1 Corinthians 13: 2, If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love—I am nothing.
Remember the single mom in your congregation? You’ve seen her arriving weary but determined, struggling to keep her little ones quiet, trying to guide her teens and be a good example to all her children. She does this alone. Perhaps she is embraced by your congregation, perhaps she is ignored due to the circumstances of her singleness. Put yourself in her place. If you were a single mom, would you feel loved and cared for by God’s own or would you feel ignored and pushed aside? How would that affect your view of God if you were a young Christian? What if you’d not yet submitted to Christ–how would that affect you?
It’s not enough for us to have correct doctrine. While the need to understand the Bible as God meant it to be understood cannot be overstated, the truth is that we must then live out what we’ve learned or we’ve failed in following Christ. William Nicholson, a minister from the 1800’s said, “It is not sufficient to be sound in the faith—we must also abound in love. A man may have an orthodox creed—while his heart is cold and dead. Where religion is genuine, love will be active.”
Ask yourself, is love active in your church? In your own life? Are you doing all that you can to show love to those who need it most? How can you do better? Then ask yourself this: If you were a single mom, what would your needs be? Some of your answer would depend upon your socio-economic level. A career oriented single mom who makes enough to provide for herself and her children will likely have different needs than an inner-city single mom or a single mom who got pregnant as a teenager. Your job as her sister or brother is to get to know her. Gaining an understanding her needs will come.
Some of the needs of single moms are pretty much the same across the board: Someone to care, to listen, to be involved in her children’s lives. The most important thing you need to know is this: Do you know for certain that she knows Christ? Do her children? That is their most important, most pressing, need. Then ask yourself: If you were a single mother, how would you feel bearing your burdens alone? How would you feel sitting by yourself in church? Going home to an empty house? Making sometimes overwhelming decisions that will affect your children all by yourself? What matters might be pressing in on you, threatening to drown you?
In many ways, single moms are just like other moms. They’re real flesh and blood women. They have hopes and dreams, thoughts and feelings, needs and wishes. They get tired. They want what is best for their children. They dream of a better tomorrow. Often their days and nights are lonely and exhausting, their needs overwhelming, their cares daunting. You can come alongside of them and encourage them. Be Christ’s hands and feet to them.
Whatever her circumstances, however she came to be a single mom, be it abandonment or abuse, widowhood or as an unwed teen, don’t let the circumstances of her life cause you to sit back in judgement. She needs you to see past her circumstances to the real woman, the real sister in Christ. The circumstances of her singleness oughtn’t define her but she may feel as if they do. Some might treat her as if they define her. That isn’t right. Even if she sinned in some way and that led to her being a mother alone, if she’s here before you as your sister in Christ, that’s really all you need to know. Help her. Be a friend. Don’t let her circumstances, whatever they may be, affect your desire to serve God through serving her and her children. Don’t let her circumstances affect the way you see her children or the way you react to or interact with them. They need to know that someone cares for them. They need to see Christ’s love reflected in your words and actions. She and her children need the love of Christ. They need a burden-bearer.
Go over to her after church one Sunday and invite her and her children home for lunch or see if they can come for supper one night. I remember Mama telling me that no one but her own family and one other single Mom ever invited us to their homes. When couples got together, nobody knew what to do with a single Mom and her child. So they did nothing. Mama was lonely and her loneliness drove her towards depression. Sometimes she just wanted to feel included, to have someone to laugh with or confide in, someone who cared enough to find out how she was doing. She shouldn’t have had to bear all of her burdens alone. No one should. If you have the opportunity to serve a Mom who is bearing her burdens alone, do so. Include her and her children in some gatherings and try to get others interested in doing so also.
Beyond that, as you get to know her better, see where and how the church can help her. It is hard for most anyone to flat-out say “I have this need”. She may not want to tell you so you might have to observe her circumstances. Is her car reliable? Does she even have a car and, if not, how does she get around? Is dad fully in, partly in or completely out of the picture? Is she being threatened by a disgruntled ex-husband? Was she abused? Were the children? Is she able to provide for her children when birthdays or Christmas rolls around? Are there any pressing medical or dental needs? Does she need someone to talk to (a friend, a minister, a counselor, a lawyer)? Do her girls need help with anything? Do her boys need a man to talk to, do guy things with or to guide him? Go to her, get to know her, invite her into your life and ask to come into hers. Find out what’s on her heart. Ask about her needs and really listen to her reply. You might not be able to do everything, maybe not even much, but showing concern is a great place to start. Rally the troops, what you cannot do perhaps someone else can. Help her to find outside sources of help as appropriate. Just remember to do what you can. Be a friend. Lastly, get her involved in something. If she has gifts, abilities, encourage her to use them to bless others. Accepting help is a bit easier to swallow if you are also giving help to others.
Just remember, as Christians we are to do all that we do for Christ. So let’s get busy doing.
Soli Deo gloria!