Things Single Christians Wish You Knew: You Can't Ask For Help
Table of Contents
This is one that hurts to write. And it hurts because, just as Christ's people are called to minister to each others needs, it seems this one is the exception.
Can we fix it?
I am a pragmatic man. If someone comes to me with an issue, my approach is often "how do we fix it in a way that's quick and stress free?" I do this because I am absolutely not pastorally gifted, I'm practically minded. I'm not a reflector, I'm a doer. If I see a problem, I try and fix it. If I can't fix it, I will find someone who can. I seem to be, for better or worse, the guy people call in a crisis. My strength is that I can fix a lot of people's problems quickly, my weakness is that I'm not good at supporting them long term.
Sometimes things pop up in people's lives that just need a quick fix. At other times, there are bigger issues that require a practical solution or some actual hands on graft.
Yet often I think Christian culture doesn't quite "get" it. Often we're quick to tell people to pray or to encourage, but not so quick to get our hands dirty.
We all too quickly revert to the pastoral, viewing the practical as anathema to our religious sensibilities. Yet surely there has to be room for both? James 2:26 tells us "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."
Sometimes the pastoral is good, but at other times, an actual practical approach is needed. Faith is a balance of the two, not exclusively one or the other.
To give you an example, I spent 6 months indoors in 2020 thanks to the UK government deciding that, because I have the one lung that works properly, I couldn't leave the house because Covid could easily kill me. I was dependent on people for literally everything and I had no way to actually do anything myself.
At that point, my biggest concern was food. I couldn't get any. No one knew about how Covid worked, there was no vaccine. I was basically stuck with half a fridge full of stuff and no way to get any more.
What happened was 2 lads stepped up and did my food shopping. For 6 months.
No mucking about.
No weird discernment.
No making it conditional.
No "we'll pray about it."
No "have you thought about…"
They saw a problem and they fixed it.
If faith without works is dead, then the faith of these two fellas is alive and kicking.
So how does this relate to singleness?
To many single people, myself included, singleness is frequently seen as a problem in their lives in need of fixing. I absolutely understand it's not the popular way of seeing it, nor is it the way Christian culture often mandates that we see it. But it's the way many single people see it all the same.
That's just the way a lot of single people see it, as a problem in need of fixing. And because of that, some people just want a practical approach to fix a practical problem.
We need to acknowledge that and accept it.
If we refuse to acknowledge it, we invalidate that viewpoint, which is the equivalent of rubbing salt in the wound.
In many people's lives, singleness is a problem that need fixing.
The problem is that, beyond some horrendously theologically wonky books on the issue, there is absolutely naff all help or guidance out there.
No one knows how to fix this problem.
A lot of us are flying blind. So we turn to the sparsely populated (and terribly written) Christian dating section where a handful of writers spend thousands of words having an attack of diarrhea of the typewriter to tell us the same thing.
Think about it differently.
The issue is that so much Christian writing on singleness is so bad that it never actually fixes the problem, it just tells us to look at it differently or not see it as a problem, essentially just change our focus and it'll be fine. It's the emotional equivalent of telling someone "don't think about your broken leg."
Yet the issue is still there.
To give a facetious example if equivalency, let's say the police kick my front door in because they think I'm a drug dealer. They take a battering ram and smash my front door off its hinges in order to get into my house. So now I have no front door.
There's a problem, in need of a practical solution, which is a new front door.
If we applied logic in the same vein a lot of singles writing is applied today, I'd be encouraged to see my missing front door as a ventilation hole, or emergency access for cows to shelter in my house, or told to go and do something else to take my mind off their being a missing front door.
That's all gravy, but It doesn't actually give me a new front door.
Sometimes a problem just needs fixing.
Just telling someone to think about it differently or to see it differently doesn't remove the core issue.
Is practical help always the best approach?
Lets be blunt here. When many single Christians see this as a problem in need of fixing, what they want is a solution.
They want help to meet someone, to see how that person feels about them or to be set up with that bloke they like or someone to arrange a blind date for them, you name it.
Often people who are single have been carrying this for so long and it hurts so much, they just want some, any practical help.
Yet, with that being said, would a practical solution to the problem actually be helpful? Or would that person they're introduced to just become someone those hurts and insecurities are transferred onto?
I'm going to suggest to you that, in some circumstances, the practical approach isn't always the most helpful.
Sometimes any old front door won't fit the gap.
Sometimes the "fix it," approach is appropriate,
But sometimes it's not.
I think what many single Christians sometimes fail to realise is the help they want, which is to fix this perceived problem in their lives, often doesn't exist or can't be given in the way they want.
People don't or can't work that way. And if it is given, often there's a bunch of crap under the surface that means all that pain is going to be transferred, not transformed.
So we have a paradigm whereby many (but not all) single people see a problem in need of fixing, to which there is no easy fix. And if they get that fix, it may not actually be suitable.
My experience of asking for help
Anyone who has journeyed with me for a while knows first hand just how much I struggle with being single. I have spent over a decade praying into things, asking God to take the calling away, praying into various prophetic words and visions I've had.
Truthfully, I am in a lot of pain over this. Whilst I understand that I am no one's first choice, marriage and kids is still something that's important to me. Being realistic, I have probably missed my opportunity to have children. I have definitely missed my chance to have any degree of financial security. If life hits the skids, I'm all I've got. I'm in mourning for the life I never got to have.
That's a pretty crap place to be.
I genuinely don't feel I can do the online dating thing anymore because I am burned out with the churn and disappointment of what is effectively a Christianised meat market. I'm not in a position to meet anyone that shares my faith in real life. So what do I do? Given all that, I genuinely don't see that I have any other viable options than to ask for help.
It's a case of, I don't want to ask for help but I have to ask for it.
Because it's not in me to stop fighting for what I feel called to. I just want a bit of help.
Over the past few years, I have experimented with asking a very limited number of people for the practical kind of help I think I would benefit from.
And it has not gone well.
To give an example, several of the lads I have asked for help, having explained how much I am hurting over this and that I'd like some help, have laughed in my face. When I have then challenged them, asking "so why is it funny?" they cannot provide an answer.
It's difficult to live with this idea that, should I ask people for help in a place of hurt, their first response is to make it a joke.
Another example would be the apathy response. There have been a couple of the fellas I have asked who have agreed to help in a practical sense and yet they have moved on with their lives, treating the request as something to be discarded, sometimes with an excuse, sometimes with a dismissal. I think this is, in many ways, more hurtful, because apathy is the biggest killer of men's hearts.
Possibly the most common response I've encountered is the "not my problem mate," this is generally where someone is happy to listen but will then give a litany of excuses why they can't help. I get it, it's awkward, you're dealing with raw feelings, absolutely understand. But at the same time, it's a difficult message to receive.
What these responses have created in me is, without wanting to sound dramatic, a trauma based response. I genuinely don't feel that my problems matter or that my hurts are meaningful. It communicates to me that I am not worth helping, or that somehow I should be able to re-engage with ways of doing things (like online dating) that do not work for me.
In short, the answer to asking for help is generally some variation of "sod off and sort it yourself mate."
Yet what all these responses miss, on reflection, is any form of prayerful discernment. I'm just as guilty of this. The number of Christians who have come to me asking for help with relationship stuff and I've dived straight in without praying first are innumerable.
So my challenge would be, are we actively praying for God's will here? Or are we trusting our own gut?
When we act out of a place of our own immediate response, it's a bitter pill to swallow for the person asking for help, and it communicates a horrible message. Yet when we act out of a place of prayerful discernment, then maybe God might just be calling us to get our hands dirty.
The predatory side of asking for help
Unfortunately it isn't just me shouting "sometimes a practical response is needed." Truthfully, there are some very, very predatory people out there who seem to know this and want to rinse people like myself for money, time, energy and investment.
The first was a Christian couple I was referred to. These guys are supposedly brilliant with praying and bringing breakthroughs. Fantastic, I thought, here’s a couple that are spoken highly of, that seem genuinely open to standing with me in prayer, who can ask for more than that? But then, of course, it started. Discussions about booking “free consultations,” “courses” I needed to attend, I needed to buy a PDF book at £35. I think, in total, just for getting a zoom call with this couple, I was looking at close to a £200 investment.
Of course, I didn’t pay it, simply because I don’t have the money. But even if I had done, people like this and their "ministries" exist to prey on the hurts and dreams of people in Christian circles.
The second was a “prophet” from an unspecified location in continental Europe. This guy responded to a prayer request I made on social media about my struggle with singleness. Several unread facebook messages asking for donations for prophesy later escalated to death threats involving some very creative uses for a meat cleaver and a bottle of bleach.
The third was a “course” for single men I was signposted to attend. Again, all seemed lovely and it was all free until it wasn't. The course, of course, never emerged. It was promised several times, along with lots of overblown promises about how it was life changing and how there had been a ton of success stories already. Of course it was complete rubbish. I was essentially siphoned off into a Facebook group with promises of heart healing ministry, matchmaking and all kinds of stuff. What it turned out to be was nothing more than a funnel for a very expensive mentorship programme which promised the world with nothing to back it up. Essentially it is the work of an utter charlatan.
See, here is what happens when help isn't available to people in my situation. People fall for stuff like this. The Christian singles demographic is like a net full of tuna being surrounded by sharks. You can swim away from one, maybe from a few. But eventually, we’ll get eaten because (for me at least) the desire to be obedient to what I feel God has called me into can often overwhelm common sense.
Just ask me about the goat farmer.
So what can we actually do?
You need to bare in mind that, to many single people, perception is reality. They perceive a problem, it becomes their reality, perhaps a little too real. So what is forming that perception? Truthfully, when a single person lashes out or is hurt about being single, chances are there's a bunch of other stuff feeding into it that needs unpicking and it's a lot of that stuff that can be practically helped.
I'll give you an example. I got really down about the whole single thing during shielding in 2020. I had to stay inside for 24 weeks because of a knackered lung. You know how it goes, poor me, rah rah rah. What was feeding into that though was feelings of hopelessness, not seeing my parents, lack of contact from others, fatigue, inability to do homeless stuff. Hell, even running out of spray paint had an impact.
So the hurt and disappointment I felt (and still feel) over singleness was still there, but it was exacerbated by all this other crap. When some of the stuff that was feeding into it got nailed and I got spray paint and could actually talk to a couple of people, my perception changed.
So here's the thing. My need for help meeting someone is still a very real need that I have, but sometimes that need is impacted by other things.
Perception equals reality, but our expectations also need to be grounded in reality.
Sometimes, we can do something to help fix someone's singleness problem. We can introduce them to someone or set them up or something similar. Our choice to do this or not comes down to our perception of whether or not we value that person enough to offer the help. And we communicate that value through the choice we make, whether we'd admit it or not.
But on the other hand. Look, we might not be able to fix someone's singleness, but we can fix or address some of the issues that are feeding into their perception of it.
Everyone has got it in them to provide some practical help, even if it's just taking them for a coffee, film night, an affirming word or giving them a ring.
Us failing to do that is just sheer laziness. And there's nothing worse than lazy faith.
Where we are lazy, we should be utterly ashamed.
Instead of saying people are misguided for wanting to fix this issue they see as a problem, or dismissing them, perhaps a different approach is needed. Perhaps we need to prayerfully discern if we can help rather than dismissing them out of hand. And if we can actually help them, let's get on with it. And if we can't, then maybe let's actually dig deeper and see what's going on under the surface and try and address that?
Let's be real here, as much as I would love to say "I am struggling with singleness, please help meet someone" I just can't. I can never be completely honest about my need for help other than in meandering blogs like this.
I say it too loudly, or too much, people think I'm mental. Or I get judged. Or written off.
But at the same time, this need for help doesn't make single people bad for asking. So maybe we can see them with a new set of eyes if they get the bravery to ask for help?