Written by Charis Heng, Singapore
“Did you hear… X and Y got together yesterday!”
“Huh? Since when were they together? I didn’t even know they knew each other!”
I have noticed lately that this sort of exchange has replaced the “Hello, how are you?” exchanges between my friends and me. I am probably exaggerating a bit, but it’s not uncommon how getting “attached” has become so prominent for many of us. Every day, my friends and I find ourselves bombarded with “couple videos” (doing cute things together, holding hands, saying how happy they are to have someone to care for them) all over social media. As I scroll through the comments section of TikTok and Instagram, I often see sentiments such as, “God, when is it my turn …”, and to be honest, my heart says the same.
The longing of my heart isn’t made easier whenever I trudge out of the campus after class and see couples everywhere—along the walkways, on the bus on my way home. To cope, I would walk with my head down and my earphones on, hoping the music would drown out my worries as I message my friends: “Guys, let’s meet soon…” As hard as I try to distract myself, occasionally I’d glance at my hands, wishing that I, too, had a hand to hold.
Friends for lonely hearts
I am so grateful to the people who have come alongside me all these years. The conversations and the time we spend together has made me realise I’m not alone, and not the only one who feels this way. Many of my friends share this heartache as well, and we all try our best to cope—we lament to each other, we try harder by signing up for activities to network, but we still find ourselves stuck at square one. Not physically alone, yet lonely together.
As I grapple with loneliness, I wonder if this stems from a desire of wanting to be exclusively known and loved by someone. While having friends provides a sense of solace, it’s hard to expect everyone to always be available, since they also have their own priorities and schedules.
What is it that I’m lacking?
Here is another thought that often haunts me: while I like to think, “Hey… I don’t think I am that undesirable, right…?”, my “evergreen” love life (A Singaporean slang for someone who has never been in a relationship) seems to scream something else. Is it the way I look? Is there something wrong with my personality?
I find myself comparing the couples I see on social media—especially the girls with their perfect makeup and curled hair, fashionable clothes and toned bodies—with my reflection in the mirror, the flabby tummy, arms, and acne-scarred face. The comments my family makes—“Why is your skin so bad?”, “I think you have put on some weight, have you been exercising?”—certainly doesn’t help either.
While I like to pretend these comments don’t bother me, they do sting, and I wonder, “Is this also how guys see me? Maybe they don’t find me attractive or likeable.” I often try to skip certain meals a day and research about different skin products during my free time, in the hopes that these things would help me feel better about myself.
What if there’s no one else left?
As I see more and more people getting attached, with even some applying for BTOs (Build-to-Order government-issued flats) with their partners, it has led me to believe that this is the norm, and I don’t want to be left behind—the “leftover” oddball in this “couple generation”.
And it seems like the pool of eligible single people shrinks at each new level of our life stage. A close friend who recently entered the workforce told me: “If you think it is hard to get attached in university, it will be even harder for you once you enter the workforce.” Although another friend had piped in with words of encouragement, I couldn’t help but feel like finding someone with the same faith, who also desires marriage, is an extra giant hurdle to get through.
Wrapped up in helplessness, I’ve found myself lamenting to God many times. Father, have you forgotten me?
Where God has been
Mercifully, the Holy Spirit gently nudges my wandering heart to God’s Word, in particular to Matthew 6:28-33:
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:28-33)
It was as if God was telling me that He sees my worried heart so clearly—He knows what I have been chasing after (the status of being “attached”), and what I’ve been trying so hard to avoid (the feeling of loneliness). Through it all, He is lifting my eyes to Him, to see that if even the smallest parts of His creations are cared for, how much more would He take care of me, His beloved child?
In my longing for companionship—to be known, remembered, loved—He reassures me that I already have full access to His extravagant love (John 3:16). Even as I long to be exclusively known, He reminds me that He who created my innermost being knows me better than anyone else on this earth (Psalm 139:2-4, 13).
As I wrestle with my feeling of inadequacy, I am reminded that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image (Psalm 139:14). Comfort fills my heart as I realise that I am already dearly loved and made worthy through Christ.
This season of refining
This period of wrestling and waiting in singleness is a season of refining. As the Lord reveals to me this deep desire of my heart to be wanted, to be deemed captivating and to be romanced, He’s also led me to this thought: if we are made in His image, perhaps this longing in us is a glimpse of His heart for His people as well. He too yearns for intimacy—with us! And because He is Love incarnate (1 John 4:8), only He can perfectly and thoroughly fulfil our desire to be loved.
So, in my waiting, He grants me joy and hope in knowing that I can lay my worries at His feet and rest in Him. In remembering who He is once again, I can remember that He has made me worthy of love. I think of these words from the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge:
A woman in her glory, a woman of beauty, is a woman who is not striving to become beautiful or worthy or enough. She knows in her quiet center where God dwells that He finds her beautiful, has deemed her worthy, and in Him, she is enough.
The feeling of loneliness still creeps into my heart every now and then, especially on days when I find myself trudging out of campus late at night. But there’s also a lingering sense of peace within me, and on the days when I open and close my hands, wondering what it’s like to hold someone else’s hand, I picture God holding mine. Into His hands I commit all the days of my life, knowing He has promised to watch over me, my coming and going, now and forever (Psalm 121:5-8).
In the meantime, I will take time to enjoy my singlehood, since it is also a gift from God! I can continue to walk through life, laughing, crying and being with my loved ones. As God leads me to places that He has purposed for me, I pray that He will continue to grow me on this journey of learning to rest in the fullness of joy that is in Him.