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.