Today, I Am Lonely.

“The only cure for grief is a pill called grief. And you have to take your medicine to get better. “-David James Duncan

I just got back from a tour to Oregon and Washington. I led a women’s retreat, taught at churches, and played some house shows. I slept on seven beds in ten days. Hence the blog silence. (For more about what I do for a living, go to my website katehurley.com)

Tours are usually wonderful. I get to travel, do what I love to do, see people’s lives change, visit people that are dear to me. I forget for a while that I don’t have a regular family and I get lost at the wonder of the strange, all over the world family that I do have.

But today I am home.

And today, I am lonely.

Maybe it is that damn website that I went on this morning. When suggesting a password question, it said things like “The place you and your spouse met” or “The name of the maid of honor in your wedding” or “You first child’s birthday.”  I inevitably had to choose “The name of your first cat.” Even if Samone was the best cat in the world, she’s still a friggin’ cat.

Maybe it is that I am working alone for the next few months, trying to figure out what the heck I am doing with my music and ministry next, which is a regular pattern. I love my job at times, but I don’t like how unstable I feel on a regular basis.  I work alone for a few weeks booking music and teaching opportunities, and then I travel alone. The theme here is alone. No team, no partner. I really don’t like working that way. I have had many wonderful journeys because of my job, but they are almost always journeys I walk by myself.

Maybe it is that I have no idea what to put on my phone’s screen saver.  I guess a mountain or something.

Maybe it is that I visited my dear friend Aimee in Oregon. She and I and my other dear friend Kate went through many years of the ups and downs of singleness together. We laughed and wept together. A year and a half  ago, while I was living with Aimee and Kate, they both got engaged the same week. Do you know what was happening in my love life at the time? My boyfriend of two and a half years and I were breaking up.

I was truly, honestly, 100% happy for them. But I was also about 64% sad for myself.

It’s a year and half later. They are both married to absolutely wonderful men.  And they are deliriously happy in their marriages. In my heart of hearts* I am so glad that they share this with me and don’t hide it. I am so glad I don’t hear for the umpteenth time that marriage is so so difficult and that I should appreciate my singleness and that marriage is, as one friend told me “like death.” In fact, on this trip, Aimee said to me that marriage was the best thing she has ever done.

I am 100% happy for her. But I am 76% sad for myself. (My  rule is that the empathy quotient on my singleness frustration is allowed to go up 8% a year.)

Maybe it’s that I walked by a little girl and her mother in the park yesterday, laughing and playing. I ached to have a child, like the prophet Jeremiah said, as if there was a “fire down in my bones.” This happens often when I hear children laugh nowadays.

Maybe it’s that all four roommates in my new house have been on a date since we moved in a month ago. I have not had a date in 1.5 years.

I am 39% happy for them and 82% sad for myself. (I know. Not my normal compassion quotient, but I’m having a bad day, people.)

In an article called “My Secret Grief: Over 35, Single, and Childless” by Melanie Notkin, the author says  “This type of grief, grief that is not accepted or that is silent, is referred to as disenfranchised grief. It’s the grief you don’t feel allowed to mourn, because your loss isn’t clear or understood. You didn’t lose a sibling or a spouse or a parent. But losses that others don’t recognize can be as powerful as the kind that is socially acceptable.”

This sadness, this disenfranchised grief, is what I feel on a semi regular basis. I have not lost a child, but I have never had a child. I have not lost a marriage, but I have never had a lover.

It’s a strange kind of grief, because people don’t often understand it as a loss. It is not socially accepted as a loss. There is not a lot of empathy for it.

It is a loss that is subtle yet constant, like when you suddenly notice birds singing even though they were singing all along.  That’s the kind of loss I am feeling today. Suddenly, I hear my heart aching. A heart that has been quietly seeping out sadness for a long time.

Here’s the part where I say that despite my pain, I am thankful for my singleness.

Here’s the part where I say that married people are lonely too.

Here’s the part where I say that there is a God shaped vacuum in me that only He can fill. (oh wait. That’s not in the Bible. Dang.)

Sorry friends, I’m not going there today.

Today, I am going to have compassion on myself and know that I am experiencing a true, deep loss. Even if it is a “disenfranchised loss” it is a grief that is real and painful.  I don’t have to explain it away or justify it.

Today, I am going to let myself cry.

Today, I am probably going to eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s. (They should make a flavor called I’m Lonely And I Need Ice Cream. Who knows how many millions of dollars those guys have made during our bouts of sadness.)

Tomorrow, it will be wise for me to wake up, take a shower, have coffee with some friends, eat a salad, and remember that my life is still beautiful. If I don’t choose to have a balance, I will get really depressed.

I don’t want to be stuck in this grief on a constant basis. I need to allow myself to have moments of sadness and moments of gratitude. Moments of longing for a family and moments of building a different kind of family. A ying and a yang. (Because ying ying is not a healthy way to live. It is the name of a panda bear.)

But today, I am going to let myself grieve.

Today, I am lonely. And that is okay.

*Side note: where the heck is your heart of hearts? Is that a medical term? Because it sounds sketchy to me.

SPEAKING OF ME PLAYING AND TEACHING: I am teaching and leading worship at a wonderful women’s event called Uniquely Made  April 20 and 21 in Denver. If you are in the area, we are really needing more people to sign up to make it happen.  I’d love for you to come so I can meet you!

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56 thoughts on “Today, I Am Lonely.

  1. I say yes to all of this. I’ve thought before about how disenfranchised grief relates to singleness. (I’ll head over to read the article you linked to next.) It’s so important that we take time to grieve or feel whatever we need to feel, even when we can’t articulate our emotions. If we stuff it down, it’ll come out in ways we don’t anticipate and sometimes with consequences. Lonely days happen and it doesn’t negate the silver linings we find in being single. It simply is and that’s OK too.

  2. As a 41-y.o. guy in the same boat, I say go ahead.

    As a proud Southern, Virginia boy, I say for the Ben & Jerry’s, try the Boston Cream Pie. It doesn’t solve anything, but it gets you through the tough day.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this and not censoring your feelings. I’m only 23, but I’m certainly familiar with disenfranchised grief, which may come up this weekend when I attend the wedding of two of my eight engaged friends. “100 percent happy for them, but 64% sad for myself” describes the feeling perfectly.

  4. Good for you. Not feeling like you need to come to some kind of upbeat, positive conclusion to “redeem” your sadness. Sometimes we simply feel sad. There’s nothing we can do about it or about why we feel sad. I know you’ll have good days too, but it’s important to allow yourself the freedom to face reality and grieve.

  5. Ironically enough, I just checked my daily Bible reading and it includes Psalm 88, which is a psalm of unmitigated darkness and sorrow. Apparently it’s the only one that doesn’t end in some kind of praise or positive affirmation. Interesting!

  6. I think it’s wonderful and helpful that you were willing to be so transparent here, because I know it’s how a lot of single people feel at some point (or a lot, depending on the person) and they need to know they’re not the only ones. To put words on the loss – I think it’s the loss of dreams and expectations. The loss even of hope, sometimes. The loss of what you planned, but with no new plan to take it’s place. I’m sorry you’re sad today, but I do understand. I haven’t been in that place for many years (I don’t have hopes or expectations anymore), but it’s still something I can related to. Thanks for sharing so honestly. 🙂

  7. The pain of childlessness as a single is not something that is addressed much, and yet I agree it is oh so real. For a long time I didn’t know quite how to identify it let alone how to respond to it.

    About a month ago I was challenged to get back into the habit of memorizing whole passages of scripture and began praying about where God would have me dwell for an extended length of time as my schedule’s busy enough that I knew progress would be slow. I was drawn to Isaiah 54 and in reading to a passage originally spoken to Israel, it was as though God was saying to me that He knows my pain(and it has a name), my shame and my fears.
    We am allowed to feel, but the response and who I am does not have to be dictated by it.

    Grieve. Mourn. Be sad for today.

    …..but then get up and sing, cry aloud. Do not Spare or hold back anything in reserve.

    Isaiah 54 (NKJV)
    54 “Sing, O barren, You who have not borne!
    Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, You who have not labored with child!
    For more are the children of the desolate
    Than the children of the married woman,” says the LORD.
    2 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
    And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings;
    Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, And strengthen your stakes.
    3 For you shall expand to the right and to the left,
    And your descendants will inherit the nations,
    And make the desolate cities inhabited.
    4 “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
    Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame;
    For you will forget the shame of your youth,
    And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.
    5 For your Maker is your husband,
    The LORD of hosts is His name;
    And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
    He is called the God of the whole earth.
    6 For the LORD has called you
    Like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit,
    Like a youthful wife when you were refused,” Says your God.
    7 “For a mere moment I have forsaken you,
    But with great mercies I will gather you.
    8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
    But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”
    Says the LORD, your Redeemer.
    9 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;
    For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
    So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
    10 For the mountains shall depart And the hills be removed,
    But My kindness shall not depart from you,
    Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
    Says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
    11 “O you afflicted one,
    Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
    Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
    And lay your foundations with sapphires.
    12 I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
    Your gates of crystal,
    And all your walls of precious stones.
    13 All your children shall be taught by the LORD,
    And great shall be the peace of your children.
    14 In righteousness you shall be established;
    You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
    And from terror, for it shall not come near you.
    15 Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me.
    Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake.
    16 “Behold, I have created the blacksmith
    Who blows the coals in the fire,
    Who brings forth an instrument for his work;
    And I have created the spoiler to destroy.
    17 No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
    And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
    You shall condemn.
    This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
    And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the LORD.

      • I was just reading through this again and forgot to mention that I am writing an album that are all songs from God- promises from his perspective as if he were singing them- and this is one of my songs! “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed yet my unfailing love for you will not be shake.” It’s called I will not walk away. This is one of my all time favorite passages of scripture.

  8. Thank you thank you thank you!!!

    I am single in my thirties as well, and have many dear friends and family members married in my life as well.

    I am, more accurately, divorced, so I am QUITE aware of what the “fairy tale” looks like on the other side when reality hits. This complicates my feelings even more. Not only do I deeply desire a relationship, but I’m also quite aware of how my own desire can turn against me and fail me. So I desire something everyone wants, that is supposed to be good, and that is supposed to be so natural, normal and good. And yet, I feel like if marriage is a Christmas present, it is like opening a Christmas package that could have anything in it from the Hope Diamond to a pipe bomb.

    To complicate it all, I have a very dear family member who is married but has very ambiguous feelings about being married. Whenever I try to tell her my feelings about being single, even though I am QUITE aware due to my own horrible and lengthy divorce about realities versus romantic fantasies, she feels compelled to tell me that being single is great, so much fun, she has litterally used the words that being single is “glamorous and selfish”. I understand that she is dealing with the disenchantment of her own married reality. But this does not help. It merely tells me that the pain and grief I have experienced over being alone are invalid, unimportant and wrong. It tells me that my heart’s desire is a fraud and a cruel joke being played on me by a whimsical God. I wish I could help her be happier and have a more happy marriage. But I can’t.

    But the truth is that God honors my desires and dreams, even when other people cannot. God honors this desire, and that is the thing to remember. And you are right, Kate, to be reminded by happily married people that being married CAN be good and joyful and is NOT always a “death”. I have known plenty of very happily married people, including my own parents, who are part of the reason I so desire marriage. Don’t lose sight of that.

    I had recently been crying out to the Lord with the Bible verse that says “Hope defered makes the heart grow sick.” I was crying out and telling him that my hope was deferred and my heart had grown sick. I prayed for a sign from him and he gave to me the second half of the same Bible verse “But the desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” I took this to mean that he is looking after the desires of my heart and wants me to be happy. And that when he fulfills my heart it will bring life and joy, and not disappointment. I can look forward to a future mate without fear, while enjoying the present blessing of singleness that the Lord is giving me.

    • Rebecca thank you for sharing! You are my friend from Redding, right? This was so well written….I loved the part about the Christmas present. In fact, could I use it in my book? And the second half of that desire of your heart verse is so interesting. We always skip that part. I wonder why?

      You have a great wealth of understanding in that you have been married, divorced and single. Your voice is important and your feelings are valid. I’m so glad you are a part of our discussion. And it’s totally all right for you to have the feelings you are feeling.

      • Hey thanks, Kate! Yes you can quote me. And thanks for your note of encouragement here and in your blog. Most things in life are complicated. Blessings and challenges are often mixed, so it is ok to just trust in God and rest in him while dealing with things. Another word the Lord gave me about singleness was how Adam fell asleep before the Lord made his spouse. This has been allowing me to be in a season of rest while I wait.

  9. Oh, how I feel this. Thank you.

    I was in 2 weddings last year, bridesmaiding for two younger friends. This year will be my younger sister’s wedding. I helped set up the engagement…her fiance had printed out such lovely photos of all of their “firsts”, and wanted them hung interspersed with blank sheets that were placeholders for “our future firsts”–“our first child” “our first house” “our first hip replacements”. And while I was and am so happy for them, so willing to celebrate with them, at the same time I mourn those firsts that I am missing, and may never have.

    And the mourning doesn’t feel acceptable, you’re right. It feels like I have to remain silent about in so many ways.

    Thank you for giving voice to it.

  10. I feel your pain. I’m going to be 39 this year and I’m still single. It’s a pain that rises up like an ugly beast sometimes and seeks to conquer our souls, despite our “look at me being happy and single and carefree” tours or weeks or moments where we are kick-butt females (or males). It’s a pain that hides behind our skin and we live with it every day so it’s easy to forget. But then those times when it pops out and surprises us anew, it can take our breath away.

    You’ve already touched on everything there is to say about the things people tell us to comfort us (my favorite from books being that God is obviously working on issues with me–how many issues can I possibly have?!) that don’t. So all I can say is that it’s healthy to let yourself grieve when these moments arrive. I’ve been there. Sometimes you have to acknowledge the pain.

    And yet, once when I was feeling this very thing, I wrote a poem. I feel it describes my life in some ways and my hopes and dreams. I share it with you here, as maybe it will offer some comfort that my words seem to fail to provide right now. Take it for what you will.

    In the Eye of the Wind

    “Western wind, when wilt thou blow,
    the small rain down can rain?
    Christ, that my love were in my arms,
    and I in my bed again.”
    ~Anonymous

    I am a sailor
    traveling on the seas of life
    alone.
    I raise my own sails,
    I steer my own course,
    and every day I long to find the land
    where you are at the dock
    waiting for me.
    If only I could find
    the right star
    to guide me to you,
    the right wind
    to blow me home.

  11. Totally hear you. “Disenfranchised grief” – yup, that’s the name of it. Thanks for sharing, for giving it voice, for being honest and transparent, for allowing me to feel not so alone in my aloneness 🙂

  12. Amen sister I know where your coming from its a grief no one understands and no one wants to voice because the pity is unbearable ….. its sad to know others share this although its heartening that I’m not alone 🙂

  13. Amen sister I completely understand every point of this I live far from my family and friends so bad days are made slightly worse but I find the good in it and remember to everything there is a season and that when its my turn I will know huge joy in his time sometimes though I get impatient and want it know but it reminds me that maybe I still having growing to do before it my turn but its sad and heartening at the same time to know that I’m not alone in this grief. 🙂

  14. Today. What a day to read this post. Today my job is hard and I cannot. Today my emotions are broken and I am weary. Today I long for someone to comfort me in this weary, discouraged (and sick to boot state). Today I am lonely. And today. I need my Jesus. I need to be lost in dreams of my heavenly wedding day (yes, Casting Crowns!) Today I will grieve, tonight I will rest, for He promises to give His beloved sleep, tomorrow I will count my blessings and Monday I will look forward with fresh eyes, for His mercies are new every morning. Thank you for writing about – today.

  15. Well at least you have a healthy perspective on grieving. I tell my friends whenever it happens that they need to let it out and then they will feel a lot better!
    As for where your heart of hearts is, well if its not a rhetorical question I would have to say your spirit which is the deepest part of us anyway. Keep writing- you are interesting and have a lot of good things to say, but I think you know this…

  16. I mourn the loss of a spouse more than the loss of kids–not that I don’t ADORE kids–but the thought of pregnancy and labor kind of scares me to death. But, I do think you go through the full grieving process as a single person who wants a family, and you do it without the support that accompanies physical loss. People don’t tell you how to go out and fix it if you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, but that’s exactly what they do when you’re grieving the lack of one. Especially, for some reason, the people that love you most. I guess they don’t know how to be supportive maybe, or they don’t want to face how much it hurts someone they love. It’s like, you can cry for 5 minutes, but then if you’re not willing to hear suggestions on how to go find someone, I’m going to turn away from you until you pull yourself together (sometimes literally). We’re allowed to get down, but not to grieve. Not that we live in a constant state of grief, mind you. But, it’s really frustrating when you finally get up the guts to let someone else see you in that vulnerable place and they can’t take it.
    I get the fact that people find it hard to see us grieving over something that may have a solution someday in the future, but don’t deny me the right to grieve for today. And, to be totally frank, I might still be in the same place tomorrow, even if I did sign up for the umpteen websites, activity groups, seminary classes, etc. that my loved ones suggest whenever I start sharing my grief. I realize they don’t want to see me hurting, but the result is that I feel like they’re not seeing me. Which sends the subliminal, and I’m sure fully unintentional message: stop hurting or keep it to yourself.
    I found a huge source of relief and a lot of healing and greater intimacy in my relationship with the Lord when I started giving myself permission to mourn without feeling guilty.

  17. Kate, thank you for writing this! This is how I feel alot of times, I’m almost 27 and I know it’s not 30s but the word that I have felt the past couple years is grieving and an aching and what I could not fully express, you wrote out what I’ve been feeling. I’m so thankful! Please keep writing, it is awesome and encouraging:) Lord bless you!

  18. Thank you, Kate, for writing from your heart. It is so good to hear your feelings, even in light of knowing all the platitudes. As a woman who is married, it’s hard for me to bring anything like this up. I always wonder if my single friends are grieving or are experiencing the fact that life is abundant in Christ without a spouse. In fact, I tend to assume that they need to be reminded that in Christ, they have fullness of life, without our sub-culture’s focus on the family as the fulfillment of all our needs.
    It’s good to be reminded that both can co-exist in a person.

    Your words are not only balm to the hearts of other grieving people, but very helpful to teach me the complexities of life as a sexy celibate. So, can you tell me, how would you like to be asked about this? Would you be offended sometimes if a married friend asked if you were grieving not being married, or not having children? To me, asking that seems offensive, because it’s assuming that someone needs to be married to be happy. (Assume that I’m not going asking everyone I meet, but will keep the question to appropriate situations!)

    • Thanks Kara, you always write such thoughtful comments. I like the way you put it- that our knowledge of the fullness of Christ and our desire for a family aren’t always opposite of each other, sometimes they live right there in the same heart. That dichotomy is something I live with on a pretty regular basis….often vacillating between being content and not being content.

      I feel honored by your question.I think asking if we are grieving over being single is a kind thing to do. I wouldn’t think you were insinuating anything if you simply said “Do you ever grieve not being married?” that would open up a good conversation, I don’t see anything there that would be offensive. Another good way to approach it would be to say “You know, I’ve been married for a long time and I’d really love to learn some of what you go through as a single person. What has your journey been like with that?” In general, I think any time a married person tries to understand what it’s like means a lot to us. Even on this blog I’ve felt honored by that, just like I’m sure you would feel blessed if a single person asked you your struggles and joys being married.

      Anyone else have opinions on this?

      • I think it is definitely a brilliant thing to ask about. As someone who is Christian and has been single for a long time it is easy to feel alone in the challenges that brings so it is lovely when someone takes an interest and genuinely listens. I’m grateful for friends who are coupled or happily single but make the effort to check how I’m doing when it comes to singleness. I think asking in a way that doesn’t imply what you are expecting to hear (eg. tell me about your journey with singleness rather than have you been grieving not being married) is better.

  19. What grieves me is that I am 30 and have never been on a date, let alone not been single. One guy only has ever asked for my phone number (not in any way Mr. Right). Every other single person I know has dated, and so all the relationship advice in the world doesn’t quite fit. There is no other alone like this alone. Forget not having children, not even single people understand this.

    On the one hand, I’m pretty ok with this, as I have only ever met one guy whom I would possibly like to spend my life with (or at least investigate the idea further). On the other hand, that guy does not feel the same way. We must remain friends, which is fine. Most of the time. The problem is not so much that he doesn’t feel the same way, as that no one ever has.

    God has been doing some weird things in my life, and I know they’re not finished yet. But when there is apparently not even a chance of meeting someone…that’s hard. I’m tired of telling all the surprised older people that surround me that “I just haven’t found the right guy yet.” Maybe there isn’t one, and maybe I just have to accept it. But I don’t want to.

    I know that I am a beloved child of God and that I am absolutely not worthless. Nobody else seems to see it, though.

    Thanks.

    • As another individual who has not actually ‘dated’ anyone, I think I understand at least a bit where you’re coming from – and though I know that this doesn’t change that grief, one thing I am thankful for is that not having previous relationships does protect my heart in a lot of ways. I’m the type of person that can be flung full fledged into relationships… and therefore if something doesn’t stop me from developing a strong attachment to someone, I know that by dating someone I may develop too deep of feelings for someone who I won’t marry – this has a catch 22 to it of course too… knowing this I can also detach myself from people which isn’t helpful either.

      But just know that you’re not alone, and not worthless. I know some days that doesn’t stop the wondering of why you haven’t dated, or why others seem to being at least dating on a regular basis when you’re not, but you are definitely loved. Both my sisters dated steady through high school and now one is married, and the other is getting married this summer – while I haven’t dated anyone… seems unfair, but at the same time, I’ve enjoyed some of the experiences I have had that they haven’t….

    • Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, wore it out. Almost. What’s funny is that I have almost an overabundance of guy friends/brothers in the Lord – and always have. And none of them see any reason why some other guy in the world wouldn’t be interested: apparently nothing is “wrong” with me; I just don’t have the world’s charm. The Guardian of my heart knows this, understands this, and I am His Beloved. This is where I live, in joy, in thankfulness. I think it’s so important to remember two things:
      1. Our worth is not based on our romantic appeal or experience. It sounds like a cliche, but it is true that independent women don’t attract men as much, so if you are particularly gifted in some area apart from looks and charm, the Lord may be holding you apart for Himself (trust me, I know that doesn’t sound that appealing) or He may only give the courage of approach to one man, the one. Either way, even 80 years of singlehood will be nothing in light of eternity. My favorite phrase is, “This, too, shall pass.”
      2. God is not bound by age, even the age of 30. Think of Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth. But I wouldn’t say you haven’t found the right guy yet. I used to say, “No, I’m too busy!” (or the Lord had me too busy!). Now I don’t really say anything. I just shrug and look clueless. Because I am. 🙂
      Be blessed. And feel free to read my blog which has a few other touchings on these subjects.

      • Good thoughts! You have some really encouraging things in here and I appreciate your posting!

        One thing I wanted to add though….it may be true that men are not that attracted to independent women,but men are very attracted to confident women. What I should say is, men are often attracted to someone with the same level of health that they themselves are at. For the most part confident men are attracted to confident women, men on a journey towards healing are attracted to women on a journey towards healing, people who choose to stay in a place of brokenness and not do the work to become a more emotionally stable person will probably attract that kind of person. I think that it is important to remember that we should never change who we are or our level of health to “catch” anyone. Being confident is a good thing.

        I had a friend years ago say “I wish that I had worked hard on my emotional health when I was single. When you are married, you bring the people you love into your dysfunction.” That is one of the reasons that I started going to counseling about five years ago. It has been one of the best things I have ever done to work on my emotional health. I am a much more confident woman now, and I would never want to squelch that, even if it did look like independence.

        I also don’t think the Lord would not bring you a man just because you are gifted. I don’t believe he has certain people he sets apart for himself. He wants all people for himself, and he also loves family. So even people are married can be “set apart” for him, I believe. I think that we make decisions with God and sometimes if we want to be married we need to make steps towards that with God. We are not hurting our relationship with him by doing that, by falling in love, by getting married. It is just another part of the journey with him. But it is true that there are beautiful things in singleness in regards to our relationship with the Lord that only can be found in singleness.

        Hope you don’t feel shot down -that was not my intention….I just wanted to give you all something to think about and discuss. Again thanks for the wonderful conversations happening on this blog they make me happy!

      • It is interesting and I like the discussion. You are right, each believer is called to be “chosen, peculiar” (I Peter 2:9-10), set apart – and Corinthians is clear that both singleness AND marriage are gifts. Set apart may not be the best term to describe the special side of singlehood, knowing that He is the author of marriage and marriage the picture of His relationship with us. It is, however, a calling, and a calling that requires a particular strength (again reference Corinthians).

        On the confidence note – and acknowledging your point of attraction based on like condition – that would then entail a discussion on the current state of manhood in the church in America, and in our culture at large. There was an article by a secular NY journalist not that long ago (I wish I could cite it) about the lack of confident men in our culture, about the traits of boyhood we have forced upon men by our feministic attitudes. Since the world’s population has a majority of women, any shortfalls amongst the men would affect us (!), and certainly confidence might be the place of greatest lack: how many truly confident people, especially single people, do you know?

        That confidence, however, has certainly been one of the greatest strengths I’ve been given in dealing with singlehood, particularly in the last couple of years as I’ve been blessed with a church family/friends who don’t question my romantic status, but rather focus on the gifts and callings of God apparent in my current situation. I’m horrifically timid by nature, but the work of God through His calling and His people changes our natural inclinations.

      • On the one hand, yes. I know what you’re all saying and I agree. On the other hand, this one guy IS the only guy I’ve ever had “the courage to approach”. He is one of the best friends I have, and honestly at first it was not an idea I was particularly happy about because of that! So maybe it’s a combination of my assumptions being wrong about that and the fact that I am still re-learning confidence from the crap that has happened in my life in the last few years. Thing is, I didn’t really care that I hadn’t found even a possible guy before, because I knew none of them were the right one. And now I care. 😛

        The thing that hurts most is not the world’s ideas. If I had to conform to the world to get a guy, I don’t want one. It is the church. My church that doesn’t know what to do with me because I am the only single person, and the only person between the ages of 18 and 40. The Christian radio people who go on incessantly about how marriage and/or children are God’s best blessing, and give singleness a passing remark (if at all). The co-workers who seem to discount me because I haven’t apparently achieved the same “success” as they have. The well-meaning people who are constantly asking “why haven’t you found the right guy yet” or trying to set me up with their repairman, who’s decided “it’s time to settle down and have some kids”. The Bible help section whose entry under “Feeling Lonely?” is 1 Corinthians 7:25-35. Nice thought, but does nothing at all to make me feel less lonely!

        I know these people are wrong, or misinformed. I know God has a plan, and that God cares no matter what. But it hurts when the very people who should be supportive are the ones unintentionally tearing me down, and I can’t take it anymore. Marriage is not God’s best blessing. God’s love is God’s best blessing. At least you all seem to get it. 🙂

    • Dear Anonymous Friend,
      How I wish I could meet you and we could weep together and rejoice together, but –

      Bold to approach – I think I meant that God would give the man the boldness to approach YOU because I do think at times that is an issue; however, it sounds like you are truly blessed with said friendship and our Romans 8:28 God is surely using even this problem (of caring too much) to rebuild your confidence. You must be a pretty valuable friend if he doesn’t run away when you approach moving beyond friendship and he doesn’t run!

      And the church. I think this is discussed a lot in Kate’s next blog post, but the problem is the church has missed God’s description of GIFTS and GRACE. You are correct! Jesus is God’s biggest blessing and what He does in our lives as a result is a gift, whether it is marriage or singleness. I, too, am in a church situation where I’m sandwiched and a sole single, but I am blessed with people around me who don’t believe that the Christian life has to follow a pattern. “Bloom where your planted” takes on a new meaning when – even as we grieve what we desire and don’t have, good and godly desires, yet not to be granted today – each person is treated as an individual with a calling. My church depends on me for much, in part because I’m not married and don’t have children! (Although… hey, do you want to pass on the numbers for those repairmen?)

      I recently told a friend that God had convicted me of meekness – letting go of MY wants in favor of His. And a huge piece of letting go is letting go of the idea that I must have some grand purpose, vision, or ultimate destiny in sight. For most of us, I think marriage is some sort of ultimate end. I know I always thought that once I had my spouse I wouldn’t have to worry so much about finding God’s will. But suddenly I realized that’s just another form of pride. What if this IS my ultimate end? Yes, I am sorrowful for the children I’ll never have, just as I sorrow over the siblings I’ve lost. No, I’ll never say I don’t want to be married, just as I’ll never say I don’t want to be free of the headaches that plague me from an old back injury. But if being here, now. If doing my job and showing my coworkers the glory of God. If praying for my neighbor’s children and babysitting for working parents. If playing the piano at church and feeding the cats for my landlords. If that’s all that is in my destiny – I will enjoy the glory of God in eternity forever and that is enough.

      Please continue to dialogue, to talk this out. Loneliness needs brothers and sisters, the Spirit living through people with skin. And I pray for Jesus to wrap you in His presence.

  20. I’m with you there. I’ve got a wonderful group of single female friends, who the rest of the University group says we’re single because we are too strong, too whiney, too bimbotic, or too deep to scratch past the surface. There are these days where all seems so bright and sunny. Relatively, at least. Then there are days like that where I just become super aware of my loneliness. And oftentimes it’s the smallest of things that triggers it. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for finding the dry humour in the loneliness. My favourite line? “Because ying ying is not a healthy way to live. It is the name of a panda bear.” Stand firm in the Lord, my sister.

  21. Thank you for this post. It is where I am, too. The hard-good places are so tough sometimes. But I’m also thankful for them…in a weird kind of way. Thank you for being transparent.

  22. Thanks so much for this post. Though it seems sad, it’s also beautiful. And I completely empathize. Hang in there, girl. Allow yourself to feel, to grieve, to cry. It’s okay. Tomorrow is a new day. If we don’t let ourselves grieve now, we won’t appreciate the sunshine tomorrow. xoxo

  23. There are not enough words to really explain how much this blog post meant to me.

    Thank you Kate, for being real and being compassionate. On yourself, and on the rest of us in the same (or quite similar) situations. Your words are a breath of fresh air to those of us who feel suffocated in a world that doesn’t recognize or validate our disenfranchised grief.

    I love my life. However, I, too, struggle with these feelings so often. I have almost 0 single friends, and am not close enough to any of them to share the pain I feel from time to time. And with my married/engaged/dating friends, it’s just awkward more often than not…

    Thank you for validating the grief singles feel. Thank you for reminding us that, even though we shouldn’t let it overwhelm us, it is TOTALLY alright to feel what we feel. And we don’t need to justify that to anybody. It is what we are feeling, and it is real.

    Mostly, just thanks for being who you are. You’re impacting more lives than you know. Blessings on you, sister.

  24. Really loved this post. Great to know that I’m not along in this and I think it’s good to grieve the things that we are missing in our lives but are the deepest desires of our heart… as long as we don’t let it consume us. Love your blog!

  25. I am really really glad you posted this. About a year ago, when I was really struggling with being single I read another blogger’s post on disenfranchised grief related to singleness. It was like someone turned the lights on and all of a sudden there was a way of making sense of what was going on in my heart. Hopefully your writing about it will help others in the same way.

    It is such a strange form of grief. It is not like there is a date of a death or firing or breakup or some other event that can be placed on a calender and pointed to as a reason for it all. There’s just an emptiness, a void where it seems like something, someone should be. It is also very strange for its lack of finality. Some things you grieve you know just aren’t coming back so there is a kind of peace that can be made with that. This one things could change for the better a day from now, a month from now, a year from now, a decade from now. Things might not change too. There is no way of knowing which means that it needs to be lived out as a strange mix of grief, hopefulness and contentment.

    I have no idea if this will be helpful to anyone else, but what I have found helpful when working through the grief is to think of it as being like fasting. When we fast food, we are learning to depend on God in the face of not being able to fulfill our healthy desire for food. Likewise, when dealing with the pain of singleness, we can be learning to depend on God when our healthy desire for relationship is not being fulfilled. In both types of fasting we learn to resist trying to meet our needs through our own inappropriate shortcuts. It by no means makes dealing with the grief easy. Framing it in relation to fasting does however give it a sense of purpose and provides a reminder of who sustains us.

    • Thank you for this. The parallel to fasting is really thought provoking. Not that God wants us to be lonely, but that it can be a good way to face our broken hearts and deal with them in the midst of being lonely. Wonderful insights.

  26. Thank you Kate for writing what is so prevelant on a lot of our hearts, and knowing others feel the same and grieve for the same helps me to know I am not alone. God bless you and keep you and pour out His abundant grace on you.

  27. Very poignant post Kate. I can relate to so much of what you shared as well as your commenters. I am a single guy, 50,was engaged once and havent had many dates either. I resonate with the feelings of sadness and grief. I have wondered often over the years why it seemed so hard to find someone. I have health issues now which make it even more unlikely I ever will. I felt i wanted to comment because in your sharing about it not being a socially acceptable grief or loss, I feel that even more so as man. Thanks for being so open as well as maintaining your spirit Kate

  28. Pingback: How to Hold My Heart. « A Way in the Desert

  29. Thank you for sharing this. I am right there with you. I did youth ministry for a number of years. Nearly all of my students are married with a pile of children and I’m still looking.

    And then God wanted me to adopt a kid while still single. I can completely see why God had this kid for me and me for this kid and I am not in any way complaining. I do enjoy my life. It would just be so great to have some human support on an every day basis. Someone to help make decisions and back me me up.

    Men (and women, actually) assume that because I have a kid, this is my life: “She’s a single mom. She’s made some big mistakes (sexually) so I don’t want to get involved there.”

    The last guy I dated cited as part of breaking up, “I’m not sure I’m ready to get married. I’m just not ready for a high maintenance kid.”

    And the guys who are willing to get involved with someone who has adopted a teenager, well, they don’t love Jesus.

    It also seems to be assumed by nearly every one that I am not interested in getting married. After all, I clearly gave up on the idea and decided I can make it on my own when I adopted a kid. (This logic doesn’t even make sense to me.) There is exactly one person in my world who even considers that I might be interested in getting married. The qualifications of every guy she comes up with are “He has experience with kids like yours and would be very good with him.” Thanks for thinking of my kid. How about if you think of me? After all, I am the one who would have to live with the person for the rest of my life. This kid will move out in a few years.

    So, I regularly grieve the “loss of a dream”, as I like to say it. I don’t understand why God has me here at this point in my life. Most of the time I am content but when the exhaustion gets particularly wearing, I spend my evenings wishing that I could have a partner in this life. And trying to face the reality that the chances of it happening are very close to zero. I understand your disenfranchised grief. I share it.

    May God bring in to your life a man who loves you as Christ loves the church.

  30. The weight and beauty of your words touched the loneliness of my nicely packed away heart. It is better to feel the pain than the disquiet that attends denial. Thank you, I will allow the tears and the grief now. I will also honor the pain of others that walk the path you have revealed.

  31. Thank you so much…this breathed a word of life into me yesterday when I ran across it. I was feeling exactly that way…I couldn’t get around the fact that, that day, I was lonely, and I needed some time to be sad about it…I couldn’t deny it anyway. The words from the scripture in Isaiah later in the comments and about God putting Adam to sleep were especially profound for me. I know in my heart I want it but I am truely not ready. I looked at it in a different life in this whole context, especially the words, “Do Not Hold Back.” That is what we do when we reflect too long at what we think we lack, we burn up our energies in the fire of our grief. The best thing to do is think on it for a moment, then use our gifts to brighten the world around us that is so desperately in need of our light. And you know, it comes back to us one way or another 🙂

  32. Kate,

    So thankful for your raw and real ministry to singles (and humans, for that matter). On a journey towards emotional health and spiritual truth; I’m encountering an immense battle against my ‘Christian’ views in every area of life. I’m finding that many of my perspectives, practices and convictions in life and ministry that I’ve adopted as “godly” are actually shallow, unrealistic, unfruitful and have little to do with the kingdom of the Father. Your bravery to challenge belief systems in the church encourages me that I may not be the heretic I feel accused of, but just another child looking to love God sincerely.

    Also a single, young(ish) woman in ministry; I relate to so many aspects of your blogs. It’s oh-so comforting to know that the emotions and processes I am experiencing are valid and maybe even normal!

    While I have a wonderful community of friends alongside me, the grief that comes at the most inconvenient times of not having a spouse or children can not only be unbearable but lately tends to pry open my soul to extreme vulnerability to hopelessness. Your communication in this blog alongside the article you reference, really brings clarification to what I’ve been experiencing and revelation that there’s not something ‘wrong’ with me. While God is using such pangs to turn my heart towards mourning and longing for the Bridegroom Jesus, I can’t express how deeply grateful I am for the language you’ve given to me to be able to understand this process on a natural level as well. Thank you for the permission to grieve in this stage, but admonishing in wisdom to not stay there.

    That God would continue to empower and strengthen you in your ministry and personal life.
    You have truly blessed my soul & I thank God for you. Keep it up, sister!

    • This is one of the most touching comments I have received on this blog. I am actually excited for this season of your beliefs being challenged. I think that when you are faithful in seasons like that to ask God for truth, you come out on the other side with faith that is more genuine because it is something you have fought for yourself, rather than something that has been fed to you. If you haven’t already, read my post called “The Great Name Changer.” Like Jacob, you are in a season of wrestling. God is showing Himself to be the great iconoclast- the one who shatters all images of himself that are not true. I know that God has good things for you. Thank you for being so articulate and kind.

      • Amen. Thank you for the encouragement (response!!!) and insight, yet again. So helpful having family in Christ who are on the outside speak into your situation, when its too dark for you to see. Wrestling is a great definition of where I’m at. Although a bit painful, it’s a great exercise. Definitely speaks to me. 🙂 Blessings!

  33. Thank you for sharing this post… I read it several months ago and specifically came to your blog again to find this post tonight. It helps to hear others say the words I often can’t express. The loneliness and grief are hard to put into words. At times I need to sit and allow myself to feel the hurt, grieve and mourn. Tonight is one of those nights…

    In the past year or two I have felt a continued prompting from God asking, “Do you trust me?” My first response is always the quick “Yes, Lord”, but he always comes back again. “Do you trust me?”, the second time is the moment to pause.

    My mind seeks to remember the truth…the Lord God is sovereign… I am his child…he loves me and saved me from my sin. He defeated the grave and sits as the right hand of the Father. His Holy Spirit resides within me… he comes to make all things new.

    “Yes, Lord.”

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