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The Contentment Myth

My small group

is studying Philippians, and recently we came to chapter 4, where Paul writes

about contentment: “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 things through him

who gives me strength” (vs. 11-13).

These verses reminded me of how sometimes people

with good intentions offer advice to singles, but it isn’t actually biblical.

I’ve often heard people say, “When you’re content in the Lord then He’ll bring

you a spouse.” I remember in college there was a poem circulating about how

when a girl is content with not having

a boyfriend, then God will bring her one. Similarly, people often say it

happens when you’re not looking for it (as if the desire for a spouse is

something you can just switch on and off at will).

I know that when I’ve heard this advice it’s come

out of concern from friends and family who mean well, but I don’t actually

think this advice if helpful, especially if it reinforces the idea that God is

someone we can bargain with based on our behavior (i.e., “If I’m content, then God

will reward me with a spouse”). If God can be swayed by what we do or don’t do,

then why would we need faith?

Certainly, God sees our faith and He rewards our

obedience, but it can be dangerous to assume that there’s some level of contentment that once a single person achieves that level, then they are somehow worthy

or good enough to earn a spouse. I think it’s natural for singles to wonder

what’s wrong with them or what they can do to be marriable, but thinking they

can bargain with God for a spouse just isn’t biblical.

Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is

impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he

exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Maybe that reward will

be a spouse, or maybe not. It seems like our faith journey is always striving

for contentment and resting in the Lord, trusting His timing and being

obedient to His commands. And God

controls the outcome, not our behavior.

This contentment myth doesn’t seem to follow

other things we wait on in life. I’ve yet to hear someone say to a couple

trying to have a baby, “Just be content in the Lord, and He’ll give you a baby.”

No matter what reward God gives us for faithfully following His teaching and

loving Him with our whole hearts, I do know that He can be trusted. Every

married person isn’t somehow more content, and every single person isn’t somehow

discontent. So using that as a bargaining chip with God isn’t helpful to


I’d rather my advice-giving friends and family

offer instead to pray for contentment

for me, not because it will magically make a spouse appear in my life, but

because that’s what God desires for all His children: that they would know and

trust in Him to strengthen them in every situation, no matter what.

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