Instead, I was discontent.
A big source of my discontentment was that I was single. My dream to be married wasn’t coming true.
I believed marriage was the more.
There are phrases we hear about singleness: Just be content. Singleness is a gift. Enjoy the freedom and independence of this season.
Maybe we roll our eyes because they seem so cliche, a quick fix to a deep ache, contentment seeming as far away as that dreamed of wedding day.
But maybe as our eyes roll and our heart aches, we wonder: Could there be more? Could singleness really be a gift? Could this time hold love even in the loneliness, fulfillment amidst unfulfilled dreams, purpose apart from waiting for “my person”?
Yes, it can.
The Source of Contentment
As I searched the Bible for what it says about contentment, some words in Philippians 4 were among the first I found, and ones I go back to often.
At the time of writing this letter to the church in Philippi, the writer Paul was under house arrest for preaching the Gospel, with the possibility of being executed for his faith. Under these circumstances, Paul says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (v. 12)
Recently, I saw a connection between these words about contentment and another bold claim Paul makes in the very next verse: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (v. 13)
This is Paul’s secret. He could be content not because he had all he wanted, not because he had no fears or pain or struggles (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 and 12:6-10 ), not because he knew what would happen next.
But because Jesus was the source from which he drew joy and peace and hope to strengthen and sustain him.
Some translations of verse 13 say, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (NIV, emphasis mine.)
Our contentment is a direct correlation of our source; of where we abide when fears attack, disappointments assail, struggles overwhelm; of where we look for fulfillment and satisfaction when our soul longs and our heart aches and our spirit thirsts.
I believed marriage was the answer to my longings. I was abiding in If only I had a boyfriend thoughts when things were hard or I was unhappy. I was looking to my dreams coming true for satisfaction and fulfillment.
It really comes down to this: do we believe Jesus is enough?
Or do I believe Jesus plus something - a boyfriend, a better figure, a bigger paycheck - is enough?
I know, Jesus is enough seems awfully cliche as well. And that makes me sad, because when it’s said as a quick fix, we can miss the deep truth.
Jesus truly is enough.
The Enoughness of Christ
That’s what Paul meant when he said, “I have learned to be content” and “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Both the words content and strengthens used in Philippians 4 come from similar Greek words.
Content, from the Greek word autarkes, means “sufficient, adequate, needing no assistance.” And strengthens, from the Greek word arkeo, means “to have sufficient strength, to be enough for a thing.”
In both plenty and want, we are made able and adequate and enough through Jesus, because He is able and adequate and enough for us and in us and through us.
So, how do we choose His enoughness? How do we rest in Christ’s sufficiency, abide in His ability, and look to Him for what we need? How do we believe Jesus is enough, not just as a great sounding cliche, but as transformational truth?
Philippians 4:4-16 talks about a few areas of our lives that are connected to what we believe. Because they are connected, they can shape what we believe.
These areas are our attitude, thoughts, habits, and community.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again - rejoice! Philippians 4:4
There is definitely hard and heartbreaking stuff in singleness, but we get to choose what our attitude will be in the midst of it. Will we let complaining, bitterness, and envy take root, or will we cultivate an attitude of rejoicing, gentleness, and gratitude?
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
This verse speaks of having a habit of prayer and thanksgiving, so that when things are hard, our natural response is to turn to God instead of spiraling in worry. Think about the different habits you have: do they point you to Jesus and help you rely on Him? Or do you have habits that breed more discontentment in your singleness?
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Philippians 4:8
What we choose to dwell on in our minds will take root in our hearts and bear fruit in our actions and attitudes. What thoughts do you dwell on? What do you tell yourself in your self-talk? Is how you think about singleness based on the truth in God’s Word of His character, His promises to you, His plans for you?
Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles… for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Philippians 4:14, 16
Immediately after Paul says he has learned the secret to being content, he expresses gratitude for the ways this faith community has supported and encouraged to him.
Believing Jesus is enough doesn’t mean we don’t need others. Contentment isn’t cultivated in a vacuum. Who is in your corner as you navigate singleness? Are they pointing you the enough-ness of Jesus? Are they sharing in your joys and sorrows? Are they supporting you in cultivating godly habits? Are they encouraging you in truth?
Abiding in Jesus as the source of our contentment is not a destination, but a day-by-day, moment-by-moment, step-by-step choice. And in each day-by-day, moment-by-moment, step-by-step, He will show Himself to be enough.
More than enough.