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!
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” ~Proverbs 18:22
Have you ever had a close friend disappear off the face of the planet when they start seeing someone new? Or have you been that person yourself? I don’t know why this happens, but it often does. When two people start dating, instead of including friends and family and maintaining independent relationships, they often shut them out all together.
Though this is always a temptation when a strong romantic bond starts forming between two people (who else matters right?), it is not a wise thing to do. It is important to maintain outside relationships and include them in the dating process for several reasons:
- It can help keep the relationship from moving too fast, too soon. Making sure you spend time with other friends and not just your dating partner, will help manage the amount of intense one-on-one time you have together, especially in the beginning. Besides, it allows some mystery into the relationship and keeps things fresh and exciting!
- It can help us discern motives and character in the person we are dating. This can be especially helpful when butterflies are flying high and our love ‘blinders’ keep us from seeing someone for who they really are. Allowing others into the relationship who know us best and want the very best for us can ensure we are moving forward in the wisdom of God and not just the thumpity-thump-thump of our own hearts. They will give us honest opinions about the person we are getting to know and whether they feel it is a good match or not. When it is someone we trust, we will be grateful to have their objective voice in the dating equation.
- The Bible says that having a multitude of counselors is a good thing and will help us succeed. Keeping good counsel around us at all times is important. We need people who are older and wiser to advise us and keep us on God’s path throughout the dating process.
- It will keep us from over-relying on our dating partner for needs that can be met by other friends. God never intended just one person to meet all of our needs. God sends us different kinds of friends for different seasons and different reasons. When we maintain friendships outside out dating relationships (particularly with the same gender), aside from God, they will help fill and fulfill us emotionally in ways that our dating partner cannot.
Keeping friendships and involving community in the process of dating is not supposed to squelch the enjoyment of falling in love. No! Rather, it keeps two people from isolating themselves from the outside world, so that unnecessary problems can be avoided and ‘blind spots’ won’t go unnoticed. God didn’t create friendship and fellowship to be enjoyed ‘until we are married.’ He created them to be enjoyed – both in and outside of our romantic relationships – for a lifetime!
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” ~C.S. Lewis
**This the ninth 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 final Godly Dating Principle #10. You’ll have to come visit to see what it is…see you then!
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” ~Galatians 6:2
Bearing with each other means helping each other live the life of faith. Every one of us has things with which we struggle and areas in which we are weak. We are never meant to overcome these things alone. We need people in our community to help us stay on track–especially in living out godly relationships.
Another word for this is accountability. It entails bringing a third party into the relationship and giving them permission to ‘check in’ on how things are going from time to time. It is good for the woman to find a woman and a man to find a man whom they can trust and can count on to be firm with them in asking whether they are upholding their commitments to God.
I have a girlfriend who is engaged and about to married. She and I have agreed to be that person in each other’s lives who asks the real and yes, sometimes awkward questions. It doesn’t have to be anything super formal or formulaic, just an agreement between two people to hold up your end of the bargain and really keep checking in. The way it works with my friend is I’ll just ask her every now and then how things are going in her relationship–emotionally, spiritually, physically–and she gives me the honest answer. If there are areas in which she is struggling, such as sexual temptation, we will pray about it and talk about ways she can overcome it, for the Apostle Paul says God will not allow us to be tempted “…beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). An accountability partner can be there for support, encouragement and prayer in the face of temptation.
Here are some other real life examples of how others have incorporated accountability into their dating lives:
- “I met with my accountability partner as soon as we started the dating relationship and put in writing all the values/standards that were important for me to uphold in the relationship. I signed it and gave a copy to my accountability partner to keep so that when I suddenly became blinded and weakened by love, she could help me ‘stick to the plan’ during the relationship. It worked like a gem and I was so grateful to have her prayerful support!”
- “I had my accountability partner meet the person with whom I was in a relationship so she could get to know and observe how we interact as a couple. I thought this was really crucial in how she would later be able to advise me in situations.”
- “I meet weekly with my accountability partner as a way of ‘checking in’ and remaining transparent. I have learned to be really open and honest and it has helped me keep my relationship in perspective in the context of my faith. Having this safe outlet has been such a blessing to me!”
- “I inform my accountability partner when I am going out on a date and have her call me at 10pm. Knowing she is going to call helps me to avoid putting myself in compromising situations where I know I will be tempted.”
- “I have promised my accountability partner that each time I compromise on my stated values, I will be completely honest in telling her. Knowing I will have to do this really makes me think twice before crossing boundaries.”
The person to hold you accountable should be someone of your choice. It doesn’t have to be a pastor or a licensed professional. It simply needs to be someone in your immediate community (ideally in the same city, but long distance is okay if it is the only option) who knows you well, whose advice you trust and in whom you feel comfortable confiding about the ‘real’ stuff.
Including a third part to hold you accountable may sound like one big fun killer. But stay with me! If we really are serious about honoring God in this aspect of the relationship, it calls for serious measures to be taken.But serious measures do NOT mean there is no fun to be had! It just ensures that you are paving the way for a relationship that honors and pleases God and in turn will receive the maximum benefits and blessings–emotionally, spiritually and physically–for both you and your partner.
So don’t delay, if you are in a dating relationship, find an accountability partner who will be willing to walk this journey of faith with you and help you to bear the burden of maintaining a godly relationship. It’s so worth it!
**This is the 8th 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 #9: Stay Connected to Community. See you then!
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” ~1 Corinthians 6:18-20
One reason why I think some churches tend to take a stand against dating is because of the physical boundaries often crossed outside of marriage. There is some truth and wisdom in that, especially for young hormone-driven teens who are just learning how to manage these new feelings and biological drives. Sometimes refraining from dating can be the best thing for those who are not ready to conduct themselves in a way that honors God in a relationship.
But for those who are considering dating, it is crucial to have a firm understanding and conviction of what God’s standard for our behavior is within the relationship. Holiness is the standard by which God calls us all to live and we need to be prepared to uphold it, even within a relationship.
So what constitutes sexual immorality? And how do we ‘flee’ from it? What does it mean to treat our bodies as ‘temples for the Holy Spirit’? What does ‘honoring God with our bodies’ look like in a relationship when two people are attracted to one another?
These are not easy questions to answer and I won’t even attempt it in this post. But I will share that in my own life, this standard of holiness was very hard to uphold before I had the revelation and conviction of what living a holy and pure life meant. I was actually in a relationship with another Christian when the Lord spoke to me about this. He revealed that my behavior and the ‘lines’ we were crossing (sexually) were not pleasing to Him. We thought we were ‘honoring’ God because we were not having sex. But it turns out, God had a different view of what it meant to honor Him with our bodies. The conviction and correction from the Holy Spirit came so strong that it propelled me to make some immediate changes, which entailed some serious conversations with the person I was with and some intentional drawing of boundaries (more on this next week).
I this represents the legalistic approach we often take to sexual purity. For example, the Bible says that sex should be reserved for marriage. So we will push the envelope until right before rule of sex is broken. But what I have learned is that God’s standard of sexual morality is not about rules, but about His heart that says, “I love you and want the very best for you.” Maintaining sexual purity outside of the covenant and commitment of marriage isn’t God punishing us or taking away all the fun. Rather it is Him protecting us and preserving these things for a time when they can be fully enjoyed the way He intended them to be.
In a society that is very sexually charged, many Christians succumb to the pressures and give up trying to remain sexually pure. While it’s true that upholding a lifestyle of sexual purity is no easy task, it is possible! But it cannot be done on our own strength. It will take a great deal of reliance on God in His power and grace, in addition to setting practical boundaries to allow His holiness flow in and through our lives.
At the end of the day, only you know what your behavior looks like behind closed doors. And only you can look at God in the face each day and know whether you are honoring Him with your body or not. If you are unsure of whether your behavior and expression of love towards your boyfriend/girlfriend is ‘holy’ then I suggest praying and asking God to give you a fresh revelation of what His standard of holiness is and what it looks like lived out in your relationship. If we are truly asking Him with a heart that is set on pleasing Him in every area of our lives, we can be sure that He will gently convict us of behavior that is not pleasing to Him. Be prepared to hear Him and obey!
True holiness comes not from following a list of rules and trying on our own strength to live out a standard of perfection. Rather it is realizing our human limitations and weakness and making decisions that will allow His holiness to manifest in our lives and relationships. If we are tuned into the heart of God and truly desire to honor Him in the lifestyle we live, He will enable us. As Paul so eloquently states, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). This includes godly relationships!
**This the Sixth 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 #7: Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries. See you then!
“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!