I don’t feel like talking about being single today.
I don’t feel like talking about being content today.
‘Cause today I don’t feel particularly content. Today I’d rather not be single.
The apostle Paul speaks of learning contentment. And it certainly is something that must be learned.
“For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
How has Paul learned to be content? I dare say that he learned to be content by having ample opportunity for discontent. He had been placed in each of those situations that required contentment.
And how did he do it? How did he become content in each of those situations? He did it “through Christ who strengthens [him].”
He didn’t learn contentment by relying on his own strength. He didn’t learn contentment by trusting in his feelings. He learned contentment by relying upon Christ’s strength, by trusting God’s direction.
I’ve had ups and downs in my single journey, as I’m sure many of you have. I’ve had times where I experienced, where I felt incredible peace and purpose and contentment in my singleness. And I’ve had times where I felt conflicted, torn, overwhelmed, and utterly desirous of anything but singleness.
One thing has enable me to continue in this journey to contentment. That is, that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Through Christ who gives me strength, I can repent of the sin of coveting my neighbor’s home, her children…her husband. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can take deliberate steps to bless her and to avoid temptation. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can choose to be obedient to the word of God above my feelings.
Through Christ who gives me strength, I can resist the temptation to lust. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can put down the book with the engaging story-line, but with sexual or emotional content that arouses my body and heart. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.
Through Christ who gives me strength, I can honor God with this season of my life. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can serve the body and the lost in this time. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can budget and change my oil and work a job.
Through Christ who gives me strength, I can rejoice with those who rejoice in their engagements, weddings, children. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can bless the well-intentioned but hurtful comments that others make about my singleness. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can bear up under the misconstrued assumption others make that I’d rather be a career woman. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can do all things.
The problem comes in when we focus on our circumstances rather than on Christ. The problem comes in when I look at all the things I don’t have–instead of the One I do have. The problem comes in when I look at the paths God has closed to me–instead of trusting Him with the path He has chosen for me.
Earlier this week, I was reading the story of the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt and I was struck by the purposefulness of God.
When God delivered the people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, He didn’t take them by the most direct route. He led them by a longer, more circuitous route. Can’t you just see the people questioning? “This isn’t the way,” they must have muttered under their breath. “What on earth is God thinking?”
They didn’t know, but Scripture tells us what God was thinking. “God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.'” (Exodus 13:17) God knew that the test along the “direct route” would be too much for the people to bear. It would induce them to return to slavery. And God didn’t want them back in slavery–so He led them by an alternate route.
Yet opposition came along this alternate route too. With the sea at their front and their pursuers behind them, the Israelites were stuck in an impossible situation.
Unable to see God’s plan, the people complained that it would have been better for them to stay enslaved than to taste freedom only to be destroyed.
But God had a purpose, a reason for choosing this particular route. He knew that Egypt would pursue. He knew that the way would be blocked. He planned it that way–so that “I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 14:4)
God deliberately chose to place Israel in an impossible situation so that He could show Himself as God by doing the impossible for them.
God had a purpose both in the path that He closed and in the path that He chose.
If God has you as a single person right now, there is a reason for that. There is a reason that He has closed the door to marriage and chosen singleness for this season of your life.
If God has you as a married person right now, there is a reason for that. There is a reason that He has closed the door to singleness and chosen marriage for this season of your life. (Don’t whack out on me about this season thing–I’m not intimating that marriage is not for life. However, you have no way of knowing when the Lord might call your spouse home. You may very well find yourself in a new season–you just can’t know. You have to rely on God for the season He has for you right now.)
You and I don’t often know what purposes God has in the events of our lives. Often we don’t see God’s plan. Sometimes we are tempted to doubt either God’s sovereignty or His goodness. But let’s not give in to the temptation.
We may not always see God’s purposes. We may not always feel that He is sovereign and good. But, in Christ, we can be sure that He does have a purpose–and that His purpose is for His glory and our greatest good.
So I don’t feel like a contented single right now. Right now, I don’t see God’s purpose in the path He has closed to me–or in the path He has chosen for me. But, through Christ who strengthens me, I can be a contented single right now, regardless of my feelings. Regardless of my feelings, I can trust that God has a purpose in this season of my life–and that His purpose is for His greatest glory and my greatest good.