Content but Not Satisfied - Part 2
- Thursday, August 21, 2008
“He did not seek to drown grief in oblivion, but to exalt and dignify it through hope. A dry eye goes with a dead soul.”
— Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
The hope is that in considering contentment and satisfaction we might be able to own our sorrow and longing and that they might lose some of their venom.
The hope is that in confessing the truth of our need to one another we can walk in freedom and not fear that the entire world has passed us by or is judging us.
It has become important to me because of the many voices that cast judging eyes my way if I speak of my need. “Surely,” they say, “you need to be content before God will bless you.” I bristle at the words but hold my tongue.
No matter what those voices may, say contentment is not the absence or denial of need. No! Contentment is the confidence that all things are being worked together for we who love God (Rom 8:28). Contentment is the confidence, the childlike zealous, loving, confidence that He cares (1Pet. 5:7). A contentment that ignores the hunger, that pretends there is no want is self-delusion—this requires no faith at all. It requires a waking dream that presents all things as completed and fulfilled.
But we are told clearly that there is more to come. Much of what is to come is promised at the end of all things, but here and now our souls know the craving and for me one of those cravings is a relationship. I am content but not satisfied.
I am content in my singleness because I am certain that God has not abandoned me, has not forgotten me, that He loves me. But I am not satisfied because, despite the Love of God and the love of friends, despite the blessings I cannot list, there is an ache and longing that is unfulfilled. I am content but not satisfied.
It seems to me that when some speak of contentment in the area of singleness they often mean satisfied or resigned in the manner that does not disturb the sensitivities of those who are married. So the well meaning counselors issue well meaning statements.
“Your singleness is a blessing.”
What then, is marriage not a blessing?
“You have so many more opportunities to serve God.”
Are there no opportunities to serve within marriage?
“Marriage is hard.”
And singleness is easy?
“Just be content.”
Here it is often better that I hold my tongue before those who themselves complain about their spouse, children, and “responsibilities.” Yes, let us just be content. Let us wake up and wrap it about us, or paint it on before we leave the house so that no one is disturbed to know that the body of Christ actually hurts. Let us take the pill of forgetfulness and shod our feet with pretence. That will make it all better. This is the cynic in me.
The expectation seems to be that singles simply grin and bear it, that they accept their state and rejoice in it—and we should. Sometimes it seems as though those well meaning counselors desire that singles refrain from anything that suggests all is not well. But the deeper truth is that all is not well while Christ tarries. The world is not right and our hunger, our longing, is a part of what will be righted—later. So I am content to wait on Christ and will not act in the rashness of my desires—but I am not satisfied.
It is by no means proper to live by pretence and contentment does not demand a false smile and deluded conscience. No! What Paul teaches in Philippians is neither that all is well with the world nor that it is more spiritual to be in need. What Paul teaches is that one can be content even in the midst of need, even in the midst of longing. We can be content even if we are not satisfied. He said he was not writing because he was in need but he was in need. He was in prison. He was not writing because of his need. He wrote because of his joy and wanted to thank the Philippians for meeting his needs.
To be honest it would be easier to accept the fact that God will never bless me with a wife than to indefinitely nurture hope. It would be easier to resign and be satisfied than to harbor hope and take steps to change things. But, again, as Christians we live with the tension of promises yet unfulfilled. We are both content with all that is in Christ and yet there is a disquieted longing for more. We should ever be content but not satisfied.
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