“He sought to counsel and calm the despairing, to transform the grief that contemplates the grave by showing it the grief that looks up to the stars.”

— Victor Hugo of M. Myriel the Priest

On Sunday July 9, 2006, five children drowned in the Meramec River near Saint Louis and it still wounds me to think of it. An article in the following Tuesday’s newspaper described the desperate moment when one child “slipped beneath the water’s tranquil surface and others rushed to help.” Four of the children belonged to one mourning mother.

I couldn’t stop hurting for her (still cannot stop hurting for her) because, how do you deal with such sudden loss? I doubt very much that she could have answered the question before her faith was tested, before it was proven true. Her story and the calm peace she exemplified in the article humble me. Her calm and trust reminded me that it is indeed possible to endure great trials with faith and to be content in ANY and ALL circumstances.

Although this woman would have given her life to have her children back she did not give into despair. She moved forward in faith while mourning her loss. She was content within her circumstances but not satisfied with her circumstances. So should we be.

The casualties of prolonged singleness (at least where desire for marriage exists) are the dreams of youth and a hope for the future. It may not be the real loss of children but the dreams and hopes of children, the dreams and hopes of growing old with another person. If I am honest I must confess that I am both ecstatic about the life I have been given, the blessings I have received, and that I still long for more. In light of God’s many blessings I am rich beyond measure and content but I would be a liar to say I have all that I want. I am both content and not satisfied.

While I do not always live as though it were true, I understand better what it is to be “content in any and every situation.” But my heart’s desire is still unmet. I have a hunger that is not filled and dreams that have been deferred. I am content within my circumstances but not satisfied with my circumstances.

Despite the cynical voices, contentment does not exclude all desires and wants. Contentment does not demand smiles no matter what. Contentment demands faith and trust in a God who is faithful and trustworthy. Contentment is peace in the midst of hunger. It is an expectant certainty that He will indeed provide our daily bread despite the hunger we now know. But satisfaction is another thing altogether. Satisfaction speaks of approval. It speaks of what is good, what is complete. If it is “not good for the man to be alone” then it is okay that we are dissatisfied.

In fact the Christian life is spent in perpetual dissatisfaction. We are BEING made holy but are not yet holy (Heb. 10:10, 14). We are being transformed by the renewing of our minds but we are not yet there (Rom 12:2). We are being pruned to bear more and more fruit but we have not yet brought in our full crop (Jn. 15:2). We are content with His blessings here and yet our hearts yearn for the day when “He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes.” We look forward to the day when “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4). There is an appropriate dissatisfaction even in the midst of our contentment because, for now, all is not right with the world.

When I speak of loneliness and the longing for love it is a particular longing and a specific need. I conceive a difference between being content and satisfied. I am content with the provisions of God. They are good, and I am rich through His mercies. But in the area of relationship (wife) I remain in need—content but not satisfied. I have eaten but am not filled.