Encouraging the Single Sister
“Are you dating anyone?” The question hung in the air as she quickly tried to think of a gracious response that would close off the line of questioning from this person she barely knew. She knew that this question, like the many times it had been asked before, didn’t come from a place of malice or ill-intent. Yet, it left her feeling awkward and out of place.
To the one asking relationship-related questions, it may just seem like a normal “get to know you” conversation. But to the single girl, it can create an awkward, discouraging, and sometimes frustrating situation. Here’s why: It’s personal and can touch a place in her heart that is tender. It also creates the underlying assumption that, if she’s not dating someone, she should be, when the truth is maybe God doesn’t have that for her in this season.
Not only that, but there might be circumstances she’s facing that have left her in a tough spot that she’s working through. It might be that she’s just gone through a tough breakup and her heart is raw and vulnerable. Maybe she’s struggling with contentment that day and the enemy is feeding her lies of being “less than” and “not good enough” or telling her that she’s somehow missing out on God’s best. Or, maybe she’s good with her singleness, but doesn’t want to share this personal part of her life with someone she doesn’t know well.
Singleness can be a tough season to navigate because often it involves an unmet desire. And not just an unmet desire, but one where fulfillment isn’t promised. While I know this is not the heart of the question and walking in grace and understanding is always appropriate, in my conversations with single women, several things have come to mind as ways to encourage and spur on a woman in the season of singleness.
So, may I offer some suggestions for life-giving ways to interact with that single sister in your church, at work, or in one of your other circles?
Get to know her for who she is aside from a relationship. This seems basic, but sometimes it’s overlooked. What does she like to do? What is she good at? What areas is she growing in? This isn’t an appeal for a self-centered focus. Instead, it’s important to know her as a person whom God created with unique purpose and gifts – with or without a significant other.
Encourage her contentment.
Get to know how God is working in her life and celebrate that. Call out ways the Lord is at work in her life. Think about how she is loving others and helping them grow and encourage her to keep at it. Help her know her life doesn’t start when she enters a relationship, but allow and challenge her to use her gifts now. Help her see the ways that God is working and using her in this unique season.
Realize that it’s lonely sometimes.
She may be the only one in the group that’s single – especially as she gets older. While she loves hearing about your marriage and your children, try to talk about things that everyone can talk about. Include her. Sometimes she lives far from her family and misses the chance to be around them. Open your home to her. Help her have community and family life even when it isn’t her own.
Challenge her to walk in her purpose.
Singleness can be a “me-centered” season if not lived intentionally. Our culture has threads of the “all about me” mentality throughout every part. But, in singleness, the temptation can be to focus on myself – my feelings, my pleasures, my time. So, single sisters sometimes need encouragement and accountability to live the life Christ has called us to. It’s easy to hit the snooze and sleep in on Sunday or spend too much time doing meaningless things (Netflix anyone?). Challenge her to live a life worthy of her calling as a Christ-follower (Eph 4:1). Help her not to put her spiritual life on hold, but to live her singleness to the fullest – serving, living generously, and walking in love.
Leave the personal for those who know her best.
It’s important to point out that to ask a single sister about her relationship status is not always inappropriate. True – it just might be that you know her future spouse and God is using you to link them together. But it’s important to be sure you earn the right to ask it. And chances are, if she is dating someone or engaged, it will come up in conversation naturally. So, tread lightly. Consider her heart.
While the intentions are good, saying things like “Just when I became content with my singleness, God brought my husband into my life” or “He’s just working something out in this season – He’s preparing you and your spouse” are not helpful. For one thing these can be based on faulty thinking. For example, God is in control and contentment isn’t a magical formula for making our plans work out. Contentment is about trusting God and enjoying where He has us. So, instead, pray with and for her. Acknowledge her struggle and let her know it’s okay, but keep pointing her to Jesus.
Yes, singleness can sometimes be a hard season to navigate. But it’s also one of incredible blessing and fun. In every season, we have difficult things. No season is without its bumps and tough stuff. In God’s economy, every season is crafted with purpose, intention, and meaning. It’s a beautiful thing when people with different stories, walking in different seasons, and with various gifts and preferences come together to carry out God’s plan. So from this single sister – no matter who you are or where you are – you are loved. While we can’t always see how God is working, we can rest assured that He is. He continually uses each and every interaction to mold us and make us more like His Son (Rom 8:28-29). So, be encouraged and allow God to use you in your season, whatever that may be. No matter what we’re walking through, we can encourage and cherish each individual as we work together and point each other to Jesus.