When I was a little girl, I never associated being alone with being rejected. I loved my time alone because it involved hours of acting out my fantastical imagination with princesses and palaces without interruption.
I’m not so different now than I was then. I still love finding time away from the world. I love coffee shops and talking to God out loud, and I love the freedom that being alone affords. However, if I’m not careful, my heart will distort and twist reality so I believe being alone equals being rejected. On too many days my joy of aloneness is sabotaged by the painful realization that I am alone because I am no one’s favorite.
While I’m embarrassed to admit it, there are days where singleness feels like that middle school playground. You watch your friends around you get picked for teams, and you just keep waiting and wondering—when will I be picked?
In my ideal world, everyone would get to be someone’s favorite. The pain of rejection in singleness comes in the unbalanced nature of relationships. I have people who are my favorites. They are my dearest and nearest friends—my top priorities outside of Jesus. The thing is, many of them have husbands and children. And so, I’m not their favorite. These people are my family, but I’m not their family. And that’s painful.
The problem is that you and I are broken. We are insecure and afraid and we were created to have worth spoken into us by someone outside of ourselves. The thing is though, that Someone else isn’t a human being. There is no person on earth that should have the power to speak into us value or worth in such a way that it secures our identity.
Jesus talks about the danger of receiving affirmation from people in such a way that it adds something to you. People’s instinct is to assure you that it’s valid to want or even need affirmation from other people, but Jesus says otherwise. He says that affirmation and love from another human being should not be wanted or even received in such a way that it fills deficiency in us. He says that when affirmation from people adds to our sense of self and security, it robs us of the ability to be satisfied in Him. And I didn’t make that up—it’s what He said. If we want to know why we aren’t satisfied in Jesus, here’s His answer: we receive affirmation from men and we don’t seek it from God.
Jesus comes to the Pharisees and basically says they don’t want Him because He doesn’t receive worship from men in such a way that it adds value to Him; that it speaks identity into Him.
And then He asks them this question: ’How can you believe (or be satisfied with God), when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?’
Here’s Jesus’ question: How can you possibly be satisfied by God when the attention of man adds to your value? How can you possibly be satisfied by God when you don’t seek your affirmation and identity in the only God? Why are you treating men like they have the power to give you value through their feeble words when that is a power that belongs to God alone? There is only one Person who can speak worth into you in such a way that it finally begins to fill that aching fear and insecurity.
That’s why I feel no hesitation in claiming that the pain of rejection we face in singleness is one of God’s sweetest gifts. It provides a head start on being satisfied in God. The key to satisfaction in Him is two-fold: not receiving your worth from the words of men, and seeking it from God. The pain we experience in singleness occurs because the first condition has been met. I am hurting because my singleness itself seems to have stolen from me the opportunity to get affirmation from men. Now, the challenge is to let go of my desire to seek out and secure that affirmation, or cling and scrape up the scraps I might have gathered of human affirmation to try to make me feel less insecure or unwanted. The challenge is to seek my affirmation from God.
And the reward is great: You will have deeper faith and deeper satisfaction in our Lord and Savior.
If you are no mortal man’s favorite, you are in good company. Besides me, you’re also in the company of Someone who was "despised and rejected by men." He refused to receive glory from men, and He sought instead the glory, the perfect peace and joy that comes from the Father.
You will waste the rejection of singleness if you allow others to speak affirmation into your life that adds to your identity, rather than seeking the affirmation that can only come from God. God has designed this beautiful season of life to be one where you can say: "Where else can I go?" When you need affirmation, you have no husband to turn to, and as the stages of life of your friends shift with the seasons, more and more of your "options" for affirmation will be stripped away. And again you will say, "No, really, now, where would I go for affirmation?" You will find you have no other options. If you want affirmation you will have to trust God to provide. Don’t be ashamed by your insecurity. Don’t try to cover or conceal or fill it with positive thinking or encouragement from mortal men. Let it drive you to cling to God as your only hope. Let no one but God—not friends or yourself—convince you that you are worthy and loved. Let His word be the only balm to the broken soul.
You will waste your pain of rejection if you don’t let the affirmation of God fuel your role in community and the Church. The more you seek the glory that comes from the only God, the more of an asset you will be to the hurting and broken around you in the church and the city. Instead of looking around on a Sunday and wondering why no one cares for you, you will have all the affirmation you need to look around you and seek people to love—not people who’ll love you. You will be able to be a true friend when you are loving out of an abundance not deficiency. Now that you are not seeking your identity to be filled by their words or affirmation, you are finally able to be free to speak truth without fear. You are free to bear burdens without counting the cost. You are free to celebrate with those who are celebrating and weep with those who are weeping without the distraction of coveting.
Fabienne Harford lives in Austin, Texas where she works on staff at The Austin Stone Community Church. You can find more thoughts from Fabs at fabsharford.com.