wrong with desiring romance. I would argue that it is a natural— dare I say, even God-given desire. Think about it. God created romance as a beautiful gift that is naturally attractive. God gave Adam a partner, Eve, because “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). And marriage itself is a unique union that God uses to reveal the relationship Christ has with His Church (more on that later). So yes, my life is already full because of Jesus. But, how can I deny that I, as a single woman, at times desire a gift from God that He made naturally desirable? The longing for romance is human. However, there is a dark side to this. The Enemy often takes our initially, innocent yearnings and distorts them to take our eyes off of Christ. Here are some unique ways that I personally have struggled with spiritual warfare as a single person.
Caveat: I believe anyone single, dating, or married can have these kinds of struggles, but these are the unique ways that these struggles can manifest in single people.
Sexual temptation is unchecked.
People usually think of sexual temptation as being the spiritual warfare of a dating couple. However, singles are just as susceptible to this kind of temptation. Sure, couples are tempted by each other, but the church almost expects them to struggle with sexual sin. Leaders and friends will ask them, “How are you guys doing?” “How late were you guys out last night?” “How far have you two gone?” But people don’t usually think to ask a single person how they are doing in terms of sexual temptation. Single people are tempted to lust every day. Sexual images are everywhere. In movies, TV shows, books, commercials. But no one thinks we’re struggling. Especially women. I feel like no matter how many people I tell that I struggle with lust as a woman, it still comes as somewhat of a shock. There’s also a huge temptation to hook-up. Online dating apps make it so easy for single Christians to fill their desire for sexual gratification without their church community finding out. The holiest women I know have had non-committal make-outs with either friends, online dates, etc. I know for a fact that I’m not the only woman who struggles with sexual sin. Why aren’t we talking about it?
Loneliness is covered by shame.
I believe everyone whether they are single or in a relationship struggles with loneliness, but no one talks about it. No one thinks someone in a relationship is lonely because they’re in a relationship. No single person wants to open up about being lonely because they’re afraid of looking desperate. I believe one of Satan’s number one tactics is using shame to isolate the believer. Immediately after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they isolated themselves from the community of God “and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Gen 3:8) Before the Fall, Adam and Eve walked with God completely exposed, literally naked. Yet when they sinned, their immediate response was to cover their bodies and hide from God. In the same way, shame causes us to cover up our deepest insecurities and hide, not only from God, but from one another. But, isolating ourselves in shame only separates us from the very community that can confront our loneliness. This leaves us feeling like we’re the only ones who struggle with it.
Honestly… Sometimes I just want to cuddle.
One of my close friends was having a rough day and as much as I tried to comfort her with words, hugs, and sisterly love, it just wasn’t helping. Then a few minutes later her boyfriend shows up and gives her this huge hug and a kiss on her forehead and suddenly she’s all smiles. Don’t get me wrong– I love the comfort I get from my girlfriends and sometimes that’s exactly what I need. But, I’d be lying if I denied that when I’m having a rough day, sometimes I just want tenderness from a romantic partner. For me, the tenderness I crave is physical touch and it could be a different love language for someone else, but everyone craves intimacy. I have tried with all my heart to say “I don’t need a boyfriend. I have my girls. They’re my boyfriend.” But I’ve come to realize that that’s actually doing my girlfriends a disservice. Same-sex friendships and romantic relationships are SUPPOSED to be different. There are unique ways that my girlfriends provide for me emotionally that a guy could never understand– or even if he could it would be way less natural for him. In the same way, there are ways that a romantic partner provides emotionally that is inherently different from platonic friendships. The grass is always greener on the other side. When I was in a dating relationship, I craved intimate, female friendship more than anything. Now that I have that, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t crave romantic intimacy at times
I believe these are struggles I will face until the day I see Christ face to face. Even if I get married, I’m sure there will continue to be struggles with sexual temptation, loneliness, and desire for intimacy, just manifested differently.
However, here are three ways that I have found to be effective in fighting them.
I. Talk about it.
Like I said, shame isolates. The only way to fight shame is to expose it and bring it to the light. You would be surprised how many people struggle with loneliness. The people I least expect—people who I thought had zero interest in dating relationships—are struggling with me. That’s part of the reason why I’m writing this post. I want to expose this issue to the light. I want my brothers and sisters to believe that they’re not alone in feeling lonely. Even if I just speak to one, single person who thinks they’re struggling with this alone, I’ll have considered this post a success.
II. Celebrate other couples.
“I think we can quickly make ourselves the referential point when we see other dating relationships. Example: we see another couple, and we walk away and think, ‘How come no one will date me?’ But in so doing, we’ve bypassed the actual relationship and actual people. Instead, CELEBRATE them in your heart. Pray for them. In so doing, you will reformat your mind to not make relationships simply about you and your needs.” –Steve Bang Lee.
Whenever I feel lonely, I try to pray over the married couples in my life. I can attest that it really does change the posture of my heart. It stops me from thinking about myself and forces me to remember that true love in marriage is a gift to be celebrated. Not to mention my married friends really appreciate it too.
III. No matter your relationship status, you already have the greatest love story in Christ.
There is no greater love story than that of God and His people. Look at the way Christ and the Church are described in Ephesians 5:25-32. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” People often use this passage when talking about married couples and that’s not wrong–Paul was speaking to husbands and wives when he wrote this. But make no mistake. Christ and the Church aren’t a reflection of husbands and wives. Husbands and wives are a reflection of Christ and the Church.
If I had to choose between a life with a love story beyond my wildest fantasies, yet void of Christ or a life of celibacy that is filled with Christ, I choose Jesus happily every time. That’s not some Christian platitude. That’s not me trying to be “holier than thou.” That is because I believe with all my heart that if I desired a human marriage more than I desired Christ, I would have missed the whole point. I would have spent my entire life chasing a copy of the real thing. Human marriage is a reflection— a beautiful, sacred, God-ordained, reflection, yes— but still a mere reflection of Christ’s marriage with His Church. Why else would there be no human marriage in Heaven? Because in Heaven there will no longer be any need for the copy. We will be there when the true Bride unites with her true Groom and we will rejoice together in the perfect Marriage forever.