We are obviously in an unprecedented time right now. We have a pandemic striking the world, and in response we have asked most people to stay at home.
To be sure this is a strain on everyone in every marital context. This is not to mention that there are some people in horrible situations. I think of kids who live in abusive homes or those that don’t have enough to eat. People who had enough to eat three weeks ago and now don’t. There are those who struggle with addiction, those who were struggling with mental illness before this all started.
But I want to acknowledge a particular group here today. Not because they are the only ones suffering, but because their suffering is surely different and I’ve not seen it talked about much anywhere. That is those that are single and live alone.
Now there are all kinds of unmarried people. Many live with friends. Some are in cohabitation arrangements. Some who maybe live with their parents. But I want to specifically address those who live by themselves.
I was single until I was nearly 41 years old. Mostly I lived with friends or for a short time had renters in the house I owned. I’m an extravert and I learned from six months of living by myself that it was an unhealthy setting for me.
25%-28% of Americans live alone. If nearly 50% of Americans are unmarried that means that about half of unmarried people live alone. This includes all versions of unmarried that we’ve talked about here over the years. Not yet married. Divorced. Widowed. Those who are called to Celibacy for the Kingdom. Those celibate because of the fall of man. Those born in a way that keeps them from getting married.
Let’s remember that no one, even those called to Celibacy for the Kingdom, are called to live their life alone. And yet there are millions of them doing that exact thing right now.
I’ve debated whether or not to write this post. Not because I don’t think it’s important, but because what unmarried folks are facing right now I never had to face in my 23 years of adult singleness. Almost everything on this blog about singleness I’ve written either from personal experience or from the study of the scriptures, church history and other studies. This is different. So I can’t write with the same authority that I normally do.
However, it needs to be talked about.
First we should acknowledge that it’s hard. And that would be my first piece of advice to everyone unmarried and married. To recognize the unique challenges that this context confronts unmarried folks with.
I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting that married folks should feel especially sorry for single people. But I think it might be good to be aware that they aren’t experiencing this the same way you are.
Church leaders often seem to forget the unmarried. We’ve discussed this ad nasuem on this blog. There are churches doing great things right now. Helping with the poor. Helping provide food for kids. Doing online things not just on Sunday but every day. I applaud so much of the effort. I’m asking you, regardless of how your church views singleness: Please remember your single members right now. They could probably use a phone call, text, email or whatever. Simply acknowledging and checking in would be appreciated by many I would think. There are some who are fine. But there are some who could use a live voice.
If I go on facebook right now I see all the families on bike rides, in the yard together, taking porchtraits. Nothing wrong with that. But if I were single and wishing I was married, this would make even more aware than usual that I’m alone. I couldn’t go out with friends. I couldn’t see my co workers. I couldn’t even sit next to some people at church.
Here are a few thoughts if you are home alone as an unmarried person right now. Remember I’m not speaking with the authority of having lived it here, just offering some things that might help based on 23 years of unmarried life.
- Give yourself the freedom to feel what you feel. You’re not bad because the porchtraits make you feel more alone. You aren’t a bad Christian because Jesus doesn’t seem like enough right now. Acknowledge your feelings and emotions. Don’t just tough it out. And for sure don’t condemn yourself for thinking it. Give yourself grace.
- Fight to engage others. If someone does reach out to you, take advantage of it. Use all the technology you have. Reach out to others.
- If helping others and ministering to others typically energizes you, do it now. Leadership is lonely but it’s less lonely than sitting there missing leadership.
- Engage your mind. Study something. Read something. Learn something. Fight the urge to dwell on darkness.
- Know your weaknesses. There is a reason porn sites are offering specials right now. Liquor stores are essential apparently. Do you already struggle with depression or other mental illnesses. Don’t pretend right now. Don’t just sit there and get crushed. Acknowledge these things
- Get help with the above if you need it. Call someone. Anyone. Tell someone. Don’t suffer in silence.
- To that end, hold onto the truth. The people that love you and usually hang out with you still love you. Maybe they haven’t called. I wish they would have. But everyone is in free fall in some way right now. Just because they haven’t called you, doesn’t mean they don’t care.
- Hold on to the truths of our faith. You are not alone. You really can take it to Jesus. He suffered alone. In front of people, but alone. In a way only He could. He sees you! Please read that again. Jesus sees you!
Really I hope that if this post does one thing it is that it communicates that. Jesus sees you. I see you. I’m writing this mainly so you know you’re seen.
If any of you who are reading this have thoughts about how you are managing that might be helpful to others, leave a comment. You’re the expert here. What has been helpful for you? What would be helpful to you?