A few months ago I wrote a post about the idea that if you desire marriage and don’t feel called to Celibacy for the Kingdom that you don’t need to be content with your singleness.
In that previous post I shared where I think this idea comes from: 1. People thinking that if you aren’t looking for someone that’s when you find the one (spiritual platitude reasoning) and 2. Well meaning people who are misinterpreting what Paul says in Philippians 4.
I suggested that Paul never tells anyone to be content with their current status, but instead calls them to be content in Jesus regardless of their status. Paul is speaking against anxiousness, desperation and striving; not for laziness, feigning feelings or lack of growth in life.
The overall point was that it’s ok not to be content with where you life is.
But today, what I want to talk about is the other part. If we are discontent with where we are, perhaps single and wanting marriage, how do we be content in Jesus. How do we not be anxious, desperate and striving. How do we find joy and peace that surpasses understanding when we don’t like our current status or context.
One of the things we have to do is get a hold of several truths of our journey with Jesus that we don’t seem to realize or talk about often.
- Jesus does loves you where you are at, but He loves you too much to leave you there
- Most of the time we have to experience our pain in order to be healed
- Most of the time we have to face some consequences our sin in order to see it clearly and repent.
- This is all true regardless of status or context, including the status of married or not married.
- Hard and Joy are not opposites in the Kingdom. In fact that is part of our witness to the world – has been since the very first apostles and early leaders of the Church.
- Life to the full includes all of this.
- We will not fully arrive in this temporal life.
Jesus wants us to grow, heal, repent, be cleansed and change. This is called sanctification. And sometimes it’s hard. This is not to say that our current context is sent by God in order to sanctify us. Sometimes it is, but not always. However God is always ready to use our context to do those very things. If we are willing to engage it.
This is why we need to stop whining and trying to earn our “Its Hard Merit Badge”. It’s constant in our culture. Marriage is hard. Singleness is hard. Parenting is hard. Work is hard. Being out of work is hard. Making $20,000 a year is hard. Making $40,000 a year is hard. And on and on and on.
The truth is all sorts of things in life are hard and yes some are more hard that others. Fair enough. But when the hard becomes the focus we lose the joy set before us in Jesus. We start being anxious and desperate rather than focusing on Him. We become more self centered instead of God and other centered. We become consumed with what’s missing, what hurts or what is not how we want it to be and therefore we miss real life.
I want to share four things that I think can help us to be content in Jesus and have joy in Him even when it’s hard. These aren’t the only things that can help but they are the four that have been on my heart as I think about my own life, you the reader, and our western culture that we live in.
Focus on Jesus
We have to actually work on our relationship with Jesus. We need to abide in Him. What brings you closer to Him? Do more of that. Fight for that. We should be to talking with Him, listening to Him, communing with Him. He is THE ONE, The Answer. He is Himself life to the full. We need to grow our intimate relationship with Him. He is our nourishment, our life blood, our fulfillment. We need to focus on loving Him and being loved by Him.
Live the way He commands regardless of context
We need to do what He says. We need to love others. We need to live in purity and holiness. Context is not an excuse. For a simple example: I know both poor and wealthy people who are joyful, loving, generous, kind, mature, and confident in Him. I also know both poor and wealthy people who are selfish, mean, greedy, immature, anxious and desperate. I could say the same about married, celibate, singles who want to be married and widowed. The context we are in should not dictate how we live as believers. Jesus does.
Engage our wounds and sin
If we do those first two above, what will happen is that our wounds and our sin will be exposed. And it will hurt (ourselves and probably others). This is where we have to lean into Him even more again and ask Him to heal, forgive and restore us. And we need to understand that part of that healing and restoration might hurt. But God in His grace is not a butcher or a hack. He is like a trained surgeon. Surgery hurts. But it can save our life. The same is true here. But have to go to the doctor. We have to engage God with our wounds and sin.
This is a word that God has been giving me over and over lately. You can’t read the scriptures or the early Church Fathers and not see it. I once heard a speaker say, “We start out our relationship with Jesus by accepting His grace. The rest is gratitude.”
Friends, our witness to the world is gratitude regardless of circumstance. Gratitude produces joy. It is not dependent on what happens or what context we are in because we should live in an overall gratitude to Jesus. I don’t mean that we have to be grateful for the circumstance itself. But it means that I’m grateful to Him even in that circumstance.
If you asked me what is missing out there in our world I think this might be it. We have an utter lack of gratitude. Feel free to test that thought.
Bringing this full circle to those who are in the context of singleness and wishing for marriage, which is where I spent 20 years of my life, I’m not asking you to be grateful for that context. That’s not being intellectually honest and it won’t help you. Instead what I’m encouraging here is that our gratitude to Jesus should be bigger than our context, regardless of what that is – including singleness.
The more that I do these four things the better I’m going to be. Frankly a side effect if I’m single is that it will probably improve our chances of marriage. But it’s bigger than that because marriage isn’t the point. Jesus and our life with Him is the point. And that is what it means to be content in Him no matter what the circumstance.