I'm not a big fan of the title. It just sounds sorta cheesy. But I got over that quickly. Even though I wanted to jump right in and get to their practical suggestions for dating, I was pleasantly surprised that the first third of the book is a biblical look at God's design for relationships, how that was tainted by sin, and how it is redeemed in Christ.
I was struck by a few quotes in these early pages that called out my own selfishness. For instance:
"Many Christians approach dating mainly in terms of pursuing romance and meeting their emotional needs. Far too few think of it as an opportunity to honor God and grow in grace."Guilty. Also:
“If God is my portion, if God is the true source of my joy, and if it is God who will fulfill me, then I am free to be a companion instead of a consumer. That is, because of what I receive from God I can give to another person instead of always taking; I can minister rather than manipulate because of the fulfillment I get from God.”The next few chapters were very helpful as well and covered topics like attraction, the first date, commitment, and getting ready for marriage. But it's the last chapter that I wanted to highlight, because it speaks to those of us who, well...are very much still single. The chapter is entitled 'Waiting for Love?'.
The chapter starts off this way:
"For the vast majority of adult Christians, singleness is not a gift but a trial...but it is not the only trial...curing singleness will not cure the problem of trials in this life."This offers great perspective. I can easily forget that God is constantly using all kinds of circumstances in my life to refine me. The Phillips' say it this way:
“This is what God is doing to us in our trials, purifying the thing that we most need--our faith in him. Perhaps your frustrations in waiting for love are intended to draw you nearer to God and to teach you reliance on his grace...This is a great reminder to me, but hard to appreciate a lot of the time. God ultimately cares about me seeing and knowing Him. So, instead of giving in to self-pity or jealousy, I should be asking God to help me grow in grace during this process...and to be content.
What God is preparing for us through our trials is incomparably greater than the things we long for in this world. We would gladly settle for mere happiness in life. But God is determined that we should be holy, and through holiness partake of his own glory. It is for that cause that God ordains our trials in this life. Christians struggling with singleness, then, should not label their troubles a ‘gift.’ But they should realize that through their often painful trials, God is working an incomprehensible gift: eternal life and the hope of glory.”
True contentment is a difficult thing and often seems unattainable. Yet Paul, writing to the Phillipians says that he has learned the secret of being content in every situation. So, it is possible. And I know God wants to bring it to us.
It's also easy to believe that if we just had this or that, then we could be happy. But Martyn-Lloyd Jones reminds us that "man’s happiness was never meant to be determined by his circumstances." God is meant to fill us up and to satisfy our deepest longings. And until we really believe and experience that, we are constantly going from one thing to another trying to suck life out of it, only to find ourselves disappointed every time.
Finally, consider another definition of contentment by A.W. Pink. It should speak well to any trial you might be going through in life, singleness or otherwise:
"Contentment, then, is the product of a heart resting in God. It is the soul’s enjoyment of that peace that passes all understanding. It is the outcome of my will being brought into subjection to the Divine will. It is the blessed assurance that God does all things well, and is, even now, making all things work together for my ultimate good.”