If I asked you to list a few of the top favorite “singleness” clichés people use, I’m sure you could rattle off several. I could.
In my long season of singleness, everyone wanted to reassure me and sympathize with me. I spent far too long being annoyed at this sympathy before realizing a startling truth: deep in my heart of hearts, I actually thought I deserved that sympathy.
I’d had plenty of pity parties about my singleness, but I’d thought that was the normal response any average single girl would have.
Did you catch that phrase? Any average girl.
When I realized the hypocrisy in my thinking, something seemed to click into place inside me. I distinctly remember the fierce determination that welled up within me to not be the average single girl anymore.
A Stagnant Lake
If you’re like me, you’ve heard the truth. We have the head knowledge that God has a plan – we must only trust and wait. Our minds know that we are special, valuable, and worthwhile. But just like a lake that has no outlet and causes the water inside to grow stagnant, so our knowledge grows stagnant within us when it isn’t being released into action.
I had been so focused on trying to stir up feelings of contentment about my current season of life that I let the truth simmer within me until it evaporated away. Then, I’d pour more truth in – read another devotional book about contentment, read more verses about trusting God, etc. – and start the process all over again.
The problem was that knowledge without action is futile. Or as James puts it, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).
Feelings vs. Lifestyle
Jesus does not tell you to trick yourself into feeling content and happy. That’s not how He wired you. Instead He created your feelings to follow your actions.
Have you noticed Paul’s exact wording in Philippians 4:11? He says, “I have learned. . . to be content.” Learned. Learning requires action. It’s not a passive thing, but an action you must take.
This realization turned my internal operating system upside down. Feelings follow action. The exciting part for me was not that I could act regardless of feeling but that I was assured my feelings would follow! Contentment would come. And (spoiler alert!) it did. . . perhaps for the first time.
While there’s no magic formula for how to achieve contentment by acting on your faith, there are certain steps I took that helped me walk on my waves faster. Maybe they can help you too.
1. Make a Bucket List
This isn’t your traditional to-do list before “kicking the bucket.” I created a list of things I wanted to accomplish in my time of singleness. While there were no great noble tasks on that list, there were a lot of small, fun things I’d always wanted to do. Making this list was a way to prove to myself that my time of singleness was not a time to mourn over, but a time to live joyously and adventurously.
Every day is precious, so don’t spend a single one bemoaning where you are. There’s no reason to keep putting off things you’ve always wanted to do. We’re only guaranteed today, and today is worth celebrating.
2. Take Advantage of the Benefits
Secondly, I began to identify and capitalize on the advantages of my singleness. I spent my extra time enjoying those who were currently in my life and developing my skills and hobbies. I spent my extra money giving surprise gifts to other people and saving for bigger expenses I knew would come down the road. I spent my extra energy investing in other people and trying new things. I began to thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the spontaneity, carefreeness, and lack of drama that accompany single life.
3. Soak in Truth
I also began to get serious about Bible study. I explored questions I’d always had and took on the challenge of reading the Bible the whole way through. I knew I wouldn’t ever again have as much time on my hands as I did then, so for long stretches of time, I’d sit in God’s presence and just soak in His grace and listen to His gentle voice. If I had the choice now, I would not want to give up those precious times, because what I learned during them still carry me through hard moments to this day.
4. Decide Who You Want to Become
One of my favorite steps of faith was making a list of the qualities and abilities I wanted to have as a wife and mother. My time of singleness became a time of preparation. I cooked new recipes, became a DIY-er, collected a set of resources for teaching children’s church, and asked more questions about housekeeping and mothering. I picked up new skills like sewing and knitting. And I began praying for my future husband.
On a more personal level, I also became much more aggressive about becoming the person I’d always wanted to be. I used to think that I wouldn’t be a fully outgoing, confident, resourceful, and helpful person until I got married. I felt like I wouldn’t be “grown-up” enough to be respected or treated as a grown woman until I had a husband. How foolish to limit myself!
I began volunteering for church ministries on my own, rather than just following what my family did. I even helped to head up a ministry. I spoke up about my opinions more. I asked more questions. I diligently sought the fruits of the Spirit that I knew weren’t pouring out of me yet. I dared to explore my interests and pursue my dreams, even when I didn’t have a constant encourager of the male species to show up at my door with roses when I was feeling down. And you know what? I absolutely love every minute of it, much more than I thought I would.
Choosing to embrace life now and live a beautiful, joyful life today, expecting your feelings to follow, will become a habit that will carry you through every season of your life, not just this one. Rather than trying to feel content, live a contented lifestyle. Take the journey one faith-filled action at a time. Contentment will steal into your heart slowly but very surely, until you suddenly realize your battle with contentment is no longer the struggle it once was. Will you ever struggle with feeling discontent about being single again? Sure you will. But you must keep acting on your faith, taking it one step at a time. Your battle with contentment is not won when you feel content, but when you successfully develop the habit of making contented choices.