It is common for singles to assume that marriage will make them less lonely. Maybe it would, but it is important to realize that singleness is not the cause of loneliness. Does that surprise you? It may seem counterintuitive. After all, loneliness seems to be a result of not having an intimate partner with whom to share your life. But loneliness is actually caused by something more basic to our existence. It is caused by sin, by mankind’s original sin against God in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3)—by our estrangement from God and each other. This explains why married people, even happily married people, can still feel lonely.
Adam and Eve initially enjoyed a perfect relationship with God and with each other, but when they succumbed to Satan’s temptation, sin instantly destroyed both. Their perfect union with God and with each other was ruined. Where once there had been openness (they had been naked and unashamed), sin made for hiding (behind fig leaves and trees). Where once there had been completeness, sin ushered in loss. Where once there had been acceptance, sin produced rejection. Where once there had been praise (“bone of my bones”; Genesis 2:23), sin made for blame (“she made me do it”). Do you hear it? Hiding. Loss. Rejection. Blame. These are all ingredients of loneliness. Loneliness was born at the fall.
But didn’t God say it was not good to be alone?
Perhaps you are thinking, Didn’t God say that it was not good for man to be alone before the fall, before he created Eve? Yes, he did. But he was stating a fact, not voicing how Adam was feeling. Adam was enjoying perfect communion with God in perfect comfort. Apart from God telling him, he had no way of knowing that anything more was possible. Perhaps something began to stir in Adam as the animals paraded past him and no suitable helper was found, but it was God’s assessment that man should not be alone, not Adam’s.
Maybe God’s statement isn’t so surprising. After all, God created man in his image and he is not a God who exists alone. He is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—three who are alike, yet distinct. God wanted man to enjoy fellowship with him, but he also wanted man to enjoy the kind of fellowship God enjoys with himself—with others who are like us but also separate. It seems that because we are made in God’s image, we are made to be in relationship with him and with other people.
Consider the matter in a slightly different way. If marriage is the solution to loneliness, where does that leave a child who won’t have that option for years? Or a prisoner with no hope of parole? Or an elderly widow? This notion that marriage is the cure for loneliness suggests that one category of people is exempt from loneliness and the rest of us are just stuck with it. But that’s not true. Remember, it was a married couple who first experienced loneliness. And think about this: If marriage is God’s answer to loneliness, why isn’t there any giving or taking in marriage in heaven (Matthew 22:29–30)?
That’s a trick question, actually, because there is marriage in heaven. Only it’s not marriage between individuals but God’s people corporately—us, the church, the bride of Christ—who will finally meet our bridegroom Jesus face-to-face (Revelation 19).
There is a solution to loneliness
The real solution to loneliness, then, lies not in marriage nor in any human relationship. The solution lies in the redemption of our relationship with God. It lies in our union with Christ. Through Christ we are reunited to God; this, in turn, leads to our union with one another. When God created Eve, yes, he created marriage—but more than that, he created community. Marriage is a form of community, perhaps its most basic and elemental form. Community requires people coming together. In the case of marriage, this happens literally. Community usually involves the group expanding. In marriage, this happens by bearing children.
But God’s plans are always bigger and better than ours. When God called Abraham into a relationship with him (Genesis 12), he told him that his descendants would outnumber the grains of sand on the seashore and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. God always had in mind a community made up of people from every tribe, language, people, and nation. But the Israelites got so caught up in being the chosen race that they missed the full extent of what God was saying.
Today we are not much different. We’re big on family, but we tend to think of it narrowly: in terms of our own personal, nuclear families. Yet when Jesus was told that his mother and brothers were waiting to speak to him, he asked, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? . . . [W]hoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48, 50). Jesus redefines and enlarges our concept of family. It is still based on blood, but it is his shed blood that creates God’s family.
Taking a look at the big picture
Consider Genesis 2 through the lens of Jesus’s work on the cross and see the implications. Yes, it’s wonderful that a husband and wife become one flesh, but it’s even more wonderful that Christians comprise the body of Christ—so connected with each other that if one part suffers, we all suffer. If one part is honored, we are all honored (1 Corinthians 12:26). It is incredible for a husband and wife to come together so that they can be fruitful and multiply, but it is even more incredible that Christ grows and multiplies his kingdom by using flawed people like us to go and make disciples of all nations.
It must have been fantastic for Adam and Eve to be naked and unashamed with each other, but it’s even more fantastic that Jesus has washed away our sin and that we now stand clothed in his righteousness. We don’t need to hide behind fig leaves when our sin is exposed; now, we can confess our sins one to another.
This is what Jesus has done for us. He went to the cross, betrayed and deserted by his friends. As he hung there, becoming saturated with our sin, even his Father had to turn away. Has there ever been a lonelier moment? But because of his love for his Father, and their love for us, he hung there until he died. Adam and Eve hid among the trees because of their sin, but Jesus hung naked and exposed on a tree because of ours. Adam and Eve were guilty, yet tried to pass the blame. Jesus was completely innocent, yet took our blame on himself. Jesus was rejected by his Father so that we would be accepted. He lost everything in order that we might be lavished with blessings. Jesus reversed the effects of the fall by paying the penalty for our sin. He removed the barrier to our relationship with God and turned the tide on loneliness.
The question isn’t what remedies our loneliness but who—namely, Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners. As singles, we’re not doomed to a life of loneliness. We’re hidden in Christ and united with each other through him.
Excerpted from Struggling Through Singleness © 2020 by Jayne V. Clark. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.
Struggling through Singleness: Help for the journey
Are you wrestling with questions related to your singleness and wondering what God is up to? You have dreams and desires that seem to be unmet, and you feel unsettled and long for something more. Jayne V. Clark shares her journey of discovering that singleness is not the cause of loneliness and that the real solution to loneliness does not lie in marriage or in any human relationship, but in our relationship with God.