For many years I’ve devoured books, articles and talks on singleness, trying to capture the ever-elusive prize of contentment. But the feeling never seemed to last more than a few weeks.
The problem was that I was looking for quick fixes. I wanted contentment on my terms and by my timeline. Too often I desired it as a way to make my life easier—to get rid of these unpleasant feelings of loneliness and jealousy. My motivation was to feel better, rather than a yearning to know God more intimately and glorify him with my life.
I found there is no easy, neatly-packaged solution to taming the fire of discontentment. The ebb and flow of my feelings showed that joy hadn’t gripped me at a deep level. I’d settled for quick platitudes that didn’t actually pierce my heart:
Singleness enables you to serve God more. But I cared too much about myself to really rate that high on my list of priorities.
Marriage is actually really difficult, so you’re being spared pain. But life is hard for everyone, and I would have preferred the married type of difficult.
Yet while I wasn’t looking, God slowly and deliberately changed me. Sometimes it was painful, as I caught a glimpse into the deep chasm of my depravity. God set up a construction zone in my heart, excavating bitterness, self-pity, envy, and selfishness. It certainly hurt, but he was making room for the deep bliss I found in Jesus.
At other times, God used joy to correct my short-sightedness. Only such a kind and patient Father would rain down kindness when he could have been severe with my sin. He healed me with board game nights and long dinners with friends. He has given me the time and flexibility to do lots of ministry. I’ve spent countless hours reading and writing about theology. As an introvert, simply having plenty of solitude to recharge has been a great blessing.
More than anything else, God has given me an ever-increasing joy in my relationship with him. I’ve seen him provide everything I need (even if it’s not what I think I need). It’s not just a platitude: knowing Jesus truly is better than anything else. The further I swim in the deep seas of theology, I see his glory more and more clearly. And I’ve found it to be more satisfying than any earthly blessings.
David writes in one of his psalms:
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)
Over time, the posture of my heart has been moulded by this psalm. All God’s blessings became more than consolation prizes to soothe the sting of singleness. They are precious, treasured joys, and I know there will be real loss if I do get married. Rather than merely coping with being single, I rejoice that God is using this for my good.
I haven’t arrived at full contentment yet. I’d say nobody ever will, until we all have our sins completely washed away on that final day. Some mornings I wake up feeling particularly weak, having to rip myself from some fantasy world in my dreams. It takes a huge effort to drag myself to my Bible, open it up, and allow God to reorient my heart. I must preach to my own soul, as David did:
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:13–14)
The “goodness” I wait for is no longer a husband—it’s more joy in Jesus.
I can trust God with singleness today. And tomorrow. Even when I imagine the possibility of a lifetime of singleness, it doesn’t seem so implausible as it once did. What’s another 60 years of singleness compared to the eternity of perfect joy to come?
The books, articles, and talks I’ve quarried for wisdom over the years truly have been helpful. They give me a better understanding of God’s plans for the world, and how marriage and singleness fit into that. They sing the virtues of singleness, and warn that marriage is not as rosy at it can appear.
But God wasn’t content to simply give me more head knowledge—he saw that I needed something deeper, something slower, and in his wisdom and kindness he has led me down the long road. There were (and still are) sins in my heart that I needed to confront and kill along the way.
I’m not at the end of the road yet. There is danger and breathtaking beauty ahead. For now, I’ve reached the top of a crest. It was a long and laborious climb upwards, but by the careful hand of God I’m blinking in the unexpected sunshine.
So encouraging to read of your journey Cassie. Thank you for sharing. Xx
Thanks so much Kim! 🙂
This perfectly captures my own experience. I’ve been fighting for contentment based on what would numb the pain rather than truly finding joy. Thanks for sharing
Thank you for reading, Christine! Keep on fighting. I’m praying you’ll be able to draw nearer to Christ and find joy in him.
Cassie, thank you. Contentment is a grace. I have lived through things that years previously I couldn’t have imagined being ok with. But knowing that Abba Father is the one orchestrating it all gives such peace.
I’ve been there too, Pamela. It’s always the things we think we could never handle where we see God working most clearly. I’m glad you’ve found such peace. Thank you for reading and commenting!
What you’ve shared can be applied to so many areas of our lives as Christian women. Finding our joy and contentment in Jesus is a struggle, but when we allow God to work instead of striving against Him, we will find that our eyes are turned more toward him and “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” I am a “single again” having been widowed at the age of 53 after caring for my husband for eight long years. Even though I’ve had the joy of being married and raising children, there are times when I want to marry again because I miss the companionship. Yet being single has great benefits, especially that I have more flexibility in my schedule now and can do things I couldn’t before. I think that, no matter what season of life we’re in, we can easily become discontented as we take our eyes off the Lord. Thank you for your article, and for reading this rambling comment!
Ginny, thank you for being so honest here. You were the hands of Jesus to your husband as you cared for him all those years. I’m so grateful for your perspective. It’s easy to think as a young single person that all my loneliness will be over if I get married. But we so easily forget how fragile life is, and how likely it is that we will be single again! I’m encouraged that you are using your newfound flexibility to serve Jesus instead of drawing inward in discontentment. I’m praying you will find ever-increasing joy in our Father.
I recently opened up to someone after a long while of being guarded and only reciprocating friendships. I’m 30, and this lady was 8 years younger than I was so I had my reservations. I had previously tried looking where others (non-Christians) had shown interest, but God steered me away from a life of happiness without Him. I decided I would pray and pursue this lady because things like age don’t matter to God who looks at the heart.
But this isn’t Christian guy meets Christian girl leads to a marriage made in heaven. Fast forward a bit later and that door got slammed in my face. It’s started dawning on me that maybe God didn’t give me that happy ending to help me cherish my relationship with Him even more (Hab 3:17-18). I’ve devoured every article, book and sermon because I realized my theology of singleness was insufficient to address the dissatisfaction I’ve been experiencing as I go back to my old life. My time with God has been richer; sometimes, I open my eyes and wonder how I had been praying for an hour and a half.
Thanks for sharing. I can relate to how much of a struggle it has been for you to perhaps not rationalize away everything, resign yourself to despair and keep open and vulnerable to God’s gentle hand. Please keep pointing single (and married) people to Jesus.
Thanks so much for sharing your story. I love that passage from Habakkuk! It’s wonderful to hear how much you’re trusting in God even when it’s hard. He doesn’t always give us what we ask for, but we can know that whatever he does give us will be far better in the long run. Keep persevering in Jesus!
The right words at the right time. So thankful. Thank you, Cassie.
Thank you so much Katelyn! <3
Hey Cass thanks for the article – it was a great reminder that contentment really isn’t anything to do with relationship status and really beautiful way to write about the joy of knowing and loving Jesus more and more. Even though I’m enjoying the newly wed period, I’m still called to find my identity and contentment in Jesus and to keep running hard after him to know and love him better. Been encouraged to fix my eyes on the real prize – eternal joy in relationship with our creator, saviour and king of all kings . Thank you!
Hey Sophie, thanks so much! It’s always helpful to be reminded by married people that the contentment struggles don’t simply go away when you find a spouse. Praying that you’ll settle well into married life and find your joy always in Jesus 🙂