Finding Contentment: AnnMarie’s Story
by Dale Reeves
Yesterday at Christ’s Church we began a sermon series entitled “I Wish.” As Brad Wilson shared in his message, the truth is that no one wants to be alone. No one wants to feel as if they’re missing out on something. We all want to feel a sense of contentment and fulfillment. We want to be validated, to feel like we matter, like we belong, like we are bringing value to others’ lives. This is true if you’re single and it’s true if you’re married.
The wise man Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God” (NIV).
AnnMarie Pottle is a member of Christ’s Church who knows what it is like to experience loneliness, both in a marriage, and as a single adult. Like everyone else she is seeking contentment, as she defined it, “peaceful happiness.” I appreciate her willingness to share part of her story openly and honestly today, in hopes of providing encouragement to others. AnnMarie has been through her share of challenges and difficulties in life. She grew up in a Catholic home near Hartford, Connecticut, with Irish-born parents. Her father died when she was nine years old, and her mother remarried when AnnMarie was sixteen. Her stepfather died just eight years ago, and her brother died suddenly at the age of 39.
AnnMarie recalls, “When my brother died, I was not too happy with God. My mom’s heart was broken because this was the second big loss in her life. I struggled with God though I never turned completely away from him. I always heard him saying to me, ‘I’m in charge, I’ve got this, and I have you.’”
After high school, AnnMarie went to a Jesuit university, Boston College. AnnMarie married a man she loved but he ended up having an affair with another woman when her first son was only fourteen months old. Based on the rules of the Catholic Church, after a divorce she was unable to receive communion, and because of their rules, she ran away from the Catholic Church.
Some years later, AnnMarie was remarried, and that marriage lasted for 20 years. She acknowledges, “To be honest, I’m not completely healed from that marriage.” AnnMarie has two sons and one daughter. For the last ten years of that marriage, her ex-husband was not around very much, so she felt like a single mom. She wanted to show her sons she could be a great mom with a career and wanted to show her daughter that it was possible to do both well. She continues, “My ex-husband was very absent—physically at first, as he traveled the world, and then emotionally absent. I was very lonely when he was gone but even more lonely when he was home. Had I not been divorced already I would have ended that marriage sooner. I did not want to be a ‘two-time loser’ and I wanted to keep my family together. I decided that I wanted to be happy and if that meant being single I was OK with that—life is too short not to be happy and live your best life.”
Depending on God
In these two marriages, AnnMarie discovered that contentment can’t be based on a human relationship because at some point humans will let you down. The only way to really find contentment and fulfillment must start with Jesus. Many people make the mistake of seeking other relationships for things that only Jesus can provide. As a single adult today, AnnMarie says, “I am taking this time to deepen my relationship with God. All the time singles put into finding someone I am spending with God. Even though I wouldn’t say I’m completely content, I am happy and am working hard on inner peace and softening my heart toward any future relationship God may have for me.”
The apostle Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:6-8, “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (ESV).
King David reminds us in Psalm 37:3-5, “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you” (NLT).
Being content from a biblical perspective involves being grateful for what you do have, who you are, and who you can be. It is just the opposite perspective that focuses only on what you don’t have, who you aren’t, and how you may feel stuck in your current situation.
Finding Fulfillment by Serving
When I asked AnnMarie how the church had come alongside her in her need for community, she responded, “To be honest I had to take the first step. Signing up for the ten-week Rooted experience was a big leap for me, but I knew that I wanted to get closer to God and learn more about myself. When I showed up for my first group meeting I discovered that everyone else was married but me. But it all worked out for the best, and I got baptized after the Rooted study.”
AnnMarie continues, “After joining Rooted I felt in community at Christ’s Church. Had I not done that I would still be sitting and taking. I am still very close with my first Rooted group and even more so with the group I facilitated. I started volunteering in the Engage area last September and I love this area of service in the church because I get to meet so many new people.” She admits, “I have good days and bad days, but I know that God has a plan for me. I’m looking forward to the next phase of my life.”
AnnMarie’s advice to other adults (whether single or married) who are seeking fulfillment and contentment? “Do the work in your heart and mind you need to do; others cannot do that. Take the time to really study God’s Word, talk to him, and let him fill your heart with peace and contentment. Lean on him and ask for help. He promises to take care of you and never leave you—and you can be sure that he will make good on that promise!”