Valentine’s day is a holiday set aside to help us remember those we love. Whether dating, married, or single, it often feels like a day of pressure that can heighten emotions, expectations, and expose our aloneness.
Living single, divorced, or widowed requires courage. Courage is not the absence of fear or suffering. It is the ability to experience and engage in life in spite of something that frightens or causes one pain. The following are a few ways I have witnessed this type of courage in singles.
It takes courage to grieve the loss of a spouse through death or divorce. It’s hard work, and part of it has to be done alone with God. I am comforted as I sit with people to know the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and rescues those whose spirits are crushed. He is a personal God who keeps track of our sorrows, collects our tears in a bottle, and records each one in his book (Psalm 34:18; Psalm 56:8). His promises give us all the courage to walk “through” our grief. My Dad lost his wife of 50 years in 2018. He lives far away from all of his children, and we worry about him. He has told us that he sometimes feels lonely, but he never feels alone. Worley’s mom, who lost her husband of 60 years last October, agrees with him. Why? Because they both abide so closely with Christ in their pain. They are such an example to us. I have also known several women who have been encouraged in this same way as they went through a divorce. More than one has described to me a time when they felt wrapped entirely in the arms of Jesus as if he were right there with them. I’ve actually worshipped God with both men and women in the middle of a divorce because of the personal ways He has shown up for them as their protector and provider. Whether through death or divorce, God’s presence provides courage to grieve.
It takes courage to be alone in a world where using others to fill loneliness has become the norm. All one has to do is swipe right on Tinder to find someone in their area that “looks good” for the most romantic day of the year. How easy and empty. Psalm 16:11 is a reminder that real, lasting joy and pleasure only comes from the Lord. “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
It takes courage to wait well. The question is not are you waiting, but how are you waiting, and who are you becoming while you wait? We sometimes falsely believe that waiting means doing nothing. Worley and I built a home several years ago while living in a small guesthouse. Some delays occurred before and during the building process. When we were almost done, a tornado passed through our area and damaged our roof, put holes in our stucco, and broke out our northern windows. Ugh!! More waiting!! As we anticipated and waited on a completed house, we didn’t just sit gazing at our unfinished home. We worked on our house. We prayed over our house. As a family, we worked on loving one another while living in close quarters and being under stress! We served the Lord. We worked hard in our jobs and at school. We lived a full life. Whether you are waiting for a spouse or waiting to be reunited with your loved one in Heaven, God would ask you to keep living the life He has given you to the fullest. Are you faithful to the people, work, service, and ministry that God has given you?
How you wait is important, but who you become as you wait is essential. This also requires courage. Some of our greatest seasons of personal growth have only occurred in seasons of waiting. Are you becoming more like Christ or less like Christ? Are you becoming bitter or better? Do you have a spirit of thankfulness or coveting? What about a spirit of complaining or contentment? Seasons of waiting are often the only way we learn the kind of contentment Paul speaks of in Philippians 4:11-13. Worley’s mom has always told her kids and grandchildren, “The only thing worse than waiting is wishing you had.” This is so true!! It takes courage to become the person you need to be rather than always looking for the person you think you need. It takes courage to wait well!!
It takes courage to not settle for less than God has intended for us. We can all quickly serve a god of comfort and settle for many lesser gods to make us feel loved, accepted, and chosen. False gods are quick to promise relief and remove our anxiety and heartache, and yet leave us empty and carrying long-term consequences. Our daughter keeps a bookmark in her Bible that says, “Don’t lower your standards, just lengthen your patience.” This is not about looking for perfection, but about believing that as you give your heart to God, He will provide someone deserving of your heart.
It takes courage to let go of a heart of anger, bitterness, and seeking vengeance for injustices. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay says the Lord.'” When I read this verse, two words stand out to me….leave room. How often do we not leave room for God to do his work in another because we take it upon ourselves to make sure they get what they deserve? Maybe it’s the other way around, and we never leave room for God to work because we want to make sure we get what we think we deserve. Many of you are living with obedience and courage as you do the hard work of forgiveness. This is an ongoing and vital work that allows your heart to be set free to give and receive love from God and others. Forgiveness is based upon your obedience to God’s word and not upon the action or inaction of another. Forgiveness definitely requires courage. (Ephesians 4:25-32)
It takes courage to go live your own life well rather than fixating on the one who wounded you, or fanaticizing about the one you hope to date or marry. There is nothing wrong with desiring to date or be married, but it’s never healthy to allow your mental fanaticizing to keep you from actually living your life. Are you getting away from your phone and out of your head and possibly meeting new people? Are you spending time focused on the people already in your world? It can be equally hard to take one’s focus off of those who have caused our pain. I often help women going through a divorce make a plan for how they are going to spend Valentine’s and other hard dates they face. We discuss ways to “reclaim and redeem” this day for themselves and their children in their new normal. This would also be true for men. While grieving is normal and still occurs, having a plan helps to reduce anxiety and provides some control and purpose. This preparation allows one to choose to build their future rather than be a victim to their past.
Whether married or single, perhaps the most courageous thing any of us can do is to live beyond ourselves when we are hurting or struggling. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, we are reminded, “God comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
Who can you give to this Valentine’s Day? Pray God brings someone to mind or gives you eyes to see someone else who is hurting. Bless another by sharing what you have learned through your experiences and what helps you to live your single life well. Find courage in the words of one of my single hero’s, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” – Corrie Ten Boom
Happy Valentines! Danina