We might assume loneliness only afflicts single people, but one psychologist has coined the term ‘living together loneliness’ or LTL. Marriage is intended to be a God-given means of establishing stability and intimacy between a man and a woman. LTL recognises the reality, however, that even within marriage people can experience uncertainty and isolation.
God recognised the problem of loneliness back in Genesis. In the Genesis creation account there’s a running refrain; God “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21 and 25). After God creates mankind in his own image, we read “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (1:31)
Fascinating to note, then, that in a perfect world, God sees something “not good.” In Genesis 2:18, God says “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
This is before the fall, so 'aloneness' is not good in the sense of being imperfect, incomplete, rather than intrinsically evil. But at a time when mankind was enjoying a perfect relationship with God, the Lord speaks out against human loneliness. God is in relationship Himself – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and one consequence of our being made in His likeness, is that we’re created for relationship not only with our creator, but also with other people.
Heterosexual marriage is revealed as God’s primary antidote to the aloneness problem (Genesis 2:24). But in the Bible not everyone gets married – the Apostle Paul didn’t, nor did Jesus (and He was the perfect, complete human-being in every way!) Yes both Paul and Jesus faced crises of loneliness at various points in their lives (consider Jesus praying alone in Mark 14:32-42 and note how “everyone deserted him” in verse 50). Yet based on the overall lives of Paul and Jesus you’d struggle to conclude that either were fundamentally lonely.
So if marriage is not for everyone and if even within marriage people can experience LTL, what can we conclude about God’s solution to aloneness? Well marriage is certainly God’s primary antidote, but it clearly isn’t the only antidote. If it’s not good for mankind to be alone, that creation principle is as relevant to the person struggling with same-sex attraction, for whom heterosexual marriage may never be an option, as it is to those who are attracted to the opposite sex.
In the Bible we see beautiful examples of godly, intimate, affectionate, supportive, caring, deep, same-sex friendships. Consider the covenant Jonathan made with David, “because he loved him as himself” (1 Samuel 18:3), and note in 2 Samuel 1:26 how after Jonathan’s death David mourned a love that was “more wonderful than that of women” (David was an expert on the love of women, so he should know!) There’s the committed love between Ruth and Naomi, and the clearly special nature of the friendship between Jesus and the Apostle John, described as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23, 21:7, 21:20).
God’s created us to experience human love, and wants us all to develop close, godly relationships with others. Yes, we have to avoid sexual immorality and yes we have to beware the dangers of idolatrous friendships. But let’s not be so scared of the risks, that we end up isolating ourselves from others completely. It simply is not good for any one of us to be alone.
(first published in the Spring 2010 newsletter)