Could Genuine Friendship Soothe the Ache of Singleness?
By Katy Weaver
Singleness can be hard. Some may be in a place where they disagree, while others may be tracking entirely. Regardless of where you find yourself, the desire of this piece is to encourage and uplift, rather than be an unhelpful reminder of an undesirable or challenging season.
From a secular standpoint, singleness is tied to being alone and often associated with being unmarried. For Christ followers, this includes a commitment to sexual abstinence until marriage, as well as the pursuit of purity and holiness. Scripturally, singleness is referenced as a gift and a blessing. Practically, it is often difficult and riddled with misconceptions.
Most of us are likely familiar with Paul’s words to the Corinthians regarding singleness. In our efforts to find comfort, understanding, and solace in a God-glorifying way, we often try to hold tightly to his words. Who wouldn’t want to be “free from anxieties” (1 Cor 7:32, ESV)? Shouldn’t it be encouraging that “he who refrains from marriage will do even better” (1 Cor 7:38)?
If these are the truths before us, why is singleness so hard?
Outside of the obvious realities of unmet desires and the potential for loneliness, addressing some of the misconceptions tied to singleness is of paramount importance.
First and foremost, there is an unfortunate stigma present in the church today that being single is “lesser than,” maybe even wrong. For most, this is not an obvious admission. Rather, it is a subconscious belief that singles are incomplete or lacking. This ideology directly contradicts the truth of the Scripture referenced above, and also damages those who are presently single. This way of thinking, especially if paired with an idolatrous view of marriage, reiterates to the single individual that they are somehow inadequate.
This can be challenging when, in efforts to encourage one another, we sometimes affirm this misconception through mistruth or promises that were never guaranteed. Examples include the expectation that marriage is a given, or that those “called to singleness” will eventually reach a point where they do not desire marriage.
Some singles may think these things about themselves outside of the influence of others. In his book, Going Solo, Eric Klinenberg reveals the staggering amounts of individuals choosing to live alone due to the growing societal trend that convenience is more favorable than community. Whether through lifestyle choice or unmet expectations, single people can quickly begin to believe lies about themselves without ever having a conversation with another individual pertaining to the topic.
Secondly, singleness is often not a chosen season. It can be accompanied by feeling denied certain desires or privileges that God allows others to have. Some may be tempted to view their singleness as wasteful, or as a way God is keeping them from sexual fulfillment or genuine satisfaction. These misunderstandings promote the idolatry of marriage in the church and an incomplete view of intimacy.
Sam Allberry’s book, 7 Myths about Singleness (shameless plug, it’s phenomenal), has been a helpful resource for me as I have thought through this topic. Here are four suggestions for addressing the challenges and misconceptions related to singleness.
Prepare to fight
Singles must fight the temptation to believe the lies of the enemy. This means fleeing the tendency to superimpose thoughts or assumptions on others. Sometimes, we will have to disregard the comments of others while extending grace to them in moments of unintended ignorance. Other times, it will simply mean preaching the gospel of grace and truth to ourselves in order to see our worth as image-bearers of the King.
Work toward a unified understanding of friendship
Thankfully, the Bible provides us with beautiful, unadulterated examples of friendship. Take David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel, or meditate on Proverbs 17-19. Genuine friendship is a voluntary, committed support for another that requires protection and is rooted in the humility of the gospel. It requires work from both parties. This means that singles cannot walk around expecting others to always understand their struggles and meet all their needs.
Simultaneously, Scripture’s emphasis on friendship means that we all must prioritize building relationships with people who are in seasons different than our own, guaranteeing the edification of the saints. Singles have the ability to pursue a greater breadth of friendships; couples and families have the ability to invite others to be a part of the family experience in their home. Neither is better than the other. Both are important for the health of the body of Christ.
Pursue lives of grace and intentionality
Not everyone is going to do this perfectly. We live in an age where friendship is being denigrated daily. In his book, Allberry discusses how the rise of social media has made “friendship” trivial and fake as we flaunt our abundance of comrades through likes and mentions. We must be intentional towards one another to champion the gift of friendship, especially within the local body. Through the gospel, we have much in common with each other.
Come to an appropriate understanding of intimacy
Too often we associate intimacy with sex and believe that deep affection must be sexual in nature. However, if we are in Christ, we are able to experience the deepest intimacy there is. We are all fully known and loved by him. He himself tells us this when he says, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Allberry sums it up well when he states, “friendship is a wonderful form of intimacy… to be so deeply known and so deeply loved is precious.”
Do we believe that deep friendship is possible? If so, could this friendship help soothe the ache of singleness? Let’s humbly strive to put on Philippians 2:3-4 and “count others more significant than [ourselves]” and “look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others.” As we seek to humbly understand others and their season, we will be better suited to build relationships in the body. Just think about all the ways the church could minister through a community of faith marked by vulnerable, constant, genuine friendships that reside in the gospel. What a testimony to a dying world! Soli Deo Gloria.
Katy serves as the Director of College Discipleship, Membership, and Growth Groups at Imago Dei Church. She holds an MA in Christian Education from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is most passionate about seeing people grow in their love and understanding of God’s Word and His character. If she isn’t playing any sport anywhere, you can catch her running some trails with her pup, Simon.