Recently, I wrote an article clarifying the theology of singleness and marriage as well as challenging the church in America to adapt to the rise of singles in their membership. Today’s post will come from personal experience and will discuss how individuals and families can better care for singles as they live together in community with them.
The story that I am living is very different than the one I would have penned. I can honestly say that the story God wanted to write for me has exceeded every expectation I could have for my life. However, living as a “prolonged single adult” in a Christian world that often idolizes marriage and family can sometimes be a lonely place.
One of Satan’s most effective strategies is to convince us that we are isolated and alone. If he can plant that seed in our hearts, it can take root quicker than most any other lie. God has surrounded me with an amazing community of people who seek to understand and support me in every area of life, including prolonged singleness. Here are some practical tips for loving single people with excellence, lessons I’ve learned through true life experiences:
Pray for your single friends.
Spend time with them so that you can know how they are struggling and how you can pray specifically. Ask them hard questions. Be transparent with them. Spend time praying together. Single people may not have people who pray with them regularly. Be available.
One of Satan’s most effective strategies is to convince us that we are isolated and alone.
Give lots of hugs.
Some single people go days and even weeks without meaningful touch. Newsflash: they probably aren’t going to ask you for a hug. In fact, a safe rule is hug them unless they have asked you not to and continue to give them hugs until they ask you to stop. Without traveling down a slippery slope of disrespecting appropriate personal space, I’d like to just make a general appeal to increase the amount that you hug your single friends.
Think before you speak.
Well-meaning married people sometimes say the strangest things to singles. Please avoid Christian dating platitudes such as:
- “Mr. Right will come when you least expect it.”
- “My aunt’s, husband’s, best friend’s, mother has a son about your age who isn’t married yet. Y’all should totally meet!”
- “Didn’t you want to have your own kids?”
- “Why are you still single?”
- “God has someone very special picked out for you.”
- And my personal favorite, “Maybe God has a few more things to teach you before he brings you a husband.”
Really, has God taught all married people everything they need to know before they get married?
May I offer you a few alternatives? Choose theologically sound encouragement, practice the ministry of presence and encourage your friends with the truth of scripture. Validate their struggles but offer truth and hope as opportunity arises. Marriage is not a promise that God has granted to everyone, so realize the damage that can be done when you tell a young lady it is only a matter of time before her prince comes.
Well-meaning married people sometimes say the strangest things to singles.
Take care of your people.
As I typed this article, Hurricane Florence was hurtling toward the Carolina coast. I live in Raleigh, but I am currently out of town. My house is in a floodplain and uncomfortably close to a river. Several families reached out to me to see if there was anything they could do to help prepare my house for the storm. I can’t explain how wonderful it is not to have to ask for help — because someone cared enough to reach out.
Be proactive to take care of your single friends. Don’t always wait for them to ask you for help. Take it from me, they will usually need help with something, so offer before they ask. Yes, friendships are give and take. Your single friends are more than likely willing to bless your family by serving you in a unique way, too.
Sidenote to singles: We don’t get off the hook here. We have to be vulnerable and make our physical and emotional needs known. I am a pro at talking myself out of asking for help. Everyone I know is really busy, and I never want to be a burden to my friends. Sometimes I think about the story of the boy who cried wolf. What if I use up all of my lifelines, overdraft my favors, only to really need help one day…what will I do then? True friendship doesn’t keep tabs on requests. This is a lie from the enemy. In fact, scripture encourages us to carry each other’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
Find ways to incorporate singles into your madness.
I appreciate having an open invitation places, but sometimes I’d prefer a specific invitation. Many of my married friends think, “Who would want to come watch my child’s _______ (fill in the blank with various options)?” When, in fact, I’d love to! I grew up playing youth league sports, marching in the band, and participating in community events. Even today, I actually enjoy going to watch these kinds of things. Don’t assume that your single friends don’t want to participate. Ask them and leave the decision up to them.
Intentionally pursue friendships with single people.
There shouldn’t be lonely people in our churches. Megan Hill wrote in Identity Theft, “Belonging to Christ means that we also belong to everyone else who belongs to him.” Our tendency is to spend the majority of our time with people like us. May I challenge you to spend time with people different from you? Single people have a tendency to spend extensive time in solitude. They rarely have anyone’s undivided attention. In a recent blog, Ed Stetzer encouraged people to be intentional. “We always want to make sure those who have historically felt invisible instead feel loved, seen, and heard.”
Of course, marital status is not a true representation of relational satisfaction. Let’s not pretend that the enemy only uses the tactic of loneliness to isolate single people. As we live in community with other believers, seek out people who are different from you. Chances are, you can learn something new.
This list is not exhaustive, but now is the time to start new conversations so you can encourage and include the unmarried people in your lives. Evaluate how you can do better, and then take steps of obedience.