By Jeanette Hanscome
The Valentine’s Day event looked great, but the flyer showed a couple holding hands. It would be pointless to sign up, painful even, like the Sunday when a sermon about marriage left me in tears.
Couples events no longer applied to me. Divorce Care applied to me, and discussions about our church possibly starting a singles’ ministry.
I was single now.
Why did missing out on one Valentine’s Day event feel so much like knowing all of my friends were going to a party I hadn’t been invited to?
It had been three years since my husband left. Moving and starting over at a new church had provided a much-needed fresh start. I had space to recover from the loss of more than two decades of marriage and find an identity beyond how I became a single mom. My relationship with Jesus had deepened as I leaned on him for comfort, wisdom, and strength.
But moments like this still served as reminders of what I no longer was—married.
During my divorce, friends at the small church I attended took me and my sons under their wings, providing transportation (I can’t drive due to low vision), including us in holidays, and going out of their way to make us feel loved. I guess I’d been protected from the loneliness that many singles experience.
I now had the full scoop on what it felt like to be a single woman in the church.
Content to be Single
The wisest thing I did was join the choir. It reconnected me with a ministry I missed and allowed me to be part of a group where marital status didn’t matter. The woman who offered to pick me up for rehearsals had never been married; one of my backup rides was widowed. They were two of several women in the choir who made singleness look survivable. They were content with their lives, did fun things together, and often included me. They’d become active in ministries and were quick to respond to needs—like my need for transportation.
For the first time since my husband left, I saw my new life as less of a tragedy.
Bitter and Sweet
Those who’ve spent any length of time as a single woman know that the status comes with a long “Why It’s Hard” list.
We must be creative when it comes to applying sermons about marriage to our lives.
Many church activities are aimed at couples or families.
When couples get together for dinner or game nights, they usually invite other married people, not singles. If we happen to be single parents, this means our kids get left out too.
We spend a lot of time feeling like the cliché fifth wheel, or fearing becoming the matronly aunt who knits. (I actually am an aunt who knits, so I work hard at not appearing matronly.)
Every year we have to come up with a new method for getting through Valentine’s Day. The only thing I haven’t done is buy myself chocolate.
It’s kind of embarrassing to get the same purity lectures that we received as teenagers.
But as I learned through my single friends, our lives can be rich when we allow them to be. This requires looking past what we don’t have and wish could be different to the benefits that God has for us.
If you are struggling with your identity as a single Christian woman, here are a few things that helped me make the most of my suddenly single life.
Enjoy friendships. I cherish time with girlfriends. Date nights have been replaced with long talks over coffee or breakfast with sisters in Christ—some married, some single—who’ve supported me through my journey and trusted me with theirs.
Enjoy this time when you can cultivate deep friendships with other women. Find single Christians to do fun things with, who are content with their lives, don’t bash their exes (if they have them), and aren’t constantly pressuring you to sign up for an online dating service. You might even want to sit together at church. At the same time, appreciate what your married friends contribute, such as a reminder that they have challenges too, just different ones.
Get involved. Singing with the choir and worship team allowed me to find my place within my church family so I could stop feeling like “the woman who lives with her parents because her husband left.”
Ask God to point you toward a ministry where you can use your talents, experience the joy of serving, and do what you enjoy without needing to consider a spouse’s schedule.
Think beyond singles’ groups. When my church created small groups for singles, I participated in a six-week book study and loved the friends I made, but something about the “single” label made me feel separate. I decided to stick with my Saturday morning Bible study, which included married and single women.
While groups aimed at singles are nice, they can also isolate us from the general population. If your church has a singles’ ministry, get involved, but also branch out.
Deal with stuff. My road to singleness left me with wounds that needed attention, including some that were affecting my friendships. I made the decision not to date until I felt confident that I wouldn’t end up in a bad situation, or drive a nice man crazy with my trust issues. In the meantime, I made use of Divorce Care, Betrayal Care, Steven Ministries, and counseling. It was worth every dollar, hour, and tear.
The nice thing about being single in the church is that we have access to resources. If you became single because of divorce or death, or if you know that pain from your past is getting in your way, take some time for healing.
Savor Jesus. One of the first Bible studies I participated in at my new church was Make Friends with Jesus. After having my sense of value shattered, I spent every Saturday morning immersed in the story of the One who would never leave me.
The most perfect husband cannot meet all of your needs. Singleness is the perfect time to learn how to make Jesus the Friend that you run to first and trust completely.
Be okay with your status. I wore a ring on my wedding ring finger for four years after my husband left. One Sunday, I decided it was time to move it to another finger and feel comfortable identifying myself as unmarried.
Singleness is nothing to be ashamed of. It does not make us less beautiful, less valuable, or less desirable. Whether God has someone waiting for you or not, ask him to make you okay with what your life looks like now.
I won’t pretend that being single isn’t still hard. Even while writing this article I caught myself wishing I could wrap it up with news that I’d found a wonderful man. Instead, I’m still the author who understands the buffet of emotions that comes with saying, “I’m not married.” But I also continue to see God work in my heart as I learn to be content with being single again.
Jeanette Hanscome is the mom of two amazing sons, and the author of Suddenly Single Mom: 52 Messages of Hope, Grace, and Promise.
5 Simple Ways to Support Your Single Friend
Sit with her. If you see a single friend sitting by herself at church or a social event, join her. Occasionally offer to pick her up so she doesn’t have to walk in alone either.
Include her. If you are planning a barbecue, movie night, special outing, or holiday get-together resist the temptation to limit it to couples.
Remember her. A single woman doesn’t have a husband to take her out to dinner on her birthday or ask, “What do you want for Christmas?” She also doesn’t have someone at home after a bad day at work or to offer support through grief. Keep track of significant times when a single friend might need a reminder that she matters.
Pray for her. Ask God to ease her loneliness and fill her life with a sense of purpose. If she is praying for God to send her a husband, join her in that prayer.
Encourage her. Cheer her on as she uses her gifts. Tell her when she looks pretty. Be a friend who focuses on something other than, “When you find a great guy you’ll be able to. . . .”
Through your kindness and sensitivity, you can be one of those people whom God uses to show her that she doesn’t need to have a husband to be loved.