Do you have a deep desire for a relationship or marriage and it has not yet come to fruition? Or perhaps you are dating but just can’t seem to find the ‘right’ person. Well my friend, welcome to the adventure called ‘faith,’ which often entails seasons of waiting and trusting in His timing to bring to pass the longings of our hearts. We don’t have all the answers as to why or how long, but the Bible does tell us this:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…” ~Ecclesiastes 3:1
Notice how God says there is a season for everything in life. Not one thing, not some things, but every single thing. That suggests then that there is a season for matters related to our hearts. A season to wait, date and marry for example. Therefore, we should always be asking, “Lord, what season do you have me in right now?” Then we can embrace it, live it, honor it and glean from all God wants to teach us through it. When we are in a hurry to jump from season to season, or if we are oblivious to the season into which God is calling us, we can miss out big time on opportunities for growth, maturation and serving.
What season does He have you in right now?
There was a season in my life when I felt God asking me to refrain from engaging in any romantic relationships. At first I thought this was completely crazy! I mean, wasn’t dating the ‘normal’ thing to do? Then God encouraged me through these words in Proverbs 3:5-6:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight.”
I knew right then and there God was asking me to trust Him on a new level. Instead of relying on my own (and frankly, worldly) understanding of romantic love and how to go about it, He was asking me to submit to His way of doing things. Yikes. This is not an easy thing to do in the ‘microwavable’ love culture in which we live that says, “I want it hot, I want it fast, and I want it now!”
But God calls us to a standard of love that requires patience, purity and passion to be led by His Spirit within us rather than the pleasure-seeking ways of our flesh. It is only then that we will experience what it is like to be led on His ‘straight path’ bursting with lasting fruits of peace, patience, joy and self-control (see Gal. 5:22). Here are 10 lasting and tangible fruits I have experienced in my own life as a result of submitting to God’s ways and timing in the area of love, dating and relationships:
- A closer, more intimate relationship with God, rooting my identity in Him and not my relationship ‘status’
- A reliance on God (and not a person) to fill my every need – emotionally, spiritually and physically
- A healed heart from past relationships
- A renewed understanding of God’s original design for marriage
- A sincere desire to wait on God with patience and expectation
- A deep sense of satisfaction and contentment
- A peace in my heart that He is in control of every aspect of my future
- A community of authentic believers with whom to have fellowship and foster meaningful friendships
- A deep and sincere abiding joy that serves as strength in moments of loneliness and weakness (Nehemiah 8:10)
- A heart to serve in unique ways using the extra time and energy I have as a single person
May your soul find rest in the lasting fruits that come from trusting our Father in Heaven, who has all of our days ordained in His book even before they have come to be (Psalm 139:16). Know that He is orchestrating details on your behalf right NOW, in THIS moment, making “everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
What are some of the lasting fruits you have experienced as a result of embracing God’s season and submitting to His timing in regards to romantic love?
**I am sad to say, this is the concluding principle for godly dating in what has been a 10-part series. Have you enjoyed and/or gained anything from it? The conversation doesn’t have to stop here and hopefully it won’t! Feel free to leave a comment regarding the thoughts in this post or to pose further questions and discussion topics around love, dating and relationships that we can tackle together in the coming weeks!
Family, food, fireworks, fun in the sun… I particularly enjoyed this year’s 4th of July celebration, as it was the first time in a few years that I was actually in the country to celebrate!
In the midst of my hotdog eating and succulent watermelon indulgences, I began to wonder about the lives of our country’s so-called ‘founding fathers.’ What were the conversations that went on around the table as they signed their names to the document on that fateful summer day that would forever change the world?
To quench the thirst of my curiosity, I did a bit of digging around on the internet and discovered some words written by John Adams in a letter to his wife Abigail, a day before the Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress in 1776:
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more…
Prophetic words indeed eh? Over two hundred years later and Independence Day looks (almost) identical to his prediction:
- Celebrated as a great anniversary festival? Check.
- Solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations? Check, check, check. (My family actually managed to squeeze in all of the above over this past weekend. Yes, even guns. And throw in a hoola-hoop contest!)
- Commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion? If you mean deliverance from work by solemn acts of devotion to hotdogs and cold beverages, then maybe.
All kidding aside, the third point–devotion to God Almighty–hardly characterizes the All-American holiday celebration in most homes. It was so clearly a core value of our founding fathers and the culmination of the signing of the Declaration. Check out the original documents of the universities where the majority of our forefathers studied…
Harvard for example, which churned out a number of our founding fathers–including John Quincy Adams, John Hancock, John Adams, Samuel Adams–had this statement of purpose for incoming students:
“To be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of your life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ….” and that “Everyone shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be able to give an account of his proficiency therein.”
Yale, which produced founding fathers such as Noah Webster, William Samuel Johnson, and Abraham Baldwin, had these requirements for its students:
“Seeing that God is the giver of all wisdom, every student, besides his private and secret prayer, will be present morning and evening for public prayer.”
Princeton produced people like James Madison, Benjamin Rush and John Witherspoon and had this founding statement:
“Cursed is all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”
These faith-based statements played a pivotal role in shaping the hearts, minds and values of our founding fathers and the foundation on which our country was built, and yet our celebrations and commemorations of this country are null and void of any mention of God?
This is not a political rant, but a mere observation. Our country is clearly headed in a certain direction and I just wonder if it was the direction our forefathers had in mind. At the end of the day though, it is not up to our forefathers, as they were mere humans just like us. Rather, it is up to the sovereign will of our Father in Heaven, whether or not we agree with the moral, political, economic and/or spiritual state of this country. All we can do it trust that God knew exactly how America would take shape as a nation and He knows every moment of its future from here on out, for as the Scriptures say:
“From one man, he made all of the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” -Acts 17:26
He has marked out the appointed times in history for each and every nation. He has marked each and every boundary, each and every dividing line and it is all for one, very specific purpose:
“…so they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him…” -Acts 17:27
God created different nations so that we would draw closer to Him. How cool is that? No matter how far our country has come, or how far in whichever direction it has gone, may we always keep the big, eternal picture in view, choosing to seek Him and reach out for Him in the midst of a chaotic world that is impossible to fully understand. And may we also seek to honor our founding fathers by recognizing our nation as one grounded and founded by ‘solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.’
*Challenge Question: What is your favorite way to celebrate July 4th? How can we better carry on our forefathers’ legacy of devotion to God?
Read: Ephesians 1:15-23
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
I took a pottery class in high school. I always marveled at the works of one of my classmates, who made the most beautiful clay vases. Starting with nothing but a big blob of clay, he would patiently and diligently sit at the wheel, using his hands to mold and shape his masterpiece–no matter how long it took. I, on the other hand, was guilty of taking my blob of clay off the wheel too soon, only to watch it crumble after it went into the firing kiln!
This reminded me of God’s handiwork in us, as His children. We are the “blobs” of clay that He wants to carefully mold and shape into His masterpieces, “to do good works” which He has already prepared in advance for us to do. But all too often, my life mirrors that of my own poor pottery skills. As the clay, I am not patient enough to stay on the potter’s wheel until the potter has finished His work!
We all have sinful habits, flaws and weaknesses that God wants to “smooth out” with His own hands. It might be painful at times, but God wants to work out the problem areas so that we may live out His plans to the fullest. And He wants us to pay close attention to what He’s doing, even to ask specifically to show us what needs to be worked on and how He wants to work on that area. Only then will we become the beautiful and useful masterpieces He intended us to be.
Dear Lord, thank you that You want to mold and conform me to the image of Your son, Jesus. Open my eyes so that I may see what I need to change. Please help me to stay on Your pottery wheel until You are finished with me, so that I may be ready for all the works You have prepared in advance for me to do. Amen.
*Take-away Treasure: What kind of shape is your “blob” in right now? Are there areas that God wants to continue molding to His image? What are they?
Read: Philippians 4
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).
My little sister called and in a muffled voice said, “I have kidney stones.” At the time, she was 20 years old and living in Spain on her own without anyone to care for her. As I hung up the phone, knowing I was leaving her alone in her pain, I was suddenly filled with worry and fear. What if she couldn’t get to the hospital? What if the doctors there didn’t have the right medicine? What if she doesn’t get help soon enough? What if…
Then the Holy Spirit crashed my “worry party,” reminding me of the verse in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God…” In that moment, God was challenging me with one question: “Do you really trust me Ali?”
I thought I did. But given my anxious state, I was brought to my knees, asking for forgiveness. I realized that allowing anxiety to overrule, was just another way of saying, “God, I don’t really believe you can handle this situation.”
Is it possible to live a worry-free life? I once heard someone say it was “irresponsible” not to worry about our loved ones. But I don’t recall any instance in which Jesus was steeped in anxiety. Concerned, sure. Compassionate, absolutely. But when the storms were raging on the seas and the disciples were worried sick, Jesus was asleep! That to me says Jesus didn’t let His surroundings dictate or steal His peace. He had complete trust that our Father in heaven was in control.
God knows the destructive power of anxiety. That’s why we’re instructed so many times in the Bible, “Do not be anxious about anything…” It can consume us, swallow us up, destroy our quality of life. This keeps us from being able to hear God and living out fully what He calls us to do. It crowds out the space in our hearts and minds that God reserved for the fruits of His Spirit. He wants us to be “…filled with all joy and peace” as we trust in Him (Romans 15 :13), not anxiety and fear.
As I gave my little sister and her sickness over to God, ”by prayer and petition and with thanksgiving,” I realized it was possible to live in His peace, even in a worrisome situation. He desires nothing more than for us to surrender our control, allowing Him to carry our cares, worries and concerns for us. But it’s up to us to let Him.
Dear Lord, I am sorry for letting fear and worry consume me. Please help me to deal with any anxiety by giving it over to You, trusting that You are the healer, comforter, and ultimate problem solver in all situations. Thank you that as I put my trust in You, you will guard my heart and mind with Your peace. Amen.
*Take-away Treasure: What are you tempted to worry about today? How can you give it over to God?
It was just days after I had just made a huge decision regarding my career path. I made the decision based on what I had perceived to be God’s leading. Then a friend through me for a loop when he said, “Well Ali, don’t worry about it…God would have blessed your decision either way.”
Now wait a minute, hold on right there bud. Did I hear him correctly? I sat there like a stone-faced statue unable to move a muscle. Could what he was saying be true? Anger and confusion suddenly welled up inside of me like a giant tidal wave. I had just spent the past few weeks fasting and praying and seeking and praying some more…about what God would have me do in my situation. I pursued Him with a sense of holy desperation. I wanted to do His will, not my own. And I wasn’t willing to move until I got an answer.
But now I felt as if I was tossed into a pool of bewilderment wondering whether my sincere efforts were in vain. What was the point if our life of faith was reduced to a God who will ‘bless whatever decision you make anyway?’ I knew we had free will, but is this what God had in mind?
These are the burning questions that have been rattling around in my heart ever since. Whether it relates to career path, finding a spouse, or making decisions about life and future in general…I’ve often wondered whether God is sitting up in heaven wearing a director’s hat, orchestrating the details of how our ‘dramas’ will unfold saying, “Do this…do that…turn this way…no that way…stop…now go!” Or…
Whether He is more like a spectator at a basketball game, giving us the freedom to make our own moves, at our own expense, saying something more along the lines of, “It’s up to you champ whether you make a move to the left or to the right, forward or backward…just decide and I will be with you wherever you go!”
Honestly, I prefer the former. I hope for the former. I pray for the former. But it occurred to me in the conversation with my friend that day and in other recent conversations with other Christians, that we often (too easily) accept the latter.
Is this the role God intended for Himself?
If we look to the life of Jesus, it seems pretty obvious that the answer to that question is no. God the Father had the story of His Son all written out even before it came to be and carefully directed Jesus each step of the way. There is no record of Him saying to Jesus, “Son, just decide whether or not you go to the cross… it’s up to you pal and I’ll bless whatever you decide!”
Quite the contrary if you ask me. God had His plans set in place–the what, the where, the when, the who–and there was no turning back. We even see Jesus plead for mercy, begging God to change His mind regarding the destiny that was already written for him,
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
What follows is Jesus ‘in anguish’ and praying even ‘more earnestly’ to His father (Luke 22:44), for he knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road to the cross. God’s plan for Him was already written, within the context of a larger story of redemption. It is no different for us. Job alluded to this when he said:
“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
If we accept that no plan of God’s can be thwarted, the question still remains: are there multiple ways of getting there? In other words, are their different routes (based on our own decisions) that will bring us to the same destination, or God’s ultimate plan for us?
Again, looking at the life of Jesus, we are not told directly if this is so. We don’t know if there was a ‘plan B’ in how the story on the cross would play out. But what we can do is observe Jesus and what we see is this: rather than seeing God as a ‘Blesser’ of his own decisions, Jesus fervently, consistently and persistently sought the Father’s will and adjusted his life accordingly. Jesus is recorded as saying:
“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19)
This implies intimate union with the Father at all times. We must follow Jesus’ example and settle for nothing less. I think sometimes when we are afraid or uncertain about the future or a decision that is beckoning an answer, the easier way out is to say, “Well, God will be with me either way anyway.” And we choose according to our own will, not His.
This is not to say God doesn’t sometimes lead His people in this way. We all know the story of Joshua, when he had to step in and lead after Moses died. God said to him, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). In this instance God was giving Joshua the freedom to step out and move forward knowing that He was with him. But one detail we cannot overlook here is that God TOLD Him. He still spoke. He let Joshua in on what He was doing at that time and gave Him the courage to act.
It won’t always be black and white. Sometimes we won’t know which way to go and we still have to make a decision. Mistakes are part of it and God can redeem all things. But even so, we must never stop striving for one thing: to adjust our lives to His plans, not the other way around. He is a God who guides, directs, speaks and leads His people according to His plans and purposes. Just as Jesus earnestly took time out (often in the early morning hours or in quiet places) to seek the Father’s will, we must do the same. He asked His father what He was doing and I am convinced he STAYED there, refusing to move, until he heard from Him.
God’s Word says all the days ordained for us were written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). Do you believe this in your heart of hearts? If so, we must not allow ourselves to settle for a directionless, voiceless, spectator-like “Do it yourself” God! Both the Old and New Testament are chock full of instances of God’s radical way of leading His people. He is fully capable of directing, leading, speaking, stopping and starting. He can tell us specifically where and when and how to go…and not go.
The question is, are we imitating the intimate and intentional communion Jesus had with the Father? Are we living a lifestyle of seeking, asking, listening, pausing and waiting expectantly until we get an answer?
Receive these words from God Himself today, who says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21)
Friend, open the ears of your spirit and listen for His voice. It may not come in loud thunders or bolts of lightning, but it will surely come!
Action Plan: Read the book of Matthew and study how Jesus sought to be led by His father in all things, each step of the way. Make note of little things He did to connect with the Father and what it was that resulted in getting answers. Write these things down and follow them with wild abandon! Refuse to accept anything less than God’s voice and be determined to follow it at all costs!