We made it, my single friends! We survived another dreaded black holiday universally known as “Valentine’s Day.” This is the holiday I have heard back-handedly labeled, “Single-Awareness Day.” It’s the time of the year when even shopping heightens your already-keen knowledge of your relationship status. But it’s come and it’s gone; Valentines is officially over, and shamrocks have now cluttered the aisles of Target reminding me that I’m not Irish either…but who cares about that! We’ve made it through, but some of us didn’t make it unscathed.
This year I was convicted to do something different. This time, instead of having the normal disgruntled attitude toward Valentine’s Day, I would embrace it, jump right in with the lot of loony swooning couples. I would love love, and all that it entailed. I would celebrate with each couple, ask them what their special someone did for them on this expectant day, greet each person with a cheery, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” and even make special Valentine’s cookies and cupcakes at my job. This year, I would enjoy the day that celebrates coupling…as a content, single.
I partly had this attitude change because I wanted to stick it to the stigma that all singles loathe this holiday but secretly wish they could celebrate it. The other reason I changed my thought pattern was because my contentment (or lack of it) was saying something with which I didn’t necessarily agree, and this was the part that convicted me.
What Discontentment Says
Discontentment says something about how we feel about life.
I don’t know if it’s our American culture, our Christian culture, or just the nature of women, but it seems universal with most women I meet: Life should be a certain way. We started dreaming about this life as little girls. We mirrored our parent’s relationship as we played with our dolls. We envisioned our wedding day as we placed slips over our heads as make-shift veils. When we were little girls, our futures had to include a husband, 2 children (a girl and a boy, of course!), and enough money brought home by “Mr. Darling” to buy our dream home. But as we’ve officially entered into adulthood, life isn’t panning out the way we’d planned. And it can be really challenging for us to find contentment with our love life (or lack thereof) proving that life should be a certain way, or it’s no life at all.
Discontentment says something about how we feel about ourselves.
When discontentment seeps into our lives, plaguing our thought life like a curse, we’re revealing what we think of ourselves. We have a sense of entitlement to certain things in our life because of certain reasons. After all, haven’t we worked hard to get where we want to be? We think we’d be a wonderful mother, so shouldn’t we be entitled to a life with children in it? We deserve to find the happiness a love would bring, so why can’t we seem to find it? The problem lies at the root of this line of thinking: pride.
Discontentment says something about how we feel about God.
At the core of our struggle with contentment is our view of God. When we find ourselves discontent with our lot in life, we’re saying something about God, whether we realize it or not. It could be we think God is holding out on us. He’s keeping something good from our life for some purpose that we have to “figure out.” And if we can just figure out the “secret” key that will open the magical door into a relationship, marital bliss is ours! But this kind of reasoning goes against the very character of God’s goodness (Psalm 84:11). It places us as a pawn in God’s proverbial chess board, when in reality, God is not playing games with our lives. He’s trying to work His perfect will out through our lives (Romans 8:28-29, John 10:10). His goal is to make us more into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:21).
How Discontentment Works
Discontentment has a universal focus.
Discontentment is rarely just about one thing. Yet so often we think this way, “If this one thing in my life would change, everything else would be better!” But this is not true. More often than not, just as one thing is sated, discontentment will spring up in another area of our lives. If you desire marriage, only a relationship will make you content; but if we attain that relationship, only children will make us content; and if the Lord blesses us with children, then only well-behaved children will….you get the picture. There will always be something in our lives telling us that we want more, deserve more, need more to make us happy.
Discontentment attacks everyone, everywhere, at anytime.
While it’s true that for most single women, their discontentment is generally focused on their lack of a love life, discontentment can derail anyone at anytime in any stage of life. It is no respector of persons. Diane wrote an excellent article about this in her post, “When God’s Will Overrides Your Plans.”
Discontentment is cyclical.
It will continue to come back around, again and again. And just when you think you’ve successfully annihilated discontentment from your life, February shows up on your calendar and reminds you that you’re single…still. Knowing this revolving facet to discontentment helps us not get discouraged when it seems like we’re dealing with this issue over and over again in our lives. This is the cyclical nature of sin, any sin. One day it won’t be like this, but then you’ll be dead…in Heaven, and life will be grand! But until then, we are for now encased in this earthly body with all its earthly struggles of life, and we must press on in our efforts to glorify God with what He’s given us.
How Discontentment is Abated
Contentment is found when we are surrendering and softening our will to the Lord’s.
To find contentment that isn’t just an act, but instead, is real and genuine, we must first humbly surrender our plans for our life, and our rights to what we think we deserve, to the Lord. We must realize that HIS ways are not only higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), they’re better, too! And if God isn’t bringing a relationship into our life that we think we need, it’s because we really don’t need it; we need Him! God is seeking to fill that void our discontentment seeks to magnify.
Contentment is found in knowing the heart of God rather than trying to figure out the plan of God.
Sometimes the way God works confuses us. Mainly because we’re looking at our situation from a limited perspective, from our perspective; and God has an eternal perspective that is above and beyond ours. It can also be difficult to understand the plan of God because we, having finite minds, are trying to comprehend what an infinite God is doing. This is what Isaiah is reminding us of when he tells us that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). But while His plan may confuse us, the heart and character of God remains steadfast, and THAT is where our source of understanding must be found.
The apostle Paul understood, maybe better than anyone else, the key to contentment. With his life’s history, his knowledge of the Jewish law, the Pharisaical lifestyle, and the community within the Jewish temple, it would seem that a ministry to the Jews was the inevitable direction his life would have headed. This was not the case, however. Paul was led by the Lord to minister to the outcast Gentile. It was during this ministry to undeserving outsiders, from within the walls of a Roman prison, that Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, writes down his key to contentment. “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly. 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,” (Phil 4:10-13). Knowing that he could trust the heart of God gave Paul the strength to endure anything that came his way; his contentment was found in Christ.
Contentment is found in focusing outward rather than inward.
So often the battle for contenment is lost because we are so focused on not having that we’re not giving. We can become so inwardly focused when we are discontent. I find a great practical way to get myself out of this mindset is to start pouring out to those around me, focusing on their lives and needs rather than my own. In doing this, my focus is realigned to what the body of Christ is really all about, giving to one another (Acts 4:32), spurring one another on to godliness (Hebrews 10:24), and the spread of the gospel (Matthew 28:19, 20).
Valentine’s Day may only come once a year; but I can guarantee you that discontentment will rear its ugly head more often than that in our lives. If we are to be women who find their satisfaction in Christ and aren’t derailed by a celebratory day focusing on love, we must each come face-to-face with our own struggle with discontentment and decide if we like what it’s saying about our lives, ourselves and our God. We must choose to trust the heart of God, surrendering our plans to His will, and then begin to focus on the lives of those around us. We can all learn to love love. After all, as daughters of the King, we are a part in the greatest love story ever told (John 3:16, Romans 5:8).
The last two years, friends and I have done large dinners for couples who couldn’t normally afford it and single mothers. They have been the most fulfilling Valentine’s Days I have ever experienced. Contentment really is found in focusing outward rather than inward.
Thank you so much for this post, Sarah! This was such a good reminder to me, as a struggling-to-be-content 24-year-old woman who has never yet been in a relationship, of God’s love and…so much more.
Thank you for the encouragment Sarah!