By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
I didn’t realize how much I needed to stay single for this season until I hopped on a Christian dating app and started getting to know two different Christian men.
During the span of those two months, it was made clear to me just how much time I needed to heal from my chronic depression, anxiety, my parent’s recent divorce and remarriage to other spouses (all within the span of 15 months), as well as trauma I had experienced at my college and during my childhood. I certainly had a lot to heal from—and a relationship wasn’t going to cut it. I had placed too much pressure on these two poor dates, and I needed to let them go.
As someone who is high-functioning, I tend to plug myself into as many activities as I can, partially to avoid thinking about the wave of difficult life circumstances that piled up behind me like a mound of sewage. But now, out of college and working 40-50 hours a week, I can’t get involved in as many activities. So, I tried the dating app--because I wanted to avoid the hurt. But I couldn’t. It just got worse.Photo Credit: ©GettyImages-splendens
Facing your demons
For me, now is the time to confront the pile of trauma and hurt that I’ve let grow for more than a decade. Confronting these demons looked like finally acknowledging that I couldn’t keep going on my own and that I desperately needed to rely on God.
When I tried to place stock in dates, I would end up hurting myself and those who went out with me. Therapy with a Christian counselor and having healing conversations with those who had underwent the same path before helped tremendously. But ultimately, asking God to walk alongside me has helped confront these demons more than I ever could on my own, or even with the love of my life by my side.
Although some Christians may view dating as a way to help them navigate through battling these demons, I know God alone can bring healing (Exodus 15:26). Here are some ways I’ve discovered that singleness can help you confront your demons better than an earthly relationship ever can.
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1. Being in a relationship can accentuate the problems rather than heal them
Christians often will believe the notion that marriage can mend all problems. Trust me, I believed it until my parents divorced.
Instead, it has the potential to bring out the worst in us.
Relationships, although wonderful, bring a lot of stress and anxiety that single lifestyles do not. Even if we want the other to help fix our problems, we often forget they bring in their own piles of childhood trauma and other demons, which have grown throughout the years as well. They may very well enter the relationship with the same expectations. And we may exit the relationship frustrated that they didn’t follow through.
In essence, we may want our relationships to do only what God can do: heal us (Psalm 147:2).
Yes, godly people can remind us about Christ and His goodness, but if relationships go south, we may cause more harm than good. If those relationships sever, we may experience even greater hurt, which rips apart the scars we already need healing from.
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2. Single periods bring about well-needed rest
Whenever an athlete breaks a bone, they need time to heal.
My sister had a shoulder that liked to pop out of socket a lot, and that often led to a great deal of time spent on the bench while she watched her friends on the basketball court. Albeit a bit disgruntled because she wanted to join with them and help lead the team to victory, she let her shoulder rest until it could endure the grueling physical work outs. If she hadn’t, she may have postponed herself from playing the sport ever again.
The same works in the world of relationships.
Sometimes we need to spend a little time on the bench, cheering on our teammates, and letting our shoulders heal. We may need to take a spiritual Sabbath of singleness, a year of jubilee of sorts (Leviticus 25:11-12) to let your body and soul rest before getting back into relationships.
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3. You'll learn to rely on God
Guilty as charged: I like to rely on other people, and even myself far too much, instead of God.
Single periods force us to introspect and realize where our priorities lie. With another relationship tossed into the ring, we can sometimes distract ourselves from the deep anguish within our soul.
It reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Martha distracts herself with the work within the house, instead of taking time to rest and listen to Jesus, just as Mary had.
In our world, relationships can often serve us in the same way that kitchen work had for Martha. Marthas in our churches may wonder why we have chosen to spend our time sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to him, instead of getting into a relationship right away.
Relationships, like housework, are good; but spending time with God is far better.
Without distractions, even good distractions, we can confront the things which seem to rip us from the inside out. During such times, we learn to rely on Him and Him alone.
Furthermore, single periods give us more ways to trust in Him. I know if He has someone for me in the future who will marry me and help me grow closer to Him, He will provide that future spouse in His timing, and not a moment before. If we jump into relationships during these times, we may try to take God’s plan into our own hands by forcing relationships that weren’t meant to happen or won’t help us grow spiritually.
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4. It can help strengthen us for when you do choose to reenter relationships
The Bible likes to use fire imagery a great deal, but this one image doesn’t have as many negative connotations associated with it.
Scripture equates trials with fire, a refining process to remove impurities (Malachi 3:3) in gold and silver.
Confronting demons represents a fire all on its own. It takes hard work to face your past hurts and current unhealthy relationship patterns. But through this refinement process, we come out stronger and relying on God all the more. This can aid us in future relationships. If we have a strong relationship with God, having gone through fire and back with Him, we can love others deeper, exercise more empathy, and provide encouragement for when they face trials of fire themselves.
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5. You'll feel less pressure to act perfect
I somewhat like makeup--but when I go on a date, you best believe I apply a healthy portion of purple eyeshadow and liquid eyeliner.
We often like to dress up for dates and look our best. No one likes to go out when they’ve recently had a stomach flu or woke up with a debilitating migraine. We want to present the best versions of ourselves.
Makeup practices aside, during single periods of my life, I feel less pressure to act perfect. Since I have no one in particular to impress, I can come as I am and know God loves me all the same.
When I have to confront past demons which scar my identity and make me feel worthless, I know I have a God who makes all things new. If I am in a relationship, I will have to also battle the temptation to place my identity in their approval. Unhealthy? Yes. Has the potential to unravel all the healing? Also, yes. Therefore, it was helpful for me to relax in God's love rather than trying to earn someone else's.
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6. You'll have more time to plug into activities which lift the soul
I enjoy helping out with Sunday school, singing on our church’s worship team, and plugging into community activities when I get a chance. But, when I have dates with a potential significant other to juggle in the mix, I have far less time for service activities.
This is not to say Christian couples can’t plug into service groups or help around the church. I’ve known several Christians to make excellent teams when it comes to carrying out the Great Commission in the every day.
However, they do have to strike a balance. They have to clear schedules with each other and may miss out on opportunities they could’ve done if they had entered a single season.
Why activities which lift the soul? How will that help confront demons?
Having battled depression for eight years, I know I often feel the most loved when I can show my love to my neighbor without expecting something in return (Luke 10:25-37). Although, yes, relationships offer a potential to do this, we can often grow jaded and frustrated when the other does not reciprocate.
But choosing to love and serve a group of people or someone in your church once a week can provide more healing than you may anticipate. You can see God working through you to bring about healing for others or to help fulfill a need, and in turn, you see God doing the same in your own life.
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 300 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 3,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog, which receives 63,000+ monthly hits. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) just released. Find out more about her here.
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