A couple days ago, my sweet sister posted this blog post about prayers for those waiting for babies...and in the post, she included in her prayers those who are waiting for husbands and children.
I read this after a particularly long day of realizing the milestone of Christmas was coming and still no significant other (even after dating several guys this year --- that always dissapoints me, when my dating seems to lead nowhere) and buying my sweet nephew a first Christmas ornament at Mistletoe Marketplace and fearing I would never be buying one for my own child.
Her post offered encouragement - but why? she offered no advice, no quick fix, no 20 ways to find a man post. She simply offered prayers. and concern. I've had people ask before, how can singles be encouraged? They genuinely wanted to know what to do. And I've thought, what is it I want? How can I tell people to be more encouraging? My sister is usually pretty good at encouraging me...what is it that she does?
And the concern she shows is generally what all people want, whatever their struggle is (infertility, singleness, sickness, grief, depression, finanacial struggles, marital problems, etc)
So how can you love singles effectively? Or really, how can you love others more effectively? (my example is just singleness since its what I know)
1. Offer prayers, not advice.
She offered prayers, not advice.
Not that there is not a time for advice...there is. If I am always in a sweatshirt with messy hair or I am rude or aloof, that's something I may need to fix...so please lovingly tell me. If I live in podunk, middle of nowhere where there are no men to meet, a suggestion to look for a job elsewhere or try internet dating or visit my friends in big cities a lot is a good recommendation.
But mostly, I need prayers. I have become a big believer in fervent prayer, in laying our desires down before our Lord. So, when someone tells me they are praying for me to meet a spouse, I find it incredibly encouraging. I pray weekly for my wonderful friends to meet husbands, as well as myself. Prayer is the most proactive thing that can be done....and prayers not just for contetment, but for provision.
Prayers are also encouraging because sometimes there is no advice that will help: you've done all you can - you are meeting new people, you are presenting yourself well, you are giving men a fair chance and not having an impossible list of qualities you are looking for. Sometimes the reality of God's soverignty in bringing the right person (job, child, etc) into your life is only realized through prayer. Not that much more self improvement can be done, only prayer and trust.
2. Do not trivialize someone's pain.
Notice how Marley includes the longing for husband and child on the list with those who lost children or who are trying to get pregnant. (I am not equating my longing to that of a mother who lost a child, but making the point that my sister classifies singleness as a real struggle) I've had friends trivialize failed dates, breakups, dateless weekends, turning another year older as not as difficult as the married/family problems. She included it right there in a list of married problems, she treated it as a real problem. She treats it as a real longing, a real problem.
How many times do we all do that? Hear about someone's problem that doesn't seem like a big deal to us because we haven't struggled with it...and make it seem silly? Sometimes just acknowledging someone's pain as valid is the kindest thing you can do for them.
3. Be grateful for what you have been given.
I am very guilty of lacking gratefulness for my blessings, so I can't point fingers too much on this issue. But, its hard for people who long for something to hear you whine about it too much without acknowledgement of the blessing. My sister made the point to me that whenever she hears women constantly complain about a baby being up all night, she thinks of those women who would love to have a baby keep them up all night. Not to say that you shouldn't complain, but an appreciation of one's blessings is good... some people seem to think if they make marriage seem less attractive, its easier for me to hear about it. Thats not true, don't try to convince me marriage and babies are hard (I know!) -- dont constantly whine to downplay it for me, because i rejoice with you for your blessings...and I want to hear your problems, but when you constantly downplay or whine about something I long for, its hard to hear.
4. Don't portray yourself as any more deserving of blessings.
This is my biggest pet peeve. I have had numerous people say to me things about them being more mature/ready for marriage, about how they didn't date around a lot so God provided the right man, etc etc. It's not true. I am not mature enough or deserving of marriage, but neither were you. None of us deserve any of the good gifts we have been given. And thining that we do puts us in (1) danger of bitterness for not receiving what we think we deserve or (2) in danger of false superiority in thinking we do deserve all we have gotten. In her prayers, my sister acknowledged that she was blessed and deserved it no more or less than others.
So, there is my answer for all who have asked what is it that singles want? (besides the obvious answer ha) -- prayers...lots of prayers and an expression of true concern and gratitude.
And, I will be taking my own list of tips here....how can I love others better? Prayer. Not trivializing their pain. True concern. I often times dont have answers, but I do have two knees and plenty of time to be praying for sick babies and broken marriages and people in need of jobs.