An extensive survey was recently done by a leading polling agency that distributed questionnaires to people of various ages and occupations. The key question was this: What are you looking for most in life? When the results were compiled, analysts were surprised. They expected answers that would suggest materialistic goals. But at the top of the list was love. It sounds like a cliché, but what people want is to love and to be loved.
So that raises a question: What is love? If we look to our culture for cues, we will be sorely disappointed – especially if we look to Hollywood or popular songs. They cannot show us how to have a lasting and meaningful relationship.
Maybe you are wondering whether you ever will find that person whom you would want to marry and spend the rest of your life with. Or maybe you are married and still feel lonely. You can experience loneliness regardless of your marital status.
What we need is real love, not the pseudo love that seems to pervade our culture today. We make a big mistake when we think that a man or a woman will somehow rescue us from all of our problems.
After raising two sons, I have four granddaughters now. And I have discovered that little girls generally like to dress up like little princesses. I have also noticed there seems to be a longing in the hearts of little girls that someday their prince will come.
And sometimes, we carry this ideal into adulthood. People never really get over this fairy-tale ideal. As they enter their adult years, they still believe that someone will fill the hole in their life.
I think what people are really looking for is the sort of euphoric excitement they experience when they originally meet someone and are flush with all of the feelings of attraction. But then after a period of time, they break up and move on again.
That seemed to be the case with a woman Jesus met by Jacob’s well in Samaria. She had a lot of husbands – five of them. Not only that, but she was living with a guy at the time. So Jesus used the well they were sitting by as a metaphor for life. He told her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14 NIV).
In other words, he was saying, “Lady, let Me tell you something. Men aren’t going to meet the deepest need of your life. That is why you keep moving from one guy to another. But if you drink of the water that I give you, you never will thirst again.”
So let’s get first things first. Let’s just start with this simple truth: we need to learn to be content where we are, regardless of our marital status. The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). Also speaking on the subject of contentment, the writer of Hebrews said, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
No person is going to fill those needs deep inside you. It is all about God. That is who we need first and foremost.
The fact of the matter is the grass is always greener on the other side. There are advantages to being married, but there are also advantages to being single. Paul laid it out pretty clearly when he wrote:
“I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:32–34).
Paul was not critical of a married person wanting to please his or her spouse; it should be that way. But when you are single, you don’t have that responsibility. You have flexibility. You have mobility. You can do things many married people cannot. So if you are single, you can seize the opportunities before you.
But know this: It is very likely you will be married one day. So if that is something you really hope for and desire, then don’t despair. Chances are, you will get married. Studies show that nine out of 10 Americans are married at some point in their lives. Let me also say this, however: It is better to be happily single than to be unhappily married.
If you are single, then you need to be content as a single person. And if you are married, then you need to be content as a married person.
And as you are doing that, here are some words from the psalmist David that you might want to keep in mind: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). So first find your fulfillment in God himself. Focus your energy on seeking Him.