“He sought to counsel and calm the despairing, to transform the grief that contemplates the grave by showing it the grief that looks up to the stars.” Victor Hugo of M. Myriel the Priest
On Sunday, July 9th 2006, five children drowned in the Meramec River near Saint Louis. It still wounds me to think of it. An article in that Tuesday’s paper described the desperate moment when one child “slipped beneath the water’s tranquil surface and others rushed to help.” Four of the children belonged to one mourning mother.
I couldn’t stop hurting for her (still cannot stop hurting for her) because I couldn’t fathom how one would endure such sudden loss. I doubt very much that she could have answered the question before her faith was tested, before it was proven true. The calm peace she exhibited in the article humbled me. Her serene trust reminded me that it is indeed possible to endure great trials with faith, and to be content in ANY and ALL circumstances.
It is possible to have no concern, and yet to know deep sorrow and longing. Although this woman would have given her life to have her children back, she did not give into despair. While mourning her loss, she moved forward in faith. She was content within her circumstances, but not satisfied with her circumstances. And this is our goal.
The casualties of prolonged singleness (at least where desire for marriage exists) are the dreams of youth and a hope for the future. The casualty may not be the real loss of children, but only the dreams and hopes of children. The loss may be the ever-fading opportunity to grow old with another person. I must confess that I am ecstatic about the life I have been given, the blessings I have received, and yet I still long for more. In light of God’s many blessings, I am rich beyond measure and content. But I would be a liar if I said I have all that I want. I am content but not satisfied.
While I do not always live as though it were true, I have a better understanding today of what it means to be “content in any and every situation” (Phil. 4:11). But my heart’s desire is still unmet. I have an unfilled hunger and a deferred dream. I am content in my circumstances, but not satisfied with my circumstances.
I am convinced that contentment does not exclude all desires and wants. Contentment does not demand happy smiles in the face of pain. That is hypocrisy. Contentment demands faith and trust in a God who is faithful and trustworthy. Contentment is peace in the midst of hunger. Contentment is an expectant certainty that, despite the hunger we now know, He will indeed provide our daily bread. But satisfaction is another thing altogether. Satisfaction speaks of approval, of what is good, of what is complete. If it is “not good for the man to be alone,” then dissatisfaction is okay.
In fact, the Christian life is spent in perpetual dissatisfaction. We are BEING made holy, but are not yet holy (Heb. 10:10, 14). We are being transformed by the renewing of our minds, but we are not yet there (Rom 12:2). We are being pruned to bear more and more fruit, but we have not yet brought in our full crop (Jn. 15:2). We are content with His blessings here, and yet our hearts yearn for the day when “He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes.” We look forward to the day when “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4). There is an appropriate dissatisfaction even in the midst of our contentment because, for now, all is not right with the world.
When I speak of loneliness and the longing for love, I mean a particular longing and a specific need. I see a difference between being content, and being satisfied. I am content with the provisions of God; they are good, and I am rich through His mercies. However, in the area of a marriage relationship, I remain in need—content, but not satisfied. I have eaten, but am not filled.
Dissatisfaction with my circumstances presses me to hope for more, to try for more. But it is contentment in my circumstances that keeps me from despair. It is okay to be dissatisfied, but we dare not set aside contentment. We dare not leave off trust.
We dare not act as spoiled children who trample God’s gifts because all our requests have not been granted. We neither walk off pouting nor, because of unmet needs, disdain the gifts He has given. We must take everything He gives and rejoice that He has loved us enough to provide our daily bread—and more than our daily bread. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble” (Job 2:10)? Before we can even deal with the root of our dissatisfaction, we must anchor ourselves in trust and know contentment. That is a must. Do not forget contentment.
He knows “it is not good” for us to be alone. He knows this. If He has not blessed us, it is because He has judged this circumstance—at least for now—to be best for us. With this I am content, because I KNOW He loves me. Whatever our need, we are content because we KNOW He loves us.
We are content, and so we rejoice always IN THE LORD (Phil. 4.4). We are content, and so we “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for [us] in Christ Jesus (1Th. 5:18). We are anxious for nothing and yet, “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, [we] present [our] requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). In trust we “cast all [our] anxiety on Him (1Pet. 5:7).” We “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Eph. 6:18). We cry out to Him because we are not satisfied, because we have unmet desires, and because He cares.
Our God has placed us here in our present circumstances. We love and trust Him, because we know He loves us. We need only know that we are loved. Because He cares, we can bring to Him all our wounds, all our longings, and all our hopes. It is contentment in our circumstances AND in our God, who oversees all things, that will keep us, the dissatisfied, from despair. My hope is that the honesty of realized and confessed dissatisfaction will free you and me to walk in faith, and allow those who walk with us to better comfort us. This morning I woke content, but found beside me the honesty of my need. Those who meet me will know both my joy and my pain, will see both my smile, and if they care to inquire, my need.
 Todd C. Frankel and Bill Bryan, “Five drown in Meramec River,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Monday, Jul. 10 2006.
This article was first published on Crosswalk.com, Tuesday, July 22, 2008.