Loneliness is one of my toughest battles in being single. I’m not talking about solitude, here. Solitude can be peaceful, even comforting. I’m talking about loneliness, that deep ache for another person. I don’t think loneliness in itself is a sin, but I know from experience that if left unchecked, it can give birth to a host of sins – bitterness, jealousy, envy, self-pity, neglecting to serve others, and distrusting God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and love. I have had to repent of all these at one time or another. These sins turn our attention inward, warp our characters, and do not bring glory to God.
I’ve learned that what we do with our loneliness matters. So I had to ask myself, why did I react to my loneliness with bitterness and doubt? The horrible answer: because I thought God owed me a husband, and when marriage didn’t happen when I thought it should, I reacted sinfully. Ick. Just reading that sentence turns my stomach. Where did I get such an unholy idea? It didn’t manifest itself so explicitly. Like most of the devil’s lies, it was subtle, masquerading as light and twisting truth and beauty into something deceitful and repulsive. Marriage, after all, is a good thing to desire, but like all God’s gifts, it is of his grace rather than something anyone earns. It took years to expose that insidious lie and repent of it. It took even longer to figure out where it started.
In over a decade of being single, I’ve been on the receiving end of many comments about my marital status, ranging from loving concern to thoughtless insensitivity, encouragement to condolences. The one I’ve heard the most often, especially from well-meaning and trusted Christian brothers and sisters, has been “God has someone for you.” That sounds like a promise, and it’s one I ignorantly held on to for years with a tight, emotional and spiritual grip. I was naming it and claiming it, like a prosperity gospel “promise,” but instead of a Cadillac, I was claiming a husband. In the Bible, however, God never promises a spouse to each of his children. I had been projecting my plans onto God and expecting him to bless them instead of praying for his will to be done in my life for his glory. I was clinging to a false hope instead of the living hope I have in Christ (1 Peter 1.3).
While I still have a strong desire for marriage and periodically deal with bouts of loneliness, the Lord has graciously changed my perspective and prayers by equipping me with the truth of the promises he has given in his Word to destroy the lie I once believed and trust him with my relationships and emotions. In our desire for marriage, let’s be sure that we are clinging to what God really has promised and trust him to accomplish his will for our good and his glory.
When the loneliness comes and I feel unloved and undesired I can cling to the truth that God loves me (Rom. 8.37-39), I belong to him (1 Cor. 6.17, 19-20), and he desired me even when I was in rebellion against him (Rom. 5.8). When I’m weak and exhausted, his strength is perfectly sufficient (2 Cor. 12.9-10). When I wonder if I’ll ever marry or when I face yet another disappointment, I can rest contentedly in him, knowing that he is working everything for my good (Rom. 8.28), he will complete his purpose for me (Phil. 1.6), and he is my strength for every situation (Phil. 4.11-13). When I’m anxious about the future, I’m reassured that he has held all my days in his hands from before the beginning of time (Ps. 139.16) and he will never abandon me (Heb. 13.5-6). He has made a binding covenant by pouring out his own blood for me (and you!) (Luke 22.20), and he has re-made me into a new creation (2 Cor. 5.17). I can surrender to his calling now, because marriage is not a prerequisite for serving his kingdom (1 Cor. 7). And he’s coming back for me (John 14.1-3)! What wondrous reasons to rejoice!
Speaking of rejoicing, singing God’s Word can be a comfort in loneliness as we turn our hurt into worship and cast our cares at the feet of the One who cares for us. One of my favorites is Sojourn’s “My Rock and My Redeemer.” It captures so much of the brokenness that we feel for all sorts of reasons, including loneliness, and answers it with the truth of who God is. You can listen to it here: http://sojournmusic.bandcamp.com/track/my-rock-and-my-redeemer.