Are you constantly comparing yourself with others and coming up short? Here’s a detailed letter from a woman in another nation who wrote me about this issue. I did shorten her writing, but generally kept her points intact because I think the details she presents are helpful for discerning the many common temptations we face as single women.

QUESTION:  I'm in my mid-30s, a committed Christian, attending an evangelical Anglican church that has organised its services around particular demographics.  I go to the service for late 20- to 40-somethings.  Many of the people who attend are single, and this service has an informal reputation as a bit of a meeting place – people come from miles around to “meet” people, even if they attend another church in the morning.  I live nearby, and wanted to get back to my Anglican roots.  But I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to meet someone, too!

I am convinced that if I marry, I am to only consider another Christian. Having dated a non-Christian, I can see the sense in this, not to mention the importance of obedience to God and His Word.  I don't tend to meet many Christians in my workplace. I'm a lawyerand you'd think there would be plenty of single men around in this profession, but I haven't met any Christians who are single.  So, the primary place to meet someone suitable is church, or through Christian friends (there seems to be a drought there – the single ones are looking themselves, and the married ones only know other married ones).

I know I have to attend church with the correct motive, which is to worship God, and serve Him and His people.  I'm on rosters to do things, I spend time talking to people and listening, counseling, etc.  But I seem to favour activities that the fellas in the church don't (e.g. I'm not into mountain biking and playing pool), and I'm not in the in-crowd of younger women that seem to have caught the eye of the guys. 

To put it bluntly, I feel invisible, or worse – fat, old and ugly. I've weighed myself up honestly (to take an honest account of myself) and objectively, I'm not really fat, I'm not old, and I'm not ugly, but I seem to take on these characteristics when I step into church.  I don't feel this way about myself out in the world.

The men in church who are my age or older (mid-30s to mid-40s and desperate to be fathers, by all accounts) seem to only want women in their 20s who are in “caring” professions such as nursing or teaching or the arts, and seem keener to experience repeated rejection, rather than to ask out someone who they have a realistic chance of being accepted by. Notwithstanding this, I do make conversation, I am friendly, I don't go around acting superior. If anything, I don't go and speak to new guys who come to church because I don't want to seem too eager, and I assume that like all the others, they will think I'm fat, old, and ugly. I feel somehow like I've missed the boat, that I have failed to qualify for a Christian marriage, that I'm on the scrap heap and am not going to be “chosen” from that heap by a man who I would like to be with.

I know I have to trust God with my future, whether it includes a husband or not.  I know God's plans for me are good.  I know it's a fallen world and the huge number of fantastic single women around who don't seem to be finding husbands is quite possibly a symptom of this.

But how do I continue to go to church when I feel bitter, jealous, and down on myself all the time?  How do I continue when I feel anxious that I'm not in the “in crowd” (it's like being back at early high school!), that I'm not being invited to parties where I might possibly meet someone, and that I’m not getting to meet anyone half decent? (Followed by the positively self-destructive thought that if I met them they wouldn't want to know me, anyway.) My friends say I am funny, witty and kind. What am I doing wrong? And how do I live now? How do I maintain hope? I know my bitterness, jealousy of others, backbiting (even to myself) about the people who do not include others and are selective in who they want to know (even though I think they are in the wrong) is wrong, and sinful.  But I cannot pretend it’s not happening, and I am finding it such a burden to keep going to church week after week under the weight of all this stuff.