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The Journey of Singleness

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Soon after I graduated from seminary, I spent two years working as a college minister. I was still single at the time, and one of my favorite memories is a conversation I had with a freshman girl about her own single status.

We both sat in my office as she bemoaned the fact that she’d never had a boyfriend, and wondered aloud if she would ever get married. At the time, I was 28 and newly engaged. I decided to share with her the story of my own journey through singleness, the good times and the bad.

Sure, there were seasons of sadness and uncertainty, but throughout it all I had determined not to waste my singleness, and I’m glad I did.

My motto as a single woman was, “No regrets!” I wanted to do as much as I could for God and His church while I still had the luxury of freedom and time. I did not want to spend those years waiting for a husband whose arrival could be anywhere from a week to ten years away. I instead made the most of my single years by traveling around the world on mission trips, earning a Master’s degree, becoming a college minister, discipling many of the college women at my church, mentoring a local teen for eight years, and making amazing friends along the way. I had a lot to show for those years, and I didn’t regret a thing.

I shared this pep talk with my distressed student, hoping it might inspire her. “My single years were actually pretty great!” I concluded. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

For a moment she processed my words silently, then she slowly stood up to leave for her next class. But just before she closed the door behind her, she wheeled around and exclaimed, “I just hope I don’t have to wait until I am 28. That would be HORRIBLE!”

Then she was gone.

That story makes me laugh every time I think about it. My grand tales of adventure as a single Christian woman had clearly fallen flat, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.

In spite of my many incredible experiences as a single woman, it is also a very difficult season of life. As each friend gets married off and one’s pool of single peers grows smaller, it can be genuinely terrifying.

I make that statement as one who not only struggled with singleness throughout my 20’s, but who has a number of friends still walking the path of singleness today.

In the past month, I have spoken with three different single friends, all in their late 20’s and 30’s, and wept as I listened to their stories. Each beautiful woman voiced a terrible fear that she is somehow unlovable, and that no man will ever turn his heart toward her. Each one of these women is undeniably exceptional, which is why I was so devastated by their pain. I felt helpless as they grappled with the fears that accompany their particular path.

Married Christians sometimes respond to the struggle of single Christians by speaking of singleness as a “gift.” However, it is often a gift that nobody wants, like a pink knitted teddy bear sweater from your Great Aunt Pearl.

I will not be so naïve or insensitive as to use that language here, but I would like to offer two encouragements to women who find themselves on the journey of singleness. I will also offer one encouragement to married women who love their single friends.

Don’t Waste Your Singleness

As I once shared with my young student, this phrase became the mantra of my single years. It is also a mindset that has remained with me ever since. I dedicated my single years to pursuing God with abandon.

I didn’t know what the future held, so I drained the marrow out of life in the mean time. Now when I look back on those years, I know I was a good steward of the unique resources I possessed.

This past year I attended two weddings in which both brides were in their late 20’s. During that same year, I had two friends marry in their mid-30’s, and another in her 40’s. I share these stories, not to strike fear in the hearts of women in their 20’s who want to get married now, but as a reminder that every woman’s path is different. No woman knows when or if she will get married, so it is easy to miss out on special appointments from God in the present when we are too busy looking toward the future.

Don’t Worry About Tomorrow

In singleness, in marriage, and in every season of life, the unknown future can occupy much mental energy in the present. That is why Jesus warned Christians against this kind of worry in Matthew 6:34, instructing us to instead worry about today. I suspect he said this to protect us from ourselves!

I can become so caught up in waiting for the next big thing — a husband, a job, a house, a baby — but none of these good things ever extinguishes the longing for more.

This mentality instead produces a life defined by waiting, bitterness, and never fully living.

Encouraging My Single Friends

Now that my journey has shifted into marriage, God has continued to impress those lessons onto my heart. I continue to learn them each and every day. However God has also added to my instruction, now teaching me how to care for my single sisters.

Oftentimes, I feel rather inhibited in the comfort I can offer single women. I am no longer “in the trenches” in the way I used to be. Even so, it is crucial that I continue persevering with my single friends as they walk forward on their journey, and Exodus 17 always reminds me why.

In this chapter, Moses is charged with the task of holding his staff high in the air to insure the Israelites’ victory in battle. As long as Moses held his hands high, the Israelites would continue to win. After awhile, however, Moses became weary and could not raise his hands any longer. The Israelites’ future was suddenly in jeopardy, so Moses’ friends stepped in. Aaron and Hur brought a stone for Moses to sit upon, and then each man lifted Moses’ hands for him. With the help of these two friends, Moses held his staff in the air and the Israelites won the battle.

This story is a wonderful reminder to married women like me. Like Aaron and Hur, I cannot remove the burden my single sister bears, but I can certainly make it lighter. I can include her in my family and daily activities. I can pray for her and speak biblical truth into her heart. Rather than offer cliché advice, I can offer a listening ear. I can weep when she weeps and rejoice when she rejoices.

On a journey that is plagued by loneliness, I can remind her with my loving presence that she is not, in fact, alone.

As I have journeyed from singleness to marriage and onward, my goal has essentially remained the same. I continue to use each new day to its fullest. God has given me a finite period of time on this earth to glorify Him, and I intend to use it all. No matter the type of journey, my destination is to be found in Christ alone.

So, I press on toward the prize to which God has called me, and I will encourage my single sisters to do the same. What I won’t do is ask them to walk that journey alone.

[This article first appeared here at Ungrind on December 29, 2011. We’re republishing it because … well, we just love it that much. We hope you enjoy it too.]

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Sharon Hodde Miller loves to write, loves women's ministry, and especially loves combining the two! After majoring in Religion at Duke University, she worked for Proverbs 31 Ministries where she learned the ropes of women's ministry. Following her time there, she returned to Duke where she not only earned a Master of Divinity, but snatched up a smokin' smart husband in the process! She and her husband now live in the Chicago area -- with their new son -- where they are both pursuing their Ph.D.'s at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Sharon has a particular passion for discipling women with Scripture and theology, which is the heart behind her blog, She Worships. In addition to Ungrind, she also contributes regularly to Her.meneutics and CultivateHer.com.

4 Comments
  • Thank you for this post, Sharon! As an almost 32 year old single woman, I think you nicely balanced sensitivity to no longer being in the trenches with encouragement from the other side. Your single friends are lucky to have you in their lives.

  • People in their 20s who worry about being single make me laugh. Try being *42* and never married…though I would’ve been if my fiance had not died. So I am an unwedded widow (yes, it’s a real thing) and a never-married single person at the same time. But–that’s just me.

  • This is a great article! Two of my sisters (ages 27 and 37) are single, and my oldest sister just got married at age 38 and is about to have her first baby just one year later. I find that the enemy tells hateful lies to my sisters, just as you described – that they are not beautiful or lovable, when in fact the opposite is true. They are two of the most beautiful and wonderful women I have known. God has been protecting them all this time from heartache and giving themselves to the wrong man and using them for the glory of His kingdom. I know that many single women will read your article and feel blessed, and I hope that they believe the truth: God has a perfect plan for them, and they are wonderful and beautiful in His eyes!

  • earthanddust

    This is a terrible article. It is difficult enough being single without the burden of making sure you “don’t waste it”. Your life is not a waste. Period. Single or married, each woman has different ways to live fully. To encourage people who happen to be single, don’t treat them like singleness is their identity. Simply ask them what they love to do and what they’re gifted to do and encourage them in that direction because it will bring them joy whether they have a man or not. Telling a girl not to waste singleness is treating them as if their marital status is all there is to them, when they are so much more than that.

Articles

When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Articles

Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

As you read, we hope you consider us friends, the kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop. You can read more about me HERE and our team of writers HERE.

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The Journey of Singleness

by Sharon Hodde Miller time to read: 5 min
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