By Melissa Affolter
Because I am a single woman quickly approaching middle age, I am often asked for advice and resources for younger single women. These women desire to be married and desire to understand how God’s goodness is displayed in their lingering unmarried state.
When you age as a single woman, it does not necessarily mean you have attained a more peaceful and contented state – sometimes, it’s merely that you have resigned yourself to the realities of your singleness. Stopping by Wal-Mart at 10:00 p.m. by yourself (gasp!) is sometimes a necessity, you don’t feel the embarrassment of walking into a new movie all alone like you did a decade ago, and you get used to making arrangements for car repairs and medical procedures without consulting a spouse or parent.
As these realities become more and more “normal” for the aging single woman, it’s easy to perceive her as being content in her singleness. The challenge with such thinking is that the underlying definition of contentment is sometimes inaccurate to begin with. Traditionally, contentment in regards to relationships is understood as not wanting to experience the pain, awkwardness, discomfort and loneliness of being single. However, for the Christian, these very struggles might be just what God is using for the unmarried woman’s sanctification – for her spiritual welfare.
Getting “used to” your singleness does not – and should not – necessarily equate with contentment. Many well-meaning friends and family members may tell the unmarried woman that when she learns to be content in Christ, then God will bring her a husband. This inadvertently teaches the single woman that the acquisition of a spouse is directly linked to her personal capability to find contentment in Christ.
This type of legalistic thinking often results in a single woman believing that if she can simply attain certain levels of contentment, she will be rewarded with her desire – namely, a husband. The danger manifests itself when a woman gives herself to the pursuit of contentment and yet remains husbandless. Left wondering why God has not rewarded her diligence, she may become sinfully critical of herself, thinking that her situation is hopeless (or her “fault”). Such thoughts can eventually lead to a sinful morbid introspection because she “worked” and saw no results. This is not true contentment. Instead of admonishing her to pursue contentment, we ought to admonish her to pursue Christ!
Contentment is not the removal of the desire for a husband, nor is it the procurement of a husband. Either of these could become a reality, and yet a woman remains discontent – or she finds something new with which to be discontent.
Contentment is a principle of righteousness that is commanded for every believer, and it cannot be viewed as a means to getting what one desires. Contentment is found in Christ, but every believing woman must discipline herself to bring her heart, mind and soul into a “happy and glad alignment” (as my pastor says) with the will of her Lord every day of her life – married or unmarried.
Contentment is not the end goal. Instead, it is Christlikeness, and then Christlikeness bears forth the fruit of contentment.
So, I can be comfortable with my singleness, and get used to living my life in a relatively solitary existence…but I may not be content. My longings may be unmet, and I may be tempted toward discouragement at times. But if I am pursuing Christlikeness, living before the face of God daily, and bringing my will into submission with His; I will cultivate the fruit of contentment.
Why is contentment a fruit? Because contentment doesn’t stand alone. It’s always attached to the root of Christlikeness. In the original Greek, the word contentment (autarkeia), means self-sufficient; used of the Spirit-filled Christian – having all they need within through the indwelling Christ.
Because of Christ, and as I grow in Christlikeness, the fruit of contentment is planted. It grows as I water it with the Word and daily seek to conform my heart to the Lord.
Melissa Affolter is a curriculum writer for The Rafiki Foundation in Florida and serves in the youth and children’s ministries at Riverbend Community Church in Ormond Beach. After completing a degree in history and teaching in a Classical Christian school for several years, Melissa earned a Master of Arts in biblical counseling from The Master’s College in 2011. She enjoys meeting with young women regularly for counsel and encouragement, as well as loving on the many children who refer to her as “Auntie Mel”.
You, too, can help support the ministry of CBMW. We are a non-profit organization that is fully-funded by individual gifts and ministry partnerships. Your contribution will go directly toward the production of more gospel-centered, church-equipping resources.