Valentine’s Day can be a difficult time if you’re not in a relationship. It’s easy to feel left out or envious of those who do have a special someone in their lives.
If you’re a Christian in particular, a prolonged period of singleness can feel like being stuck in a wilderness. It can affect your relationship with others as well as with God.
As Christians, how can we cope with long-term singleness?
Here are 6 practical practical tips that can help you through that wilderness.
6 PRACTICAL TIPS FOR COPING WITH LONG-TERM SINGLENESS AS A CHRISTIAN
I know what it’s like to be long-term single. I’ve been single my entire life. I have never had a romantic relationship before. This is not for lack of trying, but it’s simply the way things have turned out.
I don’t claim to have the answers to this problem. I wish I did. It would be great if I could give a testimony that I were single for the longest time, but that God eventually changed my situation, but I can’t. However, I can share with you some things I’ve learned along the way from my own experiences. I’ve had to think long and hard about some of these things over the years to come to make peace with certain things and trust God in whatever He’s doing. Hopefully that will provide you with some hope and comfort.
1. Focus on what God says about you rather than your situation
When I was in school, another pupil made a careless remark that has always stuck with me. He said “who in their right mind would ever want to go out with you?” To this day, it has acted like a curse.
While those words stung at the time I didn’t pay too much attention to them. It was easy to dismiss this as the cruel remarks of other children. I told myself it wasn’t true. Surely things would pan out differently.
But as time has gone on, those words came back to haunt me. For me, at least when looking at the visible, those words seemed to ring more true than what God says about me.
This has been something that has sometimes caused me to lose hope along the way and to question God’s goodness. Why did he make he the way I am? Why did he allow me to go through this?
Because I’ve been long-term single, the words of that pupil appear to describe my reality.
However, what we perceive as reality is often distorted by some of our experiences which have influenced us.
When we dwell on what others say, they can put a negative interpretation on our entire lives and influence everything that we think or do from that point forwards.
It’s important to have the correct interpretation of our lives so that we can see things clearly and from God’s perspective. This can help lift us from any sense of hopelessness.
2. Speak out God’s words in faith
Proverbs 18:21 says:
The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Words have power over our lives. When we replay negative words repeatedly and even speak them out, we agree with these words. If we constantly tell ourselves “I’ll never meet anyone” or “I’ll never get married” or “I’m ugly”, it is as if we are speaking them into being.
This allows the devil to gain a foothold to railroad our entire lives. He can use other people’s words to accuse or condemn us and to plague us with constant doubt. By entertaining those thoughts, we can begin to question God’s goodness and love for us, especially when our prayers go unanswered.
I know there have been many times that I’ve begun to resent God for the person He made me, or for the way things have turned out. It’s extremely important to take every thought captive and to draw on God’s word and not listen to the voice of others.
In order to counter these negative words, we must affirm God’s words and truth in our own lives. When we speak out words in faith, we make them into speech acts. This has the effect of speaking these words into being. By agreeing with what God says about us, eventually it can change our perspective on life as we see things from God’s perspective.
3. Don’t compare yourselves to others
I know this is easier said than done. It’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap. I’ve done it so many times myself. When we see other people easily finding relationships or having many potential suitors to choose from when we can’t even find one, we can end up miserable.
If that means avoiding social media, where everyone else seems to be living the picture perfect life, then that is also something to consider.
Even when we’re not specifically comparing ourselves to others, it can still happen. When all of our single friends have gotten married, had children and moved on, we can be left all alone with no-one to hang out with. We have to start again all from scratch with new friendships or potential relationships. In this kind of situation it’s almost impossible not to feel a sense of loss, and to also feel that God has overlooked you while he has blessed everyone else.
You feel like you’re no longer relevant to your friends or fit in with their activities. They have a new circle of friends made up of other married couples or parents, and you no longer have the same priorities or things to talk about. You also don’t want to be the odd one out.
We must fix our eyes on God and not on ourselves or others around us. He has a plan for each one of our lives which may take us on a different path to someone else.
4. Don’t allow your search for love to turn into an idol
In our search for love, we can easily and unknowingly turn that desire into an idol.
In his book Counterfeit gods, Tim Keller describes an idol as:
“…something we cannot live without… It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”
We can allow anything in our lives to become idols when they become the source of our happiness and the thing which gives us a sense of identity. Often, these are legitimate things that, in other contexts, are perfectly acceptable to want such as finding someone to love.
Unfortunately, when we allow these things to take the place of God, that’s when they become the thing we can’t live without. When we displace God as the centre of our lives, we are saying that this other thing is more important than Him – that He is not enough for us.
Another problem with making someone else into an idol is that we can then form such an idealistic picture of another person when someone does come along who shows us the slightest interest. They become our everything, and we end up putting them on a pedestal.
We end up crushing them under the weight of enormous expectation because they mean everything to us. When we’ve formed such a perfect picture of them in our minds, they can never live up to that. When they inevitably don’t, we are shattered by the disappointment.
Turning our search for love into an idol can make us come across as more desperate. That affects the way we end up relating to others. Every little thing is magnified. If someone says or does something, we read into it and wonder what it means. If they fail to do something, we scrutinise their actions under a microscope. Any little thing can send us into euphoria or make us intensely unhappy. That’s because we’re depending on them for our happiness and fulfilment.
I know from personal experience that it’s very easy to keep praying for the same thing for years on end. When I’ve not seen answers to that prayer for a relationship, it can eventually become all-consuming. Without realising, I can find that this has become the most important thing for me rather than my relationship with God.
Take a moment to check what occupies most of your prayers. If it is always about finding someone in the hope that if we could just have someone in our lives we would be happy, then it’s likely it has become an idol.
5. Do get involved in new opportunities
In the season while we’re waiting to meet someone, we should not make finding a relationship our sole pursuit. When we do that, it is then the only thing that fills our thoughts and our life and becomes an idol.
Instead, we should engage in many different activities in the meantime, not specifically for the purpose of meeting others. When we simply to do other worthwhile things, we can shift our focus off our singleness.
When we are long-term single, it’s easy to lose your confidence and self-esteem. Because you occupy that place of brokenness, people eventually begin to assume that you are naturally lacking in confidence or even competence. I know that from experience.
Sometimes, by doing or learning other things, we can regain confidence in other areas. As we do so, we can become more attractive to others in the process. For example, when we discover certain passions, other people observe these passions and are attracted them. However, when we are bored, listless and passionless, or we’re dwelling on our own insecurities, people notice that and see that we have nothing much to offer.
Sometimes we may not think they will even lead anywhere, but they may ultimately open doors where we never knew we could go.
Getting involved in other opportunities also means finding other ways to serve God while you’re still single.
6. Do give everyone a chance
In Henry Cloud’s book, How to get a date worth keeping, he discusses various strategies for dealing with singleness, as well as widening your circle of prospects.
Cloud suggests we should go out with everyone once, and sometimes more than once. What he means is that we should give everyone a chance, even if it won’t necessarily lead to anything. By doing so, we can discover more about ourselves as well as gain exposure to a greater number of people. The more people you interact with, the more likely you are to meet potential people to date.
It also helps us in our interactive skills. If we wait only until we meet the right person, we may have trouble even relating to them because we’ve not had the practice at all. That’s not to say that we should treat others like a practice run, but it’s one of the benefits that can arise from interacting with more people.
Instead of being closed to others, we should simply take it as the opportunity to be able to hear another person’s story. Everyone has something worth hearing or saying, even if it won’t necessarily lead to anything romantic.
To remind you of that key verse, Ecclesiastes 11:4 says:
“If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never plant anything and never harvest anything.” (GNB)
When we interact with more people and give others a chance, we’re sowing seeds. Now, just like the parable of the sower and the seeds in Luke 8:4-15, any number of things can happen to them. Not everything will produce a rich harvest. Some may very well fall by the wayside. But by sowing a greater number of seeds, it can help us in many ways.
Being long-term single is much like being in an ongoing wilderness. However, my hope is that the above tips will help you cope with that more easily.
>>> I’ve written here about Biblical tips for surviving a wilderness experience. Many of the principles are much the same and we can apply them equally to singleness.
Have you experienced long-term singleness? If so, how have you coped with it? What tips would you share with others on how to survive?
And if you are no longer single, did you ever experience long periods of singleness? Or did relationships always come easy to you? Do you know others who are long-term single? If so, how could you help them?
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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.