When Singleness Sucks!
I don’t know about you, but for every moment of joy, contentment and flourishing I’ve found in singleness, there have always been inevitable moments of discouragement, frustration and downright despondency. I think most of us have our favourite unhealthy methods of coping with these moments [insert obligatory comment about a tub of ice cream and a movie here], but deep down we want to make more life-giving and God-honouring choices.
So what do we do when singleness sucks? Here are five healthy choices we can make when the grief and loneliness want to take us over.
1. Admit the suckiness.
There is often a pressure that comes with singleness to look like we love every second of our lives so that people don’t pity us for our relationship status. No one wants to look desperate or pathetic! However masking the difficulties of our season of life from our family, friends, and more importantly, God, can lock us into a very lonely place. Confession is good for the soul, even if the confession isn’t pretty. Admit to God that being single sucks right now. Whether it’s having a car break down on the highway you have to deal with alone, an apartment you have to clean by yourself, friends bailing on your plans, or a prospective hope dies, there will be moments that clearly suck to be single, and that’s okay. Unburden your heart to the Lord. Cry, rant, rave. Pray, let go, trust.
Shauna Niequist in her book “Present Over Perfect” refers to this kind of prayer like oil and vinegar salad dressing:
“Many of us learned along the way to ignore the vinegar - the hot tears banging on our eyelids, the hurt feelings, the fear… but this is what I’m learning about prayer: you don’t get the [soothing] oil until you pour out the vinegar.”
Be honest with God. Admit the suckiness of singleness. He can handle it, and He will comfort you.
2. Seek the truth.
The voice of the enemy is easiest to listen to when we’re in a tough place. When feeling particularly lonely, hurt, or sad, it’s overwhelmingly tempting to heed lies that tell us there’s something wrong with us, we’re not worthy, and that we’ll be alone forever. It can also be comforting to entertain lies in the movies we watch or music we listen to; that love and romance is the source of our missing fulfilment.
So seek the truth. Remember that ultimate fulfilment for the eternity in our hearts is in our Eternal Lover. Go to Scripture and allow it to correct your thinking. Listen to music with lyrics that speak truth over you. Speak to friends who will remind you who you are. Read books or watch movies that don’t make you numb out, but inspire you with good and true stories.
A quote from Anthony de Mello reads:
“How does one cope with darkness? Not with one's fist. You don't chase darkness out of the room with a broom, you turn on a light. The more you fight darkness, the more real it becomes to you, and the more you exhaust yourself. But when you turn on the light… it melts.”
When darkness presses in, go to Christ - the Light.
3. Nurture the physical
In caring for our minds and spirits during these difficult times, it’s important not to neglect the physical. It sounds weird, but I’ve often found when I get deep into a funk about being single, sometimes all I need is some exercise. Disciplining myself by going for a run, or just spending time outside absorbing the beauty of God’s creation is really helpful for getting me out of my head; it clears my mind to allow the voice of the Holy Spirit to penetrate my soul. Eating well also helps my self-esteem, and being aware of what vitamins I might be deficient in vastly affects my mood. Need I mention getting enough sleep?
If you’re running yourself ragged, not eating well or regularly, not getting outside, and are working hard on five hours sleep, it’s no small wonder that the pain of singleness is going to hit different. If your emotional health is tanking, check your physical health. They are closely related.
According to Pinterest, we’re basically all house plants with more complicated emotions. Sometimes a bit of sun and a drink of water can make a bigger difference to how you feel than you’d think!
4. Do the inspirational
This year in particular I’ve found my battles with singleness much fewer and far between (though still existent, let’s not kid ourselves) due to having got a job that is incredibly inspiring and fulfilling. While we can’t always have our dream job, having a work or a hobby that gives us a sense of purpose and makes a difference in the world can really take the sting out of being single. We aren’t just unfinished sentences waiting around for the full-stop of marriage. God has given us a job to do in this world! There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction found in working hard at something we are passionate about and see as worthwhile.
If you don’t have a project or hobby that gives you the opportunity to serve others and give back into people’s lives, find one. Whether it’s an artistic or creative pursuit such as music or beauty, or if it’s something more practical like volunteering for a charity or at your church, find a work that you can pour your heart into.
Colossians 3:23-24 says, “My dear friends, stand firm and don’t be shaken. Always keep busy working for the Lord. You know that everything you do for him is worthwhile.” Having a selfless work can deter us from lapsing into despondency. Something as simple as writing an encouraging note for someone is a great start. Focusing on how we can better serve others can inspire us to think beyond ourselves to what God might do through us. Find a task that inspires you, and go do that thing.
5. Be part of the family
Life was not meant to be lived alone. We were created for community. We know this, yet sometimes we forget that community isn’t something that just falls into our lap. Building a community takes work. Being part of a family takes effort. There is a place for all of us at the table, but we are responsible for pulling up our chair. All of us need people in our lives we can turn to when the single life sucks. It may not be a significant other, but God has given us the people He knows we need. Whether it’s reaching out to an older couple at church and having dinner with them, catching up for a good cry with a friend, meeting with a counsellor to sort through our thoughts/emotions, or getting some people together for a movie, there are opportunities around us to connect with people who want to love us and care for us.
Singleness usually sucks most when we lack connection. Read that sentence again. It’s not so much that we’re feeling the void of a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship specifically, rather that we’re feeling the void of healthy, life-giving relationships in general. This is why it’s so good when married friends make the effort to invite their single friends into their lives (yes, marrieds! We need your friendships even more than before!). The times that I have been able to crash a friend’s place even just to work for the day in different scenery with the sounds of their family milling around me has been a balm for the times being along cuts deep. I’m a part of my community, and they are a part of me. When I’m disconnected from them and I’ve gotten caught up and forgotten my need to put them first, I suffer for it, and need to reconnect.
Though it may not always be obvious to you when you’re struggling, you have people in your life, and they love you. Trust the people that God has given you, and allow yourself to be part of the family.
At the end of the day, there will be times where - like Job, as he sat in his misery - the pain of singleness can be suffocating and overwhelming, despite all of the good choices we make. In these moments, time is our friend. Just like when we are swimming in the surf and a wave rolls over us; tossing us and spinning us around in a tornado of sand and salt water, we don’t give up and drown.
We hold our breath, and wait.
If you’re experiencing this kind of pain right now, don’t lose hope. Don’t make big decisions right now. Just hold your breath, and look up to where the light is. Our hope is not in human beings. It’s in the One who gave His final breath for us. He walks on water, and He is with us. Someday, He will return for us.
Hold fast, friends. He is worth it.
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