One of the things I used to hear all the time when I was a in my twenties and single was the idea that I needed to be “content” with my singleness.
Now there were at least two origins that this thought came from. Some were espousing this advice because, “it’s when you’re not looking that you find someone”. In other words if you were content and not striving to get married, you would be more likely to find someone to marry. Just typing that makes me laugh.
I addressed this particular angle long ago but let me just touch on it here. If you are actually content in your singleness, meaning that you do not have the desire to marry, and/or feel that God has called you to celibacy for the kingdom, and/or you don’t desire sex then there would be no reason to get married. This is an actual viable vocational path within the kingdom.
But if you want to be married and don’t feel called to celibacy for the kingdom, then you are either sort of feigning contentment or at the least simply trying to be content for a different motive. The other reality here is that if you are over 24 years old or so, chances are that you are going to have to make and effort find someone to marry. It’s not going to just happen. That’s not how it works.
I also think that this can lull people asleep in the sense that it’s ok to be content being single for now. This actually could be necessary for a time. For example you may need to be focused on a short term mission or for schooling. But even then, your desire at the end of the day is to be married. Putting something off is not the same as being content without it.
The second reason people pull out the content with your singleness line is that they think that they are referring to what Paul says in Philippians 4. The basic message from many well meaning believers is something to the effect of, “Hey Brother, this is where the Lord has you right now, so you need to be content with that, and trust Him.” That sounds really holy. The problem is that’s not what Paul says.
Let’s look at it. Paul is closing out his letter to the Philippians. In the preceding verses, he asks them to not be anxious about anything, but instead, pray about everything, make requests to God and He will meet you in it. He then encourages them to focus on the things of God and do the things that he’s taught.
He then thanks them for being concerned for him in his current hard circumstances. In verse 10-13 he writes,
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me.Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
What Paul says is that he can be content in any situation. What he does not say is that he will be content with any situation. There is a huge difference between those two things.
Paul is constantly urging change. He implores people to action constantly. He is continually advancing the kingdom.
Look at it this way. If you are being abused should you be content with that situation? If you are broke and jobless are to be content with that situation? If you are overweight are you to be content with that situation? Would you say, “God has me overweight right now. If God wants me to lose weight I will, for now I’ll have to be content with it”.
What I understand Paul to be saying is this, no matter what situation you are in God is with you. I can be content overall because at the end of the day, I have Jesus. I know how this all ends. I am content in Him. It is because of this – that I can do all things through Him. I can survive a current tough circumstance, for my entire temporal life if necessary, but I could also grow, change, act, heal, and advance, through Him.
Think about your current spiritual condition. God loves you right where you are. But he doesn’t leave us where we are. Through whatever circumstances or context, He is pulling (often dragging) us towards holiness and sanctification.
Let’s bring this full circle back to singleness.
It is good not to be anxious about your singleness. That doesn’t do us any good and in fact is harmful on many levels, not the least of which it can make us desperate.
It is good to be content in Jesus in the circumstance of singleness. Singleness (or any other context or circumstance) does not define us – Jesus does.
It is ok, to not be content with singleness. In fact not being content with it is part of what drives us to actually work to get married.