Q. I am 18 years old and would like to know how to be “just friends” with the guys in our church, but don’t know how. Can you give me any advice?
A. It wasn’t so long ago that I was navigating my way through the teen years and into early adulthood. One issue always lurking in the shadows was “friendships with guys.” How do these relationships look different from those with my girlfriends? How much time do I spend with them? Is it okay to hang out one on one or talk on the phone?
I always wished for a simple set of rules—a little list of “do’s and dont’s” that I could carry around in my pocket. These rules would guarantee that I would no longer have to worry about that little conscience of mine. However, I learned early on that this one was a wisdom issue, and that Scripture was the primary source for that wisdom.
In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul tells Timothy that he should, “Treat…younger women like sisters, in all purity.” Now if the guys are going to treat us as “sisters in all purity,” then we in turn must act like sisters, in purity! Here in this verse is wisdom we so desperately need. We must ask ourselves—do I treat my guy friends as I would my own brother? Am I walking in absolute purity toward all young men?
For myself, I realized that my heart often had many competing motives at work in my relationships with guys. Instead of thinking and acting like a sister, I sometimes found myself wanting attention from a particular guy. I also wanted other girls to think I had a sufficient number of guys that called me “friend.” Often, the motives behind my relationships with guys were not pure, or God-honoring.
That is why it was so helpful that my mom and I kept a running dialogue on this issue. We didn’t have some kind of formal debriefing once a week, but talking about my guy friends was a regular part of our lives. These conversations were most critical for me in the accountability that they provided and the counsel that my mom brought. For those of you who may not have a godly mom, I would encourage you to have these types of conversations with another older, wiser, woman in your church. We aren’t called to live the Christian life alone. We need the help, encouragement, and counsel of others.
I also quickly learned that my friendships with guys needed to look quite different than my friendships with girls. I recall one pastor telling me: “Janelle, guys read into things just as much as girls do. When a girl shows consistent attention to one guy, it can cultivate affection in that guy’s heart.” While I may have been considering my guy friends as brothers, they may have been thinking that there was something more. That’s why my mom always exhorted me to relate to all guys as “another woman’s husband.” This little phrase was a very helpful heart-check when it came to relating to my guy friends.
All of this said, friendships with guys are not wrong. In fact I would argue that as a single woman, friendships with godly, mature young men who are committed to purity are a gift from the Lord. Paul is obviously assuming that Timothy will relate to other young women in the church, but he makes clear what those relationships ought to look like. As one of three girls (until my favoritist little brother arrived on the scene 12 yrs. after me) I’m very grateful for the guys that were my “brothers” during those years. If we pursue the biblical principles of purity and brotherly love, we can enjoy godly friendships with godly guys as blessings from our heavenly Father.
~from the archives
My sisters and I want to echo Mom’s comments from yesterday. We are so grateful for the single women who babysat and made special memories with us when we were kids. And today we’re so blessed by the young women who love on our children.
A few years ago, Caroline sent us this story of three single women who left an indelible imprint on several generations of children. We’re reposting it this Mother’s Day week in hopes that it encourages all the single women who serve families. Thank you leaving a legacy of godliness to the little children in your life!
I was single until I was 35 (now have 4 year old twin daughters—our double blessing).
As a child we had a friend called Donna who came for tea every week, babysat, and had much godly input for me and my brothers. I am 44 now and still think of her as part of our family and although I rarely see her anymore, I always remember her with enormous affection and some of her advice helps me still.
As a single I had the privilege of being very close to several families with children. I was a young lady whose main aim was (and always will be) to be a Proverbs 31 wife and mother. I found it incredibly hard being single, but found great fulfillment in spending time with the children of my friends. I worked with children, and also went to one friend every week to help her with her children when her husband was working late. I also babysat and spent time with other friends and their children. I adored all of them, and felt enormously privileged when they called me their friend, and when I heard them repeating phrases I often used!
As a Mum with young children now, I have a special friend called Helen who comes for tea once a week and helps put my daughters to bed, prays with us all, reads them stories, comes on outings with my husband, children and me, and babysits. When my daughters talk about extended family, they always include her. She has great input into their lives and I feel privileged to have her as part of our lives.
Just as I called Donna “my Donna” and my friend’s children called me “my Caroline,” my children are now calling Helen “my Helen.” I am truly blessed!
For Mother’s Day week, we wanted to honor two groups of women.
First, we want to thank single women who do not have children of their own, but have chosen to love, serve, care for, and nurture other people’s children. You too are worthy of honor on Mother’s Day.
How does a single woman enter into the meaning of motherhood if she doesn’t have children of her own? Elisabeth Elliot answered this question:
“A single woman can have children! She may be a spiritual mother, as was Amy Carmichael [missionary to orphans in India], by the very offering of her singleness, transformed for the good of far more children than a natural mother may produce.”
I know so many of you who have offered your singleness to God and had it transformed for the good of many children. You have become spiritual mothers to countless little ones.
When you listen to children’s stories and laugh at their jokes, when you babysit them or take them on a special outing, when you encourage and comfort and teach them, you enter into the meaning of motherhood and honor God who created you as a woman to nurture little ones.
Single women, may I say “thank you” on behalf of all of us mothers? Thank you for babysitting our children. Thank you for taking an interest in our children. Thank you for making the gospel attractive to our children. Thank you for loving our children as if they were your very own.
My fellow moms, let’s seek out and honor the single women who love our children this Mother’s Day.
Q. I am 18 years old and would like to know how to be “just friends” with the guys in our church, but don’t know how. Can you give me any advice? A. It wasn’t so long ago now that I was navigating my way through the teen years and into early adulthood. One issue always lurking in the shadows was “friendships with guys.” How do these relationships look different from those with my girlfriends? How much time do I spend with them? Is it okay to hang out one on one or talk on the phone? I always wished for a simple set of rules—just a little list of “do’s and dont’s” that I could carry around in my pocket. These rules would guarantee me success, and I would no longer have to worry about that little conscience of mine. However, I learned early on that this one was a wisdom issue, and that Scripture was the primary source for that wisdom. In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul tells Timothy that he should, “Treat…younger women like sisters, in all purity.” Now if the guys are going to treat us as “sisters in all purity,” then we in turn must act like sisters, in purity! Here in this verse is the wisdom we so desperately need. We must ask ourselves—do I treat my guy friends as I would my own brother? Am I walking in absolute purity toward all young men? For myself, I realized that my heart often had many competing motives at work in my relationships with guys. Instead of thinking and acting like a sister, I sometimes found myself wanting the attention of a particular guy. I also wanted other girls to think I had a sufficient number of guys that called me “friend.” Often times, the motives behind my relationships with guys were not God-honoring. That is why it was so helpful that my mom and I kept a running dialogue on this issue. We didn’t have some kind of formal debriefing once a week, but talking about my guy friends was a regular part of our lives. These conversations were most critical for me in the accountability that they provided and the counsel that my mom brought. For those of you who may not have a godly mom, I would encourage you to have these types of conversations with another older, wiser, woman in your church. As Mom said last week, we aren’t called to live the Christian life alone. We need the help, encouragement, and counsel of others. I also quickly learned that my friendships with guys needed to look quite different than my friendships with girls. I recall a conversation that I once had with my singles pastor. He told me, “Janelle, guys read into things just as much as girls do. When a girl shows consistent attention to one guy, it can cultivate affection in that guy’s heart.” While I may have been considering my guy friends as brothers, they may have been thinking that there was something more. I remember my mom telling me to relate to all guys as “another woman’s husband.” I found this little phrase to be a very helpful heart-check in relating to my guy friends. All of this said, friendships with guys are not wrong. In fact I would argue that friendships with godly young men during these years are a gift from the Lord and something to be enjoyed. Paul is obviously assuming that Timothy will relate to other young women in the church, but he makes clear what those relationships ought to look like. As one of three girls (until my favoritist little brother arrived on the scene 12 yrs. after me) I’m very grateful for the guys that were my “brothers” during those years. If we pursue the biblical principles of purity and brotherly love, we can be free to enjoy godly friendships with godly guys as blessings from our heavenly Father. —from the archives
“Sisters, all the advice from Vogue, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan that talks about going after and getting your man, all the blather about how in this day and age it is just as acceptable for you to initiate as for him, is just that—blather. Be confident and trust your feelings on this matter. Be confident that if he is the man you hope and wish him to be, he will play the man. You crackle the leaves a bit when he is in the area and let him know you are there. Then wait for him to initiate, or not. In the long run, you will be well served either way.” Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart, page 94
In his newly converted, youthful zeal, my dad, and a group of his friends decided that God had called them to remain single. Dad was uninterested in the efforts of women to attract his attention. Put off by their forward manner, it was easy to think that God wasn’t leading him to get married.
Until he met my mom.
When he walked into the canteen at the Christian retreat center where Mom was working for the week, she didn’t try to catch his eye. Instead, she told him the canteen was closed. After pleading for a hot dog (because he had been serving and preaching all day and was tired and hungry) she finally relented. But to this day, Dad claims the hot dog was as cold as her demeanor. (She disputes this accusation, of course!)
My dad, who only a day before thought he would remain single, was suddenly smitten. Something in him—something that wanted to initiate, pursue, and win a woman’s heart—was awakened. So he asked my mom to take a walk. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Mom used to remind my sisters and me of this story when we were tempted to try to get some guy’s attention. Allow a man to win your heart, she would say. And if he doesn’t want to, then why would you want him?
God created men to initiate and he created women to respond. Or, as John Ensor also puts it, “His power is in the exclamation [of love]. Yours is in the echo.” When we remember this, things will work right in matters of the heart.
—from the archives
Q. “I am curious what you ladies might have to say on the topic of dealing with the grief that comes from the ending of a relationship, particularly when a woman believed it would end in marriage.”
A. This question immediately brought back memories of a similar season that I experienced in my relationship with Mike. Although the Lord ultimately planned marriage for us, there was a period of time when it appeared our relationship was over for good. And while I realize that not all stories have the same ending, the issues God was after in my heart are the same for all of us—whether or not we eventually get married, and regardless of the nature of our disappointed hope.
When Mike and I ended our relationship, it was after many months of mutual feelings, and much time spent pursuing marriage. Before the decision to call things off, we would both have been pretty confident marriage to each other was in our future (Read the long version of our story here.) So, upon ending our relationship, I was immediately faced with the temptation to despair. What was God doing? Why was I so confused? I thought Mike was the one! The tears were many, just ask my mom.
This decision marked the beginning of one of the biggest battles I had yet to face in my walk with the Lord. The fight for FAITH. Did I really believe what I had been taught from Scripture about God’s sovereignty? Did I trust God that He had a perfect plan for my life? Was I confident that He would reveal His will to me, in His good time? Could I be happy if His plan didn’t include marriage? I’m sorry to say that my answer to many of these questions was often a resounding “no.” I thought that my ideas and plans were best. If only the Lord would speak more clearly. If only He would do it this way—MY way.
How grateful I am for the mercy of God upon my life during this struggle. Through the leadership of my parents, I began to press into God’s Word in a most intense way. I spent hours studying “faith” and “sovereignty” in the Bible, and talking through the issues of sin in my heart with others. The book Is God Really in Control? (previously entitled Trusting God) by Jerry Bridges became a faithful friend to me. I read this book over and over again. Quotes like these fed my soul…
“God in His infinite wisdom knows exactly what adversity we need to grow more and more into the likeness of His Son. He not only knows what we need but when we need it and how best to bring it to pass in our lives. He is the perfect teacher or coach. His discipline is always exactly suited for our needs. He never over trains us by allowing too much adversity in our lives.” Page 122
“If we are to experience peace in our souls in times of adversity, we must come to the place where we truly believe that God’s ways are simply beyond us and stop asking Him “why” or even trying to determine it ourselves. This may seem like an intellectual “cop out,” a refusal to deal with the really tough issues of life. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is a surrender to the truth about God and our circumstances as it is revealed to us by God Himself in His inspired Word.” Page 126-7
Slowly, I cannot tell you exactly when, my heart began to change. I still didn’t know if marriage was in my future, but my heart was at peace in the sovereignty of my good and loving Father. I wanted His perfect plan to be fulfilled in my life.
If you find yourself in a similar situation today (and this fight for faith is certainly not limited to the arena of marriage), I would encourage you to take drastic action. Renew your mind with the consistent study of God’s Word. Purchase Jerry Bridges’ book and pursue the counsel and help of a pastor and godly friends. Grace awaits you!
“The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
—from the archives
For the past three days, our friend Carolyn McCulley has been on Focus on the Family. She’s been talking with Dr. James Dobson and Candice Watters on the topic of “Singleness: Living with a Hope Deferred.”
Please take time to listen to these broadcasts—no matter what your season of life. As Carolyn’s friend I have been encouraged and inspired by her teaching and example. And these broadcasts are Carolyn at her best—speaking out of a life of passionate service to the church and tenacious trust in our gracious God.
Here are some behind the scenes thoughts from her blog:
What’s most important to me is if you encounter a great and glorious God when you listen to my experience. Because that’s been what I’ve gleaned in these years: His faithfulness is what I have to reassure anyone who is panicking that they might end up in a similar position.
As Dr. Grudem said on Sunday morning at my church, he doesn’t know anyone over 50 who has not had a significant trial or affliction. If you live long enough, you will encounter difficulty because it’s what happens in a fallen world. But this is not the end of the story. Not only will we experience God’s redemptive activity in this life, we have the promise of sin-free, pain-free life everlasting with Him in eternity. So if I am called by God to glorify Him as a single woman, even though I desire marriage, I know He is not wasting that desire or my small sacrifice in the years I have lived in that tension. He is weaving that into His plan to rescue, redeem, and reclaim His children.
And that’s my confidence in extended singleness.
Dr. Dobson calls Carolyn “a very impressive woman,” and we agree.
Now we come to our final “best deal” of the single season.
And we find it in 1 Timothy 5:9-10.
“Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.”
This verse explains which widows are eligible to receive help and care from the church if they have no other means of support. But its application is for all of us, because it is a description of the life and character of a godly woman.
I want you to take a look at the final phrase—“has devoted herself to every good work”—At first glance, it may appear to be a little vague. Kinda like what happens when I can’t come up with a concluding sentence for one of my posts, so I just tack on something nice-sounding but essentially meaningless.
Not the case here! There is nothing vague about this concluding remark. Paul is making a very clear point. In case we got the idea that we could check off one of each of these good works and qualify as a godly woman, Paul raises the stakes considerably. He says the godly woman is devoted to good works. As one commentary describes it, she is “energetically and diligently giving herself” to this stuff. I can imagine this woman constantly looking and listening, ready to serve upon discovery of the slightest need.
Do you remember the t-shirt that was popular a few years back with the slogan that read, “Tennis (or Basketball or Fishing) is Life. Everything else is just details”? Well, here Paul is saying that the godly woman’s outlook is: “Devotion to Good Works is Life. Everything else is just details.”
Bringing up children, showing hospitality, caring for the afflicted—these aren’t things the godly woman does one time, like a community service requirement. Good works are what she is giving her life, energy, time, and heart to. Good works are what she is all about.
But there is one other word that makes this phrase even more powerful. Yep, it’s that little word “every.” “Every” quite simply means “every.” It doesn’t mean “some” or “most,” but every. The godly woman doesn’t limit herself to good works that are easy, or get her the most attention, or are her top favorites. She practices good works of all kinds. And we can safely assume that they aren’t all pleasant.
Not such a vague phrase after all, huh?
I think John Wesley’s well-known quote expands nicely on what Paul is saying here:
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can.”
Cause everything else? It’s just details.
One mom of young kids has some advice for single women. Heather Koerner wants to tell you what she’d tell her single self, if she had the chance.
In “Study to Show Yourself a SAHM” [SAHM=Stay At Home Mom] she describes her unexpectedly rough entry into her new role as full-time wife, mother, and homemaker:
I’m not sure when it hit me.
Maybe it was the morning I sat watching my 3-month-old daughter sleep next to me on the living room floor as I folded what seemed like the third laundry load of burp cloths that day. There was a lot about the moment that I had expected — love in my eyes, wonder in my heart. But there was also a lot I hadn’t expected — a house that had once been orderly and clean that was now stacked high with piles of laundry, dirty dishes, baby paraphernalia and one exhausted, not very attractive looking mommy.
I remember thinking, This is so hard. I’m not sure I can do this.
And I remember being overwhelmingly frustrated. For crying out loud (which, I think I was at that moment), I have a graduate degree. I’ve taught trigonometry. I’ve met deadlines, edited copy and run conferences. Why in the world can’t I handle one tiny baby and a 1,200 square foot house?
Heather echoes what most new moms think and feel (including us!): This is so hard! Why can’t I handle this? But that’s when Heather had her epiphany:
I suddenly realized…that I had spent six years in college preparing for a career in which I spent five years. But I had spent no time preparing myself for the career that I was about to embark on for the next decade.
It’s not that I thought my education was wasted. Rather, I realized I was so concentrated on preparing for one aspect of my future life and so blind to the fact that I should be preparing for all aspects of my future life.
If being a full-time wife, mother, and homemaker is a job God may call you to some day, and if the stakes are high (because they are), and if the challenges are steep (because they are), isn’t it a career worth preparing for?
Read Heather’s article for some great advice on how to embark on a course of study for what could be the career of a lifetime.
Just to recap, the best deals of the single life we’ve looked at so far:
Pursue Undivided Devotion
Become a Theologian
Help the Men
Choose Friends Carefully
Our sixth suggestion for how to best use your years as a single: Prepare to be a wife and mother.
Now I realize that not every woman will get married and have children; but truth is, most women will be wives and mothers someday. And for the majority of you who get married and raise children, you will spend a considerable portion of your lives in the homemaking profession—from twenty or thirty to upwards of fifty years or more. That’s no small amount of time!
And the commands in Scripture to love, follow and help a husband, to raise children for the glory of God, and to manage a home from which the gospel goes forth encompass a vast responsibility. The role of wife and mother requires an extremely diverse array of skills—everything from management abilities to knowledge of health and nutrition, to interior decorating capabilities, to childhood development expertise. If you are to be effective in this role, then you must study these subjects and many more.
A career as a wife and mother demands considerable expertise, may encompass decades of your life, and has the potential to spread the gospel to your family, church, community, and future generations. Now that’s worth preparing for, wouldn’t you say?