Millions of us feel unfulfilled because we don't have a spouse and family. Is that the natural consequence of the unmarried state?
Oddly, in an age of cohabiting, marriage is still a sought-after goal, and for Christians, it's one of the main goals of life, promoted heavily by the church. Marriage, it's implied, is the "natural" state for humans.
While I agree that it's "not good for the man (or woman) to be alone," (Genesis 2:18), I have yet to hear a sermon on how marriage or family life can turn into an idol, bumping Christ himself out of first place. What's even more baffling is that divorce rates are almost the same between Christian couples and unbeliever couples.
That, friend, should tell us something.
Let's start with that great American misconception: We should get deep satisfaction out of our job or career. That's what we're told, but when employees are asked, a majority of them say they actually hate their job.
People are dissatisfied for a variety of reasons. A main one seems to be that they're unappreciated. Supervisors are condescending or unfair. Co-workers forget to say thanks when you pitch in and help them. And yes, nearly everyone feels they're underpaid.
I think to be happier at work--and this should not be confused with fulfillment--we need to lower our expectations. That won't solve all the problems, but it can help with being disappointed. My pastor recently pointed out an attitude that can reduce disappointment:
Expect nothing in return.
Oh, sure, we should expect a paycheck for our work, and we should give our best effort all the time, but rewards, commendations, appreciation, and thank you's may be asking for too much.
Somehow we need to make it a game of competing with ourselves and rewarding ourselves when we beat our old record. Then, even if no one notices, we do, and we'll experience some sense of achievement.
Whether it's with our parents, siblings, or a special friend, we often don't get the love and affection we want. As they say, you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your relatives. You can't necessarily "reform" your relatives either, unless you sit down and have an honest talk with them and tell them what's lacking.
Friends, that's a different matter. Sometimes we stay in a dating relationship because it's comfortable, even if it's going nowhere. Even if we're dissatisfied or bored. Today, most singles think a bad relationship is better than no relationship.
This is not a dating site and I don't give dating advice. As I've said elsewhere, if I were a genius at dating, I wouldn't still be single!
That said, if you are unfulfilled in dating, you won't be fulfilled in marriage--because marriage cannot fulfill you, even with the perfect partner (who, by the way, doesn't exist).
Whether it's a TV shopping channel, a commercial, or a magazine ad, this promise is always there: If you buy this thing, your world will be all right. Of course, it's not stated that crudely, but it's always implied.
Here's the reality of capitalism, whether in the United States, China, or any other country. Money can be made selling things. Many of those things are necessities, such as a refrigerator, mattress, or eyeglasses. But many things we can live without, such as perfume, sports fan clothing, and virtual reality goggles.
Over the centuries, manufacturers learned they had to advertise to let buyers know their product exists. Over time advertising creators learned what works and what doesn't. They learned which psychological buttons to push in potential customers to make a sale.
Advertisements tap into our unrealized desires: to be popular, to feel important, to feel attractive, to receive respect or admiration from others. No matter where we feel unfulfilled, there's some product that promises to meet our need.
Except they can't. But we keep accumulating more and more stuff because we've come to believe that promise of If you buy this thing, your world will be all right.
Ah, here's the part you've been expecting, but with a surprise. We can be comfortable with religion, thanks to its routine and dependability. Want to get churchgoers upset? Change things. Want to keep them happy? Deliver the same, familiar service week after week.
Church services help us relate to God through worship, but when we're really hurting, in those private moments in our home at bedtime, it's God himself we need, not sermons, songs, or other believers. God, providing the strength. God, providing the comfort. God providing his unconditional love.
Only God can provide fulfillment because that's how he created us. We are body and spirit, and while we can satisfy our body with physical things, only God himself can satisfy our spirit, our deepest, most secret longings in life. That is why—although they'd never admit it—unbelievers feel unfulfilled. They reject God, and along with him, ultimate fulfillment.
Why is God alone the answer? His love is always solid and strong. It's not based on how you look, how much you earn, where you live, or your performance. God loves you because you're you.
That truth alone is pretty fulfilling. God is never unappreciative, moody, or stingy with his love. He's above the pettiness of human beings. He's reliable, and he has a custom-made, individual love for you. When your life is miserable, God is beside you, loving you the same as when things are going great.
Here's the takeaway: When you're feeling unfulfilled, don't look for contentment from things that are incapable of providing it. Go to God and his love for you.
That's where you'll get fulfilled.