Is it just me, or is everyone getting into relationships recently?
Within just the past few months, I have seen more than five couples from my church announcing their relationships on Instagram. When I’m at my Campus HQ (a place in school where students from my church gather to study and fellowship), I often see couples sitting together or coming over to pass each other food and drinks.
There was also that one day after a Bible seminar at my church, when I saw couple after couple that I knew boarding the bus and finding their private corners on the upper deck. It seemed like such a simple yet enjoyable moment for them… while I just sat with my cell group leader. I felt so lonely at the moment, as if I was missing out.
Now, I have nothing against relationships and I’m genuinely happy for these couples. It’s just that when I look at couples like these, I do start to wonder if the singles around them would feel lonely and envious… or is it just me?
Because a relationship is something I desire and hope for so much, seeing others have it (while I don’t) reminds me of the unfulfilled longing in my heart.
It reminds me of the loneliness that I try so hard to avoid. Sometimes I get saddened by the fact that I am still single, and that I will probably remain single for the foreseeable future because I don’t even have anyone in mind.
Not gonna lie, I also dreaded some meet-ups with old ministry friends because of this; relationships never fail to be one of the main conversation topics whenever we meet to catch up.
Everyone would be excited to share… but I have nothing to share. I’m just secretly hoping that no one would ask me. When I was at such a gathering recently, I texted my mentor: “I’m gonna focus on the food. I’ll just keep quiet and eat.”
My singlehood often feels like a wound that I need to avoid touching at all costs because it hurts, so why even celebrate it?
Be real – is Singles’ Day really for singles?
Indeed, what do we make of a day that claims to celebrate singleness? Personally, I don’t think it celebrates singles as much as it protests relationships.
The very origin of Singles’ Day was “anti-Valentine’s Day”, started by four students from China who wanted to “break away from the monotony of having no significant other”.
In recent years, Singles’ Day has also developed into the largest online shopping festival in the world, with sales beating that of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Some suggest that this shopping fest acts as “retail therapy” for singles. Singles splurge on themselves and buy whatever they like to practice self-love, and to rebel against the pressure of finding a partner.
When you look at it this way, it seems as if such a day isn’t really about appreciating or celebrating singleness but is more of a consolation to cover up the loneliness, sadness and FOMO many singles feel.
The truth is, loneliness is neither a Valentine’s Day thing nor a Singles’ Day thing. And loneliness doesn’t just come when I encounter yet another “relationship announcement” on Instagram. I know that these are simply triggers that surface a deeper problem in my heart – self-rejection.
Deep down, I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I can’t fully embrace who I am and who God has created me to be. I don’t feel secure in my identity as a child of God, and I reject my identity as God’s beloved.
Henri Nouwen describes this well in his book, Life of the Beloved:
“It was as if I kept refusing to hear the voice that speaks from the very depth of my being and says: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favour rests.’ That voice has always been there, but it seems that I was much more eager to listen to other, louder voices saying: ‘Prove that you are worth something; do something relevant, spectacular or powerful, and then you will earn the love you so desire.’ Meanwhile, the soft, gentle voice that speaks in the silence and solitude of my heart remained unheard or, at least, unconvincing.”
I don’t really like myself, and I’m not fully convinced that I am God’s beloved. Hence, I hope for someone – a partner – to “prove” me wrong and show me that I can be loved.
I found myself thinking that getting into a relationship would mean that I am actually likeable and acceptable to someone… that I can actually be loved.
Realising these things only showed me that I’m seriously not ready to get into a relationship.
I know that getting into a relationship for the sake of approval and validation from my partner is dangerous, because she can never provide all the security and affirmation that I need. And there are bound to be times when she fails to meet my hopes or expectations, just as I will fail her at times.
If I am not firm and secure in my identity in Christ, these moments will not just make me feel disappointed – they may well cause me to feel rejected, betrayed and abandoned.
Getting into a relationship while having a shaky identity also puts me at the risk of making relationship my “idol”. The relationship will take over God’s first place in my heart when I look to my partner for affirmation, security and intimacy rather than God. And that would slowly and eventually draw me away from God.
As a single, I’ve learnt that the most important issue that has to be addressed in singlehood is neither singleness nor loneliness – but identity.
When we know who and whose we are, when we know we are Jesus’ beloved, our experience of loneliness will then point us to the right direction and to the right Person.
“The Christian way of life does not take away our loneliness; it protects and cherishes it as a precious gift. Sometimes it seems as if we do everything possible to avoid the painful confrontation with our basic human loneliness, and allow ourselves to be trapped by false gods promising immediate satisfaction and quick relief. But perhaps the painful awareness of loneliness is an invitation to transcend our limitations and look beyond the boundaries of our existence. The awareness of loneliness might be a gift we must protect and guard, because our loneliness reveals to us an inner emptiness that can be destructive when misunderstood, but filled with promise for him who tolerate its sweet pain.” (Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer)
Henri Nouwen describes our loneliness as “deep inner memories of the paradise that we have lost”. C.S. Lewis also famously wrote, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
The truth is that we do not belong to this world (John 15:19), and our desires can never be wholly fulfilled by things of this world.
Only Jesus can truly satisfy.
Jesus was forsaken, abandoned to die on the cross so that we will never be forsaken. Even when we feel lonely, we know that we are not really alone. We can always enter God’s presence with freedom and confidence because of what Jesus has done for us (Ephesians 3:12).
Christ has turned our loneliness from a burden into a blessing. Now our loneliness no longer just points to an unmet desire in our hearts, but reminds us to look to the One who can fully fulfil us. He is the One who calls us His beloved.
When we can respond to this voice of love and rest in the fact that we are Jesus’ beloved – we will be ready to love and be loved.
Be uniquely you
Back to my cell group leader who sat with me on the bus, I asked him how he feels about singleness and relationships. I wondered if he would ever feel lonely because he always seems to be having a great time and doesn’t seem too bothered by others’ relationships.
Turns out, he actually isn’t affected when he sees people around him getting attached. He even enjoys his singleness.
I realised it is because he embraces himself and his identity; there is no self-rejection. He does the weirdest and funniest things and he isn’t insecure about it. In fact, his security makes me feel safe when I’m around him because he shows me that I can be myself freely and uniquely.
And I was certainly blessed by the words he shared as we ended our conversation that day: “Love yourself, Dawson. Being uniquely you is good.”
If you are struggling with loneliness today, I hope to simply remind you that God loves you dearly, and infinitely more than any human relationship ever can.
You are so precious to God that He would redeem you with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). You are chosen, and it brings God pleasure to bring you into His family (Ephesians 1:4-5). You are marked with a seal, and you are God’s possession (Ephesians 1:13-14). You are His beloved!
Today, even if we feel like we can’t celebrate our singleness, we can certainly celebrate our belovedness. Come to Him bare and honest, just as you are. May you find the embrace that your heart needs and lean on Jesus.
- How have you been impacted by this article?
- What might God be saying to you today?
- You are God’s beloved – how does this fact change the way you approach your decisions today?
- Do you know someone who is struggling with loneliness? Think of one way to encourage them today!