Jeannie found herself staring at the digital numbers on her alarm clock once again. The luminous red lines forming the numbers which indicated it was three in the morning looked all too familiar. It seemed that her fears had no respect for her need for sleep, or the fact that in a few short hours she would be needing to face another stressful day at work.
“Why can’t I shake this feeling?” Jeannie sighed, as she tried settling herself into a different position for the seemingly hundredth time that night. But try as she might to stop them, the same thoughts paraded themselves repeatedly through her still wide-awake mind.
Jeannie had recently turned 35. Her life wasn’t what she’d anticipated it would be at this point in her life. She’d recently experienced the shattered dreams of a relationship she’d thought was finally “the one”. She felt close to her family, but they all lived several hours away. In spite of having many friends and finding herself busily involved in one social event after another throughout her twenties, all but one of those friends had married and were now busy raising families. Her job kept her busy but wasn’t all that interesting or challenging. Last, but certainly not least, the church she was attending just didn’t seem to have a clue about what her life was like as a single person.
But far worse than all these factors in her life was the fear that seemed to be gripping her lately. She just couldn’t seem to shake it. It was a fear that this alone feeling would only get worse; after all, she’d never expected it to last this long.
Jeannie is a fictional character, but she certainly isn’t unusual, even though she feels like no one else in all the world is experiencing life like she is. In all reality, many are gripped with similar circumstances and with a similar fear. Their circumstances may be a bit different: perhaps they are divorced or widowed; they may be raising children alone, or feeling burdened with paying child support as a result of a divorce they’d never chosen. They may be older, or younger. They may be male instead of female. Their fears may be a little different, but they revolve around the fact that they are alone. Many different fears can grip those who face life without a partner:
- fear of physical harm and danger
- fear of commitment in any kind of relationship, or to a church, because of an underlying fear of being hurt, misunderstood, and rejected
- fear of lack of finances or job stability
- fear of handling the responsibilities for a home, job, children, aging parents, and so on without someone to help bear the burden
- fear of making decisions without input and support from someone else
Many, many singles learn to face these fears with the Lord’s help, and to successfully handle life alone. On the other side of these fears they become strong, confident and vivacious people, having much to contribute to the lives of those around them. I know numerous such individuals who are a constant blessing and inspiration to everyone who knows them. But the process of getting there can be terrifying for many, and may cause many sleepless nights as Jeannie experienced.
Most of these fears stem from the fact that most people don’t expect to face life alone. Sometimes it is a gradual realization (friends marry one by one), or a sudden one (a spouse dies or leaves, or a friendship changes or ends). As it becomes more and more evident that, for at least a period of unknown time, life will not be as had been anticipated, one needs to adjust his or her approach for living it. Each person will work this out a bit differently based on their personality, preferences and circumstances. Some will learn to live alone and enjoy it, others will find a housemate or two. Some will settle into a group of friends who become like family, others will get more involved in their churches, or in their extended families.
But, you may be asking, at the moment when I find myself gripped with fear, what do I do? Moving beyond fear is not easy, but it is possible; furthermore, it is necessary in order to live the purposeful, productive, and abundant lives God has intended for us. There are several steps to take:
First, define the actual fear. Is what you are fearing something which is still many years down the road, such as growing old alone? Is it something which is highly unlikely, such as being homeless or jobless or deathly ill and no one caring at all? Is it something seemingly insignificant but at the same time terrifying, like not having someone to be with on a weekend night, or finding a mouse in your house, or being alone in a thunderstorm in the middle of the night?
Some fears are over events that may not happen for many years. Realize that many things could change in the meantime, including your perspective of them, the people who may be in your life that aren’t now, and so on. Many people mistakenly think that having children will guarantee they’ll never be alone in their old age, but that is not necessarily the case. The only guarantee and security anyone has for the future is the Lord, and when we have a relationship with Him, we can rest in His assurance that He will never leave us nor forsake us. The Bible reminds us to not covet the “security” someone else may have, but to rely solely on Him and His promises: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Heb. 13:5).
The fears of events which will occur today or in the near future also need to be put into perspective. Not having someone to be with on a Saturday night may not be your first preference, but it gives the opportunity to learn to enjoy certain activities you wouldn’t otherwise: a cozy evening with a good book and a hot cup of tea; a drive in the country with the windows rolled down, talking with the Lord all the while; or tackling a new project or hobby.
Secondly, look the fear straight in the face. What is the worst thing that could happen if your fear came true? If it does happen, what is a course of action you could take? Who could you turn to if you were truly desperate? Is your relationship with the Lord strong enough that you can turn to Him in times of need?
Having a plan in case the worst of your fears comes true helps to dissipate the fear itself, as does defining those people in your life who truly do care about you, even though you may be currently out of touch with them. Sometimes these kinds of fears can motivate people to reconnect with family members or with an old friend. They may also be motivators to establish new friendships and to become involved in other people’s lives. Fears often help people to realize that their relationship with the Lord is lacking, and that they don’t know how to turn to Him in a crisis. If you find that this is the case for yourself, start right now by picking up your Bible and learning how to talk with your Heavenly Father about anything and everything. This, too, is a process, but a much-needed one.
Another way to look fear in the face is to tell someone else about it — preferably someone who will also continue to pray for you and with you until that fear is conquered.
Third, recognize other factors which may be contributing to your fears. If you find that fear grips you most strongly at night, remember this: Don’t listen to your fears in the middle of the night! This is the time of day when life’s problems seem bigger and scarier than they actually are. Realizing that you are most likely perceiving them out of proportion to reality may help you to lay them aside for the night while you get some sleep. Be in tune with other things which may be causing fears to run rampant. For ladies this may very well be caused by their monthly cycles. Other contributing factors can be the weather, the season of the year, and simply being hungry, tired, stressed, etc. A good night’s sleep, regular exercise, and eating nutritiously can contribute much to our general sense of well-being.
Finally, know what God’s Word says about fear. Knowing the Lord and His Word is the number one ammunition against fear. If we have a relationship with the God of the universe through His Son, Jesus Christ, we are truly never alone nor without aid. Reading, memorizing, and meditating on Scripture passages will give you an anchor to turn to when you find yourself in fear’s grip. Start with such passages as Psalm 23, 34, 91, and Romans 8. Eventually you will be able to say with the Psalmist, “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psa. 34:4).