Photo Credit: Stephanie Garvey
I recently had a friend point out that I’ve written about what NOT TO say to a single person, but I’ve never written about what TO say.
So I thought it might be helpful to re-visit the list of things not to say and offer helpful suggestions instead. (I’ve even added a few things to this new and improved list.) Please do keep in mind that when you’re trying to be helpful, you should try to read the situation and person, and be sensitive to them individually.
|What you may have said||What may have been better|
|You just haven’t found the right man/woman.||If God has someone picked out for you, neither you nor that person will be able to screw it up.|
|Your time will come.||Even if you never get married, you have heaven to look forward to.|
|As soon as you stop looking, s/he’ll come.||[There is no good way to phrase this. Don’t say it. Just don’t.]|
|Marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.||Marriage definitely shows me all the ways I need to be more like Jesus. How have you and your roommate been doing?|
|At least you don’t have to deal with [fill in the blank].||I totally loved [fill in the blank] about being single.|
|What I wouldn’t give to have [freedom to travel/own bathroom/night without snoring/control of the remote] again.||Do you mind babysitting my kids/having a guys’ or girls’ night with my spouse so I can [take a bath/read uninterrupted/work on a project/go shopping] for a couple of hours?|
|I totally admire you for staying single. I couldn’t do it.||Your singleness is showing me that I should maybe re-think the way I talk to my kids about the supposed guarantee of marriage.|
|How are you doing with singleness? I know I totally hated being single.||You encourage me so much by the way you use your singleness to [point people to Jesus/be the cool auntie or uncle/babysit my kids/serve the church].|
|Don’t worry. My friend/mom/coworker got married when she was in her 40’s.||God’s timing is perfect. He knew exactly when I was supposed to get married, and He knows exactly when you will. His timing is worth waiting for.|
|I’m so happy in my relationship. Let’s find you a spouse!||How do you feel about being set up? Is that something you’re comfortable with? What qualities are important to you in a spouse?|
|Are you gay?||[Let’s be honest. There are more tactful ways to find this out. Be nice.]|
|To women: You can always get your eggs frozen.||Have you or would you ever consider fostering or adopting as a single person? If so, how can I support and/or encourage you?|
|I feel like it has to happen soon for you.||Has God been teaching you anything lately? How is the waiting in your singleness affecting the way you see God?|
|That baby you’re holding looks really good on you.||You’re really good with babies. Have you been around them a lot?|
|So when are you going to get married?||Would you like to get married someday? How can I pray for you until then? If you were never to get married, how would that affect your view of God?|
On the day my friend pointed out my lack of actually helpful advice, my roommate and I got to talking about it, and we realized that about 95% of what we find encouraging is unique to us individually. For instance, I kind of get a kick out of it when people try to set me up with someone, whereas my roommate finds that mortifying. Hence the need to be sensitive to each person.
But Nicole and I agree on one major point, and my friend Bryan already blogged about it in a really encouraging post. The most important thing is this: point us to Jesus.
Point us to Jesus. Yes, grieve with us over our lost dreams. Yes, rejoice with us in our promotions and life goals and happy moments. Yes, ask us questions to find out what is encouraging and what is not.
But above all, remind us that Jesus is enough; that God is good and for our good; that the Holy Spirit will never leave us alone. Text us randomly to say you’re praying for us to be fully satisfied in Jesus. Walk up to us and ask us what God’s been teaching us.
I say to keep reminding us about Jesus for two reasons: He’s the bomb, and I often forget that.
I often find myself looking to things to satisfy me, things that are temporary and ultimately unsatisfying. I look to the dreams and the wishes my heart makes, to sin, to my roommate, to a paycheck, to chocolate and coffee, even to my family and church family to satisfy the longing in my heart for something that will last and never let me down.
Some of those things let me down immediately, and some let me down rarely, but none of them are perfect, and none of them are permanent. Even if I married the most sinless man alive and had the most well-behaved children in the world, I and they would still die. It’s true; no thing, no one outside of God will satisfy me fully in this lifetime, and certainly not in the life after this one.
That’s why I need Jesus. That’s why you need Jesus. Because He satisfies…
- our need to be understood (He – the Son of God – became a man so He could fully empathize with us)
- our need for love (He died a brutal death, just to prove His love to us)
- our need for permanence (He rose from the dead to take us to heaven for eternity)
Getting back to the practical, here are some suggestions for you:
- Don’t base your whole relationship with me on the fact that I’m single, but don’t ignore that part of my life either. Rather, base your whole relationship with me on the fact that we’re all the Bride of Christ; that we’re all loved and wanted by the God of the universe. When you don’t know what to say to me in my singleness (and barrenness), remind me of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Point me to the savior of my soul. You can’t go wrong.
- When I say something about how I want to be a mother someday, it’s okay to say that you want that for me, too. It’s also okay to follow that up with a question about how I’m doing today with the fact I don’t have kids yet. I promise that I do rejoice in your parenthood, and it’s okay to talk to me about it because I think it’s a beautiful thing even when it’s messy.
- When I say something about how I’m looking forward or not looking forward to [fill in the blank] about marriage, it’s okay to acknowledge the goodness or badness of that thing, or to correct my misconceptions. It’s also okay to follow that up with a reminder that marriage won’t satisfy all my needs and desires because there’s only one Person Who can do that – and He has already wooed my soul and captured my heart.
I’m a person who wants to be known, just like you do. Pursue me, know me, include me in things even if I’m the only single person there. I’ll respond in kind. That’s what friends are for.
I’m a person who needs Jesus, just like you do. Point me to Him, remind me that He’s better than the temporary satisfaction this world offers. I’ll respond in kind. That’s what community is for.
So next time, instead of trying to fix your single friend’s “problem” of singleness, ask them how they’re doing, listen to their answer, and remind them that Jesus has already filled their greatest need (salvation) and fixed their biggest problem (separation from God).
Jesus is truly enough.