(Originally written February 2021)
“Again and again, I have people say to me, how do you handle loneliness? And I say that I can’t handle loneliness. They ask, “Well didn’t you spend a lot of time alone in the jungle?” I inevitably reply, “Yes, I did. I spent a good many more years alone than I did married.” They return, “Well how did you handle it?” To which I reply, “I didn’t. I couldn’t.”
And so if God doesn’t always remove the feelings of loneliness, it is in order that every minute of every day, perhaps, I have something to offer up to Him and say, “Lord, here it is. I can’t handle this.”
Elisabeth Elliot // Suffering is Never for Nothing (PG 84)
When it comes to loneliness, it’s something that we all have felt. I can’t speak much for the loneliness that those who are married feel, since I have never been married, but I can speak for my own loneliness. Last year (2020) I carried a heavy loneliness, as I think much of us did considering the circumstances.
I feel like God has revealed much to me over the past few months about navigating loneliness.
For me, this past year I had such an ache in my heart to have someone. I didn’t understand why it was taking SO long–like if God sees the desire that I have to be married then why has my longest serious relationship up to this point, been a month?
Sometimes, when I am sad, I avoid taking the time to process why I am feeling that way. So though I felt sad for a while I wasn’t sure why and part of me didn’t want to know the answer.
Then one day (December 2020), I had to drive to a babysitter’s certification training for foster kids, and I ended up in an area near a trail and a lake. On a whim, I parked my car, and got out into the foggy, serene day, not caring a single bit that I was getting mud all over my white shoes, nearly walking barefoot. I began to just talk out loud to God, and the more I spoke, the more layers came off, revealing what was going on inside.
My deepest longing is to love God with my life, and I was terrified that this desire to be married would stop me from full-heartedly pursuing him.
I began crying and said “God, I love you. So much. You know I want to be married, and I know that you care about the things I care about. I don’t want to be alone, and I want to have someone to partner with in loving you for the rest of my life. But God, ultimately, I want what you want for my life–and I can see how being single gives me a level of flexibility and independence that being married would not. So if my life would better serve you as a single person, then I need you to help me be satisfied with that, because right now I’m not.”
When I got down to the heart of my sadness, the tension was between my strong desire to be married running up against my desire to be satisfied with being single–if that is God’s best for my life.
Even in marriage, I could be lonely. That’s the truth–and I do not want to marry someone just to have someone. If I get married, it’s because God has given me a peace that together, this person and I, can better love God and people.
I recently finished reading a book called “Suffering is Never for Nothing” by Elisabeth Elliot. She is one of my favorite authors and missionaries. The way she describes the human experience in relation to God is so tangible. Her and her husband Jim Elliot were missionaries in Ecuador, and Jim and several other men were tragically speared to death by a local tribe before they had even spoken to them. This same tribe is where Elisabeth ended up spending the next few decades doing ministry. She has since been married two other times, and one husband died from cancer, and the other is still living.
In the quote at the beginning of this blog, she talks about the reality of loneliness so well. The line “I spent a good many more years alone than I did married” has been swirling around in my brain for weeks. Just woah. Elisabeth has made such a tremendous impact with her life—and she has been single for most of it. Being single did not mean that there was no longer a desire to be married, it just meant that she had to constantly submit that desire to God, trusting that He would give her the strength to live each day to the fullest despite her circumstances.
Elisabeth brings up the story of Amy Carmichael (another missionary), who I actually have been inspired by since I was very young, before I even knew who Elisabeth Elliot was. I have talked a lot about Amy in a past blog about my PCOS and my desire to be a mom. She spent her entire life as a single woman in India, rescuing children from temple prostitution. They called her “Amma” which means “Mother“. She also wrestled with loneliness, and sought comfort in this verse:
“None of them that trust in him shall be desolate” ~Psalm 34:22.
This encourages me deeply because it reminds me that if we’re trusting in God we are never alone. So what’s the point here? Well, first off, marriage does NOT equal the beginning of living your life as all the fairytales taught us growing up. You’re living now–so wake up and enjoy the day you’ve been given.
I know that I want to foster children, and write, and counsel and so many things! Those are the dreams that I have. I think the only thing I need to wait for, is God’s timing in how these dreams come to life, but I don’t need to wait to be married to pursue them. I turn 25 this year, which means I will finally be old enough to foster children. I don’t think I’ll be able to fully foster yet, but at the very least I want to be certified to do respite foster care. Then I want to think about what it looks like to be smart with my finances, so I can be debt free, and save towards a house that I can foster children in. I know that ideally, longterm, I cannot be renting and living with roommates to foster children.
Here are some good places to start:
- What are your dreams and desires? Pursue them!
- Is it okay to feel lonely sometimes? Yes, but pursue community!
- Can you live a full, joyful life as a single person? Heck to the yeah! So celebrate and practice gratitude for all the GOOD things in your life!
If you’re single and you want to get married, let me encourage you to give that desire to God. I can honestly say that since that honest prayer where I wept, I have experienced so much joy and contentment in being single. There are still moments where it’s hard, but ultimately life feels so FULL.
If you’re married, invite single people into your lives–just because they’re in a different stage of life doesn’t mean that they don’t need friendships with people like you. You can grow from being in relationship with one another. It’s good to surround yourself with people who are different than you.
I would love to hear from you the goods and bads for you of being single. Share in the comments below or message me on social media.
For more thoughts on singleness, check out “Single? Yeah, me too”.