Do you have any suggestions for an aging single woman with no immediate family who is seriously worried about what's going to happen to her in old age? I know that God holds widows close to His heart and calls the church to help care for them if they have no close relatives, but I also worry that there really isn't any place for me in the church – that because I'm not a widow, no one will be there for me when the time comes. I cling to the Lord's promise that He will provide for my needs, but I'm having a hard time trusting Him with how that might look in practical terms further on down the road. I'm also concerned that I will eventually grow bitter towards Him or other people about my circumstances. How can I find peace?
Sadly, you have put your finger on a very real and prevalent problem. Your experience is shared by a growing number of aging singles, and there are lots of folks who are intimately familiar with the fears you've expressed. Our society is becoming increasingly atomized and isolated. Unmarried adults are looking around and realizing that they're living in a very scary world, often without anyone to help or support them. As the trend toward lifelong singleness continues to grow, local churches will need to rise to meet the challenge.
In the meantime, is there anything you can do to help yourself? Thankfully, the answer is yes – you can begin considering what you can do today to improve your prospects and prepare for your future. Start looking now for people who can become the support group you will need in later years. Take a lesson from traditional African cultures: in some of these societies, widows and other unmarried adults have traditionally banded together to support one another in dealing with the practical challenges of life. You'd be wise to follow their example.
Bear in mind that people who don't have any intimate, caring relationships with others during their thirties and forties aren't likely to have any when they reach their sixties and seventies. This is the time to think about becoming part of a group where you can develop close ties with other people. Start by exploring opportunities for relationship in your church or other Christian groups, but don't necessarily stop there. Remember, "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." God can meet you and provide for your needs anywhere. If your local church has let you down in this area, there are lots of special-interest clubs, service organizations, and charitable societies that you may be able to join. Do you have any hobbies? Do you enjoy painting, quilting, reading, stamp-collecting, or bird-watching? Are you interested in political activism or social relief? Could you benefit by enrolling in a nutrition and fitness class, a book club, or a discussion group of some kind? As you can see, the possibilities are almost endless. Any one of these activities could become the basis for several deeply meaningful long-term friendships.
Finally, it might also be worth asking yourself whether this feeling of being excluded from the church has any basis in fact. Is it possible that you're simply giving in to your fears and allowing a depressed mood to dictate your attitude and actions? If you think this might be the case, we'd urge you to seek out the help of a medical doctor or a trained counselor as soon as possible. Whatever you do, don't allow yourself to become stuck in false and misleading perceptions of other people's intentions. That won't help you achieve your goals.
Here at Focus on the Family we have a staff of trained family therapists available to provide you with sound advice and practical assistance over the phone. If you'd like to discuss your situation with one of them, you can call for a free consultation. Our counselors can also provide you with references to reputable Christian therapists practicing in your area.