A reader asked me to post about how to handle the excruciating pain of loneliness and longing for romance and marriage that sometimes comes with the territory of being single.
The holidays exacerbate the longings of single men and women – seeing other friends getting engaged and married and having children and homes of their own… It is so easy to let that good desire for a man or for marriage to turn into something all-consuming and destructive.
- How does a single woman face Christmas and New Year’s alone with no man in her life to plan around and love?
- How does a single Christian woman see the happy families and couples all around her and not fall into despair – especially when she has never had a boyfriend or a date or a kiss herself?
- How does a Christian woman with a boyfriend handle the disappointment that he has not proposed – and she is beyond ready for marriage?
- How does the Christian woman with a fiance handle the disappointment that he refuses to set a date, and it looks like marriage may never come?
How can we be content with our current circumstances when we don’t like them?
How can we have dreams of marriage and dreams for the future but still be full of joy now – even when it seems like our dreams may never be fulfilled?
THE BIBLE MENTIONS LONELINESS IN TWO PLACES
I think it is fascinating that there are two verses about loneliness in scripture.
1. God sets the lonely in families Psalm 68:6
2. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places. Luke 5:16
This tells me that God cares about those who are lonely and who long for a family. And that desiring a husband, a marriage and children is a good thing.
I LOVE the Psalms. They are a perfect place to read when you are feeling lonely (Also Jeremiah and Isaiah). They portray the widest range of human emotions – and they point to God, His sovereignty and to having a a grateful spirit regardless of circumstances.
Psalm 139 is one of my absolute favorite scripture passages! It is the one that describes how intimately God knows each of us, how He knows when we sit and when we rise, and He perceives our thoughts from afar. It is the passage that says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit?” And it is the one that says, “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” It describes how God watched our bodies being “knitted together” in our mothers’ wombs and how “all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” God knows us intimately. He wants us to draw near to Him. He wants to intimately connect with Him emotionally and spiritually.
He longs for us deeply – the way we long for romance and intimacy marriage with a man. He wants us to long for Him passionately, too.
Jesus is the ultimate Husband. He is the only one Who can fulfill all of our spiritual and emotional longings. He is the only one Who is always there and Who will NEVER disappoint or fail us. I love to read about how God’s love for us is like a husband’s love for his bride. Check out Isaiah 54 and 62 and Revelations 19:7 and chapters 21 and 22! This longing we feel to be known, to be deeply loved, to be cherished, to be provided for and protected – only Jesus can truly meet those needs perfectly – even once we are married.
Precious sister, God is sovereign over your life. He has GOOD purposes for you that are for your ultimate good and for His glory if you love Him and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28-29. I don’t know what His plans are for you. But I know that they are good in God’s eyes and that He is incapable of purposing evil towards you. I also know and trust that His timing is perfect. Even though it is SO hard to wait.
Worse than the pain of waiting on God’s timing are the painful results of my own disobedience if I run ahead and try to make things happen for myself. I promise – this is a MUCH more severe pain!
The second verse tells me that it is important to be alone to get away with God often. I need some time alone to recharge and have my time of intimacy with God. Jesus needed it when He was on earth, and I need this time away from others and all the hustle and bustle and noise, too. In fact, getting alone with God must be my highest priority! When you have God’s Spirit filling you up – He can and will give you joy, peace, patience and the riches of heaven even in difficult circumstances. When He is your everything, you truly can have peace even as you hurt and ache. It is a peace and joy that passes all understanding.
Although I didn’t experience the loneliness of being single and wishing for a man and marriage and a husband and family for many years the way that some of you have – I do understand the excruciating pain of loneliness and of crushed dreams (You can read more at the bottom if you want to). I know the pain of being married and thinking that every chance I had for fulfillment and happiness has disappeared and that there may be no hope for me to ever be happy again. I thought I was sentenced to live in isolation and loneliness for the rest of my life, that apparently the marriage of my dreams would never be a reality.
I think that the way to handle loneliness is going to be very similar whether you are single and have never had a date or whether you are married with a seemingly hostile, unplugged and/or unloving husband.
1. IDENTIFY ANY IDOLS
I had made my husband and marriage into idols in my heart. BIG idols.
I think a lot of single women do this too. We set our hearts on marriage as the solution to all of our problems. We think, “If I could just be married, I would be happy!” We think that a man will fix all of our problems and give us the fulfillment and love we long for so deeply.
The problem with idols is – they don’t satisfy. God won’t allow me to be satisfied with idols. Thankfully! In His mercy, He will only allow me to find contentment and satisfaction in Christ. Idolatry always causes fear, discontentment, worry, loneliness, anxiety, exhaustion and a feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed.
If I am making something more important in my life than knowing and loving Jesus – I am dealing with an idol. For more on idolatry, check out this post. For specifics on making marriage and weddings an idol, read here.
Anything can be an idol – even good things. If I want it more than I want to be close to Jesus – that is where I get myself in big trouble.
The desire to have a man in your life, to have romance and a boyfriend is good.
The desire to get married and have a home and family are good desires.
The problem is when we start to covet what we don’t have. That is sin in and of itself. And then when we start to idolize feeling loved by a man, having a boyfriend, having a diamond ring, getting married, having a wedding, having a husband… If we set our hearts on these goals above loving Jesus – it is a recipe for disaster – guaranteed.
2. CLING TO CHRIST
Ultimately, no man can give me all that I want and need. Ultimately, only Jesus can give me the love, acceptance, security, safety and happily ever after that I long for. I have to get alone with Him and decide to seek Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. I have to put Him first and tear down any idol or sin that would interfere with my spiritual and emotional intimacy with Jesus.
When I see that I am jealous of what others have, or I see that I am wallowing in self-pity or that I am sinking into despair, depression and loneliness – I must set my heart and eyes squarely on Jesus alone and stop depending on my circumstances to “make me happy”. My joy must come from within from Jesus living in me – not from my situation.
Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (other things we need in life, food and clothing) will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
I take every thought captive. I examine each thought in light of scripture. I toss out the sinful and ungodly thoughts and lies and I allow Him to renew my heart and mind with biblical truths and I meditate on those.
Dark thoughts come to us in lonely times. Horrible thoughts. Things like:
- no one will ever love me.
- I must not be pretty enough
- I’ll never have a boyfriend/husband
- no one wants me
- live isn’t worth living if it is going to be like this
- what is wrong with me?
- I’m worthless
Those thoughts are NOT from God!!!!! If the enemy can get us to meditate on these awful, self-defeating thoughts – we will be paralyzed in God’s kingdom. Look up what God says about you! Meditate on that! Spend REAL time in God’s Word DAILY. Hunger for His Word. Thirst for His presence. Lay your heart completely open before Him and give yourself totally and without reservation to Him. Continually submit your entire life to Jesus. Read Psalm 139 to start and Romans 8 and 12. Read Philippians 4. Read about Joseph’s life in Genesis 37, 39-45 to see his attitude during severe suffering and loneliness and how God’s sovereignty was at work. We are more than conquerors through Christ! Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Rejoice in the Lord always. Think on the good things God has given you.
3. DIE TO SELF
I lay down my desires, my will, my rights, my wants, my plans, my goals, my dreams, my wisdom, my time table and all of myself on the altar before my Lord. I yield myself completely to Him in total submission. I allow Him to remove any sin or anything in my heart that offends His holiness.
I take off the old sinful self and crucify it and nail it to the cross.
I have desires and dreams – but I lay them down before Jesus and am willing to part with them if it is what He thinks is best. I hold my dreams and plans loosely and allow Him to give and take into my life according to His wisdom.
4. LIVE FOR CHRIST
And then I begin to live for His will, His purpose, His glory, His wisdom, His timing, His dreams, His goals and He fills me with His power to do just that. I can’t wait to get in His Word and spend time with Him. I long to know Him more. I want Him more than ANYTHING on earth!
To live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21
5. EMBRACE WAITING AND EVEN SUFFERING IF IT IS GOD’S WILL
I seriously used to be the most impatient person ever. I knew what I thought in about 2 seconds, and I expected my husband to give me his answers in 2 seconds, also. If he was working on a project, I wanted him to get it done NOW. Like – in a few hours. Now – I have learned to be content when answers take weeks or months and when projects take years. I’m good with waiting now – that is a total God thing. I understand the importance of waiting and that when I run ahead of God – I make a HUGE, AWFUL mess!
As women, our timetable tends to be – NOW.
- I want a boyfriend now.
- I want to get engaged now.
- I want to get married now.
- I want my wedding now.
- I want to own a house now.
- I want a great job now.
- I want a baby now.
In general, we HATE WAITING. I sure did!
The problem is – men operate on a totally different timetable than we do. It is MUCH S-L-O-W-E-R.
And God’s timetable is often even slower than a man’s timetable is!
I think that is on purpose.
We have to learn to wait and be content in the waiting.
God has so much to teach us in the waiting. To learn about how Waiting Becomes Sweet, read here!
God also counts suffering and trials as blessings. He uses them to refine us, cleanse us, mature us and equip us. James 1, I Peter, Romans 5:3, Romans 8. He does not give us easy lives. Easy = we are spoiled, weak, selfish and immature. He will give us difficult things so that we will be forced to depend on Him and learn and grow. What a blessing! What a GOOD God we have!
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take (the thorn in my flesh) away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. FOr when I am weak, then I am strong. II Corinthians 12:8-10
6. PRAISE GOD ALL DAY LONG
The Lord inhabits the praises of His people.
Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19
7. DEVELOP A THANKFUL SPIRIT
Memorize Philippians 4:4-8 and practice looking at life through that filter.
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18
8. FOCUS ON SERVING GOD AND OTHERS
For me, one of the BEST ways to get out of self-pity and loneliness is to go out and serve those in need. It’s impossible to be depressed and lonely when you see the joy of giving to others and how much it means to them. I am blessed when I give of myself to other people and when I serve God and don’t allow myself the luxury of wallowing in depression and self-pity
9. DEVELOP A GODLY, FEMININE SPIRIT
Focus on developing and praying for that beautiful gentle, peaceful spirit that does not give way to fear. Read about godly femininity. Check out some resources like these:
For Women Only by Shuanti Feldhahn for a greater understanding of masculinity
His Brain, Her Brain by Dr. Walt Larimore MD for an intricate look at the differences God created in the male and female minds and brain chemistry
Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley is an incredible look at the origins and history of feminism and how much it has impacted the church, our culture, womanhood, manhood, marriage and the family. This book will help you begin to discover God’s design for godly femininity.
Absorb and learn everything you can.
10. DEVELOP GODLY FRIENDSHIPS
Find some godly Christian women to hang out with who will sharpen you and pray with you.
Find a godly older Christian woman to mentor you and to talk with and learn from.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
What have you found helps when you are facing loneliness, discontentment and a deep longing for unfulfilled dreams?
I pray that You might help us to embrace the seasons of waiting. Help us to trust You and Your timing. Help us to praise You as we wait. Help us to focus on serving You as we wait. Help us to savor You and desire You more and more. Help us to want You more than anything else – MUCH MORE – than anything else on earth. Renew our minds. Fill our hearts with Your praises. Let us practice living in gratitude and thanking You for all that You have given to us. Help us to slow down and not run ahead. Help us to be sensitive to Your voice and listen to Your direction. Help us to truly live with You as Lord of all and desire Your will and Your plans more than our own. Help us to be content with all You have given us.
In the Name and power of Christ,
FOR THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED…… WHY AM I QUALIFIED TO TALK ABOUT LONELINESS????
I met my husband when I was 15 and dated him for 6 years and got married when I was 21. I have been married 18.5 years. I can’t possibly know the pain of loneliness, right?
In case you are wondering…. Here is how I know:
A DEEP, DARK SECRET ABOUT MARRIAGE
Here’s something you may not know. I sure didn’t know it before I got married – and it shocked the fool out of me when I discovered it for myself.
Marriage does not cure loneliness.
Sometimes marriage CAUSES loneliness – an even worse loneliness than the loneliness of being single. Especially if I have made marriage or my husband an idol.
Marriage reveals my sinfulness – my pride, my selfishness, my idols and forces me to have to turn to God out of sheer desperation.
Marriage reveals my husband’s sinfulness in ways I may never have seen before we were married. I cannot escape the fact that he is a sinner. I WILL be sinned against – a lot. Am I prepared to deal with that?
See, I thought that once I was married to Greg – all my loneliness would completely disappear. I thought I would always be happy. I thought I would never have to say goodbye to the man of my dreams again and that we would have emotional and physical intimacy every day forever and ever amen.
For me – the loneliness in my marriage set in quickly, and it was oppressive. I had NEVER experienced the degree and despair of loneliness before I was married that I did afterwards. Before I was married, I had my parents around for support. I had my twin sister as my roommate at college. I had two other great girl friends who were also roommates in college. I had other friends. I had support running out of my ears. Plus I had my boyfriend/fiance and we would talk for an hour every night.
As I would go to sleep every night for years before we got married – I would imagine being married and being with Greg – and I would pin all my hopes on marriage and think to myself how, “When I am married, I will never be lonely again. I will always feel loved. I will always have romance. I will always feel wonderful.” I thought of marriage as the solution to every problem. I thought marriage would be super easy for us. We had never really had any major conflicts when we were dating – why wouldn’t it continue to be as easy as it was when we were dating?
Truthfully, marriage was a HUGE idol for me.
So were my enormous expectations.
PRIDE COMES BEFORE A FALL
I thought I was SO ready to get married. I thought we would never have conflicts and problems like other couples. I was VERY prideful.
I can’t go into all of the details. But a week after Greg and I were married – a LOT of things began to go very wrong. I sprained my back badly. We didn’t have a place of our own to live. It took Greg 7 years to find an engineering job in town. He and his dad began working on renovating a house for us every night until after midnight, sometimes until 1:00am 6 nights per week for the first 3 months of our marriage. There were major communication breakdowns and several other massive conflicts.
I laid on my back in bed every day for weeks, unable to move, unable to put on my own shoes, unable to get out of bed by myself - and I cried and cried. I cried all day every day. When Greg got home after working at his 40 hour per week job and working on fixing up the house for us to live in – I tried to talk to him. He would not look at me. He would not kiss me goodnight. He would turn away from me, lay down and go to sleep. I was in utter emotional and spiritual torment. I didn’t understand what had happened to the wonderful guy I had dated for 6 years. He barely touched me for months.
I don’t regret at all that I saved myself sexually for him. Our honeymoon was glorious. And there were times later that were much better. But that summer was extremely difficult.
I was 100% SURE that somehow he hated me and didn’t love me anymore. I was 100% sure that he was rejecting me on every level. If I didn’t know Jesus, I would have left – if I could have figured out where to go. I had NEVER experienced such pain, such isolation, such rejection and such loneliness. I didn’t dare tell my friends or my sister how awful my life was. I had no where to turn for godly help. I knew nothing about being a godly wife. I had no books to turn to, no godly older wife, no counselor. I sank into despair. I had no idea that marriage could be so lonely. I felt completely betrayed. This wasn’t what I had signed up for! I was so afraid that it was going to just be like this forever. How could I ever live with such a horrible life? (Wow – do I wish I knew then what I know now about God, about myself, about marriage, about His design)
Now I know that my husband DID love me during that awful summer. He never stopped loving me. But he was overwhelmed and had never been a husband before. He was trying to make the best decisions. He was beyond exhausted. He knew that he would hurt me if he tried to be intimate with me. He had never seen me so hysterical and thought if he just ignored my awful behavior I would be better in a few days. I wasn’t.
I became extremely disrespectful and uncooperative immediately. My husband didn’t know what to do with me. He shut down. I upped my volume and my disrespect more and more, trying to get his attention. I had never not had my way before. I was spoiled and selfish and didn’t even know it.
We were completely unprepared.
Things got a bit better after the house was done. But there were still SO MANY times where I felt rejected, unloved and completely alone in the world after I was married. I had never experienced that as a twin growing up! It was more than I thought I could bear sometimes.
OTHER VERY LONELY TIMES
There were MANY, MANY nights when Greg watched tv and I felt invisible, ignored, unloved and totally unimportant in Greg’s life. I felt I came way behind tv and sports. I spent a lot of nights crying in loneliness during our earlier years of marriage.
But the worst time was the year and a half when I was nursing our 2nd child around the clock every 2-3 hours – she was sick SO much that I wasn’t able to sleep train her the way I had our son. And Greg was working on renovating the house we had bought when our baby was a few months old. He was working 6 days per week on the house with his dad (again) for a year and a half. They worked until midnight every night. They had 40 hour per week jobs, too. They did a really amazing job. But working that much was such a strain on our marriage.
I was EXTREMELY sleep deprived – only slept in 30 minute increments most nights, and only for 2-4 hours a lot of those nights. I was trying to work 21 hours per week as a pharmacist and take care of our 5 year old son and infant girl and I was sick a lot, she was sick a lot. I almost never saw Greg. During that time – I became increasingly disrespectful (sleep deprivation and illness and extreme stress will do that for ya if you aren’t careful!) and Greg became increasingly distant. He barely looked at me again, barely touched me. Didn’t seem to care what I wanted or felt or said. I was beyond nervous breakdown mode by the end of that year and a half. Thankfully, soon after that – we had a huge break through and I began to see my sin and started on this journey of learning about respect and biblical submission.
THERE IS HOPE
The past four years of our 18.5 years of marriage have been my favorite BY FAR. I am so thankful for God’s willingness to open my blind eyes and teach me His ways. And I am so thankful for the intimacy and connection my husband enjoy now. It was not always this way. But even when my husband is busy or watching football and I barely see him or he isn’t talking much for days – I am content. I have my JESUS with me. And as long as I have Him – I am GOOD!
With God – all things are truly possible!