It was the biggest event in a hundred years.
The Christian nonprofit I worked for was celebrating its 200th anniversary, and an amazing celebration was planned. The organization had done nothing short of rent out the entire Philadelphia Museum of Art for the historic event. Representatives from Christian organizations around the world would be in attendance. So would I.
For weeks, I hadn’t known if I would be able to attend. Even though I worked for the organization, seats at the event were so precious that the organization couldn’t guarantee staff an invitation. But eventually, the announcement came that we were invited to attend. I was overjoyed! I made my RSVP, took my suit to get retailored, and got some clarification on what exactly “black tie event” means. For several weeks I happily looked forward to attending the event.
Then, another announcement came. Not only were all staff members allowed to attend the event but there was enough space for each staff member to bring a guest. This announcement didn’t leave me overjoyed. It left me frightened.
Most of my fellow staff members were bringing their spouses as their guest. One colleague my age was bringing his fiancée. I didn’t have so much as a girlfriend to invite. Several months before, I had begun casually dating a young woman. Secretly, I hoped our relationship would develop to the point that I could bring her to the bicentennial event. Instead, our dating quickly fizzled out before we even began an exclusive relationship. In the months after, I hadn’t found any other woman even to casually date. So not only did I not have a girlfriend to invite but I didn’t even know where I might find a date to bring to the event. I was frightened because the prospect of attending a once-in-a-lifetime event without so much as a date seemed to highlight a reality that had saddened me for years: the fact that I was persistently single.
As the bicentennial event approached and I still didn’t have a date, I began to get desperate. In an attempt to avoid going alone, I even reached out to a platonic female friend and asked her if she’d like to go with me. She said no. Eventually, time ran out. The week of the event arrived. There was no option for me other than to go alone. Reluctantly, I put on my suit, got in my car, and drove to the Philadelphia Museum of Art alone.
The event was exquisite! People from around the world mingled together in elegant formalwear, much of it in the style of the wearer’s native culture. Delicious refreshments were served ahead of dinner. The museum was beautifully decorated. It was the most amazing event I had attended in my entire life, and I was filled with sadness.
Because nearly every staff member had brought his or her spouse, I met the wives of many of my male colleagues. They were beautiful, especially in their beautiful evening wear. I was alone. A gnawing sorrow seeped into me. I walked around, taking in the scene and mingling as best I could, but I couldn’t shake the sadness that gripped me.
I found several friends, and we decided to wander through the halls of art exhibits. Among my friends was one male colleague my age who had already married a few years before. I met his wife for the first time. She was absolutely adorable. Beautiful face, beautiful eyes, beautiful hair, beautiful dress. She seemed to personify the significant other I wished I had, the one that wasn’t beside me. I felt bad as I kept stealing wistful glances at her, each one filled with the painful longing to have a woman like her beside me. The aching grief inside me continued to grow. Then someone said it was time to go to the banquet area.
The banquet area was outside the front of the Museum of Art, under a temporary structure that had been erected at the top of the main museum stairs (the ones Rocky climbed). In the banquet area I was able to see the entire crowd of attendees as they mingled before dinner. I found even more staff members enjoying the evening alongside their spouses. I met my colleague’s pretty fiancée. Everywhere I turned there were smiling couples, together enjoying the biggest event in a hundred years. I was alone.
That’s where I met it, the most painful moment of singleness I’ve ever experienced. The sorrowful ache within me welled up into an overwhelming grief. I felt like crying. I felt like throwing up. I ached to escape the reality of singleness I was in. But I couldn’t. There was nowhere I could go, nothing I could do, to change the reality of that moment. I was single. I was alone. The grief of that reality was merciless.
Have you ever read through the Psalms? Do so if you haven’t. They’re incredible passages of Scripture. But there’s something curious you’ll notice about the Psalms as you read through them. Many of them don’t have happy endings. In a number of Psalms, the Psalm comes to an end without the author reaching a better place. In other words, some of the Psalms don’t have happy endings. They end in the same place they started: sorrow. Why would some portions of Scripture end without God providing immediate help or encouragement? I’m sure a lot can be said in answer to that question. I’ll just say the following. I think one of the reasons these “unhappy” Psalms are in the Bible is to show us that sometimes, even as followers of God, we’ll find ourselves in places of sorrow that don’t have any immediate remedy. These Psalms teach us to call on God even if we’re left in grief and He doesn’t seem to provide any immediate solution. These Psalms help us see that God is still present and faithful even in our darkest moments. They teach us not to think God has abandoned us or we’ve failed Him if we are in a place of darkness that doesn’t have any present solution.
Just as these Psalms end without reaching a happier place, I’m going to end my story here without bringing it to any happier ending. I’m doing this for a few reasons. First, I want you to know that, if you’ve experienced similar moments of deep grief due to singleness, you’re not alone. Know that many of your brothers and sisters in Christ share the same burden. Second, I want you to know in these moments of grief that you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s not wrong to be single or to feel loneliness in being single. Third, I want to encourage you to persevere in those moments of grief. I know they’re painful, but don’t give up when you face them. They’re not the defining moments in your journey.
What To Do When Being Single Hurts
Apart from this encouragement, I also want to offer you three ways you can respond to any feelings of grief due to being single.
1 – Keep Breathing
Like me, you may sometimes find yourself in a moment when the grief of singleness is incredibly intense. It might be when you hear of a friend finding a significant other or when attending someone else’s wedding. Whenever you encounter a moment like this, keep breathing. Remember that the moment won’t last forever. You’re gonna survive! You might not be able to change the reality that, in that moment, you’re single, but you can survive that moment and go on to do the things that will help create a better ending.
The is that even though the pain of my worst moment of singleness was horrible, I survived it. I’m still single, and I still dislike being single. But the sadness isn’t anywhere as bad as it was that night. So in the worst moments, keep breathing.
2 – Keep Going To God In Your Sadness
No, God can’t be your boyfriend or girlfriend, but it’s good for us to pour out our hearts to Him when being single makes us sad. In every grief of life, it’s right for us to go to the place of prayer and bring it to God. Bringing our sorrows to God helps us remember God’s goodness and faithfulness even in times of sorrow. Even if He doesn’t immediately change things, God is able to give us comfort and help in our sorrows. When we allow our sorrows to drive us to God, we’re able to take their grief and turn it into something that brings us closer to God.
Later that night at the bicentennial event, my feelings took a big turn for the better. The biggest turn came when the discussion turned to how our organization was working to help people around the world find spiritual and emotional healing through God’s Word. The discussion reminded me of the incredible mercy, kindness, and comfort of God. Remembering that truth brought me joy that displaced my sorrow.
3 – Do Practical Things That Help Create A Better Ending
Sometimes we have to endure grief because we don’t have power to change what’s causing the grief. But at other times, we have power to do practical things that help us find a relationship. A few years ago, a mentor helped me realize that even thought I ached to find a romantic partner, I was completely passive about it. After realizing this, I decided to take practical steps to start dating. That change from passivity to action brought me incredible relief, even apart from finding a girlfriend. Taking action that works to create a better ending helps us continue to remain hopeful while single.
This might mean anything from working through emotional baggage that prevents us from engaging in a relationship to taking time to get out and meet other singles. So ask yourself, what are the practical things you can do that will help you enter the relationship you desire? Name particular, doable actions you can take that will help create a better ending to your story. (If you need to meet more single Christians, download my free Guide To Finding Christian Singles.) If you find it hard to figure out what actions you should take, talk with someone. Your pastor, priest, parents, a counselor, or a spiritual mentor might be able to provide insight into what actions are best for you to take in your unique story.
What do you think? Have you faced moments of painful singleness? What responses have you found best? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
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