Loneliness as a Reminder

“Does it get better when you’re married? The struggle with loneliness and feeling hopeless?”

My single friend, who was approaching her 30’s, texted me those questions late one night. She had recently had a bad break-up in which she lost the potential of a husband, a good friend (his sister), and her church small group. They both went to the same small group and he told her maybe she should look for another one if she was going to be so emotional about the break-up. Who wouldn’t be feeling hopeless after that?

I didn’t want to lie to her. “No. It doesn’t really get better.”

Let me explain. Sure it gets better in the sense that you have a companion, the ability to start a family, and potential for some great sexy time. But the struggle with loneliness? No, that doesn’t necessarily go away just because you’re married. We all crave to be known in ways that no human being can ever know us. So whether you’re married or not, whether you have tons of friends or just a couple of good ones, whether you are popular or flying under the radar, you will be lonely.

When you are turning to your husband, to your friends, to how well known you are for your satisfaction, it’s easy to fall into the trap of loneliness because you have taken your eyes off of the only who can truly satisfy. Maybe for a while these things can keep the loneliness at bay, but it will only be a matter of time until you either lose them or they fail you. And then the loneliness settles in.

This is something I struggle with even as a married person. At various points, I have found myself bemoaning the fact that I don’t have any friends who actually care about me. I watch all of the single people I know who have several intimate friendships where their friends actually hang out and call them and wish them Happy Birthday. I just don’t have a friendship like that in this season of my life. Maybe it’s because most of the people my age also have young children and are just trying to survive. And the ones who are still single don’t seem to view me as friendship material. Or maybe I am not putting myself out there enough. It doesn’t really matter why, because I have talked to those single girls that I am so envious of and they can be just as lonely as I am. The grass is not greener. You can be lonely and feel hopeless with the best this world and the people in it have to offer you and you can be lonely with the worst.

But thankfully, we don’t have to stay that way. Every time I experience these bouts of loneliness, I always find myself on my knees crying out to the God who sees me. And he reminds me of all the ways I am not alone and never will be. The worst can come my way: loss of family, loss of friends, loss of possession, but I will never lose my God. Hope is always within sight, if I choose to look towards the source of it.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:35-39

Married Women: Have We Forgotten Singleness?

Recently, I talked to a friend of mine who is in her late twenties and single. She has talked to several different women, married and not, and had one question during our conversation that really stood out to me. “Do married women just forget what it’s like to be single?”

Her question came up after a long discussion about whether or not masturbation was wrong. Several women have given her great advice on this matter, but there are many who immediately tag it as a sin and expect single women to deal with it. To paraphrase…“I mean of course it is a sin, right? I, as a married woman, certainly don’t have a problem with it and I only need to have sex every other week and I’m good.”

Obviously there are several things that do not help a single woman, struggling with masturbation. If you have a low sex drive to begin with, you probably never dealt with masturbation the way women like us do. Not only that, but a married woman is getting her needs met if communication is good with her husband. As married women, we really need to think about what our advice and answers are going to be to this single, sex saturated generation. You can’t just throw out the first answer that comes to mind, especially if it isn’t something you struggle with anymore (if you ever did).

Single women do not need us making them feel worse than they already do for their struggles. If a person is convicted by masturbation, by all means walk with them and encourage them, hold them accountable and confront them on it. But telling them they should just stop in a matter of fact way is extremely unhelpful. They already know they need to stop, otherwise why would they be coming to you with it? And most likely it is something they have been struggling with since they were younger and have tried over and over again to stop, failing and feeling miserable about it.

So what can you do? You can start by praying about these women and asking the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom. Every woman is different, and the words they need to hear the Lord speak through you are specific to them. There is no formulaic answer. As married women, we need to start stepping up our game in the way we disciple the single women that are asking for our help and wisdom.

And if you are a single woman and you don’t know who to go to with this, start praying! God will reveal it to you. You don’t have to talk to a married woman, but you should ask that God direct you to someone who has overcome. When you are in the midst of your sin, it is easy to believe there is no end in sight and you will just always fail in this way. But when you know someone who has made it past that infinite line, the hope that has always been there becomes more than a dream

 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

–          Romans 15:13

Images

Sex with an actual person, that is right there with you, is a mysterious and wondrous thing. This post is directed more towards those who are married, but I do believe single people could benefit from it as well.

One thing I have noticed since getting married is that it takes a lot of practice to bring my husband and I’s sexual experiences together back into my mind. I have to fight my way to get to that place. And that is the place I want to be. Why? Because if I don’t fight to focus on him, then I will focus on something else whether I like it or not.

It is horrifying to me how easily my heart can stray, but it also reminds me of just how weak I really am.

I only have answers and theories on some of the questions I am about to ask. But perhaps it will give us all pause, examining what images we really are letting into our minds and how it can affect our future.

Why do pornographic images and scenes that I viewed years and years ago brand themselves in my memory, fighting to push to the surface, when I can’t even remember how old I was for most of the momentous points of my childhood?

Why is it that I find it so much easier to focus on other people having sex than my husband and I?

I do have an answer to that one. And I think it applies to most all women in this day and age. Viewing pornography can subconsciously start to become your ideal of what a woman should look like. Most women struggle with self-image in some form or another, so it is easier to think about someone else in place of ourselves than to think of ourselves. The self we so often criticize and pick at. The self that we don’t view as perfect.

Why is it that I remember other people’s experiences better than my own?

I have thought about this a lot. It truly is awful how the images I have filled my mind with in the past seem like they may never truly go away. I will always have to be on my guard. I can never take it back. What I can do is fill my mind with other things that I choose to think on instead.

Have you ever prayed during sex? I do. If you haven’t and you struggle with images that shouldn’t be there, then pray. There is no better cure.

As to why I have a difficult time remembering my own experiences, it is actually a beautiful conclusion that I have come to. Each sexual experience you have with your husband is new and entirely different than the last. Our bodies are continually changing, making each experience as different as you want it to be. It also leaves no room for you to hold on to a past that you can never go back to. The inability to remember a sexual encounter in such vividity is a blessing in disguise. God willing, I will never live in the past, but enjoy the present with my husband.

Instead I will focus my mind on what seems to be an ever-shifting image of my husband. I am not dependent on specific memories to be “in the mood”. The mood is created as we go.

Images. What images are you holding on to?

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

–          Philippians 4:8 (NLT)