I write a lot about the importance of practicing biblical community and will continue to do so until the day I die. Christian fellowship isn’t a luxury; it is a necessity. And unmarried folks, like myself, feel the weight of that need every day. Married people feel it, too—no doubt. But because we singles don’t have the built-in fellowship that accompanies marriage, we live with a constant awareness of our dependence on the body of Christ. We can’t follow Jesus solitarily. We need other believers to open their lives to us beyond Sunday mornings and view us as blood-bought family members.
However, I do think there is something to say for single Christians possessing a healthy sense of independence. I’m not at all proposing that we should live under the delusion that we can function healthily apart from community—that would be spiritual suicide. Experiencing the love and fellowship of God tangibly through the corporate body of Christ is absolutely necessary for the survival of our faith. But there is a sense in which we should be okay spending a degree of time by ourselves. We should be able to stay home alone on a Friday night without spiraling into self-pity. We should be able to maintain our sanity if we have to go a few days without having meaningful conversation with close friends. We shouldn’t throw a temper tantrum if someone can’t drop everything to hang out with us on the spur of the moment. We shouldn’t be embittered toward our married friends who must prioritize their spouses and children over us.
But how do we do this? It is hard to be alone. I personally know the difficulty of having no plans on Friday night, going a few days without meaningful conversation, and having to embrace the reality that most of my friends have relational priorities that come before me. People who know me in this season of my life tend to describe me as a naturally independent person. They observe my [relatively recent] ability to spend time by myself without losing my mind and assume I’m just wired in such a way that I don’t feel the need to always be with people. But that is not the case! I am not inclined to be independent—I’m actually inclined to be highly codependent! In my pre-Jesus days, no one would have described me as an independent person. I jumped from love-interest to love-interest with little to no time elapsing between relationships. I constantly surrounded myself with friends who were equally as codependent as I was to ensure they would stay attached at my hip. And if I ever felt my love-interests or friends weren’t as invested in me as I was in them, insecurity and depression overcame me. I needed the people in my life to keep me emotionally afloat by constantly affirming their love and acceptance of me. I was the epitome of “needy.”
So what’s changed since then? Well, a couple of pretty major things:
It is vital that we experience the love and acceptance of other human beings. We are relational creatures with relational needs that God sees fit to meet through other people. But friends—especially my fellow singles—we don’t have to look to human relationships to satisfy us at the deepest level. If we are in Christ, the best company that exists in the entire universe lives inside of our hearts. We are reconciled to the One from whom the most robust forms of love and comfort come. Therefore, we can be secure and stable enough to be alone sometimes. We don’t have to cling to others in unhealthy codependence.
You might be thinking, “That sounds great, but it’s not that easy, Matt!” I agree; it’s not. Being aware of God’s presence and feeling secure in his love doesn’t usually just happen. In the first couple of years of my walk with the Lord, before I began seriously pursuing him every day, I struggled tremendously with feeling alone and dissatisfied with the level of community that God was providing. But as I’ve endeavored to draw near to God every day over the last few years, I have grown increasingly content in him and satisfied with his provision. That daily pursuit of God is everything. We have to cultivate our relationship with him. We have to get away from the gadgets and get out of our busy minds and set our gaze in his direction. We have to seek him in prayer and meditate on his self-revelation in the Bible. But you guys, I can tell you from experience that God is there to be found, and his comfort and love are totally sufficient to satisfy the deepest needs of your soul. If you’re lonely today, draw near to him. He is ready and willing to meet with you.