Uncoupled in a Coupled-Up World
I am a woman familiar with loneliness. I was lonely as a single child. I was lonely as a teenager trying to find my way. I was lonely when I first went to college. I was lonely during my broken engagement. I was lonely while I was living in my difficult marriage. And I have been especially lonely since my divorce.
Loneliness can sweep over me and hang over my shoulders like a weight. A sad, sad weight that reminds me I am alone and truly on my own. Interestingly, this feeling of loneliness can happen just moments after I’ve been with my best friends for a girls’ night out or while my kids are in the next room.
We live in a coupled-up world. And those of us who’ve been used to coupledom—even if it were in a strained, emotionally un-intimate relationship—can find ourselves a bit lost, scrambling to fill in the silences and the holes in our schedule.
Jesus Isn't My Boyfriend
As I get older and experience more of what life can throw at me, I’ve realized more and more that I have no idea what people are feeling when they’re going through something I’ve never gone through. That’s why I cringe when a married person (or even simply a non-divorced person) attempts to encourage me in my loneliness with the statement that God should be my everything, implying that I, therefore, should not be lonely.
Now, Jesus is a lot of things to me—a lot of things. I believe Jesus is real—that he lived, that he died, and that he came back to life. And I believe he didn’t just die a normal death, but that he died on a cross to pay for my sin. I believe Jesus is my Savior.
I believe Jesus takes the horrible things in my life and turns them into really beautiful things (when I actually let him). I believe Jesus is my Redeemer.
I believe he sees my hurt and my shame and tends to my brokenness and cleans me up and sits me up. I believe Jesus is my healer.
I believe he hears me when I talk to him all throughout the day and he cares about what’s going on in even the tiniest details of my life. I believe Jesus is my friend.
Scripture even talks about our Creator being a husband (), and I get that in the sense that he provides for me and my children, and I feel him protect me from my enemies (most of the time). And yet Jesus is totally not my “prince charming.”
I hear some women say that, and that is wonderful for them, but that’s just not how it’s shaking out for me. Do not get me wrong: I love Jesus. I completely know he loves me. But I’m still lonely—and loneliness is hard. I have been known to have the occasional mini-meltdown when I let myself think for more than three seconds that I may never know the love of a good man.
God himself took a look at Adam and said, “.” And God was right there with him! He knew humans need humans in a way even God could not—or would not—fill. So yes, I totally love Jesus and he totally loves me, but he is not my boyfriend. (Lord, I wish it were that simple.)
When You Feel Alone
I know I’m not the only woman who feels this way. This loneliness-despite-having-Jesus-in-my-life phenomenon is not unique to me. I moderate a private Facebook group for women who are divorced and I asked them if they struggle with loneliness. I received more than a dozen affirmative responses almost immediately that I got permission to share. They told me:
- We are lonely in the moments after dinner when the kids have scattered.
- We are lonely on the weekends.
- We are lonely when our kids are with their father.
- We are even lonelier when our kids are with their father and his new girlfriend.
- We are lonely at church, even in everyone’s kindness, because, as one woman put it, “they are all ‘complete’ families.”
- We are lonely when we contemplate our futures—and when we contemplate our deaths.
- We are “pretty much lonely all the time.”
So, sweet divorced woman, you feel alone. You feel misunderstood. You feel lost. You feel lonely. I know. I get it. And many, many women get it right along with you. Here are a few thoughts for you as you struggle with your loneliness:
1. Pray. Jesus isn’t a Magic 8 Ball; just because you tell him you’re sad or lonely doesn’t mean your loneliness will automatically disappear. Yet going to him first with your feelings will strengthen your friendship with him and your dependence upon him.
2. Reach out. God created us for community, so even though you might prefer to be asked, I encourage you to make a phone call or send a text. Even in your hardest moments and quieter-than-quiet silences, let someone in and tell her what you’re feeling.
3. Speak truth. Remind yourself that every feeling is just that: a feeling. It will pass. Your loneliness will not kill you. In fact, if you invite Jesus to sit with you in it, you may learn what you’re really capable of enduring.
When Others Are Hurting
If you have a single or divorced friend but struggle to know how to care for her, here are three thoughts for you:
1. Pray for her. If her husband prayed for her, she no longer has that. Stand in the gap, even if for a time.
2. Encourage her. Call her. Text her. Email her. Send her a note. Get her a gift. Not having a life-partner can sometimes cause a woman to curl back into herself. Encourage her that though she may feel alone, she has you.
3. Invite her out. Invite her to your home for dinner or coffee. Invite her to participate in a small group, church event, or in the life of your family. She is missing that. She may say no, but she will deeply appreciate the gesture.
We divorced women miss marriage. Jesus is amazing and wonderful and all-powerful, but he’s not going to be literally holding us with two actual arms as we fall asleep tonight, no matter how much we ask him to. So we need to learn how to sit in the loneliness as we learn that we’ll be all right.
Elisabeth Klein is a single mom to two teenagers and is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage and World Split Open. She loves reading, writing, and spending time with her kids and friends. Visit her website or find her on Facebook.
Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women
Uncoupled in a Coupled-Up World
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