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Gasp

From my perspective, it’s a tough era for singles.

A relatively common refrain from men and women who are single—especially those who find themselves single long after they expected or wanted to be—goes something like this:

“Year after year, I watch friends get engaged, marry and have kids. I’m happy for them, but I’m still going home alone, still longing for that someone special, for a family of my own.”

And too many singles in the church are leaving, or suspending their faith, or attempting to rewrite it because, “After a while, I just couldn’t believe in a God who would give me these deep desires for connection and intimacy (including physical intimacy) and then ask me to live without them for the rest of my life.”

Singleness isn’t new, but singleness as we know it today is something new.

As we hold to traditional biblical teaching on marriage, sex, and singleness, we do well to also recognize that in some very significant ways, singleness is harder than ever.

Although over 40% of the adult population in the U.S. is single, and although singleness doesn’t carry the same stigma it did 50 or 60 years ago, still the relational framework in our culture (including in our churches) is not conducive to relationally healthy singleness.

  • Relationships have become transient. The norm for marriage, home, work, and church used to be that they were life-long. Not so anymore.
  • Same-gender friendships, perhaps especially among men, have become optional. These relationships used to be a primary source of information, community, reputation, and dignity for both marrieds and singles.
  • Touch has become oddly taboo. Because of concerns about abuse, “sending the wrong message”, or spreading germs touch is viewed with a level of suspicion unprecedented in history.
  • Physicality has become over-sexualized. Perhaps as a result of the touch taboo, or perhaps the cause of it, physicality is for many a slippery slope to something sexual.
  • Face-to-face interaction is less. The quick go-to for connection has fast become Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, while research suggests these can actually increase unhappiness and discontent.
  • We’re extremely busy. With work, ministry, fitness, family. We live with nearly zero margin in our lives.

As these and other realities have combined, they’ve sucked relational oxygen from around us, leaving especially our single brothers and sisters gasping, desperate for air. (And subsequently, it’s a more challenging environment for single Christians to live out a Christian sexual ethic.)

What can be done? I’ll give some thoughts next week, but for now I’d love to hear from you:

How do you think we, as Christians, married and single, can be a part of the solution to loneliness in the lives of singles? 

For you,
Josh

10 thoughts on “Gasp”

  1. Many (not all) wants and needs can be met in the right kind of small groups (community) in even a large church. They have to be sought out.

    I know this from personal experience. I am single into my 50’s.

  2. As a single man I have made ministry the place I get my social needs met and I connect with my biological family as much as possible. Guys don’t want to be seen at social events with one friend because people may think you are gay. It’s tough having close friendships with guys when you want to appear to be straight and godly.

  3. this Guy makes some sense

    A quite content single divorced dude:

    I’ve had girlfriends, was married for 15 years and was pretty happy. I did everything I could to keep the marriage together, but eventually I just cooperated peacefully with the pending divorce.

    I believe being lonely has to be “done”.

    A person has to “do lonely”. A relationship or intimacy, I believe, will not help. A relationship is work and is a time commitment. For me I have enough work and enough time commitments. When I really think about it functionally, a relationship holds no interest to me now. Could I be in one now? Yes, pretty fast – but that’s not what is important here.

    Loneliness is a sign, a signal, pointer that is telling an individual that they are doing things that are facilitating loneliness. It is a sign that he or she does not have a enough healthy connections. Again a relationship is work, it is not at glamorous as it appears on the outside – I have to fight this often – the old way of watching a “happy couple” is not the same as being with that person, caring, listening and simply being there – very different experience – I’ve been there.

    This is how I DONT do lonely:
    1. I play soccer 3 to 4 times a week (any regular TEAM oriented exercise will work)
    2. I coach 2 youth soccer teams (2 practices and 1 game every week . . . for each team)
    3. I have deep emotional connections with my 4 kids 15, 13, 11, 9yrs
    4. My church family is broad
    5. My own immediate family is available
    6. I have business and investments that I am very passionate about
    7. While running errands, I’m verbally friendly, uplifting, joke around and nearly flirt with anyone along the way – I mean just getting someone to smile or laugh hits some serious dopamine connectors!

    This is how I DO lonely:
    1. Going on facebook for more than 15 minutes – looking at pictures of other peoples lives
    2. Relying on mindlessly surfing the internet to escape stress
    3. Procrastinating
    4. Being indesisive
    5. Having the luxury of time to think about “am I really, really, really happy?”
    6. Have nothing scheduled
    7. Abusing Gods blessings as escapes
    – alcohol vs a good beer after a soccer match
    – porn vs recognizing beauty is just the surface, the day-to-day needs work (be careful buddy!)

    When I finally and genuinely meditated about Christ’s words “Everyone who drinks the water I give them will never thirst” I then understood I need to be in that position first before I ever entertain the thought of a serious relationship. A relationship is fragile and can’t be the water that will be there to fill our deepest needs. Relationships are great, but one must be ready to steward series of challenges with the work of grace and application of love.

    – P

  4. As a newly widowed single adult, I have found relational fullfillment in a thriving church recovery community, which offers various support groups, occasional social events and more intimate deepening friendships with my girlfriends. I also belong to my church home group with helps with socialization and spiritual growth for me and my son. Without my church, I would be lost. Eventually, I intend to be at a more healed place where I can pour into others through ministry.

  5. As a lifelong single person in his early 60’s who has also been a Christian for more than 40 years, I find the reasons that Josh Glaser cites for why it’s especially difficult for today’s single population really resonate with me. The points he makes are all right on target, and I can’t think of a plan that fix all of those problems, but may I briefly share a Biblical promise and a personal story?

    The Biblical promise is from Psalm 68:6–“He (God) sets the lonely in families.” Well, on Christmas Eve of 2012, I again found myself going to a Christmas Eve service alone, with what seemed to be the certainty of going home alone afterwards following the service. But as I was walking to church I was earnestly praying for the opportunity to spend at least part of my Christmas with a Christian family. Well, the family I sat next to in the service that followed were acquaintances at that point, but they spontaneously invited me to join them afterwards in their Christmas Eve dinner at their home nearby. Oh my, what a Christmas present that was, and even better, they then invited me to join them after the New Year in their home-based, neighborhood Bible study which lasted for a trimester of about 10 weeks. And I got to to share that story with the whole congregation when, this past spring, I was confirmed and joined that church as a formal member. Don’t underestimate the power of your prayers and the power of God to answer them–he’s serious about keeping every single one of his promises to his children. And he really does set the lonely in families, because even when we are faithless, He remains utterly faithful to his own. Amen!

  6. I recently had a similar conversation with a friend about people who are single or in a relationship but feel alone. I suggest that we pray for people who who don’t have friends/family actively involved in their lives. We could also call, send a card or show random acts of kindness to them.
    After being in a 20 yr relationship I’ve been divorced nearly 1 year and now I have a partial empty nest. I’ve begun to focus more on my career and exploring various volunteer opportunities. I feel like I’m getting to know myself all over again and learning to enjoy my own company however I’m very greatful for my family and friends. Be encouraged!

  7. How beautiful and touching the replies already posted are. As a never married single Christian male, I often struggle with loneliness, but I’ve come to realize that even married people can also struggle with loneliness and disconnect sometimes. How fortunate we are that God promises to meet ALL out needs if we only allow reach out to Him and take His loving, pierced hand.

  8. Thanks for you article, Josh! I want to echo the encouragement made by writer above. The problems of discontent, relationship problems, lack of fulfillment and lonliness are not necessarily greater for those who are single than for those who are married. I am divorced after 23 years of marriage and have three children, God has showed me the verse, “He puts the lonely in families”, and He surely does!
    This verse applied to me the same when I was married as it is now that I am single. God didn’t change because my marital status changed!
    I have only one brother who has no children and lives a gay lifestyle, and parents who deal with mental illness. I have often felt like someone without extended family support. But, God reaches beyone the reality of this emptiness and has always and will be faithful to provide me with fulfillment with many good friends who are as close and real to me and my kids as family, the real family of God.
    God blesses me with my children who He said “Will become like flocks.” God is also physically “expanding our tent” with a physical, blood related family. I cling onto these two promises knowing that God is faithful and “no weapon (of loneliness) formed against me will prosper.”
    When I was overcome by lonliness, I sought God for the answers. I asked Him for promises and assurance that I will not be alone, physically, emotionally or spiritually. Married and singles both have temporary times where we feel alone. During those times, I stay involved and put my effort into being and believing. He assures me daily that “It’s not good for man to be alone” (any of us), so He won’t let me be. He gave me these verses which are specific for my situation.
    God gives these promises to everyone reading, and so many more! We need to talk to Him and know the truth that He will provide ALL of our needs (even human companionship and partnership for singles) completely according to what we need at every moment.

  9. Thanks Josh. Don’t you wish this subject would come to the mainstream more, rather than just being a subject that pops up infrequently in magazines, pulpits and blogs. I’ve written several times in my journal on the subject of “what would the church looks like if it supported the Biblical model of singleness with as much time and energy that it gives to marriage?” You beautifully covered many of the issues in the six points of your article. When you look at the decades-long exodus away from the typical church of men and women – old and young – who struggle with SSA or are searching for a calling that is hardly supported in the Protestant church, it makes your heart hurt. Plus you wonder about the effectiveness that the Church that has neglected those who Paul said are “concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord.” The very men and women who should be leading the way, are instead relegated to fit in where they can, if at all. It sure seems that marriage has become the main purpose of the American church, rather than something that supports those serving His higher purpose. I recently read the marriage vow of a couple who expressed that they always wanted their home and family to be a safe place and extended family for those who are called to be single. Can you imagine if that were expressed from every Godly family in our churches? I know for me that is the only reason I am still thriving and serving the Lord, after 48 years being single. But sadly I feel I was an exception. Even more, what if churches supported men and women who wanted to band together to serve the mission of the church as only they can. What if their band was joined by couples and families that wanted to support them as they poured their lives out into the church, the community, the widows and orphans, the ends of the earth?

    Anyway, thanks for the great thoughts now and at other times. May more exceptional churches come forward, for the sake of all our single brothers and sisters.

  10. I find that giving back by volunteering or leading a church small group helps combat loneliness for me. Being separated my small group has been my anchor and family in ways I couldn’t even imagine.

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