How to Be Content & Single: Three Reasons We’re Invited to Rest
It’s a rainy afternoon and I’m at the little desk in the kitchen, scribbling down fragmented thoughts about being content and single while my husband works in his office in the next room. Wait, why is a happily married woman writing about being contentedly single?
Let me explain. I was single until I was 34 years old. Turning my life over to Christ at 31, it was only those last three years of being single that I was anywhere near content. The other 15-odd years of “dating age”? Turmoil, my friends; tumultuous at best. I’ve reflected on this for a long time and I can safely say that for me, any contentment in singledom can only be credited to the Lord. I’ve divided my thoughts into three reasons we are invited to be single and (*gasp*) have rest. And really, single, married or widowed (many of us will be all three of these at some point in our lives), these truths apply to all.
Reason for Contentment #1 : We want the Savior more than a spouse.
For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:9
Single or not, we should ask ourselves this question: do I want a relationship with my Savior more than a relationship with a spouse? For many years, I absolutely wanted the latter more than the former. Living as an unbeliever I was convinced that married people didn’t suffer the empty feelings I had. Lonely, desperate, and with no understanding of Biblical truth, I fell for the secular deception that marriage is the answer to feeling unfulfilled in this life.
I’m sad to say that I wasted years in despair (more on that later), not realizing that the unfulfillment I felt came from a desperate need for a relationship with Jesus Christ, not a significant other. The hole in my heart wasn’t yearning to be filled by a spouse. Delighting in the Lord is what gives us the very deepest desire of our hearts: the saving grace of Christ (Psalm 37:4). To be sure, marriage can be a great blessing—it’s a gift from God and a symbol of His covenant with His people. But we must understand that if or when we get married, our spouse is not going to be the fulfiller of our deepest desires, give us our purpose, or be the lifesource of joy here on earth. That role is wholly filled by the Lord Himself.
Jesus tells us that in the resurrection, we will “neither marry nor are given in marriage,” but be “like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). We are not identified as singles, wives, or husbands in God’s eyes. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1), and our purpose is to worship Him. If marriage is a gift from God to His children, then we choose to worship the Giver, not the gift. In worshipping the Giver, your focus is set right—even if you never get the gift.
Reason for Contentment #2: We want God’s will more than our own wants.
And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
All things: marriage or singleness. We can take the Bible at its word and trust that He knows what is best for our lives. If marriage is not in God’s will, we have to decide whether or not we’re ok with that. This makes me think about all the time I spent kicking and screaming, taking matters into my own hands, demanding something God knew I was not ready for. Hindsight, indeed. When I finally got it through my head that I should want God’s will more than my own, it was a relief to release my death-grip on marriage and give it to the Lord. This is what He wants from all of us: a heart that says“Father, I know that you know that my desire is for marriage. Help me to hand this desire over to you. I believe you and I trust you, and I know that your plans for my life are better than anything I can come up with, including marriage.”.
Our loving Father, who knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us more than we can fathom, has it all planned out. Corrie Ten Boom said, “don’t be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Even when we don’t know what lies ahead for us, we are still allowed to rest. We’re allowed to lay down these anxieties and even give up our deepest desires to a God who is faithful.
Reason for Contentment #3: We’re invited by Christ to be free of discontentment and despair.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36
Loneliness is valid. We all feel it now and then and that’s ok, even our Savior felt loneliness. But God doesn’t want us to stay there. While suffering in hardship isn’t sinful in itself, it’s what we do during trials that can become sin. Our discontentment with where we are in life stems from a lack of trusting the Lord. Moreover, when we’re sure that what we want trumps what God has for us, we’re preoccupied with ourselves over Him. This leads us to waste valuable time the Lord has given us and tempts us to despair, acting in ways we may regret. Being constantly single-minded (pun intended) only magnifies discontent and elevates despair to a place it should not be. Friends, we are called to freedom from despair! When I recognized my own despair was rooted in sin, I began a repentant effort to reach for God whenever I felt the weight of discontentment. Shifting my focus, I saw that being single at 31... 32… 33... was not the end of the world or even a reason to despair.
In 1 Corinthians 7:38, the apostle Paul says “He who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.” If someone had read this verse to me ten or even five years ago, I would have immediately disagreed with a bitter laugh. How could being “alone forever” possibly be better? We can believe it or not, but being single is every bit as fruitful as being married, potentially even more. A few verses earlier in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul notes that married people struggle with divided attention between their spouses and the Lord. I find this to be exceedingly true! Instead of filling the heart with longing for relationship, single Christians have the opportunity to fill the heart with devotion to God and service to others. The more we set our sights on worshipping God and humbly serving others in love, the less we’ll focus on ourselves and our hardships.
And Paul? He knew a thing or two about contentment during hardship. In his letter to the Philippians he wrote: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13). How did Paul learn to be content in every situation, even a prison cell? He had the understanding that it wasn’t up to him to pull himself up by the bootstraps every day. Christ is the one who gave him the strength to be content and that same power lives in us.
In today’s crazy world, how do single Christians begin to find contentment? Start with Matthew 6:33, which says “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” Brothers and sisters, abiding in Him means our feet are firmly planted by the Holy Spirit on the path of His righteousness—this is the pursuit of holiness over contentment. Contentment is not the goal—it’s the byproduct. It is the result of a person who can joyfully and prayerfully say, with assurance, that “He will fulfill His purpose for my life, because His steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 138:8).