Joy and peace are nice, spiritual-sounding words, but most of us singles don't realize that those qualities are what we really want out of life.
Well, sure, we want a spouse, too, and we think that person will bring us those things and more--much more. But the truth is that we've been misled. Our society tries to convince us we want happiness.
So we chase happiness in every shape and form, or at least what we're told will bring us happiness. That may explain why Americans alone owe over $803 billion in credit card debt.
As a single person, the earlier in life you discover what really matters, the earlier you'll be able to pursue it, and the more fulfillment you'll have.
As I mention elsewhere on this site, happiness is an emotion that comes and goes. We've been lured into believing that "when I have this thing, achieve this goal, or get married, then I'll be happy."
Notice a pattern in that statement? In each case, satisfaction depends on circumstances. Everything has to be right before we can enjoy life.
Everything rarely runs perfectly in life,and even when it does, it doesn't last long.
Depending on circumstances for our contentment means circumstances control us. When things are going well, we're in good spirits. When life is messed up, we're in the pits.
It took me many, many years to realize that what is going on outside me doesn't necessarily have to affect what's going on inside me. Oh, sure, there are times when we're going to feel sad, such as when a loved one dies or a relationship ends, and grieving over that is natural and healthy.
That's why it's crucial to be careful what you watch on TV and consume on the Internet. Unnerving TV programs--especially of the political variety--can convince you the sky is falling. These shows, as well as some podcasts and social media deliberately work to disturb you. Before you know it, you're anxious and worried and you don't even understand why.
Some singles are so used to being in a constant state of agitation they can't imagine tranquility is even possible. They react to every problem with panic. They feel put upon, as if God is punishing them.
That's no way to live. Once you accept the truth that joy and peace are possible, then you have to get out of the habit of going nutzoid every time you don't get your own way. For most of us singles, that's most of the time.
That's not only a hard choice to make, it's hard work to make it happen. It requires much more than putting a smile on your face or cultivating an optimistic attitude. It takes real perseverance, forgiving yourself when you go back to your old ways, and understanding that you're not going to be able to do this on your own.
We've all seen people who seem to cruise along in life, never getting ruffled, never losing their temper. We wonder what their secret is. We wonder how they can be so doggone patient.
I like the apostle Paul. He made a lot of mistakes, and I can identify with that. He was also an emotional guy, and I know how that goes, too. What's more, Paul was single, and he learned one of life's greatest secrets:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13, NKJV)
If you don't have Jesus, good luck on having joy and peace no matter what the circumstances. You'll be relying on your own willpower, and that can be exhausting. Christ strengthens us. He is the wind in our sails, so to speak.
Paul lived a tough life by any standards. Somebody was always running him out of town, ridiculing him, beating him to a bloody pulp or stoning him. Have you ever been beaten or stoned? Neither have I, and we think we have it bad.
Most of us live in a decent house or apartment, with enough food. Paul didn't. When he was lucky, he stayed with friends or in a tent. But sometimes he slept outside or on the wet, cold deck of a ship. Food in those days might be stale, bland, or even rotten.
Despite all this, Paul had joy no matter what the circumstances. Listen to what he said before the verse listed above:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
The secret, in verse 13, is doing all of it through Christ. Christ is the authentic source of joy, the kind of unshakable joy we singles need. Whether you're in a relationship or not, on a tight budget or not, in good health or not, Jesus is what makes it not only bearable, but even joyful.
It took me a long, long time to get that through my head. I hope you'll skip all the time I wasted and give it serious consideration right now. Paul was right about joy and peace. Jesus is the secret. He brings joy and peace.