When Alone

Luci Swindoll, in her book Soloing, suggests that the first step to putting loneliness in its proper perspective for single people is to encourage them to get married.[1] A person coming face-to-face with the concept of inner loneliness is a sign that marriage should take place. Inner loneliness is a hint to search for a companion. To solve the problem of loneliness, some enterprising manufacturer has invented and is selling “A Silent Partner” for unattended ladies driving alone in a car at night. This “Silent Partner” is a “made-to-order” companion, even if he doesn’t speak to her. He is life-size and “inflatable,” and he sits next to the girl in the front seat, so she doesn’t appear to be alone.

One of God’s great gifts in helping us deal with challenges of life, such as poverty, oppression, loneliness, and injustice in the company of others. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us

The two are better than the one, in that they have a good reward by their labour. For if they fall, the one raiseth up his companion, but woe to the one who falleth and there is not a second to raise him up! Also, if two lie down, then they have heat, but how hath one heat? And if the one strengthen himself, the two stand against him; and the threefold cord is not hastily broken.[2]

Most Christians think that getting married is God’s will for them. The Bible states “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2:18a). The word translated alone comes from the Hebrew word bad, which means alone, distinct, isolated, solitary, and by itself. The word suggests that God knew that in the course of time Adam or humankind would separate, isolate, and withdraw himself. God created Adam unique from all other creatures; he needed someone to look like him and to share his convictions.

On the other hand, there are many examples of Bible characters who remained unmarried; such as Jeremiah, Anna, Paul, Nehemiah, and Jesus. The aforementioned exceptional examples lived a life in harmony with God’s will. To solve the challenge of loneliness, Richard Chen (who is divorced and has four children to care for), a graduate of the Princeton Seminary, founded the first Singles Church in California. The church is composed of a congregation of divorced, widowed, and not-yet-marrieds numbering in the hundreds. Chen and his flock meet in rented quarters for worship and Bible study.

Marriage is honorable; God established the marriage institution in the Garden of Eden. According to insurance statistics, the death rate for married men aged 25 to 34 is 1.5 per thousand; for single men, it is twice as high—more than 3.5 per thousand.

The difference is greater as men grow older: In the 35 to 44 group, the death rate for married men is 3.1 per thousand; for unmarried it is 8.3.

Among all women, the mortality rate for single females is almost twice that of women who are or have been married, which could mean that the moral is: Better wed than dead.

Whether married or single, the enemy that fights humanity the most is death. No matter how close husbands and wives, no matter the companionship amongst friends and family members, no matter how affectionate people are towards each other, when death comes, it creates a state of loneliness. Regarding death, Coptic literature states: “You learn from life, and also from death. He [death] is a great professor for you and many.” Some of the church fathers benefited spiritually from the sight of skulls, from the view of the dead, and from visiting tombs. Reflecting on death was a spiritual lesson for many people in history; Alexander the Great, the greatest leader and emperor of his generation, assigned his servant to tell him every day: Remember that you are a human being, and you will die one day.

Death is the last and greatest enemy of mankind. It is a comprehensive biblical term for the results of sin. Every funeral service we attend remind us that humans are sinful and that all seem to face physical death. Billy Graham writes: “Death is perennial.” During World War II, C. S. Lewis pointed out that war does not increase death; death is total in every generation. It takes every one of us. George Bernard Shaw wryly wrote, “The statistics on death are quite impressive. One out of one people die.”[3] Humans know that when death strikes, it brings hurts and pain. Thus, the Second Advent of Christ is an awesome event where death shall be swallowed up in victory (1 Cor 15:54). “He will swallow up death forever” (Isa 25:8a).

While death brings pain and separation, spiritually single individuals suffer isolation from their loved ones. I, myself, suffered from this aspect of being a spiritually single person for an extended period because I embraced the faith of the Seventh-day Adventist church. My new faith (being an Adventist) separated me from my parents and siblings; I ceased to experience being a spiritually single person when I got married to an Adventist person. The words of Ellen G. White are an excellent motivator for those who experience spiritual singleness. White says:

In the midst of a life of active labor, Enoch steadfastly maintained his communion with God. The greater and more pressing his labors, the more constant and earnest were his prayers. He continued to exclude himself at certain periods from all society. After remaining for a time among the people, laboring to benefit them by instruction and example, he would withdraw, to spend a season in solitude, hungering and thirsting for that divine knowledge which God alone can impart. Communing thus with God, Enoch came more and more to reflect the divine image. His face was radiant with a holy light, even the light that shineth in the face of Jesus. As he came forth from these divine communings, even the ungodly beheld with awe the impress of heaven upon his countenance.[4]

May the Lord help us to be sensitive individuals to those around us, and to reach out to those who are in need. May we be helpful especially to those who are craving for human companionship and fellowship. May the words of John Donne, the poet who said, “No man is an island” be ours. May the words of the apostle Peter motivate us to use our gifts. He said, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pet 4:10).

Youssry Guirguis currently serves as a full-time Lecturer at Asia-Pacific International University (AIU), Muak Lek, Thailand and also as an adjunct professor at the Adventist Institute for Islamic & Arabic Studies at Middle East University (MEU), Beirut, Lebanon.

Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

[1]Luci Swindoll, Soloing (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 1985), 32.

[2]Robert Young, Young’s Literal Translation (Bellingham, WA: Library of Alexandria, 1997); Eccl. 4:9–12.

[3]Billy Graham, Death and the Life After (Nashville, DA: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 3.

[4]Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1948), 52.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9575
2 Likes

People of any age can decide to bow out of “life” and become what is called
“loners”.
The act of becoming a “loner” and participating in that form of life-style can
cause a multitude of mental disorders, mental dysfunction, depression, and
a sense that people are against them in some way.
A “loner” can come to the conclusion that they won’t reach out to anyone who
WILL NOT REACH OUT TO THEM FIRST. And this attitude rushes them
further into “Darkness” and despair. It can also cause the development of
inner anger toward themselves and eventually displace this anger on other
persons in their environment.

Yes! God created humans to be social creatures. 2 people living together [I did not say they had to be opposite or same sex, nor that they had to be married] is what God designed in Genesis 1 and 2. “Humans should NOT be
alone” is what the text in English says.
So it is important to join groups for part of a day or various times in the week,
and pick out certain person or personS who compliment our personality. Or
if allowable, to share a house or an apartment if we can stand them 24 hours
a day, 7 days a week, and enjoy doing things, going places together.

In my opening statement I said “ANY AGE”. We can see this in toddlers, early
elementary, middle school, high school, young adults, mature adults. Parents
need to be aware of the signs in their kids and develop strategies that will
break these “dropping out” mental attitudes, as they will remain most of one’s
life if not challenged with more healthy behaviors. “Dropping out” will affect the
ability of progressing in school, impact the ability to hold a job, and MOST OF
ALL affect their ability to have a healthy relationship with God, and with any
worship center.
“Dropping out” may even affect their ability to say away from addictions –
tobacco, alcohol, drugs. And may affect their ability to keep away from
law enforcement supervision.

1 Like

Geez Louise, could we please stop acting like single people are defective? The entire quarter is about family, and the only week that’s about singles, the message can’t be “Hey, we value you too.” No, it has to be twisted and contorted into “Get married, you worthless, godless jackasses!”

Generation Y or Millennials or whatever are staying unmarried in record numbers. 59% had never been married, according to Gallup in 2016.

Why am I mentioning this? Because I don’t know what it’s like in your part of the world, but 'round here in the Bible Belt, Sabbath School will be dead in 20 years. The only people who attend are senior citizens.

I went to one church in Collegedale – on their website, they claimed to have 1,500 weekly attendees, 80% between the ages of 20-40. Great! So I attended their “young adult” class (how I loathe that term), and no kidding, they had 5 people when class started. Five. FIVE. Out of 1,200 potential attendees, FIVE. It’s the same everywhere around here that I go.

And I guess my question is, why bother to attend? The lessons in the quarterly aren’t relevant-- to be blunt, much of the time, they aren’t even lessons; they’re mini-harangues. I don’t need to remind any of you about last quarter – any attempt at legitimate discussion of Revelation was foreclosed in the quarterly with historicism, more historicism, and Ellen White Says™.

Anyway, I’m ranting. I’m just going to shut up. But maybe it is time to walk out the door. The church at large obviously has no use for us anyway.

7 Likes

Youssry Guirguis

I applaud your SPLENDID article dealing with singleness and loneliness.

Statistical demographics, as you so eloquently point out, show significant differences in longevity between the married and the unmarried, especially for men.

With the rising incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia, social isolation is now being incriminated as a major causative factor. Deafness, with its resulting social isolation, is a also a major contributor.

I have a wonderful spinster sister, still unmarried at age eighty.
For fifty four years she taught at Adventist boarding academies located in isolated rural areas. There is nothing worse than being single and alone, in a cloistered, rural Adventists “ghetto”.

She was most often, the only single faculty member on campus. While other married faculty members would occasionally offer her a meal in their homes, she lived a life of loneliness when not in the classroom. For the past several years she has had progressive Alzheimer’s which I attribute to long term loneliness.

Now for the “elephant in the room”.

You do not mention the four-five per cent demographic in our church community who are denied marriage, companionship and romantic love by our doctrinal purists.

This is a deliberate, devastating, damaging, destructive, deleterious and dire DENIAL of companionship and love to members of our LGBT community. This is a shabby, shameful, LIFE LONG sentence dispensed vindictively and often venomously.

It is usually cloaked in the euphemism of CELIBACY.

As I have pointed out in other posts, while sex is an important element of marriage , it is far outweighed by the support, companionship, loyalty, affirmation, validation, affection, romance and DEVOTION, that is such a vital element of marriage. It is egregious that our LGBT singles are denied this essential EMOTIONAL element that confers ecstasy, exuberance, elation and euphoria to happily married heterosexual couples.

Our heterosexual,singles, can always have the hope of finding a romantic partner.

Gays and lesbians adhering to church standards are forever IN LIMBO.

The Catholic Church, in imposing celibacy on priests and nuns ( actually it is their own adult choice and decision) recognizes this loneliness, and so arranges for convents, monasteries , abbeys and group homes, to alleviate the problem.

Adventist gays / lesbians who try to abide by the church’s celibacy requirement, have no such support system,

You do not address the ECONOMIC IMPACT of singleness. In an economic downturn, unexpected unemployment might result in HOMLESSNESS for a single person, —the married unemployed can often fall back on the earnings of their spouse.

When celibacy is so casually, and often cruelly dispensed to our LGBT community, do any consider possible homelessness as an unexpected consequence??

FINALLY, DOES THE SABBATH SCHOOL QUARTERLY EVEN ADDRESS THIS SIGNIFICANT DEMOGRAPHIC WHEN TALKING ABOUT SINGLENESS AND LONELINESS?.

If not, why not ?

5 Likes

I always rely on good old Paul who said “So I say to those who aren’t married and to widows—it’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am.” Good enough for me.
But I sympathise with other singles (for whatever reason, choice, divorce, death…) who people feel uncomfortable around and are always trying to match up. Unless we ask you for help in meeting someone, just leave us in peace. We are following in Paul’s footsteps, and our Lords; we’re not mentally, physically or emotionally deficient just because we’re not married. And yes it would be very very nice if churches had social events that weren’t always geared to the family but just simply friendship for everyone.

7 Likes

Thank you, exbord, for pointing out to readers that gay, lesbian, trans-sexual, intersex and other “elephants in the room” exist, and deserve to be both recognized, welcomed and supported. It is an appalling that many (but thankfully not all) churches, many (but not all) of the worldwide church members, and the vast majority of the church administration fail to acknowledge their LGBTI brothers and sisters. The vast majority of the SDA church is willfully blind to the companionship / marital needs and aspirations of its LGBTI members and would-be members. And the bland, naiive platitudes of the SS Study guide does nothing to help to inform or educate church members out of their appalling ignorance.

6 Likes

I am acquainted with a few Millennials. My perception is that many of them are busy doing rather than attending. They have their charities; they read widely–not just SDA spiritually oriented books, they volunteer, they enjoy their friends without worrying about their religious affiliation, and they associate with other Adventists–but not necessarily at church.

But I agree that they aren’t impressed with the lectures (I mean sermons) or the Sabbath School lessons. The ones I know are brighter than that and see the tithes and offerings system as a black hole–few people really know where the money goes and what it comes back to. They aren’t impressed by that either. They may be members, but that doesn’t mean they “go with the flow” we old-timers grew up in and can’t quite give up entirely…

5 Likes

At Collegedale did you try CONNECT?
It meets in the Academy Chapel. Has a good attendance. They have had
a change of pastor, The former one was on the staff of the Religion Dept
but I believe has been transferred to a church in Idaho.

1 Like

Can we PLEASE stop feeling sorry for singles and acting like they are to be pitied? We singles are whole, gifted, valuable human beings, just like the rest of ya’ll! We love it when we are treated just like everyone else, not with kid gloves like we’re going to disintegrate at the slightest breath. Some of us even choose to minister to others! (I know, hard to believe.) Because in ministry we, just like non-singles (!), find our highest calling and fulfillment. I’m fine and happier single than I ever was as a non-single - praise God. My life now is not defined by my marital status. My life now is defined by being a sinner saved by grace, a daughter of the Almighty. True & lasting happiness is not found in human relationships, it can only be found in relationship with God.

6 Likes

Back in the 70’s there was Adventist Singles. I don’t know if still an active
group. Like you said, many of the Adventist Singles had active lives
and found purpose without having a “live-in partner”. Were engaged
in church functions and also engaged in their own personal ministries.
There were some of course who joined Adventist Singles in the off chance
of finding a life partner – my sister-in-law did.

I have been single for a number of years now. I enjoy a life of ministry. I have
had to find it OUTSIDE of the SDA church [not much is happening there] I
attend on Sabbaths. But my ministries include teaching English at a Baptist
church. Various ministries and choir singing in an Episcopal church. Bible
study past couple of years at 2 Methodist churches and a Wed Taize at one
of the Methodist churches. Taking a friend of the past 6 years to Friday nite
Jewish services to begin our Sabbath. I met my Jewish handicap friend at
the Episcopal church – began by helping him with grocery shopping.
My 7th year of Tutoring K-5th graders in a program sponsored by the Episc.
church. Volunteered at a daytime homeless shelter doing snacks, laundry,
shower program, computer-telephone program. Have taken new friends to
AA and NA meetings and to AA and NA conventions. Through my Episc.
contacts I assist with Bible study and Eucharist on Monday afternoons in
my apartment building. I also enjoy a wide range of reading non-SDA books.
God has been good. I have a lot of things to do. Things I would NEVER have
done by NOT venturing outside of my SDA church group.
And I am confident that God has more things on His list for me to do that He
hasn’t revealed to me.
[PS – I have keys to 3 churches]

8 Likes

Thanks for being so honest and frank about this issue. What you said is true. Inflating numbers and pretending everything is OK is deceptive. The Church is losing the younger generation but chooses to remain in denial instead of doing something about it.

2 Likes

I think there is a misunderstanding about what it means to be alone or to feel lonely (loneliness is a feeling). One can be alone and not feel lonely. It is also true that one can be in a room full of people and feel very lonely. I am a married man but if something were to happen (wife die) that I became single again I would not feel a need to rush off and get married. I disagree that inner loneliness is a sign that marriage should take place or that it is a hint to search for a companion. I see it as an indication of our need for God. Only God can fill the void of loneliness.

Loneliness is a state of mind. As Christians we have something available to us that the world can’t offer. Jesus said of Himself in John 8:16, “I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me”. He also promised us in John 14:16-18, 23 “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you…If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

It is impossible to be lonely when you have the Holy Spirit abiding in you.

3 Likes

[quote=“spectrumbot, post:1, topic:18271”]
Luci Swindoll, in her book Soloing, suggests that the first step to putting loneliness in its proper perspective for single people is to encourage them to get married
[/quote]. What absolute rot. Aloneness can’t be cured by matrimony, and choosing a person of the same religious denomination is no guarantee either - my own marriage to an SDA was awful, but my current marriage to an Episcopalian is super! That said, friends, family and purposeful activities with like-minded others can be an effective antidote to loneliness (It Is Not Good for People To Be Alone) - it’s just that we haven’t learned very well how to do that, and fall back on the default - marriage. That lovely quotation from Ecclesiastes is in no way limited to the married state, and considering that most of us will spend quite a bit of time, at least at the beginning and end of adulthood as singles, let’s figure this out. Multi generational housing? Group homes? We have options. I was actually hoping for this quarter’s lessons to be an improvement on last quarter’s doctrinal catechism thing – oh well.

4 Likes

I agree with you. The concept that marriage is a solution for loneliness is very strange. If a person looked for my professional services due to loneliness, the last thing I would recommend at that time would be looking for someone to marry. Actually, it could well become a disastrous move.
@elmer_cupino @cincerity @pattigrant (These are other people here who are involved in mental health)

5 Likes

There are those who find themselves “lonely” within a marriage…others can feel “alone” in a group, church or a crowd. Relying on others to relieve oneself of “loneliness” is a pathway to depression or even worse.

8 Likes

Loneliness is a normal affective state that is a response to being alone and isolated. It leads us to seek companionship and to a certain extent it can inspire our creativity such as some classical composers have done in music. In can become pathological when we lose control of its trajectory and are unable to “snap out of it” at which time it can become a gateway to clinical depression. The focus of loneliness is to empower the individual to acquire control of its fluctuation and trajectory. To counsel a lonely person to get married as an antidote to loneliness would never be wise.

2 Likes

This brings to mind an article in Christianity Today by LaVonne Neff titled “The Walls of Adventism.” The piece, by a former Adventist minister’s wife, pointed out those lifestyle commandments unique to Adventism that create walls for creating friendships. These include

  1. Not drinking coffee or tea, a worldwide hospitality and friendship rite.
  2. Shutting down activities of a certain type during Sabbath hours, ensuring not hanging out with “outside” friends on Saturdays.
  3. Food.

Much like the ancient Israelites, just these three issues keep us apart and alone from much friendly mixing with our neighbors, colleagues, and new friends.

These are our walls. They intensify the situation for singles, not just for marriage partners, but for friendships.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 30 days. New replies are no longer allowed.