Maybe you do long for contentment, but are so tired of the quick-fix cliches: Just be content. Enjoy this time. Singleness is a gift. Make the most of your singleness. Be grateful for what you have.
When it comes to contentment in singleness, there are many misconceptions and mis-definitions that contribute to the bad taste the idea of “contentment in singleness” can leave in our mouths, and the seemingly-contradictory mixture of emotions it can stir in our hearts.
Misconceptions about Contentment
Have you ever thought or been told that being content in singleness means:
I believed all of these to some extent at one time, and this belief contributed to the discontentment I felt in my singleness.
But then I learned that the Bible gives a different picture of contentment; one that is more hopeful and helpful, grace-filled and full of room for growth, with plenty of both/ands that meet us in our mix of emotions and give us permission to just be.
Searching for Joy
The dictionary defines contentment as “the state of being satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.”
In my early twenties, I struggled with deep discontentment in my singleness. I kept hoping, wishing, dreaming, praying that I would meet a godly man and get married.
But that wasn’t happening.
With my dreams not coming true, with the desires of my heart not being given, with my longings not being met, I didn’t feel satisfied, happy, or fulfilled. I instead felt empty, purposeless, and restless.
As I said, a big reason for this was the lies I believed, both about singleness and about contentment.
The discontentment reached an all time high when I was 24-almost-25, and I also began struggling with increased anxiety and depression.
And I was tired. I was tired of the hoping, wishing, dreaming, and praying that fulfilled dreams would be my fulfillment. I was tired of waiting for marriage to bring happiness and delight. I was tired of believing an end to my singleness was the only thing that would truly satisfy the longings and desires of my heart.
I didn’t really know what the Bible had to say about contentment, but a word I knew was in Scripture a lot, something that Jesus promised and that seemed to hold the fulfillment, satisfaction, and delight I longed for was joy.
Joy: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.
So I began searching for joy throughout the Bible. How did God’s Word describe and define joy? What were the reasons given to rejoice? How did God’s people and Jesus’ disciples cultivate and express joy?
In my searching, I came to Philippians 4:4: “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!”
By this time, I was noticing a common theme in the source of such tenacious joy: its source is in the Lord.
The Lord—His good and glorious character, His perfect and pleasing will, His faithful and powerful working, His beautiful and personal way—is the exceptionally—the incomparably! the immeasurably!—good and satisfying cause of delight my heart was longing for.
But I was even more intrigued when further in chapter 4, I read these words:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 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. (verse 12)
Paul had to learn contentment in both plenty and want. This means contentment—joy, satisfaction, fulfillment—doesn’t automatically come when we have all we want. It also means we can be content while still having needs and wants.
There is a connection between these words about contentment and a bold statement of faith Paul makes in the very next verse:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (verse 13)
Some Bible translations of this verse say, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (NIV, emphasis mine.) The “this” is being content in any and every situation.
Both the words content and strengthens 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.”*
This was Paul’s secret: he was able to do “this”—to be content in every situation, whether in plenty or in want—not because he had all he wanted, not because he had no pain or struggles, not because he knew what would happen next, but because Jesus was the source from which he drew joy and peace and hope and wisdom to strengthen and sustain him.
Just like with joy, the source of our contentment matters.
Abiding in Jesus
Our contentment is a direct correlation of our source; of where we abide when we are in need of joy, peace, hope, wisdom, and strength; of what we attach ourselves to, like branches attached to the vine, to draw satisfaction and fulfillment and delight.
Jesus declares Himself to be the Source—the Source of joy, peace, comfort, truth, hope, confidence, security, wholeness, and all the goodness of life.
I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
Here’s how I’ve come to think of contentment: abiding in the enough-ness of Jesus. Abiding in Jesus as our Source and sufficiency. Abiding in Jesus as the One who is able to provide all we need and satisfy all we long for.
When we abide in Jesus, we can be content in singleness… while still longing to be married (or not), while still carrying the weight of the hard stuff, while still feeling sad and dealing with disappointments, while still desiring change and chasing after dreams.
Because in it all, in both plenty and want, Jesus will meet us where we’re at. Jesus will be our Source, sufficient for all our needs, enough for all our longings; drawing us ever-closer to Himself, growing us ever-deeper into His likeness, filling us ever-fuller with the fruit of His Spirit.