Being single during the holidays sometimes feels like a mess.
I’m a pretty confident, fun-loving gal who appreciates the life I have. But something happens during the holiday season — my friend Kelley calls it “hyper-awareness” — when my singleness just feels. IT FEELS. It’s palpable in December moments in ways it never shows in April.
God knows it. The enemy knows it. And I know it. I have to take more thoughts captive, make good choices, and call it what it is — messy.
And last Sunday was messy.
Sunday morning at church I sat in an unusual spot to save seats for four friends who, for a variety of reasons, all decided not to come to church. “You will not cry about this,” I said in my head, “you are an adult, you are loved by people in this room, if you need to sit somewhere else you can, this is NOT a big deal,” etc. etc. etc. All the positive self-talk I could muster. Yet little puddles formed at the corners of my eyes while the worship band played, and the lies whispered in my head, “You are alone, and it’s always going to be like this.”
“Remind me I’m not alone, God,” I prayed. (I know. Very deep and profound.)
The second song through, I see two other friends unexpectedly turn the corner into the sanctuary and we made eye contact. They be-bopped up the stairs and hugged me and sat down in the chairs saved beside me, thinking they were just a little late to church, never realizing they were an answer to prayer.
And as we sat there, me whispering prayers of thanks, my pastor began to preach about Christmas.
“Christmas is a reminder that Jesus doesn’t run from your mess,” he said, “He runs to it. And He redeems it.”
Fast-forward to Sunday night. The Dave Barnes’s Christmas show is an absolute highlight of the year for me (and most of Nashville). Through a series of bizarre events, when I got my ticket and sat down, I was not in a row with my friends and the seats on either side of me were vacant. Since this is a small town wrapped in a big city, I knew people all over the audience, but none of them were sitting by me. “Not again,” I thought. What are the chances that I would have to fight loneliness at church this morning, in a room full of people I love, only to have it happen AGAIN, in a room full of people I love?
The show started.
I thought about the people sitting behind me and how they probably felt sorry for me, the girl who came to a concert alone. I felt embarrassed, though there was no reason to be.
I whispered to the Lord that I knew I would be okay and I said, “Jesus, this is a mess. Come sit with me in it.”
And no kidding, two songs in, one of my best friends walks in with her three-year-old son (who I just absolutely love with my whole heart) and which tickets do they have? The one besides me.
He sat quietly in her lap, shuffled over to her sister for a few songs, and then climbed over to me — just as Dave started singing “Good.”
As my little buddy sat in my lap, his hands resting on my arm, I kissed the back of his head and patted his chest to the beat of the song, and Dave sang,
It’s so good.
I have more than I ever thought I would.
I can finally see how all the wrong turns and the heartaches
The lessons in the mistakes
Help me count my blessings like I should.
And it’s so good.
There He was. Just like I asked.
At a Christmas concert.
Using a little boy and a song to redeem my mess and remind me that this life is so good.
Truly. I have more than I ever thought I would.
It may be messy, but it also may be the most wonderful time of the year.Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Your post really resonates with me. I know my daughter, who is still single and would love to be married, is grieving inwardly. I also think of my divorced and widowed friends, who are single moms, and it will be their job to make Christmas “happy” for everyone else, when inwardly they are aching. I’ve been there – hot tears running down my cheeks as I drove my children through a drive through light display – because my husband recently left us. I thanked God for the darkness so that they wouldn’t see how much I was hurting.
I celebrate Christmas with a different assuredness these days. I know that even if the whole world abandons me…God remains faithful. He sent His Son so that I will never have to be completely alone. He is Emmanuel – God with us….God with me. I’ve learned that deep pain and joy can coexist. It’s not an either or. Praying for you, Annie, and for all the people (and there are a lot) for whom the holidays will be messy, but praising that Jesus will come and sit with them/you in the messiness. Beautiful post…
Thank both of you Annie and Bev for your soothing words and the reminder that my Jesus is Always with me…Anne C.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Mary Haynie says
Thank you for your response. I am a new widow, 5 weeks, and I will never have to be alone, God is always with me.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Lifting you up in prayer right now that God would draw especially near to you right now and wrap His comforting arms of love around you. Claiming His promise that He will not leave us/you comfortless…He will come to you…
Mary Lehman says
Lost my husband five years ago, Mary. I relate to Bev’s post today. Singleness is difficult all the time. My friend, also a widow, saved seats last Sunday for two friends who did not show up. We will still go forward with faith and hope in the Lord. I am sorry for your loss, Mary, and am praying for you during the holidays! ❤️
Beth Williams says
Sweet sister-praying for God to come wrap you in His arms. May you feel Him in your heart, and soul. He’s always with you-know that we are praying for peace this season!!!
Bev, always grateful to the Lord for your loving posts 🙂 They helps us know we are not alone 🙂 Hugs, dear sister!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Your comments always resound with love to me….may the love you give out be yours today. We are NOT alone. Emmanuel!!
There certainly are many of us with this “messiness”. Blessings to you, and all who are alone this year; may the Good Lord bless us each, by coming to sit with us during those hardest moments, and feeling the love/joy around us, even in the little things Truly, this IS the toughest part of the year for me.
Jan Dye says
I cried and cried as I read my life in your post! And in Annie’s…. I lived that single Mom life for 17 yrs, went thru empty empty nest single( raised three boys with God and church friends). God brought a man into my life in 2012 that I had known for 20 yrs as an 18 yr old on… We married in May 2013 and my youngest son died in a scooter accident 11 months later….. I still know God as Emmanuel! I love that name for Him because He became so personal to me… Annie I LOVE your post!! Love to all this Christmas season even if it’s messy!
This is so nice.
My first thoughts were….here I sit married with three children and yet I feel the same as you are describing. I struggle with many issues going through my head at most times and often have the same feelings of alone even though “physically” I am hardly alone (even when I all want is 30 minutes to watch Botched uninterrupted …ha!)
I think we all “feel” those messy times. Often what we think looks like content and fullness is just a cover up for what is really happening inside ones heart of loneliness.
Perspective is everything this time of year and all year long. 😉
Dawn Hollins says
Absolutely beautiful, thank you!!! Jesus is always with us amen!!!
Annie, beautiful words of truth. Jesus, born in a messy manger. Jesus, died on a messy cross. He knows messy. He understands messy. He loves us in the messy. Thank you sharing your raw-messy emotions. Thank you for reminding us Jesus joins us right where we are, always.
Jan Dye says
I love what you said… Perfect!
I LOVE “I whispered to the Lord that I knew I would be okay and I said, ‘Jesus, this is a mess. Come sit with me in it.'”
Everyone has mess, imagine how happier that mess would be if we all invited Jesus to just be with us. Thank you for this reminder.
I just wanted to say that, I really enjoyed your piece. God is always in our Hearts and walking with us.
My husband lost his job this last Tuesday. We are a one income family with two littles. It has been messy, and so hard, but blogs like this and people in our lives have just reminded me: God is providing. He is here, redeeming this mess. We may be uncertain of the future but He is not.
I just left a comment and was about to move on with my day when I saw your post. I lost my job last year and was out of work for six months. God provided for my husband and I faithfully during that time, and I trust He will do the same for you. To have unemployment looming during the holiday, I know, can add an extra layer of stress. Please take heart. The Lord really is with you. Keep your eyes focused on Him, wait for Him. He will give you all the strength you need during this season. Trust Him with all your heart, acknowledge Him and expect that He will direct your family’s path. Merry Christmas!
Monica, your words were such grace to my heart. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond and share your testimony with me. I think we go through these times, not only to strengthen our faith, but to also encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ in this broken world. Merry Christmas to you as well!
Beth Williams says
Praying for God to provide a good job for your hubby. May He redeem the messy and make it nice again. Prayers for peace and contentment no matter the situation.
Kathy Cheek says
I love this so much, when God answered your prayers, it is as if He came and sat beside you Himself!
Annie, I love this! I really needed to hear this. Thank you so much for sharing ❤️
Michele Morin says
We recently called a new pastor to our church, and all I could think of in the process was:
We’re asking this guy to join us in our mess.
Oh, joy and gladness – he accepted the call.
Your words today remind me that the incarnation is a cosmologically IMMENSE picture of this very thing, but instead of us calling Jesus to sit with us in our mess, God sent Him, knowing far more than we about the extent of our mess.
Thank you so much, Annie, for sharing out of your own pain and joy.
Although I’ve been married for 4 short years now, my heart greatly remembers these same feelings from my many more years as an unmarried woman. God’s timeline for marriage for me was certainly not my own. A story I joyfully share with any unmarried woman who asks, because I long to give hope during those pointed seasons when feelings of “aloneness” are accentuated. Your stories of how the Lord came in and sat with you during those moments returned my heart to that familiar place of not so long ago and reminded me of all the times he did the same for me. Some of those times were in ways that weren’t always as tangible. But whether through friends or by the power of His Spirit, He never failed to let me know I was not alone and I was deeply, unconditionally, indescribably loved. I’m glad you know and trust He will always do the same for you. Thank you for sharing during this Christmas season. I pray your words will continue to wrap around the hearts of other singles in a special way during this season.
And God came near……
Such a beautiful testimony, Annie. Reminds me how much He loves to answer our prayers. I’ve felt some times of alone-ness this year, and God has used them to call me to see the lonely ones this holiday season. To read the eyes and see the hearts of those around me. I don’t want to busily go through the motions, I want to make a difference. Thanks for sharing, Annie. May you have a blessed holiday season.
Amy KW says
Girl – I feel your heart, and your ache, and your joy. I was 40 when I met the man who became my husband just over 6 years ago. Being single can hurt. And even in the midst of all the joy and blessings and fun and adventures and overwhelming goodness, it can still hurt. Your writing today just resonates in my soul, because, like you, I loved my life – my choices – my situation – it was awesome. But there definitely are times when the singleness is just.so.there. I am so glad Jesus showed up for you — as He always does — in such a tangible way. Praying for you, and everyone who finds themselves on their own this Christmas season, that HE continues to reveal Himself to you in beautiful, loving, undeniable ways. Blessings to you — and thanks for sharing your heart!
What a sweet & comforting touch you received from the Lord. His most precious gifts of all, can be pint sized. Thank-you for reminding us of this.
Blessings to you all,
Thank you for reminding me to ASK Jesus to sit with me….not just during the Christmas season but throughout the year. Life can be ‘messy’ for various reasons. This being said, this Christmas will be different….grown children sharing the season with their spouse’s family. My momma heart is struggling with not spending Christmas with my eldest Certainly not a ‘tragic mess’ but I need Jesus to help me navigate the potential ’emotional mess’. Praying for each one of you, that your Christmas season – messy or not- will be filled with quiet , reflective moments sitting with Jesus. Merry Christmas
Thank you Annie for this encouragement. I think I may have injured my neck muscles when my head snapped back in recognition of also having been there; “feeling” not the joy and anticipation of His birthday celebration but caught up in “What do others think?”. It brought to mind one of the Bible verses we memorized as young children. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Acknowledge Him and He shall bring it to pass.” Have a blessed and merry Christmas!
Annie, Your message today is one of the dearest, loveliest messages ever! Thank you so much for sharing it with all of your readers. Your words have warmed my heart…….as well as the comments shared by others. We are all ‘in’ this messy life together, and the painful experiences are soothed by Jesus who never fails to guide us through. My dear mother always taught me, “God always provides”. And, He does, thank goodness! Have a wonderfully blessed Christmas season. I will pray for you!
Jessica Watkins says
Annie, your words are all so true and laced with very much grace. Thank you!
I agree that around the holidays, we feel it more. The mess. The brokenness. The lonliness. For several years of my marriage the holidays were much more painful than they were joyful. My marriage was broken and I felt entirely alone even when I was surrounded by friends and family. And yet Jesus was near to me the entire time. I love that he was there for you in tangible ways too! God is so good to us in that way/
The reason we celebrate the holidays is the exact reason we can lay it at the feet of the cross. Not disregard it and not brush it off. But invite Jesus in to feel with us.
Thank you, for the message in the last sentance.
I have a weird perspective on this as I sit in counseling fighting to let people love me. At 44 and never married I easily walk into church and other functions alone. I am comfortable being alone, as it is just easier than letting others love me. But I have people in my church family (I was born again two years ago) that want to sit with me. I often question their intentions “I am fine” “I don’t want pity” “I can take care of myself” all of these lies fly through my head. I fight the urge to let these people, who God is putting by me, into my heart. But I am getting a small taste of the love God has for me through these people, whether I want it or not. I know that no matter if someone is by me or not I still leave alone, another lie. This holiday season has been the hardest of all for me as I am seeing glimpses of what it feels like to have family but I am so afraid to be loved. A few have asked to include me in their family celebrations, but I am not ready. I don’t know what family love really means. I am praying that I can soon find the strength and trust in this new journey to be in a “family”, but for now I still like to sit alone. I am learning to trust that Jesus loves me and soon I hope that I can learn to let others love me.
I just want to say that “I am not alone” to those feeling sorry for me because right now I am hanging out with Jesus and we are doing a lot of talking. Peace be with all the singles! He Loves Us!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
People I’ve let in my heart have let me down. People I’ve let in and have loved have abandoned me. Quite frankly, human love – because of our fallen nature – fails and comes up short. Jesus, however, has proven to ALWAYS love me. He has NEVER failed or forsaken me. His love is constant and faithful. I do believe, He gives us glimpses of His great love through others. By letting others love me, I am in a way, letting Jesus love on me here on earth. Will their love be perfect…no…will they disappoint me….yes…does that change the fact that Jesus STILL loves me? No. Praying this Advent, Beth, that you will crack the door of your heart open and let us love you. We won’t be perfect, but let us share the love of Jesus we have in us with you….will you let us? It’s worth the risk of getting hurt…
Love you sister because Jesus loves you,
Beth B says
Thank You Bev, I am really praying and spending time in the Bible. I never knew that funny me was not happy, and I was always alone, even in a room full of people. I am believing Jesus Loves Me and once I grasp that fully I pray I can trust my Family in Christ with the real me that sheds tears ,and shines His Light when I go into a room (not my own which was a mask to hide my grief)
Thank you for your prayers.
He surely does! I am sorry for your pain; keep trying!
Beth Williams says
Sweet sister. Human love is fickle. They like you one day and not the next. God is always there loving & caring for you. Allow others to sit next to you and enjoy their company. I pray you will feel God around you and open your heart up to joining a family for Christmas. They just want to share their love of Jesus with you. You will be giving them a chance to have pure joy and get a blessing. Prayers for you sweet one!
Annie, such grace in our words that I praise the Lord for 🙂 I have been single for a while, not by choice as its not my nature. Yet in this Jesus is so there. He has not always sent others when I asked, but He has always sent Himself, His timing always perfect for when the loneliness is heavy and heart rending. In this, there is an understanding of the hunger of the Israelites as they waited for Jesus, their loneliness and ache for the Messiah. These times of year are hard for so many and I am thankful to every sister and brother who shares this struggle, who says no of us are alone. May the peace of Jesus surround and enfold us gently through His presence this Advent and Christmas season as we joyfully await His presence 🙂
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I remember thinking that God removed a lot of people from my life and obstacles that stood between Him and me. He wanted my undivided attention…not to give me a list of pious “to-do’s” but so that I could bring my heart filled with hurt and doubt to Him and He could just love on me awhile. Praying you will sense His closeness this Advent season. Love your heart sweet sister.
Annie, soooo thankful for this post…
I’m single, with all my female cousins (several of them younger than me), either married, married with children or in some kind of relationship… And every single relative of mine either secretly or openly “pittying” me
I’m ok (mostly) with my single status, trying to find content un Jesús alone, but just can’t put up with them anymore… I do know they love me, just wish they could be ok with my life as it is now
Changing subjects, I loooooove this community, am around here almost everyday but am not much of a sharer
Hope you all enjoy Jesus snd the holidays
Hugs all the way from Argentina
It is so wonderful to know that I’m not alone in my loneliness. I’m a 47 year old childless divorcee and know that all-too familiar feeling of intense loneliness– not just at the holidays, but every day. It overwhelms at times. It makes me catch my breath to keep from crying (and I still find myself crying sometimes–more than I’d like). I’m very intoverted and have a difficult time making close friends. I live with my elderly mom–for which I’m deeply thankful. But seeing the happy couples and all the joy of kids and big families this time of year just makes the pain and emptiness intensify. (Even when I know there is no such thing as a perfect spouse, child, family, friend etc). I just long to know that there is a purpose in the pain, a meaning to this solitary, lonely life. That God hasn’t forgotten me in my newly single (after 16 years married) life.
Thank you so much Annie. I am battling loneliness and it is crippling, My family is fractured; polarized. I now live and work 10 hours flight from home in Australia and feel the emotional emptiness and distance profoundly. My husband of 33 years now calls his marriage to me a mistake. That may be his truth but I’m gutted. But in this desolation ‘He’ shows up and sits with me in my mess – no judgement; no bible verses. Just His indelible and complete presence. I quieten … and breathe Him in. I am comforted.
I feel like that many times…..as a “senior” widow….always alone…..yet thankfully my Savior and Husband promises to be with me……
Kris Glenn says
I love how the Lord met the cry if your heart in such amazing ways. Only Him. ❤
The last few years, I’ve taught a workshop called Unplug the Christmas Machine, based on a best-selling book by the same name. No one leaves the workshop with the same perspective about Christmas that they had when they came in. The goal of the workshop is to uncover what Christmas really means in their heart, to each person. To learn enough about themselves that they can discard the parts of the Christmas that are low priority to them and focus on what really matters to them. The key is those words “to them”. Most of us aren’t in the position to experience or create the full “Hallmark”, “Dickens” or “Norman Rockwell” Christmas. (Choose your fantasy.). The good news is that if we look beneath the covers into our hearts, we find that we don’t really need the whole package. There’s a portion of that package that is deeply significant to each person. THAT is where you put your effort and plans and heart… And let the rest slide.
Thank you for this beautiful perspective. I am single and middle aged and frequently find myself alone at events – – both professional and personal. Your message is a reminder that I am not alone and that sometimes Jesus may be asking me to reach out to someone else who is sitting alone and introduce myself. I might only be needed for that brief interlude or it might be part of a master plan for me to find someone who will be a glorious gift in my life. Not unlike how I met an 80+ year old woman who reminded me of my grandmother from Scotland. We were friends until she joined my grandmother in heaven at 96.
Rebecca L Jones says
There is someone for everyone and God knows who it is. I pray very much that He will redeem Christmas and make it about Him. With Jesus, we are truly never alone.
Annie, thank you! I feel you sister!
I love this. Thank you for always keeping it real and sharing your real life journey with us. Gosh, what a blessing you are!
Beth Williams says
Thank you for being so real and honest! I was single for 39 years. Holidays always stunk. Oh sure I could go visit my parents, but then I’d be going home to me. It was hard. God sent wonderful people into my life to help with the holidays. It eased the pain some. As a single I joined singles groups at churches. They would often get together and have activities. Both of these were God’s way of allowing me to enjoy the holidays some.
Praying for all the singles ladies out here. May God redeem your singleness. – He is always with you NEVER ALONE!!
I’m in my mid 20s and have never been in a relationship. It wasn’t so terribly painful until I moved to a new town where I know no one and the loneliness (and aloneness) really started to sink in and manifest itself into my deepest fear – what if I am alone forever? For a long time, I thought maybe I had social anxiety, but then I realized it is not the situations I am anxious about, it is the loneliness and rejection I feel afterwards that lends itself to mostly controllable breakdowns in private, from how awkward events can be sometimes. Especially for someone my age in a small town. Sometime it feels as if I’ve been failing a test God has put on my heart, because so far year after year, prayer after prayer, nothing has shifted.
Ashlee Proffitt says
Love this. Thank you for writing.
Maree Dee says
“Come sit with me in it” – I love those particular words. I am going to write them down and remember them. How comforting to speak them out loud. So many times I ask God to grab my hand and go with me. I have even stood outside and envisioned God filling me up from my head to my toes with his strength, love, and courage before walking through the door where I know struggles would be found.