Have you ever been told you should be content with being single?
Has anyone promised you that as soon as you find contentment, your spouse will magically appear?
These might sound like rhetorical questions, but I genuinely want to know. Because when I was single and lonely and frustrated about it, I was flooded with unsolicited advice. Invariably, people advised me to get content, and the sooner the better, because God would surely bless me with a spouse if I could prove my contentment.
People advised me to get content, because then God would surely bless me with a spouse.
This advice sounds right and even spiritual. However, I have several problems with it. First and foremost, what’s wrong with feeling discontented? For that matter, what’s so wrong with any feeling? They’re just feelings! Like any emotion, discontentment ebbs and flows depending on our circumstances. It’s not a permanent state; it comes and goes.
Second, discontentment can be from God. I’m not saying God sets out to deliberately make us unhappy, but sometimes he uses difficult circumstances to bring our strengths and the fruits of the Spirit to the forefront of our lives. And he can use holy discontentment to guide our paths as well.
Sometimes, rather than delivering us from discontentment, God allows us to experience deeper levels of discontentment in order to deepen our faith and extend our fortitude. Sometimes, instead of praying for an answer, I need to pray for greater spiritual endurance.
Sometimes God allows us to experience deeper levels of discontentment in order to deepen our faith and extend our fortitude.
Third, contentment is not a formula for miracles. There is no promise in scripture that if we can find contentment, God will grant our requests. Yes, we are exhorted to be content in every circumstance, but not once does God promise to give us a spouse if we learn contentment in singledom.
In fact, Paul urges people who want to get married to go ahead and get married. (1 Corinthians 7:9)
Which segues (rather neatly I think) to my final point: discontentment merely shows us where our hearts’ desires truly lie. If we are lonely and discontent in singledom, it is perhaps a confirmation that we desire marriage and therefore should to continue to pray for it. It means we are on the right track.
Discontentment merely shows us where our hearts’ desires truly lie.
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with desiring marriage. It’s a perfectly healthy and valid desire. There’s no reason why a discontented single person should force themselves to feel content (or fake it) when they have a genuine desire to be married.
We can channel those feelings of loneliness and discontentment into prayer. We can keep asking God for the things we want: marriage, family, companionship, sex, support and help. Whether God says yes or no, we know that he hears our prayers and cares about our desires.
Next time sometimes tells you to ‘Be content’ with singledom, feel free to tell them you’re not—and that that’s OK.
How do you respond when people tell you to be content? Do people make false promises about God delivering you from singledom? Have you ever experienced holy discontentment? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.