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!
“Are you alright?” My sister, who knows me well, asked. “You seem kinda blue.”
My first instinct was to feign a smile and pretend like everything was fine and dandy. But deep down, I really wasn’t fine. In that moment, I was feeling anxious about my future, not to mention lonely, sad and confused. I couldn’t really explain why. I just felt…down. And clearly I wasn’t doing a good job of hiding it. But why was I even trying to hide it in the first place?
Somewhere along the lines I adopted this notion that being a strong Christian meant that you had to be happy and cheerful all the time. While it is true that God gives us supernatural portions of joy when we know Him personally, there are times in life when we will inevitably experience pain and heartache, suffering and trials of many kinds. The Scriptures give us more than enough evidence of this fact as well. Just read the Psalms, or study the lives of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Paul, Jesus or any other major figure in the Bible. They didn’t live lives free from suffering or struggle, but they endured and persevered through them by the grace and strength of their God.
As I struggled to give my sister an honest answer that day, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “It’s okay to not be okay all the time.” I repeat the same statement to you: It is okay to not be okay all the time.
Here are a few things I have learned to help me through the ‘not okay’ moments and seasons of life:
Pour Your Heart out to God. Psalm 62:8 says, “…pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Whenever I am feeling down in the dumps, I literally imagine God lifting me up into His lap like Santa would an eager child before Christmas to listen to me as I empty myself of everything that is troubling my heart. Sometimes we assume God knows everything so there is no point in voicing it to Him. But when we truly trust God and look to Him as our refuge in times of trouble, we will go to Him and share everything that is in our hearts–the good, the bad and the ugly–like we would a best friend. This fosters closeness and intimacy with our Heavenly Father, which then brings comfort and healing during our times of need.
Learn to be Vulnerable. Yikes, this is the toughest one for me. In fact, it is terrifying. Who wants to admit to feeling down, defeated, discouraged or depressed? But as I am learning (slowing but surely) to let down my guard and let my loved ones into my inside world, I have felt the most free I have ever felt. As Paul says, “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). When we are living in the fullness of His Spirit, He will give us the freedom to be vulnerable, without fear of what others might think. We will be able to admit we need others to sustain us on this road of life and in turn, we will be able to receive strength and love from them. A true blessing that I missed out on for so many years!
Have the Courage to Cry. These past several months, I have probably shed more tears than I have at any other point in my life. Not because I have more things to cry about necessarily, but because I have learned to cry. I always thought crying was a sign of weakness so I held back my tears. But I now realize crying is a sign of our true humanness. It shows we are capable of feeling and expressing our feelings in a way that God created them to be expressed–through tear ducts! Jesus was a prime example of expressing His heartfelt emotions as they arose. John 11 records how his “soul was deeply troubled and moved” and how he “wept” after Mary came to him about her dead brother. That one always gets me: Jesus wept! If the son of God had the courage to cry, we should too. And we can be assured that while “…weeping may remain for a night…rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Shedding tears can be a healthy release of emotion that can bring refreshing and renewal, turning our momentary sorrow into joy once again. Go on, let it out and cry like a baby!
Persevere through the Valley. Jesus says, “Every valley shall be filled…” (Luke 3:5). He brings us assurance in our lowest times that he will fill us with a fresh fullness of His Spirit and exalt us to a higher plain with Him. I have experienced that it is often in the ‘valley’ that God wants to do a deeper work in us. Though it might be tempting to shut God out during these times, we must persevere and continue to seek His face even when we don’t feel like it. Be ready to receive fresh revelation of who He is and what He is doing. Perseverance is the key to greater intimacy with God!
Are you feeling blue? A little down and out? Depressed or Discouraged? Whatever it is, take heed my friend because you are not alone. We all have times of feeling less than our best and sometimes there is no good explanation why, which can be frustrating. What we do know is that God doesn’t want us to stay in that place forever. But we also shouldn’t be too quick to run away from it or shove it under the rug either. Sometimes God allows moments of moaning, groaning, suffering, struggling, trials and tears to achieve His higher purposes in us, such as character growth or learning greater dependence on Him. But Paul says we should do nothing other than rejoice in our sufferings, “…because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
So let me say it one more time: It is okay to not be okay today. May you have the willingness to pour your heart out to God, the humility to be vulnerable in front of your loved ones, the courage to cry a river of tears, the strength to persevere through the valley and the hope that God is doing a deep work in you and He will bring it to completion!
*Share your thoughts and join the conversation! How to you get through the valley?
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!
Is dating dead?
This question actually didn’t come from a reader of my book, but from the front page of USA Today a couple of weeks ago. I found the findings in the article to be quite astonishing. It basically highlighted some of the trends emerging among college-age students and young adults in America: “Recent studies indicate that traditional dating on campuses has taken a back seat to no-strings relationships in which bonds between young men and women are increasingly brief and sexual.”
Increasingly brief. Increasingly sexual. Sounds about right. At least that was seemingly the case at Princeton, where I attended college. The dating culture there seemed to be characterized by a sort of ‘all or nothing’ paradigm. You were either:
a) In a super serious relationship, or as some might say, ‘practically married.’
b) Part of the ‘hook-up’ culture characterized by casual hanging out, low or no commitment levels and sexual activity (to varying degrees).
c) In neither category, wanting something in between ‘hooking up’ and ‘practically married’ but remain frustratingly single because no such thing seems to exist.
Can you identify with any of these?
I’ve been out of college for nearly five years now, so when I was asked to speak to a group of 25 college women a couple of weeks ago, I took the opportunity to get ‘up to date’ on the dating scene on campus (no pun intended):
“How many of you are currently in a dating relationship?” I asked.
2 out of 25 raised their hands.
“How many of you would like to be in a dating relationship?”
Almost every hand shot up.
“How many of you have been asked out on a date in the past year?”
Not one hand was raised.
A group of attractive, smart, talented women and not one of them had been pursued for a date??? Kinda strange if you ask me. And this trend is not only prevalent on college campuses. There is also a lack of dating within churches too. There are groups of single women and groups of single men, all under the same ‘roof’ so to speak, and they just aren’t getting together.
If dating is in fact dying, what is killing it?
The USA Today article cited the following as some potential reasons for the lack of dating among young adults today:
- fewer men than women on campuses (I’ll add in churches here)
- more openly sexual society that often takes cues from media
- declining desire to make relationship commitments early in life
Do you agree/disagree? What would you add to the list of reasons why dating is a severely lacking element in the relationship equation for young adults today? Is less dating a good or bad thing?
In the coming weeks, we’ll continue the dialogue on the topic of dating, specifically within the context of a Christian perspective. Some of the questions to be addressed are:
- What does the Bible say about dating?
- What are some of the different views on dating within the Church?
- How do I discern which view and/or approach to take?
- Does ‘waiting on God’ exclude dating all together?
- What’s the difference between courtship and dating?
- How can I incorporate my faith into my dating life?
- Should the men be the only ones initiating?
- How am I supposed to ‘guard my heart’ while dating?
- Is there a proper pace to a dating relationship?
- What are some pros and pitfalls to dating?
- Is dating the only path to marriage?
Gosh, we have a lot to cover don’t we? haha. I must say, this is a topic particularly relevant in my life right now, so I am excited to explore these topics with you. Please note however, that I am not coming at it as an expert (by any means!), but simply a fellow traveler on the same road as you. I can’t wait to journey along together in the next few weeks and see what God reveals to us, as we seek Him for answers and revelations in this very specific and special area of our lives!
Please comment and add any further questions/issues/struggles you would like to see addressed in regards to Christian dating and relationships. And if you have friends whom you think might benefit from these discussions (single or currently dating), send them over this way!
I want to live life to the fullest, single or married, and I am exploring possibilities of things I can do to make this a reality. Can you provide some insights into how you live life to the fullest regardless of your relationship ‘status’?
First of all, I think its great that you have a desire to live your life to the fullest, regardless of your relationship status. I have no doubt God will honor that request! I would love to share with you some insights into how I have and continue to go about living life to the fullest each day…
Time with God and in the Word. The world is constantly telling us what we are not and what we need to be more of – skinnier, richer, more successful…and the list goes on. And it’s easy to believe these things when we don’t have any other basis of Truth. I have noticed a tremendous difference in my mood, attitude and outlook when I am spending time alone with God each day and when I am not. I have realized that in order to live life to the fullest each day means giving the first hour of my day to God, to allow His thoughts, His perspectives, His love be the standard for everything else that comes along each day. The power of God’s Word is real!
Pursuing things I am passionate about. I used to think that ‘waiting’ on God was some sort of passive state, twiddling my thumbs until God dropped Mr. Right into my lap. But then I read something by Henri Nouwen about ‘Active Waiting’ and it totally changed my perspective. Waiting on God means pursuing after the things that are right in front of us. Whether it be a job, a ministry, a church community, hobbies or friendships…dive in! Get involved. Engage. Live. Love. And pursue your passions as if you won’t be living tomorrow. During these years of being single, I can truly say I LOVE life! I am pursuing my passion of serving and helping underprivileged kids in the Philippines…writing…traveling… running…and much more. What a shame if we allow our ‘single’ status to hold us back from living. We are called to be God’s children first and foremost, growing in His likeness. We can always put our hearts and minds to this, with or without a spouse!
Form Deep Friendships. I am no fool. Life is not a bed of roses. There are times that are challenging and difficult and uncomfortable. This is where the gift of friendship comes in. Friends–with whom we can share truly and deeply what’s going on–remind us that we are not alone. I am constantly having to tell myself this! The friendships in which I have invested the past few years are true blessings from above, allowing me to be vulnerable and ask for encouragement and prayer when I need it. So my advice is this: pray and ask God in whom he wants you to invest this year. Maybe its one or two friends, but make a commitment to go deeper with them. Get real. Be honest, courageous and consistent. And see the fruits of God’s love grow abundantly in and through your friendship. There’s is no better secret to living out the single years with joy and fulfillment!