“Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people.” ~Proverbs 11:3
Joshua Harris would say dating is only permissible if there is intent to marry. But where does this leave the person who may feel emotionally mature enough to explore getting to know someone on a romantic level, but not ready for marriage? Many young adults who are in college or just out of college, for example, may fit into this category.
While it was normal in our parent’s generation to marry straight out of college, it is no longer at the forefront of the college graduate’s mind. Women are pursuing careers more than they used to and globalization has opened up a plethora of opportunities for young adults to live, work and study abroad for extended periods of time. All of these factors (and more) are pushing back the average age for marriage to mid to late twenties. Whether this is a good or bad thing is for another post all together, but it is a reality that needs to be factored into the Christian dating equation.
There is a school of thought in the Christian world that says young adults who are not ready for marriage, should refrain from dating all together. I personally think this is a grave mistake, as engaging in relationships with the opposite sex can add tremendous value to one’s growth and maturation process–spiritually and emotionally. Dating for the sake of marriage is obviously the ideal and when possible, should be the motive for dating in the first place. But given the trends of the younger generation, I believe dating–according to Biblical principles and values–can still play a crucial and beneficial role in the personal and spiritual development process of human beings.
The important thing is to be intentional from the beginning about the purpose and motivation for pursuing the relationship, whether marriage is the immediate goal or not. Some examples of statements of intent might be:
- “I am not ready for marriage right now, but I would like to get to know you in a dating relationship as a way of learning more about each other, ourselves and God.”
- “I would like to pursue a dating relationship in order to see if we are suited for marriage.”
- “I am not sure if I am ready to explore marriage, but I would like to date as a way of challenging each other in our faith and becoming more like Christ in the process.”
The end goals of these three statements are clearly different, based on the ages and stages of the persons involved. But what they do share in common is the intent in their hearts for starting the relationship and it is stated in the beginning. This will ensure that both parties will be on the same page from the start, allowing them to enjoy the relationship without having to guess what the other person is thinking. Too often, when the intent is not stated at the beginning, one person might be viewing the relationship casually, while the other person is geared towards marriage. This creates false expectations and hurt feelings when they are not met.
If you are ready for marriage and see dating as a means to that end, don’t be afraid to voice that. If you are not ready for marriage, but see dating as a way of learning and growing as a person and in your faith, then don’t be afraid to voice that either. When two people are honest about their feelings and intentions, dating can be viewed as a fun, healthy and spiritually enhancing activity that can glorify God in the process.
There may be times when God will direct of away from dating for a season, if we are not spiritually or emotionally mature enough to handle the responsibility that comes with it. Or He may reveal motives that are misplaced within us, such as pursuing a relationship to boost our ego or satisfy lustful desires. We should constantly be checking our motives with God by uttering David’s heartfelt words in the Psalms: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).
God will surely help guide our hearts and actions according to His standard of honesty and integrity if we are tuned into His will, listening for His voice and relying on it each step of the way!
**This the Fifth Principle of Godly Dating out of a 10-part series. Please join in the conversation and share your thoughts, questions and comments! And stay tuned for next week’s Godly Dating Principle #6: We are Called to Holiness. See you then!
“Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” ~Song of Solomon 8:4
The tendency when we begin a new relationship is to press the pedal to the metal and forge ahead at full speed! This is a fun and exciting phase of a budding romance, but we should never let Paul’s simple yet wise words in 1 Corinthians 3:14 escape us, “Love is patient…”
Love IS patient. Just like a marathon runner knows to set a slow and steady pace to sustain the long race ahead, we should also set a similar pace to sustain us over the course of a developing relationship. But often we attempt to go too fast too soon, which any runner knows, is a recipe for disaster!
We need to let God set the pace for the race. This pace will strike a balance between enjoying the emotional experience and keeping a clear head in allowing the relationship to grow and develop over a period of time. This is not easy to do, especially when emotions are running high. But when we continually seek God in prayer and ask for the fruits of His Spirit to manifest in our lives, patience and self-control will help us along.
Here are a few practical tips to ensure your relationship is progressing at a healthy pace:
- Set a limit to the number of days a week you see each other for the first few months of the relationship. This helps to maintain a level of mystery and allows you to explore the person over a period of time, rather than all at once.
- Be intentional about spending time in public places and with groups of people. This will help you manage the number of intense hours of one-on-one time spent together. It will also help you get to know and observe each other in different settings.
- Communicate openly about the pace at which you are progressing. Check in periodically with each other and share how you feel about where you’re at. Make adjustments as you see fit.
In the end, there is no hard rule about how much time it takes until you know whether a person is a fit for marriage, or not. For some it can be 3 months, while for others is can take years. The point is, stay plugged into God daily and allow the Holy Spirit to lead the pace, especially in the early phases of a new relationship. He will give you red, yellow and green lights along the way if you are asking and listening to Him for guidance!
**This the fourth principle of Godly Dating out of a 10-part series. Please join in the conversation and share your thoughts, questions and comments! And stay tuned for next week’s Godly Dating Principle #5: Be Intentional. See you then!
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” ~2 Corinthians 6:14
There is much debate as to what the Apostle Paul actually meant when he wrote this instruction to the Corinthian Church. It is safe to assume however, that at the very minimum, he meant that believers should not engage romantically with non-believers. Why? For one, Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God…” If one person in a relationship does not have faith, the relationship as a whole will never be able to be pleasing to God. Secondly, it just makes things so much easier when two people are coming from the same world view, for it is this view from which all decisions in life will flow: how to spend money, what your priorities are, how you value relationships, how you raise your children, etc. Sharing the same faith means sharing the same perspective, thus minimizing the chances for conflict.
But I would venture to say, being ‘equally yoked’ together goes beyond sharing beliefs, to having an equal level of maturity in the faith and being in agreement with the direction and vision of each other’s callings in Christ. Before we go any further, we must understand what a yoke is. Being ‘yoked’ to another is an agricultural metaphor often used in the Bible to describe two animals being hooked together to plow a field. When two are of equal strength, they plow a straight line and carry an equal and light load. But imagine what would happen if a horse was attached to a goat–the goat would be dragging behind and making a difficult time for the horse! Their line would be crooked and the load would be heavy to bear because they were not of equal yoke.
This picture is used to describe what can happen when two people are unequally yoked together. The journey will not be as smooth and easy as God intended it to be and the couple will plow a crooked path. God intended a dating and/or marriage relationship to be between two people of equal strength and maturity, and also sharing life goals and callings (or at least supporting each other in their separate ones). This does not mean two people will share everything in common. They can and will likely have totally different gifts, talents and personalities, while still being of equal strength and maturity. God will often purposely pair us with a person who is different but complimentary to who we are. God is very strategic that way, which might explain why the saying “opposites attract” rings true with many couples!
When it comes to calling, being equally yoked means there will usually be a synergy in where two people are headed in life. For example, if one person is certain they are called to be a missionary in Russia and the other person is called to be a banker on Wall Street, it might be that their life trajectories are headed in totally different directions. Therefore, it would be wise id they chose to stop dating. Even if they are attracted to one another and/or share a strong chemistry, pausing to take the long-term view into consideration can be a deal breaker–in a good way.
This is not to say two people must have identical callings, but there needs to be an openness and communication about where both parties are feeling called and what dreams and/or visions God has put in their hearts up until that point. One person may sense a calling to minister to unreached people groups, while the other person is called to be a nurse. Though different, the important thing is that both are in agreement with where God is leading and are willing to allow Him to weave their callings together. Not all the details will necessarily be known (and will likely not be), but it is important to pray and ask God if He is leading their trajectories in similar directions or not.It is better to discover this sooner rather than later and it could save a lot of heartache and resentment down the road.
I have a friend who told me about a woman she met in Japan who knew in her heart she was called to missions but chose to marry a man who had no interest whatsoever. Decades had passed when she spoke to my friend, “I love the man I married and God has been good to us, but I continue to grieve over the loss of my missionary call…” This is not to say she did not have a good and happy life with the husband she chose to marry. God can redeem all things and works everything together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). But she was making the point that God has an ultimate best for us in mind, and choosing a person who is in alignment with what God has put in our hearts will allow the fullness of His plans to come to pass.
Finding someone of equal yoke is not always black and white. Faith is easy to determine in the early stages, but discerning maturity levels and life trajectories takes time. Stay close to God, remain prayerful and continue to ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment along the way. Be open to God showing you things about the other person and receive this awesome promise from Jesus himself:
“The Spirit of truth…will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.“ (John 16:13)
**This the third principle of Godly Dating out of a 10-part series. Please join in the conversation and share your thoughts, questions and comments! And stay tuned for next week’s Godly Dating Principle #4: Set a Pace for the Race. See you then!
Last week, we talked about how there is no black and white formula laid out in the Bible on how to date in a way that honors God in the process. But, there are some distinctive principles from God’s Word, which we can apply to our dating lives, should He lead us in that direction. This week’s principle out of the 10-part series is:
Godly Dating Principle #2: Fear Not Rejection.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” ~1 John 4:18
What keeps many from even pursuing relationships is fear of being rejected. I am pretty much speaking to the men here because I am of the belief that it is men who should be the ones initiating. Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife, finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.”
There is risk involved in ‘finding’ a person to date, but when our identity is firmly rooted in the Lord and we have fully put our trust in His plans, there should be no reason to fear! If a woman turns you down, it will inevitably hurt a bit. That’s to be expected. But you can trust that she wasn’t the one God has for you and start praying for the next opportunity!
And real quick men, here is a little secret: WOMEN LOVE TO BE PURSUED. No matter what we say, it’s true…we do!
Rejection can be felt on the female side as well. There are times in a dating relationship when, after a few dates, the guy will no longer want to pursue the relationship further. I recently experienced such a situation and well, I am not going to lie and say it didn’t hurt. It did. Rejection, so matter how major or minor, is never a pleasant feeling! But, when our identity is rooted–really rooted–in God, we have only reason to rejoice when God closes a door on a romantic prospect. It is simply God’s way of saying, “This is not my best for you, and you were not my best for him…just yet.” And we simply have to trust Him on this. It may suck the wind out of our sails for a few days (or more), but that’s okay. It is but a reflection of the raw and mysterious beauty of the human experience. Soon enough, God’s Spirit will breathe the wind back into our sails once again, steering us in a new direction.
Are you facing the sting of rejection? Just remember the song, “I get knocked down, but I get up again…you’re never gonna keep me down!” Oddly enough, it was these very lyrics that helped me pick my temporarily wounded heart off the ground and approach rejection with a bit of humor. Yes, we may get knocked down, but We WILL get up again because with God, nothing can ever keep us down!
However, we must beware, because it is in these times when the enemy tries to weasel his way into our souls, whispering lies like, You’re not good enough… You’re not worthy of love… You’ll be alone forever. But don’t believe any of it for one second. I repeat: don’t believe ANY of it for one second! Instead, let these words of Truth from the Apostle Paul sink into your soul, “…we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). And how about these from Jesus Himself, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
No matter who we are, we will face trouble from time to time. And when we take the risk of putting our hearts out there, we will experience some momentary boo-boos every now and then. But we can rest assured that God will always provide us with the strength, hope and confidence we need to bounce back from rejection and keep moving forward with JOY on our journey of faith in Him. See, rejection isn’t so bad after all.
Share your thoughts on this faith-based principle of dating. And don’t forget to check back next week for Godly Dating Principle #3: Be Equally Yoked.
Many of my friends in the church seem to be against dating all together. How then are we supposed to get to know the other person? Is it wrong to date? What does the Bible say about dating?
Excellent questions. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t say much about dating. It is one of those ‘gray’ areas that can easily leave us feeling lost and confused as to what God really thinks about the topic.
Ever since Joshua Harris’s book, I Kissed Dating Good-Bye came out, there has formed a sort of Christian movement against dating, as if dating in and of itself is wrong or bad because of the negative consequences that can result from it. But to say we should refrain from dating because it may lead to harmful consequences is like saying we should refrain from driving because we could get killed by a drunk driver. Sure dating and driving can be dangerous, but they don’t always have to lead to disastrous consequence if practiced under the proper conditions.
What Harris promotes is what he calls ‘courtship,’ defined as dating specifically for the purpose of exploring the possibility of marriage with another person. I personally like the idea of dating with this purpose in mind, but then again, I am a 27-year-old woman ready to explore marriage. What happens if two 18-year-olds are wanting to date but are not ready for marriage? Is dating then completely off-limits until marriage is a viable option?
Honestly, I don’t think there is a black and white answer on this one. As much as we want to create a formula that tells us to follow steps a, b and c in order to obtain a happily ever after life of marriage and bliss, it just doesn’t work that way. I know many Christians who refrained from dating all together and still had problems once they entered marriage. I also know many Christians who dated a lot in their single years and ended up happily married to the person they feel is the ‘right’ person ordained by God. The fact of the matter is, God leads us all in different ways based on who He has called us to be and what He is calling us to do on this earth. Yes, for many of us, He designed the journey to be shared with a mate, but there are no hard and fast rules of how to get there.
So where does that leave us practically speaking? Well, it leaves us with the Word of God. It doesn’t change no matter who you are. While there is no black and white formula in its contents spelling out how to succeed in the godly dating game, there are some distinctive principles, from which we can all learn and apply in our dating lives, should He lead us in that direction.
I will be posting one new Godly Dating Principle each week for the next 10 weeks. Keep checking back and please do share your thoughts/experiences and/or comments related to these faith-based principles of dating!
Godly Dating Principle #1: Seek Him First.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” ~Matthew 6:33
It is crucial that before two people decide to enter into a dating relationship, that they each have their own autonomous relationship with God. Our identity, worth and value as individuals must be rooted in God first and foremost. Once we have brought ourselves under His umbrella of love, wisdom, grace and protection, we can be certain that He will continue to direct a relationship if we keep Him at the center. Think of it this way: when two people are submitted–on their own–to God and His will, there are double portions of power, blessing and grace flowing in and through a relationship. Isn’t that awesome? We must trust that as we seek Him first, the details of who, what, when, where, how will naturally follow!
Stay tuned for next week’s Godly Dating Principle #2: Fear Not Rejection!