As I sat there in my church’s Good Friday service, I thought about a ton of things. Besides the obvious, two things came into my heart. First, I thought about the fact that we all suffer in life. The great thing is Jesus did, too, and He wants to enter into and redeem our suffering. The second thing I thought about is how as singles we suffer in a different way, and it’s time we faced it.
I’m not saying singleness is harder than marriage. It’s not about that really. But there is always this message that marriage is hard and we single folks just don’t get how great we have it. That’s just not true.
The reality is the statistics show something different. Married people report being happier. They live longer. Did you know that single men are 58% more likely to have a heart attack, and 60% more likely to die from it? Married men are half as likely to commit suicide as single men. Even financially, two are better than one.
I’m not trying to be depressing here. What I’m saying is that it is emotionally, financially, and apparently physically harder to be single than married. Now, doing marriage wrongly is for sure harder than singleness, but anyone who has been single for an extended period (excluding those called to celibacy, who have their own burdens) knows it can be hard.
But those stats aren’t what I thought of as I sat there in church. What I thought about was how I had to go there by myself.
Church is one of the hardest places to go by yourself. Like it or not, it’s a fact. I thought about how many things I’ve had to do by myself in my last twenty years of singleness. I have great friends and people who are in it with me at a deep, deep level, but it isn’t the same.
This doesn’t even take into account that most of us have a strong unmet desire to have a spouse. We then have to face questions of why it is we can’t seem to find someone. So, not only to we have to deal with being alone, we have to try to deal with why we are alone. Then there is the nearly complete lack of physical intimacy and touch.
And as time goes on, we begin to lose things. As we get older and single, even if we get married, we lose things like “starting out life together.” We might lose the chance to have kids. We won’t enjoy the spouse of our youth because we won’t be in our youth.
No amount of spiritual platitudes about God’s timing, “taking advantage of our singleness,” or being reminded that marriage is hard is going to give that back or comfort our suffering. I point all of this out not to feel sorry for us or to give you ammo for the next time you get into a marriage/singleness conversation with a married friend.
I point it out because suffering is always an opportunity to grow.
Really we have a choice. We can sit around, whine about, and get the crap kicked out of us, or we can engage God. We can engage God and ask real questions about why I’m not married. There are lots of reasons, but sometimes our wounds and sins are in the way. Do we actually face those? Do we ask God to enter into our personal hard stuff?
If I can’t engage the opposite sex or if I’m isolated without community, then I have to engage God and ask Him to pull me out. If I can’t make a commitment or am stuck in an adolescent lifestyle or addictions, I need to get help from God and His community. We can engage God in our losses. He can meet us and help us mourn those losses appropriately. He can pull us out of the hiding and covering up of the hurt that we have.
We have a God who knows what it means to suffer. He has a heart for those on the outside. He wants to redeem our losses. He offers healing and freedom. If He is risen, then He can raise us. We need this, whether we ever get married or not. It’s the key either way. We need to admit we hurt and then engage God.