Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: According to Carolyn McCulley, our moments of loneliness can inspire us to reach out to other people.

Carolyn McCulley: I would never stop to think about someone else in this circumstance if God hadn't allowed me to walk through it. When I've experienced holidays by myself or some other situation, all of a sudden it cultivates empathy in me that hadn't been there before.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, June 17th. All week we've been in a series with Carolyn McCulley called Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? They'll wrap up the conversation on singleness today. Here's Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You know, one of the plights of the human condition ever since Genesis chapter 3 is that we've had to deal with the issue of loneliness because sin separates. It separated Adam and Eve there in the garden from each other, from God, and ultimately from their children. So loneliness is something that is common to all of us, but I think that it's particularly something that many of us as unmarried women can identify with. And perhaps there's the thought, "If I just had a husband, then I wouldn't have to deal with loneliness."

We want to talk about that today with our guest, Carolyn McCulley. She's a speaker. She's an author. She's on the staff of Sovereign Grace Ministries. She's become a dear personal friend. Thank you, Carolyn, for being with us on Revive Our Hearts.

Carolyn: Oh, thank you for having me. I suspect that as you were saying that, there were married women everywhere cracking up laughing at that statement, "I'll never be lonely again."

Nancy: Right, because marriage in and of itself doesn't solve what is a very human issue of how sin separates us and does cause loneliness. It's not just single women who struggle with loneliness. What we're going to talk about today will have good application for women in every season of life.

You've written a wonderful book called Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred. This is a book I really recommend to women who are single, particularly older single women, but younger ones as well.

But I also want to recommend this book to married women for a couple of reasons. One, there are a lot powerful and practical insights here just about womanhood in general and things that married women need to be aware of, in their relationship with the Lord and others; but also, many of you as married women have daughters. You have granddaughters. You have women friends who are single, and you're being asked some tough questions and needing to give input into their lives.

There are just some really great insights; many of them I wish I'd thought of myself. I wish I could have written this book, but I'm glad that you have, Carolyn, and it's been a blessing and challenge to me personally. I hope many of our listeners will order a copy of it, so thank you for writing it.

Carolyn: Thank you. Those are some kind words indeed.

Nancy: Now this whole thing of loneliness. You know, Valentine's Day--let's talk about that. You're in your forties. I'm in my forties. How many Valentine's Days have we been through now? What are the single women thinking? It's February the 12th, February the 13th; February the 14th is coming. What are some of the things that often go through the minds of singles that week?

Carolyn: Well, I think there's a huge temptation toward self pity, no doubt. "Is there going to be anything for me? Will anyone remember me? Will anyone send a card or flowers or anything?" It's a temptation to turn our gaze inward and start to look at ourselves. "What do I have? What do I lack?" And it becomes a conversation . . ."I . . . I . . . I . . . I . . . I . . . ."

Nancy: That self-centeredness always leads to problems. It always leads to loneliness and misery because God didn't make us to be self-centered. He made us to be centered on Himself and others.

Carolyn: Yes, I actually have a friend who has coined that day as "National Singles Awareness Day," just because you never felt so aware of your singleness until Valentine's Day. One year I had a friend who sent me a note. He's another author and a married man, and he said, "I experienced something on a trip that made me realize what you go through on Valentine's Day."

He was staying in a hotel where the restaurant in that hotel was having a big Valentine's Day event. He went down to get a meal, and they said, "Sir, you know, this is a whole Valentine's event. We are completely booked out. It's just for couples only." And as he got turned away just trying to find a place where he could eat, he said his mind went to me, and he thought, "How difficult this holiday is when you're not with someone else."

Now, oddly, what happened at the same time in my life was that several of the men in my small group had decided to bless the ladies and arranged for a big, elaborate dinner with a limo, etc. So that year I wasn't feeling lonely at all.

Nancy: But there are other years.

Carolyn: That's true. I appreciated his note. Generally, though, Valentine's Day is a day where I have decided that I am going to find a way to bless somebody else, because if I'm not making plans to be others-oriented, I will sit around and be full of self-pity. So I have to be proactive and subdue my natural selfishness and self-centeredness by being proactive and blessing someone else.

One year it happened as I was leaving a mall, and I was looking around and thinking, "Everywhere in this mall are pictures of happy couples." I'm sure there are couples going by saying, "Everywhere there are pictures of happy couples," and if they are not happy it's equally a temptation. But I left thinking, "There's nothing for me."

As I walked across the parking lot I saw this building; it's an assisted living home, a nursing home complex. It hit me, "Hey, I bet you there are a lot of people in there who are also lonely and also not going to receive anything." And that little blob of self-pity that was following me just went . . . bloop . . . and just disappeared. I thought, "Let's do something here to serve others." So my small group decided to host a Valentine's Day Tea.

One of the women in my group, her grandmother lived there, so we invited her and her friends and had a tea, during which we were able to talk to them and ask about their memories and things they've learned and how they got married and what's changed over the years and what were some of their traditions. We were so busy being a blessing on Valentine's Day that I don't think it crossed any of our minds that we personally had not been singled out on Valentine's Day.

Nancy: And there is such joy, whether it's Valentine's Day or another holiday or Friday nights or weekends or anytime of the year . . . there's such joy when we get outside of our own circumstances and get outside of ourselves, whether married or single, and focus on others.

Carolyn: We've been talking about the Proverbs 31 woman, this verse [verse 20] says that she reaches out her hands, she opens up her hands. She is making an effort. There is this outward focus on serving the needy and the poor. And through her we have an example of how to subdue our selfishness in serving others.

Nancy: So, this virtuous, noble woman, the Scripture says, "reaches out her hands to the poor and needy." So, who are those poor and needy? How do we find them? How can we as single women reach out to them?

Carolyn: Well, the needy are all around us, whether they're friends or family or other well-established relationships.

Nancy: And we don't want to skip over our family, by the way, in talking about reaching out to the poor and needy.

Carolyn: That's true. So just being others-oriented with established relationships can help. But God often gives us the opportunity to reach out to those who have fewer material resources, and they're everywhere. We don't necessarily need to go far, far away or to other countries; they're in our own neighborhoods often, or just a short drive away.

But we can often miss when God is trying to put that in our path. That happened to me a few years ago when I was in the church office. I couldn't help but overhear a conversation the receptionist was having because she was obviously hard of hearing. So I would hear her say, "No, live . . . no, where do you live . . . where do you live?" She's yelling this across the phone, so I obviously overheard what was happening.

It turned out there was a woman who had found out about our Christmas Eve service, and she was wheelchair bound. She was hard of hearing. Her eyesight was also diminishing because she had an inoperable brain tumor. As I listened I thought, "Oh well, I know people who live in the neighborhood where she is. I'll arrange for them to take her to the Christmas Eve service." But none of them could go, and pretty soon it became obvious to me that God was asking me to serve her, that He had put her in my path.

This was six years ago, and my friend, Sherie, and I are still getting together. She is a single woman. She's not materially poor, due to the generosity of her family and due to various government programs, but she still has needs for friendship and fellowship and service. She is a faithful friend. She will remember my birthday. She will remember Christmas. It's definitely a two-way relationship, but it has given me an opportunity to serve another single woman who has had greater trials in her life than I have.

Nancy: There are so many people we can reach out to. It may be those, as you say, who are materially needy, but it can be those who are needy in various ways. We've talked this week about reaching out to single moms, investing in them and helping them in some practical ways.

I think, Carolyn, about the times that I've gone to church. It seems like a little thing, but it can be a big thing to me. When I walk into church and I'm by myself, the dread of my week is, "Where am I going to sit? Who am I going to sit with?" I don't really want to go and sit by myself, but I don't want to walk up to people and say, "Could I sit with you?"

What an opportunity it is, when I look in that auditorium and I see a woman who's new to the church, or she's by herself, or she's a woman with an unbelieving husband so she comes to church alone. I can say, "I am going to sit here and be miserable as an alone person," or I can reach across that aisle and say, "Can I sit with you?" or "Come sit with me." So, there are so many opportunities and needs to reach out to others as single women.

Carolyn: I've found, too, that God often redeems those moments of loneliness when we realize, "I would never stop to think about someone else in this circumstance if God hadn't allowed me to walk through it." When I've experienced holidays by myself, or some other situation, all of a sudden it cultivates empathy in me that hadn't been there before. The ability to stop and think, "Is there someone else who's also walking through this? Maybe I can help them in the future."

Nancy: So, let me ask you: Are there people in your church or in your circle of friends or in your family who could benefit from your friendship, your help, your generosity? What about getting involved in some of the mercy ministries of your church? What great opportunities those are.

Carolyn, the neat thing about reaching out to others who are poor and needy in different ways is that we can really be, even as single women, on a journey of joy. Proverbs 31 [verse 25] talks about this woman looking forward to the future. She laughs at the future. There's a sense of joy and fullness. This isn't a woman who is desperately needy and clingy and self-absorbed.

Here's a woman whose life is full. Her life is rich. She's reaching out. She's giving. She's serving. She's loving, and as a result she looks forward even to old age with joy. That's the kind of woman I want to be.

Carolyn: I know, and it doesn't make a lot of sense sometimes to think about the fact that the best is yet to come when we know, as we are getting older, that we're facing more challenging circumstances in our health and, if our parents are still alive, perhaps their health is failing or we have to deal with their illnesses.

Life does get harder as we get older, but it doesn't have to be joyless, because every single day we're seeing more and more of God's faithfulness toward us. We're seeing more evidences of His grace and His plan being worked out in our lives. We know that the day that we die, we go and we are with Him, and it just is grace upon grace for all eternity. So that's why I often sign this book saying, "May you always laugh at the days to come," because it just gets better from this point on out.

Leslie Basham: That's Carolyn McCulley with great perspective on the aging process. She's been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about ways Proverbs 31 applies to single women. Caroline explores this a lot more deeply in her book Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? It encourages single women to embrace their God-given roles in hospitality, generosity, training children, and encouraging other people.

You can order a copy of Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? when you visit our website, ReviveOurHearts.com. If you missed any of the conversation this week, you can order a copy of this week's series on CD. You can also order the book or CD by calling 1-800-569-5959.

What are the most difficult aspects of singleness that you've discovered? Would you write and tell us about your experience? The address is Revive Our Hearts, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska 68501.

On Monday Nancy will begin a teaching series called Crying Out. It will give hope to anyone who feels like they just can't go on. Please join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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