Many singles feel like they’re in a kind of catch 22.
They are likely surrounded by a culture of marriage and family in a way that can make them feel as if life is “on hold” until they get married.
Their desire for intimate companionship and periodic feelings of loneliness can be tough. Yet many know from experience that love is risky.
Although life without marriage might feel a empty at times, it’s less complicated. Being single is challenging, but love involves vulnerability. And many know how bad it hurts to break up with someone they love.
Several years ago, I learned a lesson about how many people have been hurt by loss of love. I was the guest speaker at a large single’s conference. My theme was focused on the decision of marriage. More than three hundred singles attended the conference and, unknown to me, half of them were “single again” through divorce. It quickly became apparent that many had been badly hurt in previous relationships. They showed it on their faces and in protective demeanors.
Many of these singles faced conflicting desires. They clearly want a marriage relationship but were deeply resolved not to be hurt again. The protective walls they erected to avoid future pain also hindered their ability to step toward relationships that might lead to marriage.
Midway into the conference, I put aside my notes and addressed the issue directly. You could have heard a pin drop as I explained what I sensed from them. Interestingly, they received my words as a kind of welcomed relief even though I didn’t necessarily inform them of anything they didn’t already know. Simply hearing someone articulate they’re feelings meant a lot to them.
I reminded the singles that the walls they had built for protection could also imprison them. The risk of more pain felt so great that they (almost unknowingly) hid behind protective mechanisms that kept them from cultivating deep relationships. To love is to become vulnerable. They needed to realize that those unwilling risk loving often end up in undesired lives of isolation and loneliness.
When couples or communities take a low-risk approach to love, relationships become shallow and superficial.
I encouraged the singles to accept the fact that living full and flourishing lives in this world will involve being hurt. Others had to risk being hurt when they loved us and most of us would admit that we have (at least in some ways) hurt those who loved us.
Loving another person is risky because we live in a fallen world. Some who choose to love are taken for granted; others are betrayed or abandoned. Some suffer by watching a loved one suffer; others suffer the loss of a loved one. Love will always involve hurt, but through hurts we can become stronger and wiser – if we respond with a positive and eternal perspective.
The key for many of these singles is to allow some time for processing and learning from their hurts. This will help protect them from walking blindly into an obvious set up for more pain.
My advice is to learn from your experience if you’ve been hurt by a past relationship.
- Take inventory with the help of a wise counselor who can offer godly perspective.
- Make changes in your life that will help you become wiser in how you approach relationships.
- Remind yourself that those who choose bitterness and stand aloof from intimate relationships lock themselves in a prison of fear and loneliness.
- Explore some of the deeper issues in your relationship with God as the providential Ruler of life.
Finally, we all need to think more deeply about love. Cultural understandings of love are too often shallow and self-absorbed. Love is more than emotion and infatuation.
Many people could minimize some of the hurt from love by abandoning cultural distortions of it. Returning dignity and even toughness to love is essential if we hope to stop the tide of broken relationships in our culture.
Love is a value word
To love someone is to value them. Love is also a term of devotion or commitment. To say, “I don’t love you anymore” should be understood as, “I choose not to value you or remain devoted to you.”
Love focuses on others
Love is not a term for selfish people to use. It’s not loving to only value people for what they do for you. This is the opposite of love. Love seeks what is best for the one loved even if it requires doing or saying what the loved one doesn’t want to receive. This is essential to understand and apply. To love someone is also to seek what is best for that person as God defines best. Sometimes this will mean confronting a loved one rather than being an enabler to destructive attitudes and actions.
If love is mature, of course, it will overlook many little offenses and be full of grace and forgiveness (I Peter 4:8). But Love cannot thrive where dishonesty and deceit exist. It’s simply not a loving action to allow a loved one to remain on a path of self-destruction. When love fulfills this tougher role, it’s often be misconstrued as being unloving. Expect this response when dealing with manipulative and selfish people.
Loving others must always be based on God’s definition of what is best.
Love from God’s perspective is self-giving.
God loved unloving people like us and His choice to love hurt Him. Scripture says that, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God’s love for us is the example to follow and the basis for our security when we choose to risk loving others (see: Romans 8:38-39).
I remind singles that it’s one thing to be in love; another to love someone for a life time. The most secure way to love is to model our love after God’s love. When we know that we are deeply secure in the love God has for us, we won’t tend as much to seek from another human being the love that only God can give to us.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
Before entering a love relationship with another person, please be sure to first deeply experience what was written by the apostle John, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love” (I John 4:16).
My prayer is for you to…
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (I John 3:1).
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:16-20).