Why singles suffer: There really is one true reason

If you ask why singles suffer, you have to be prepared to accept the true reason.


It's ugly, it's insulting, and most people don't want to face up to it, but sin has ruined everything. Basic Christian theology teaches that the Garden of Eden was a perfect place until Adam and Eve sinned. Then, in a chain reaction, the entire planet became spoiled.

If you believe Adam and Eve were a myth, you have a major problem in your doctrine. Sin, passed down to the human race from Adam, explains why Jesus came and why all human beings suffer.

Why singles suffer: Desire

Buddha was on to something when he came up with his Four Noble Truths:

  1. All life is suffering.
  2. The cause of suffering is desire.
  3. Eliminate desire and you eliminate suffering.
  4. The Eightfold Path leads to Nirvana, the absence of suffering.

That Eightfold Path, summarized, is:

  1. Right understanding
  2. Right thought
  3. Right speech
  4. Right action
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

Now that's an oversimplification, but as Christians, we recognize the Eightfold Path as something else: legalism. It's trying to follow the rules to achieve perfection. Our rules for right(eous) living are the Ten Commandments, but as the ancient Israelites proved, nobody can keep them. Nobody.

Everybody sins because it's hard-wired into our nature. We can't escape it and we can't stop, no matter how hard we try.

Buddha was correct about one thing. All human beings have desires. Some are good for us, such as the desire for food, water, and exercise, while some are bad, such as the desire for fame, glory, and ever more money.

Oh, and we all desire to feel good all the time. That's where most of our suffering comes from. One of the great truths of life is that when our desire to feel good is denied, we get sad, frustrated, depressed, or angry. We suffer.

But aren't we meant to be happy?

Even many Christians think God's top desire for human beings is for us to be happy. If you think that's true, take a look at the apostle Paul's life in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27. Does that sound like good times to you? And he was one of God's favorites!

When you realize that God's goals for you are first, your salvation, and second, conforming your character to that of his Son, that pretty much demolishes the belief that your top priority in life should be happiness.

Many times in my life I've actually thought I was smarter than God. As you can guess, that didn't end very well.

Don't get me wrong. I'd rather be happy than miserable. In fact, I spend much of my life trying to do things I think will make me happy. Oddly, often they don't work. I'm happy most of the time, but frequently I suffer. I get lonely, depressed, and exasperated.

To quote Mick Jagger, "You can't always get what you want," and that's why we suffer.

Of course, proud little human that I am, I believe I know what's best for me better than God does. Many times in my life I've actually thought I was smarter than God. As you can guess, that didn't end very well.

In trying to be happy, we make some positive choices, like hobbies and helping others, and some negative choices, like sin. There's no doubt sin is pleasurable, but the pleasure is short-lived and we usually regret it later. As Charles Stanley says, "The consequences of sin are bad. They're always bad."

Before you get too angry or bummed out, let me stress that it's not only our own sins that cause us to suffer, but the cumulative sins of every other person on earth. You and I are affected by our employer's greed, by another driver's carelessness, by online trolls' hate, by crime, and by government wars and corporate pollution. Look around. Sin has ruined things.

Sin wrecked our paradise planet, bringing along with it aging, disease, injuries, and finally death. No one, no matter how much people try to eliminate desire, no one can escape those things. Adversity is inevitable.

Enter Jesus Christ into this mess

Jesus came into the world to free human beings from their sin. Here's what most people miss: The greatest benefit of his sacrifice comes in heaven, not on this earth. We continue to sin and will until we die. As believers in Christ, our sins are forgiven and we receive eternal life. That begins at our conversion, not at our death.

As you've noticed, however, the rate and severity of sin are getting worse, not better. As Christians, you and I are guaranteed heaven, but what about now? When we ask why singles suffer, we want to know what to do about it now.

We all can do things to prevent unnecessary suffering. We can eat healthier, avoid tobacco and recreational drugs as well as avoiding other risky behavior. We can take care of our teeth and eyes. We can treat our body as our most prized possession, because it is.

We can have a wise financial plan that cuts debt and increases savings. We can maintain our car. We can set worthwhile goals, attend church, read the Bible and cultivate a circle of friends.

After all those precautions, all of us are still vulnerable to illness, injury, layoffs, accidents, and natural disasters. Singles, like married folks, are not exempt. Being a Christian doesn't get you a pass, either.

Why singles suffer; why God allows it

Many times, in the midst of my suffering, I have asked God, "Why me?" I know you have too. God is both all-powerful and all-good and could stop suffering on earth any time he chose. So why doesn't he?

This is a complicated subject, way too involved to answer fully in a short article like this, but the best book I've read on that suffering is If God is Good, by Randy Alcorn. It explains in depth how God uses pain to

  • Discipline us,
  • Keep us out of worse trouble,
  • Teach us important principles,
  • Remind us he is God and we are not.

I highly recommend you get If God is Good and read it if you are discouraged by your suffering.

It's important to remember that God gives everyone freedom to choose or reject him. That's love. Sometimes we suffer from the consequences of our own sin. Sometimes other people suffer from the consequences of our sin. Our most frequent and intense pain usually comes from the consequences of other people's sin.

Since we can't escape suffering, what can we do in the midst of it? We can remember God is with us and we can grab onto him and hold on tightly. That's what I did both times I had cancer. I held onto God when my promising relationships broke up. I turned to him when I got laid off from work. I especially went to him when people I loved died. I can promise you Jesus really will help you get through everything. There will be tears, but you will get through.

Most of all, you can look to the hope of heaven, where there will be no more suffering because all your desires will be met by God. It's not a fantasy or daydream. It's the promise of Jesus Christ, who has the power of God to make it come true.

Your suffering in this life is a tiny fraction of the eternal life you will enjoy with God. That may sound like a cliche, but it's a fact. We singles have a life to live here on earth, and it can be a good life. While awaiting heaven, we shouldn't postpone our happiness here. We can experience times of great joy.

When you wonder why singles suffer, you can have a deeper understanding of human suffering and be assured God is not picking on you personally. Never doubt God's intense love for you. He gave his Son Jesus so you can live with him forever, in a heaven where suffering is an unknown word.

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