“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.
- We have an assured future but an uncertain present.
- We have joy in God’s promises but the reality of present pain.
- We have peace through the God’s promises but sorrow is ever present.
- We know God will provide but some are literally starving.
- We are saved but must hunger and thirst after righteousness.
- We are spiritual wealthy but are called to be poor in spirit.
- We are to rejoice but those who mourn are promised comfort.
- We are blessed by God but often persecuted.
- We see God dimly but long for the day we will see Him clearly.
- Some of us…know the love of friends, family, and God but ache and long for a mate.
We are both content and not satisfied, and it’s okay. The mother who loses four children in one day considers them every day. She may wonder what it would be like if they were there for Christmas or the family reunion. Every marriage and every birth near her will become a reminder that her sons will never know these pleasures or experience these milestones. And while most singles have not faced a death (though some have), their longing is much the same.
Every marriage and every birth is a reminder that they may never share in those pleasures or experience these milestones. To rejoice with others is still to know a pang of loss as though something had died. And while marriage may bring new problems and not end the deeper longing, it still feels as though year by year a dream is dying a slow death. We need not delude ourselves, marriage will not end the loneliness but it is a particular desire without which we are not satisfied.
It is the fact that I am not satisfied that keeps my eyes skyward, that bends my knees in prayer, that calls me to a deeper trust in the grace of God. I may not be satisfied but I have no fear of starving. I have no fear of TRULY being alone. It is dissatisfaction with my circumstances that presses me to hope for more, to try for more. But it is most certainly contentment in our circumstances and the God who oversees all things that will keep us, the dissatisfied, from despair.
Hudson Russell Davis was born on a small Island in the West Indies called Dominica, and this is only one reason he does not like cold weather and loves guava. He is a graduate of James Madison University with a B.A. in Graphic Design and earned a Masters in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Currently he is a Ph.D. candidate at Saint Louis University studying historical theology. Hudson has worked as a graphic artist and worship leader but expresses himself through poetry, prose, photography, and music. His activities are just about anything outdoors, but tennis is his current passion.
Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to Hudson at email@example.com. If you don't hear back within a few days' time, please try again. Hudson would like to respond to all reader feedback.