Singleness and Dealing with Loneliness


Josh, Kyle, and Bob continue our series on Singleness by diving into identity and the way single people see themselves.

They encourage singles to dive into faulty views that aren’t from God about identity, especially in the reality of loneliness.

Singles to seek out Jesus and others and allow God to work in the ache of loneliness without wallowing in it.

Click for Full Podcast Transcription

Josh 0:07
So welcome back to the regeneration podcast. Last week, we talked about singleness. And we and Bob, you and Kyle, you guys said something really countercultural, which was in essence, that you don’t need sex in order to be happy or fulfilled, you don’t need a significant other boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife in order to be fulfilled and happy, you can actually have that as a single. So we might get further into that today. But I want to start with this question. Because some of our listeners, they might say, okay, sure, I get it, I get it. You know, for the spiritual giants, you don’t need to be, you know, married, you don’t need a significant other to, to be fulfilled. But that’s something I want. I really want that. And so let’s today I thought we could talk about, what do you do with that longing? And what do you do with the very real temptations people experience when it comes to the longing for sexual intimacy? So just dive in wherever you want, dealing with loneliness, dealing with the temptations that come as singles? What are some of the categories you guys think, you know, you think would be helpful for other people to think and when it comes to seeking and finding some of that fulfillment, in contrast to dealing with the temptations and the loneliness?

Kyle Bowman 1:36
Well, I think I would start with what are those things in life that just give me complete fulfillment and enjoyment. Those things help you to redirect what you’re looking at. And so I think we put off sometimes some of the things inside that, the gifts that God has given us, that make us uniquely us. So you know, if you are into art, and you love art, but you’ve been so focused on not being able to have sex, that you totally put aside your love of art, because maybe you get to experience God in that because that’s a gift that He has given you. And so I really work hard to do the things that I really enjoy the things that just bring me this fulfillment that I don’t find anywhere, where else and and understand that they’re just not quirky things about me. It’s really a gift that God has given me. And it’s another way that I can experience Him and His love for me through the things that he has given me to love about the world.

Josh 2:53
So a couple things come to mind for me as you’re sharing that one one is as a father, a husband and a father of five kids. There are things uniquely about me that bring me life make me happy, that I wish I had time for that are so hard to carve out ample time for so there’s there’s the category, just gratitude for what we do have. So for me as a married man, one of things I I have to practice gratitude, okay, I can’t go play that sport I used to play all the time, or do that spend the amount of time I used to do but what am i grateful for in the here and now that I do have the God has given me in the season. But the other thing and I think this is probably your your main point is that those things aren’t just they’re not just talk about hobbies, you’re not just talking about distracting yourself with, oh, what can I do if I don’t have a spare? Like, you’re actually talking about, like reclaiming and even identifying these are parts of how God has made me this, these speak to my identity. And my enjoyment of them is even a place of engagement with God is celebration of who God’s made me to be. And of his delight in me. Is that my picking that up? Right?

Kyle Bowman 3:53
Yes, absolutely. I think that because I think it’s another way that we express Christ through our lives. And so the things that we really enjoy and give voice to, and that we can connect even with other people on is probably the best one of the best ways that I can express Jesus to other people, because people maybe get to see me at my best. And they get to see the way I can be delighted and fulfilled and happy about something. And that comes from Jesus. Right? That that’s something that comes directly from the Lord. That’s not something I drum up on my own. Because if it was left to me, I could be kind of grumpy. And you know, my attitude might not be what I would like for people to see. But when people can see me at my best, and see how God radiates out of me, when I’m at my best is a gift not only just to myself, but to people around me.

Josh 4:58
Yeah, yeah. But what So,

Bob Ragan 5:01
I was thinking of something that would limit that. And what what I see, I think commonly with with the men that that, that I’ve worked with in a way is that they come in and they’re wearing this label, I’m single, that they filter their life through that I am single, it’s it’s their identity, it’s something that it actually obscures their vision, because they’re looking at everything around them through this label up single. And what it does, it pulls me away, again, it pulls me into this category that separates me. And, and I tried to encourage them to take off that label that being single is is not who you are. But it is it is an aspect of the walk that you’re walking right now, the state that you’re in. And if I look at this as being my identity, then everything is filtered through that identity. And so therefore, I feel that these men limit themselves in a way that I’m not entering into community as, like, like me as Bob, but I’m entering it as single Bob. So that makes sense. It it’ll where, where it’s, it’s actually kind of taking them away in kind of categorizing them in a way that I think actually limits their capacity to connect more in community.

Josh 6:35
So in just just for our listeners, when you when you say that they’re they’re wearing as an identity, you don’t mean like, you know, they take off their name tag and just write the word single there. They don’t know anything else about themselves, except that they’re single or that even they’re blinded to everything else about them. But it sounds like you’re what you’re saying is there there’s an aspect of the way they think about themselves in relation to singleness. That is, there’s a, there’s a weightiness to it, there’s even a negativity about it. It’s not just, Hey, I’m in the state of singleness. But almost there’s something negative about them, because they’re single.

Bob Ragan 7:13
Yes, in a way. They’re they’re seeing themselves, sometimes I see these men seeing themselves as somehow being incomplete. And I see that somehow, when I’m married, I will be complete, that, that that label of single means Okay, I’m in a holding pattern, that I am somehow less valuable that I’m somehow not there yet. And in so again, when they can take that label off, I think it’s better able enables them to engage with a broader spectrum of what what God has for them in the very present moment where they are.

Josh 7:55
Yeah, so so maybe one practical for people listening is is even, like, if being single for you, feels like it’s it is a slight against you, it’s kind of like it’s an it’s a negative about who you are, then then look underneath that word. And and and ask yourself with the Lord’s help, like, what, what is so bad about that? Why, why does that have such a negative connotation to me, because those things that you mentioned aren’t about single or married those mean those deeper beliefs about I’m not complete without another person, that that doesn’t go away. If that if you’re carrying that that won’t go away. Even if you get married. There’s something inadequate about me, there’s something less about me. those are those are deeper things that I think the Lord would want to get after in a person’s life, whether married or single, but I think it can sometimes sneak in under that label of single. So So what are some other ways you guys like let’s just let’s just get practical for a minute. How do you like the as a single dealing with loneliness or dealing with temptation? So let’s, let’s say you’re talking to me, and I’m single and I want to be married, and it’s a good desire. It’s not happened yet. It doesn’t seem like it’s happening right now. And I’m really tempted sexually or I’m really longing and feeling this this deep loneliness? What’s unique about that for singles? And and how do I deal with it as a single?

Kyle Bowman 9:17
Well, I think that one of the things that’s unique about it is many singles are usually living alone. So that there is not another person to immediately turned to, to, to talk to or to say, Hey, I’m going through this. So I think that’s unique and even if you are in a housemate situation, even your housemates may have things that they’re doing and other things that they are involved in and they might not always be immediately available. And so I think the first person you have to talk to is Jesus as always, but then I think they’re, you know, we were meant to be in relation with one another. And so who are those people that you can reach out to? Even if they’re not immediately there next to you? Who are those people that you can pick up a phone and call me? Maybe it’s even your parents, you know, maybe you? Or maybe you have a sibling who can support you, but who are those people that you can reach out to? and say, I, you know, I’m really dealing with this right now. Yeah. And, and, you know, I just need somebody just to give me some encouragement, and to help me walk through this. So they’re not doing this by myself.

Bob Ragan 10:38
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think a difference for for men in this is, I think the way I see men deal with loneliness is to ignore it, is to keep busy is to not acknowledge that it’s there. Because sometimes I think loneliness can be looked at as it’s a weakness in me, that is somehow a deficit. And, and, and so I see men at times being in reaction to their loneliness. And because they’ve not taken the time to let it come up and recognize that it’s there. They keep themselves busy.

Josh 11:17
So even a first step is when it comes to loneliness is acknowledging the reality of your loneliness. So after acknowledging loneliness, that it’s that it is there for men or for women, then then what, what can what can be done about it?

Bob Ragan 11:32
Well, let me just address first about the difficulty of acknowledging that it is there. There was a Saturday where I was home, and I knew something deeper was stirring within me, but I didn’t know what it was. And I thought, you know, instead of calling a friend, instead of going to see a movie, instead of putting on a worship CD, Lord, what’s Eisler what’s really going on here. And I just sat and I waited, and I waited. And all of a sudden, this anguish came up in me. And I didn’t have a clarity of what it was. But I just invited Jesus to come in and walk me through the sink, something is really hurting inside. And as I kept on praying, I just rested a moment. And I just heard the Lord say, Psalm 68, to me. And so he said it a couple times, because I wasn’t willing to hear it at first and, and I grabbed my Bible and started reading Psalm 68. And the first five verses, they were nice verses. But then I got to verse six, and it said, God puts the lonely and families. And all of a sudden, it’s like, the hairs on my neck just stood up. And I realized, this is loneliness, this ache that I was struggling with is loneliness. And in that moment, Jesus reminded me, or God reminded me of these families that he had put me in, and the connections I had. And so see, I could have just like I said, I could just merely ignore this and go out and grab dinner with a friend, or just go and see a movie, but it’s 10. I said, Lord, what’s really going on, and he brought the loneliness to the surface. And there Jesus met me and walked me through it. Now, I believe Jesus will always meet us in that place of loneliness, but there will always be this little ache to actually be with him, you know, until we’re finally with him. But again, as men, I just see men not wanting to acknowledge this. And it’s really important for us as men to to press into that and recognize, yes, this is a real part of our lives. And it’s a real part for all of us. But you know, I think for those walking in the state of singleness, loneliness could be more acute for someone who isn’t married.

Unknown Speaker 13:39
Yeah, yeah.

Kyle Bowman 13:39
I think Bob Bob brought up a good point too is what as a single person, have you confined your definition of family? And what that means? So this family for you mean husband, wife, kids, does it mean mom, dad, siblings? Or does family mean those people who are connected to Christ as you are, and are walking with Christ as you are? And you all connecting together, supporting one another? Right? So maybe some of the loaning loneliness can be abated just by redefining and understanding there is a different definition for family.

Bob Ragan 14:30
Yeah. And see for those of us who are in the state of singleness, when we feel that loneliness, that means we have to respond to it in a way that means I literally have to make that effort to go out and connect with someone I have to connect with God, I have to connect with community. You know, those who are married, their spouses are there and there is that closeness, but I look at the reality that I really have to rise up and not not acquiesce into passivity, and choose to engage in community. And, again, break free of this chronic uniqueness that so I don’t wallow in it. Yeah. But I invite people into it with me.

Josh 15:23
Yeah, I think it’s interesting because we have this conversation offline that you do hear this idea sometimes that it’s like, it’s like, single people have it harder than married people. And this is not a podcast on marriage. But I think we’d all agree that, that I like your word acute. There are places where singles feel loneliness and temptation more acutely than married people do. And there are other situations where married people would feel loneliness and temptation more acutely than a single person would. So like, what we experienced is common to man. Yes, but but different seasons in different ways, different flavors. And it’s good for us to have this conversation, like from areas of conversation with singles, and vice versa. So we can understand and support each other about your season.

Bob Ragan 16:14
Isn’t that interesting? I can be in a crowd of people and feel so lonely. So what’s the difference? Am I engaging with that crowd? Am I actually engaging on a heart level with other people? So again, you know, I can even go out there and be with people, and it still is not going to meet me in a way unless I really engage one to one with another person on a heart level. Yeah,

Josh 16:39
I think they’re one of the things I know, for single friends. I’m an introvert. And I think that sometimes the the single scene is kind of wired for extroverts, you know, like you together to go to this party, go to this club, go to the big church, singles, group, whatever. So the thing, I think, recognizing the differences in your temperament, what do you need? I mean, is it Do you prefer the, you know, the three people having coffee together in the corner in a quiet coffee shop or at somebody’s home, then one of the things I, we want to queue this up as we kind of round the corner to finishing this, but I thought for a while that if we if we kind of dissect and you can’t, but if you could, if you could dissect like what, what is intimacy, about sexual intimacy, marital intimacy? What are some of the things that make it so helpful? I think that a few things come out. One is, is is the intimacy piece, the connection that somebody else knows me and I know them. Another might be meaning, there’s a there’s, it’s meaningful to me, it’s not just superficialis it’s not give or take, I mean, or you know, take it or leave it, it’s it really matters to my life. And other is, is it’s fruitful. I mean, in a literal way, sex between husband and wife is fruitful, can create children. And then the last is that there’s there’s pleasure in it, there can be real joy in that connection. And then even when it comes to sexuality, there’s can be real physical pleasure with that. And those different pieces, the the the union are the connection, the meaningfulness, the creativity, or fruitfulness and the pleasure or joy. I think those are when we talk to married or singles. But I think in this case, specifically singles, what kinds of things can I seek to foster in my life that are joyful or pleasurable, and you talked about things that make you come alive, that are that would bring healthy connection, non sexual intimacy, where you’re known and loved, and you can know and other love them, that are meaningful to me, such as bowling on a Thursday night alone, maybe that’s meaningful, but maybe service oriented or actually makes a difference for the world. And that follows the fruitfulness there’s actually, when I’m gone, this thing that I’ve been a part of that I’ve that I’ve put my hand to, that I’ve invested in, actually will leave a legacy. There’s something about it that will go on beyond just my own life.

Bob Ragan 18:50
I was just going to add Josh, that the men and women that I see that really learn how to flourish, and where they are, is that they pursue intimacy with God, in a way that as they pursue intimacy with God, they begin to see themselves and know themselves in relation to God and and God showing them who they are. And in that capacity, then, if I know better who I am with God and then MSE with him, it better enables me to engage with others without masks without barriers. Yeah.

Josh 19:25
You know, one of things we have to talk about, because it’s just so important is this reality that there is a strong history in the church of men and women who not only were single, but who chose singleness, so they weren’t just living in chastity kind of leading up to marriage and then living chastely as married people but they were people who said you know what, I choose to be single. This is the first Corinthians seven idea of it’s better not to marry Paul says it’s not better not to marry. So that my my devotion is not divided. Bob, you’ve chosen celibacy. You’re not just single Kind of because you couldn’t get married, you made a decision at one point. What tell us just something about about that idea. And part of the reason asking is because I really, I, it’s a category that we don’t really offer singles in the church that this is actually a viable, reasonable good option that you can choose. So can you share just a little bit of your own journey with that? We just got a couple minutes. But

Bob Ragan 20:23
well, I was gonna say, first off, I believe there’s a bias against celibacy. As, as I shared with others, when I was feeling that God was calling me to this, well, the immediate response typically was, no, you’re supposed to be married? No, you’re gonna make a great dad. And that response was so common that I stopped sharing what I was walking with it because no one asked me about what’s God showing you? it? Was this automatic? No, no, no, you can’t do that. But what was happening was, I felt God was calling me to this incredibly deeper, deeper place. Such that in a very deep, quiet time I had with the Lord out of the very depths of my being, I mean, this deep place I had never accessed before, in a way, came out this cry for me that said, Jesus, I have no place in my heart for that for anyone else. But you. And it just rose up out of me. And I said it over and over and over again. I mean, I mean, Josh, it just flowed from me. It wasn’t me thinking about this. I couldn’t stop it. And I began to realize that, that Jesus was giving me the choice Do you want Do you want to come to this deeper place to what I’m calling you to? And my heart response was immediate. Yeah, you know, I wore this ring on my right hand that says, I, my blood, my blood is mine. And I wore that rang true, remind me of my relationship with Jesus. But he also wore that ring in case well, if I am to be married, then she is already My beloved. So it was, it was another reminder of me to walk in this life as a chaste man of a man of integrity. But then after this, as I produce more and more, I switch that ring to my left hand, indicating that I was entering into this deeper marriage relationship with my beloved.

Josh 22:17
Yeah. And this is why this is one of those reasons. I think that the conversation about what do you do with sexual desire? What do you do with sexual temptation? What do you do with loneliness is so important. We are faith that that follows a single man. I mean, you know, I mean, Jesus walked the earth as a single man, Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament chunk of the New Testament epistles at least, was a single man. And, and there’s not much of a category in our, in our church culture today about walking in singleness as something that’s not just a negative thing, or view kind of negatively as until you get married, but actually as a really valuable option for Christians who are seeking to serve the Lord and build his kingdom, which we will have to get to next time. So we’re gonna hit pause there. Let me let me close in a word of prayer, and then we’ll pick up next week. Jesus, would you continue to grow us up to be people who do not hold on to either our singleness or married pneus along to be single? For some who are in difficult marriages or a longing to be married for some who have just ached for that kind of union? Why would you help us not to hold anything to anything more tightly than we hold to you? And that we do pray that that for those that you would invite into a state of single singleness that would last longer through celibacy. Lord, would you reawaken the church to uphold the value and importance of singles in the building of your kingdom? Both men and women are thanks for your great love of us all. And that you do, meet us where we are, and walk us forward towards a deeper and deeper union with you. We pray these things in Jesus name. Amen.

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Original music by Shannon Smith. Audio engineering by Gabriel @ DelMar Sound Recording.

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