Surviving Contentment

Recently I was asked by a young lady, “What do you say to a single person who is struggling to be content with their singleness?” I have several answers to this, but before I share how I did respond, let’s have a closer look at this challenging and complex question.

We struggle with contentment. Even as Christians, we can find it hard to be content with what we have. Society is constantly trying to upsell to us; no matter how much we own or achieve, there’s a relentless drive to keep attaining more. This can be exhausting.

It’s not just about material discontent. We can also wrestle with self-acceptance and contentment with who we are. Most people I know feel that they are not ok the way they are, resulting in a constant struggle with oneself. For singles, discontentment can give rise to feelings of inadequacy and the belief that they are not ok because of their singleness. However, this is a myth. Marital status need not have any bearing on one’s inherent worth.

Contentment is countercultural. I think it falls to the church to lead the way in countercultural living in alignment with God’s Word. We can show the world how it’s done: living in total reliance on God, without continually striving for more just for the sake of “more”.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Discontentment can be an important feeling, as it can tell us when something is wrong or missing from our lives. As a writer, I am often mildly discontented with what I have written so far, so I feel driven to keep on writing. Discontentment can motivate us to use the gifts God has given us.

However, I believe that perpetual discontentment is another issue. It can be unhelpful to keep longing for something that shows no promise. And yet, longing can persist in the face of irrationality. Our feelings and desires are not always logical ones.

Perhaps the hardest challenge of all is to be content in the midst of despair and loss. To stare devastation in the face and say, “It is well with my soul,” takes true courage and security. It is remarkable how suffering can prompt our faith to grow, often in ways we never could have foreseen.

There’s a time and place for discontentment. God can handle it when we are brutally honest with Him. I’m hoping we can take our frustration and confusion to Him and be truly open about it. It would be great if we could share those feelings honestly with each other too.

Surviving contentment can be uphill work. I think we all need support at times, so let’s start with that. If you are single and struggling, perhaps now is the time to put your hand up for some support. If you know someone who is single, perhaps you could offer some support, even if that means just getting to know them first. Remember, people are not problems to be solved; they are journeys to be joined. This requires a special kind of bravery, a little like stepping out onto a swinging bridge over a rushing river.

We can encourage one another to live contented, countercultural lives. But I think we can go one step better. My answer to the lady in my story was to encourage singles to serve Christ. The energy of frustration, the passion of longing, can be channeled into serving God. Misery can become motivation.

This applies to everyone. Our times of despair and longing can drive us deeper into God, inspiring our service to Him. Let us follow Christ with every fibre of our being – no matter our marital status.

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