Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos

“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.” Anne Hathaway stated this in a recent interview, but it isn’t a rare statement. I have sat opposite a fair number of young women (and sometimes men), who have expressed this same sentiment. It could be a sign of our digital age as we are connected to more people, but in reality are less connected to everyone. It could be a sign of the selfishness and self-centeredness of our culture. It could even be a sign of the “godlessness” of our generation. I am not sure what all the contributing factors are, but I do know that this fear is a reality in the lives of many young women; and Christian young women are not immune to it.

It may even be more heightened in the lives of young Christian women. For many have been raised to desire, and have rightly embraced, the calling to be a godly wife and mother. As the college years pass and the mid-thirties are looming over the next horizon, discouragement, hopelessness, and even depression can set in as the fear of being single for a lifetime becomes a real possibility. It is no small thing. Every wedding invitation feels like salt to a wound. Friends are beginning to have their second and third child before you have your first. Vacations seem less appealing. Buying your first home isn’t quite as exciting. And church can be awkward as you are too old for the singles and not exactly comfortable among the “young marrieds.” I have great compassion for these women and have spent hours counseling them, grieving with them, praying with them, and praying for them.

And even as I want to see them comforted in Christ, so I also want to give them one very clear warning. It is a warning that many young Christians need to hear: Loneliness in a godless marriage can be even more severe than the loneliness one experiences in singleness.

Most singles cannot imagine this being true, but it is. Even as I have sat with multiple young single men and women in counsel regarding their loneliness, so I have sat with multiple individuals who are grieving over the loneliness they are now enduring in their godless marriage. In many cases, these Christians were warned to refrain from marrying the unbeliever they had “fallen in love with.” They were warned as to the dangers, trials, and struggles that they would endure in an unequal union. But they saw singleness as a greater danger, trial, and struggle. And yet, on this side of their marriage vows, they have experienced the reality that loneliness in marriage can even surpass that which they endured as a single.

As a single person, who desires to be married, this may seem like an impossibility to you. However, I want you to think about this: What are all the things that would be affected by being united with someone who does not have the most important thing in common with me? What would it be like to be united in one flesh with someone who does not value what you value, desire what you desire, define good by what you know is good, have the same view of marriage, recreation, eternity, money, church, children, serving, death, life, and the list could go on and on. They will not be united with you on the most important thing, which shapes everything else, and yet you will be united in one flesh. As I have sat with grieving Christians, struggling to know how to live in a godless marriage, I hear in their cries the reality that there are few things more lonely than knowing that the person you are the closest to in this life is far from you in almost every way. If you don’t have Christ in common, it is hard to have much in common.

Dear single Christian, there is a loneliness that can surpass the loneliness that even now you are experiencing and achingly want to end. Be patient. Continue to pray to the Bride-Groom you do have. Be wise in selecting the individual that you would willingly give your heart to, and only allow a Christian to place that ring upon your finger. You are not less of a child of God in your singleness. You are not less important in the Kingdom. Your service is not needed any less. No matter what others may say or you may think, you are not inferior, less holy, or less valuable. You are a child of the Heavenly Father and are united to THE Bride-Groom. And He cares for you. Therefore, you can be patient and content as you wait. You are not alone in your loneliness.

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Comments:


32 thoughts on “Singles and Loneliness”

  1. Melody says:

    Thanks for this reminder. I see a lot of unhappy marriages that make me, not exactly happy to be single, but happy I haven’t chosen something worse.

  2. SteveS says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. Definitely needed to hear this.

  3. Judy says:

    I do agree with this advice, at least to not marry someone who is not a Christian, and even to not marry someone who is immature in their faith.

    However, I do not agree that the only remedy to loneliness is patiently waiting for a godly spouse to cure it. The church as a whole needs to quit treating singleness as a disease to be cured and pitying those who are single. We need to quit treating single adults of all ages as less human than married adults. The problem does not solely rest on the single adult, it rests with the entire Christian community and how we treat and think of singles.

    Maybe if married Christians were more honest about the difficulties of marriage then single people wouldn’t see it as some magic cure all for loneliness.

  4. Aaron says:

    I’m not sure telling singles that some people have it worse off than you do is super comforting, but speaking from experience, what he’s saying is absolutely true. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced being unequally yoked and due to abandonment and divorce, will now experience singleness again heading into my 30′s. I think I can say that an indefinite future of singleness (as a father) is slightly more appealing than an indefinite future in a lonely, mismatched marriage. But we all have our crosses to bear, do we not?

  5. Lou G. says:

    Great article, Jason. Wise and encouraging. What would be good to see is the Church being more intentional about its overall mission and vision by incorporating the reality of singlehood snd how the body can serve and benefit one another. Our church doesn’t have a singles ministry for adults, but we are intentionally involved with ministry inside and outside the church that leverages the unique opportunities that singleness affords.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is absolutely true. If you are single and feel uncomfortable or secretly jealous or despondent when are in a church setting and see so many of those “perfect” Christian couples, well it feels much, much worse when you are suffering silently in a painful relationship, when you are not alone but very much alone at the same time. When you are in a bad relationship, it feels like freedom to finally just be alone. There is no more anguish, no more of that smothering feeling of dealing with another day, of worrying about what will happen and when it will all come crashing down, the whole life you have built.

    I think the Christian community really has to come a long way in teaching about marriage and communicating it. Even the most “mature” Christians still have no clue when it comes to marriage. It is like having children -I laugh when couples talk about making sure they are “ready” to have children. Nobody is ready. You just *think* you are ready. And then you wake up. It is the same thing with marriage. Nobody is ready, and nobody *really* knows the person they married when they marry them. You only *really* get to know a person when the fanfare dies down, when they come off the stage, and when they are in a long-term, committed relationship with you. That is when you realize what they are really like… all the things you didn’t know about and all the little red flags you overlooked because you were so head over heels.

    I think the Christian church, however, in their attempts to try and “fix” marriage, puts marriage on a ridiculously high pedestal -thus making singles (and those with bad relationships) feel like lepers among Pharisees. It is an awful experience. I believe in the church’s attempt to try and focus on how to make marriage better, we have elevated them in some cases to an idolatrous position, where people vie for this kind of unrealistic perfectionistic ideal image of what a “Christian marriage” looks like. Because of this, I believe a lot of people in the church in struggling relationships hide in shame and a lot of people who are single and unhappy about it also hide in shame. Why? Because of the ideals the church tries to have us buy into -on one hand elevating marriage to this kind of lofty image, and on the other hand trying to falsely console people about being single, telling them that there is much to be happy about. There is… but when you keep telling someone how they *should* act without trying to understand them, eventually they act how they should act on the surface but just shut you out.

    I agree with what Judy said, as well.

  7. J says:

    I don’t think think singles wanting a partner to go through life with has “contributing factors” to it. It isn’t some generational fear or problem. It is difficult to be alone and I can’t imagine that it has ever been less difficult in other generations. I doubt anyone has ever counseled a married women who is devastated over not being able to have children and thought that it was just a sign of the times. Family desires are common. Singles often deal with marrieds looking down on them for wanting marriage as if its some special kind of weakness. It’s a normal, common to humankind problem. Good point everywhere else.

  8. Will Schnell says:

    We often forget that after God rested from his creation, not everything was good. “It is not good that man is alone…”. So we have a conundrum.

    Indeed, being “single, and alone” can seem unbearable from time to time. How we choose to address that experience can either alleviate those feelings (by soaking ourselves in the message of the Gospel, that we are wholly approved, loved, accepted, redeemed)…or make them so very much worse, by seeking in any relationship, especially a marriage relationship, only those aforementioned things that God, through Christ, can provide.

    A study in the 1990′s revealed that 75% of divorces filed (inside the church as well as the population at large) are filed by women. And 75% of those women filing cited “emotional neglect/abandonment” as the cause. That results is 50% of all divorce filings. I can personally validate that study, because until 2004, and a sovereign inworking of Gods’ grace, I WAS one of those men, incapable/unwilling to be emotionally vulnerable to my spouse.

    Over the last nine years, I have queried many of those in positions of church leadership, including senior and associate pastors; “What’s worse that being alone?”…none have had an answer. Nor was there a response TO the answer to that question – “Being married…and being alone…” only silence.

    The message of Gods’ great and enduring love for his children, exemplified in Christ’s life, death and resurrection, is the timeless truth that is suffcient for every heart…even yours!

  9. Anonymous says:

    To Will I just want to say….

    Your response is so text-book and sterile -sounds like it is right out of a book or a sermon. A message does not cure loneliness. Closeness with a person does. Jesus can be that person and ultimately WILL be the person who fulfills that desire in us in the age to come, but it is always a person who answers a lonely heart, not some words that say “you’re loved”.

  10. Will Schnell says:

    Ps 27:13, 14

    I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.

    14 Wait for the LORD ; Be strong and let your heart take courage ; Yes, wait for the LORD

  11. Curious why in the past week so many blogs are suddenly being written on this issue. It is not accurate to say that a marriage is godless if a believer is married to an unbeliever. The scriptures teach that God is indeed in that marriage–and the unbelieving spouse is being sanctified through the other. It is also not accurate to state that you would not share any values with your spouse just because they are an unbeliever. There are plenty of non- Christian people with a similar moral compass to Christians. It is also not accurate to imply that one will automatically be more lonely with an unbelieving spouse than with a believing spouse. Likely any of us could easily point out exceptions to that rule. Do I wish I were unmarried instead of having a Jewish husband? Nope. I am thankful I have a companion. One who makes me laugh, challenges and helps refine my thinking since he thinks differently. A man who is a model of kindness and integrity to our 2 boys. A companion to share the joys and challenges of life. The first thing God said about marriage was to provide companionship. Do I wish he shared my faith–yes. Am I better for having him in my life anyway? Definitely!!!
    Sorry to be the exception to the in-the-box rule.

  12. Christiana Fitzpatrick says:

    I wrote the following when I shared this link on facebook. And I noted I may be expecting too much from a blog post….

    While I appreciate the admonition that loneliness is an issue in marriage as well and that singles should be careful to choose wisely when they do marry, I have some concerns:

    1. The underlying assumption that these young single women will get married. (“Therefore, you can be patient and content as you wait.”) And, how that assumption is quite unhelpful for any readers who are single for other reasons (widowed, divorced, older than 35).
    2. The missing piece of friendship and familial relationships that the church is called to provide to single people. Sure, there are times of loneliness in everyone’s life, but we are part of the family of God and as singles we have more than spiritual communion with Christ (not that I am undervaluing that!) to meet our relational needs. What would it look like for your church instead of always telling single young women to be patient, to wait for the right guy, rather to embrace singles into the families of the church, to allow space for them to give and receive love, affection, relational depth that shows younger singles and the rest of the church and the world that a life without marriage is not something to FEAR.
    3. “As the college years pass and the mid-thirties are looming over the next horizon, discouragement, hopelessness, and even depression can set in as the fear of being single for a lifetime becomes a real possibility.” This line killed me. Deal with the fear! Don’t just give young women something else to fear (marrying the wrong person). There is no positive view of the single life presented here.
    4. I will just add…This is one example of why the evangelical church will not minister well to gay people until they figure out that singleness isn’t a disease to be cured.

  13. Denny says:

    Life can be full of pain and longing on both sides of the fence to be sure. The grass may look greener, but there may be grubs in the soil.

    With so many flavors of American Christianity, even though man and wife may both be believers, they may go through life feeling as though they are unequally yoked.

  14. Anonymous (out of respect to my husband) says:

    Like others, I think I would push back and say that the church needs to own where it’s been complicit in setting up marriage as an idol, and in not doing its part to better incorporate single people over the age of 22 into the life of the church, so as to be the very stumbling block that causes so many single people (especially women) to fall into unequally yoked relationships.

    Furthermore, like others have said, there is a loneliness in a struggling Christian marriage that I would argue is every bit as deep as that of singleness. I know because I have experienced it. In singleness there is always the (painful) hope that perhaps God has yet to bring somebody. But when you are married, and the somebody that God has brought is present only in body, but not in soul or mind….the loneliness, shame, and the temptations they bring are every bit as acute. It took close to twelve years of silent struggling and near disaster before I finally reached out to my pastors for help. And, praise God, the help has come to sufficient degree that we are making some progress. But there are still days when I miss my single years (which were more than average), and I am not raising my children to normatively aspire to marriage.

  15. I absolutely agree with what you’re saying, but I have to say that as a single person until last year when I turned 39, this would not have helped me one bit. Telling someone it could be worse is rarely the best way to help. It’s kind of like saying to someone who was just in a car accident, well you could have been paralyzed from the neck down and then what. You get the idea.

    Maybe it’s more helpful to take the focus off of marriage altogether. The end goal is NOT being married. It’s NOT. The end goal is falling more in love with God and fulfilling His purpose for your life, right now, not years from now. It’s about focusing on what you DO have, not what you don’t have and making the most of the time you are given.

    I wrote this – a little bit before I got married to remind mostly myself how difficult it is to be single. Hope it helps someone…

    http://robinwootton.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/how-to-pray-for-single-friends/

  16. Ben says:

    Reminds me of Amos 3:3. It’s a principle everyone should live by. Infatuation wears off.

  17. Anthony says:

    Jason, if you have not read Barry Danylak’s book, Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life (2010), may I please commend you to do so? Thank you for sharing.

  18. Derek says:

    Good points in the blog post and equally good critiques in the comment section!

  19. Des says:

    I really appreciated this post. Loneliness can be crushing. Even reading about people sharing this suffering makes it a little easier to bear. I agree with one of the earlier comments that the people that make up the church could act more like a family and include even single people in their midst in meaningful ways. That would make it easier to be single.

    Jesus was single, but he would have been more firmly assured of his father’s love than I am, most of the time. He also spent a lot of time hanging out with disciples, on mission, as it were. Perhaps being more involved in ministering to people, and being ministered to, would help alleviate some of the suffering from being alone.

    But boy is it hard to bear! Sometimes I would do anything to escape the feeling of loneliness. At that point I am ashamed to admit that I even turn away from God in order to alleviate my loneliness.

    There are good things about being single though. For one thing the suffering that it causes it is a precursor to hope. “More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

    Also, Paul was single. And in jail some of the time. He might not have been lonely though, he doesn’t complain about it anyway. He often says how much he loves the people of the church. They visited him in jail and I think they were affectionate to each other (“I greet you with a kiss”). He writes, in the Spirit of God: “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.” 1 Cor 7:32-35. There is value in singleness, we can focus on the Lord. Great good can come of that. But I admit that there is not a robust esteem of singleness within the church. It would demonstrate love to people and trust in God’s word if this were to change.

    Finally, and I know I’ve rattled on a bit, Jesus said that in eternity that we will not marry or be given in marriage, we will be like the angels (Matt 22:30). I hope and trust that my experience of being “unmarried” will be vastly different then (after the Lamb gets married). Is it possible for the church, in the Spirit of God, to begin acknowledging that reality now? Indeed, as singles within the church it may well be up to us to effect this change. I suspect that the devil shackles us singles up in isolation to prevent the good works we might do in the service of God.

  20. Anon says:

    Thank you for this beautiful article. I was feeling really sad this morning after a broken relationship (and being 38…chronically ill…and hearing another old boyfriend had just gotten married…), and I just started praying for God to help me come across some comfort. He answered with your words.

  21. Lou G. says:

    Amen to Christiana: “This is one example of why the evangelical church will not minister well to gay people until they figure out that singleness isn’t a disease to be cured”.
    And 100% to Des! Great comments.

  22. T says:

    This is also quite applicable to to those of us in the church who struggle with a homosexual orientation – for me, singleness seems to be the only faithful path, with little hope or possibility of ever marrying – but temptations to compromise are great, and finding real community in the church can seems impossible sometimes. But I know that God is faithful to complete what he started in me, and He intends to work through his church …even if it will be a long road ahead, this side of eternity.

  23. Steve Burdan says:

    Good article! Though the discussion about singleness has to move more toward the Bible’s perspective of equal, if not better, status, instead of shooting things through the prism of the current Evan. marital majority. SIngleness is not a handicap to be endured, unless the Christian walk gets defined primarily through marriage and family context. In eternity, we’re all single – to keep setting up marriage, family and children as household idols in the Evan. church will only lead to ineffectiveness, discrimination and unnecessary suffering….

  24. Kat says:

    I think the person who wrote this is married and has no clue. I was in a 25 year marriage that was abusive in every way. Now that I am divorced I am looked down upon by the church and told that my desire to be married again is wrong. I am supposed to want to stay single and work for God. Married women don’t want a single woman around. I am treated as I did something wrong to create the situation, or that now that I am divorced I should be happy. It is just as lonely being single and losing half your family and friends than it was married and stuck in a situation I had no support to get out of. Now that I am out, i am looked at as if I did something wrong. That I am somehow “less than” because I couldn’t keep my man in line or keep him happy or whatever the justification. The world has been less critical than the church.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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