“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!
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!
I’ve been reading your blog and you have such great advice. I have a few questions I was wondering if you could help me with.
What’s a girl to do when she lives in an area without many guys? Move? I’m not really into the online thing but would like to find a good guy and live in a rural area. What would you suggest for someone in my situation?
Thank you for your questions. I can totally relate to how you must be feeling. I don’t even live in a rural area and I too have wondered at times where all the ‘good guys’ are. Or if God has forgotten about me all together! So take heed my dear sister, you are not alone in feeling this way and the good news is He does not forget about any of us, ever. As Paul says,
“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
When it comes to trusting God with matters related to our hearts, societal pressures can easily get the best of us–especially when our surroundings (aka dating pool) look less than hopeful. So what’s a girl to do?
Well, God has been teaching me a thing or two about how to approach this whole relationship thing and bottom line, it boils down to trust. There have been numerous times, when I have been overtaken by fears and anxieties about never finding Mr. Right, and God will whisper to my heart, “Do you really trust me Ali? Do you really believe I am the Creator of the heavens and the earth and everything in it? Do you really believe I have the very best plans and purposes in store for you? Do you really believe I can provide for ALL your needs?”
Every time this happens, my heart softens like a big ball of silly putty in the Lord’s hands as I reply, “Yes Father, I do…but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
We all know trusting God and choosing to live by faith and not by sight is easier said than done. So today I want to address and de-bunk three myths that can creep into our psyche’s, robbing us from the peace, joy and contentment He intends us to have when we put our full trust in Him:
MYTH #1: I must be in the ‘right place at the right time.’
After living in the Philippines for two years after college, I was faced with a decision of staying in Asia for another two years (minimum) or going back to the US. At age 25, many of my friends back in the US seemed to be getting into serious relationships and finding their “Mr. Rights.” I couldn’t help but wonder how choosing to stay in Asia would affect my love life. This is an excerpt I wrote in my journal during that time:
Lord, if I stay in Asia, will I be single forever? I feel like you are telling me to stay here, but what if I am missing out in meeting new people? All my friends are dating and meeting people and I’ll be stuck here…alone. Should I move to a place where the chances of meeting and marrying someone are higher?
That’s when God swooped in and sent one of His ‘angels’ to encourage me. I met a woman who told me a story about her friend who was fighting the call to go live and work in India as a missionary because she feared she would never get married and have a family. She was in her mid-thirties and she knew she would have to start a family soon. Then she had a dream and this is how she described it:
I saw myself sitting in the center of the palm of God’s right hand. In His other hand I saw a man, also sitting in the center of His palm. Though I couldn’t make out the face of the man, I knew in the dream it was the man He had for me to marry. Then, I saw God’s hands moving together and when they touched, God took my hand and put it in the man’s hand. He then released us, hand in hand, into our united calling He had for us…
The woman knew the Lord was speaking to her through this dream. As long as she stayed in close fellowship with Him, she would remain in the center of His will and he would take care of the details of her heart’s desires. Needless to say, she met her husband in India months later, who was also called as a missionary there. God is faithful!
Sometimes we think it is our job to strategically place ourselves in the ‘right place and the right time’ as if we need to help Him out or something. No, He knows what He is doing. We may not know the full picture, but our job is simply to obey where He is leading us, whether it is to live in a small rural American town or a giant city half way across the world. God is so much bigger than geography; He cares about proximity…to Him.
MYTH #2: God can’t work through the virtual world.
In this age we live in, there are many new ways people are meeting and mingling. Fortunately or unfortunately, many of those ways are virtual. If you’re anything like me, you may have developed a ‘stigma’ against anything that resembles anything close to online dating. Ugh…right?
Well, I must say I am warming up to the idea. People in the Christian community have different opinions on this, but I think it can be a good option for people like the gal who asked the question today, who lives in a rural area. It can be a way to meet new people, make connections and get conversations going. With this said however, we must keep in mind that God is with us throughout the process, to help us move forward in His wisdom and discernment. I encourage people who are having difficulties meeting people, to prayerfully consider putting up a profile on at least one Christian dating site and be open to how the Lord might work through it. I love God’s words to Joshua,
“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)
Trust that God will be with you as you venture into new ways of meeting people in this modern world.
MYTH #3: He doesn’t fit everything on my ‘list’ so he must not be ‘the one’.
Sometimes we are not meeting people because we have created unrealistic expectations of the type of person we want to be with. There is this line of thought out there that if we make up a “wish list” of all the traits we could ever hope for in a mate, then “poof!” God will drop Him in our laps. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we shouldn’t believe God for the impossible. But we must continue to stay connected to His Spirit and make our requests based on the standards of His Word. For Jesus Himself says,
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you wish and it will be given to you.”
Notice we must remain in Him and His Word. Where in His Word does it say you should desire a perfectly chiseled man with huge muscles and a huge wallet? Nowhere! But it does say we should desire all that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable (Phil 4:8). A slightly different standard right? We must know God’s Word and align our desires to it.
We should continually be checking in with God and asking Him to expose any faulty or false expectations that have crept into our consciousness and ask for His heart, His mind and His preferences when it comes to considering a mate. We can even pray David’s words in Psalms 139:23-24:
“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.”
Ever since I made my ‘list’ of character traits I would like in a husband several years ago, God has since streamlined it majorly! Why? Because I am continually checking my heart and allowing Him to mold and change me as He sees fit. As I continue to mature and grow in my faith, my desires are becoming more and more like His. Honestly, they look a lot different (and better!) than what the world tells us we should want in a person. What a reason to rejoice!
Do you have a list? If so, take it out and re-evaluate it against God’s standards. Make a new one if you have to. Or toss it out all together. Ask God to help you see the men around you from His perspective and to give you eyes to see what He sees in them. You might be surprised at who God may bring to your attention. It may be someone you never expected, whom you may have overlooked or written off before because he didn’t fit the stringent list of character traits you were looking for and thought you needed. God knows what we need in a mate, so we’re better off leaving the choosing to Him.
If there really are a limited number of men where you live, pray and ask God to give you extra portions of faith in His power and plan for your life. Be sensitive to how the Holy Spirit is leading you. He may tell you to keep doing what you are doing, serving and working where you are, trusting that He is orchestrating behind the scenes on your behalf (read story of Ruth and Boaz in the Bible). Or He may lead you to be courageous and venture into new ways of meeting people online or through other social groups. There is no formula, just make sure you can hear His voice. Without this ability, we can so easily be deceived.
We must continually and consciously trust and entrust the desires of our hearts to the Lord, for a truly surrendered heart is where His fountains of peace, joy and contentment flow during periods of singlehood. Rest in the fact that the Creator of the entire universe is totally and fully capable of matching you with another person on this planet!
I hope these so-called ‘myths’ will no longer keep you from seeing God at work in your situation, whatever it may look like. As you go about your day today, remember this: All the days ordained for YOU were written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). Isn’t that an awesome and comforting thought?
Friend, God has you and your heart’s desires covered on every side and in every way. So be still, and know that He is God! (Psalm 46:10)
**Did you find today’s post helpful? Do you have anything to add? Join the conversation by leaving a comment…I would love to hear your thoughts!
I am one of your male readers and really enjoyed your book! I also know a lot of people in my church who share similar ecclesiastical considerations as you. They trust God for a mate. They keep prayer journals. They try to engage in “joyful waiting.” But they remain single. Why is this so?
Dear (male) Reader,
Thank you for your boldness in writing in! And for your honest, real and very relevant question regarding single women in the church. I cannot give you an exact answer as to why women in your church remain single, but I will attempt to share my thoughts on this from my own experience and from trends I have observed in various churches both in Asia and the US.
Here are several reasons why I think prolonged singleness could be prevalent in the Body of Christ:
God’s Timing. Why is it that some women who have surrendered their hearts to God and have resolved to wait on Him for His choosing of a spouse don’t get married until they are well into their thirties and forties or even beyond? Did God forget about them? For many if not most women in waiting, this sounds like their worst nightmare! But when you ask the women who did marry later, they usually have nothing to say other than “God’s timing really is perfect!” If God calls us to something, He will enable us by His grace and power of His Holy Spirit not only to survive, but to live victoriously through it! It may not make sense. It may not have been easy to wait that long. It may not have been according to the the time frame in which they had wished or hoped. The whole timing thing is one big mystery. But one thing is for sure: God’s grace IS sufficient in all things! Surrendering our entire hearts to Him means we must surrender our own time clocks, trusting that He will provide for all our needs–emotional, physical, and spiritual–in each season He brings us through. If he does call us into marriage later than what is considered ‘normal’ by societal standards, we can rest under the blanket of His love knowing that His higher purposes are at work and that He is making everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Not called to Marriage. I do know a few women who truly feel ‘called’ to remain single. The Apostle Paul calls singleness a ‘gift’ (1 Corinthians 7:7) and for those who choose to remain single, they see it as so. With that said, God also says ‘it is not good for man to be alone’ (Genesis 2:18). I believe that if a woman has a sincere desire for marriage, it should be viewed as a good and godly desire. To these women, I say: continue to ‘delight yourself in the Lord’ and believe He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). It is this delighting in Him and spending time in His presence that you can count on God strengthening this desire to ‘become one’ with another man (Matthew 19:6) or He will enable you to embrace and enjoy the gift of singleness.
Lack of Men Pursuing. One trend that seems to be happening in the mainline protestant churches, is a lack of pursuit from the male side. Sorry men! And I am not just making this up. In her book, Where Have All The Good Men Gone? A.J. Kiesling reports her findings from an in-depth survey of 120 single Christian women. What was their most common complaint about men? Kiesling reports: “Over and over I heard the words, ‘I wish men would step up to the plate and take a risk in asking me out.’” If this isn’t enough, the Bible says, “He who FINDS a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). What are you waiting for men? Get going!
Over-guarding of Hearts. With that being said on the male side, we can’t pin all the blame on them! Women, we have our part to play too. One trend that seems to be prevalent on the female side of this relationship equation is when a woman is interested in a man, she refrains from giving him any external signals. Yes, we are called to ‘guard our hearts’ (Proverbs 4:23) and there is wisdom in this no doubt about it. But we shouldn’t take it to mean disengaging with the opposite sex all together. Though there are times when God does ask us to refrain from engagement so that a period of personal growth and establishing a spiritual foundation can take place, we need to be attentive to when God is moving us into a new season–a season of being pursued. When we get this nudge from God, and perhaps even from a male of interest, I believe it is our responsibility to reciprocate external signs of interest, if in fact here is some. If the men are bold enough to pursue, then we can at least do them a favor and encourage them by letting them know it is mutual. This can take the form of many different expressions, such as verbal communication, laughter and playfulness, making a point to sit next to the person, etc. Engaging with potential males of interest and forming friendships with them is a healthy thing and can start the ball rolling in the direction of a healthy dating or courting (whichever term you prefer) relationship. (more on this in future posts!)
Waiting Passively, rather than Actively. Sometimes we have this notion that ‘waiting on God’ means sitting on our bums and twiddling our thumbs. But I think this is a false way of thinking of it. Yes, we do wait in the sense that we allow God to reveal the person and timing of when a relationship it is to happen. But what we do in the ‘in-between’ time is up to us. We are instructed to love God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul (Luke 10:27). And that we are to live life abundantly in Him (John 10:10). I take this to mean that we are to be pursuing a lifestyle full of His activity and purpose, whether we are single or not. This could mean investing in new friendships, pursuing passions, serving in ministry, spending time studying God’s Word. My season of waiting has been my most active and fruitful yet and I am so grateful for it! My prayer has always been, “Lord, help me to live out this special season to the fullest so I can look back and not have once ounce of regret.”
Unrealistic Expectations. Have you ever heard that song by Amy Grant, “Hope Set High”? (check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_9r8XTryO0). It’s one of my favorites! We should set our hopes high when it comes to expecting things from God. But we must check where our hopes lie. They should be in our God who in all things and at all times, promises to provide for all our needs (2 Corinthians 9:8), NOT in hoping for a perfect mate. Perhaps some women are remaining single longer because they have painted this unrealistic picture in their head of what their husband will look like. Don’t get me wrong, I believe God loves to bless us as His children and answer the desires of our hearts. But there are times when our desires are not rooted in Him and we are just being too darn picky! Trust me, I have been guilty of this myself. But I will say that my so-called ‘list’ of traits and characteristics that I desire in a husband has continued to evolve as God continues to give me new insights into His Word. Our desires change as we mature in our faith and begin to reflect more of who God is. My prayer has been and continues to be, “Lord, please show me what kind of person I should consider in a mate… show me what matters to You….I only want what You want.” When our prayers reflect our earnest desire to live out His will for our lives, we can receive the treasure of a promise found in Hebrews 11:6, “He rewards those diligently seek Him.”
In summary, each one of us (both men and women) is called to put our full trust in God to provide for us in every area of our lives–including our love lives. While the reasons for godly women remaining single longer is somewhat of a mystery, there are practical things we can do to live out the principles laid out in God’s Word in more meaningful and effective ways, thus further transforming us from the inside out in the process. So let’s continue to ‘spur one another on’ (Hebrews 10:24) towards living lives that are pleasing and honorable in His sight, especially as it relates to this crazy, mysterious and wildly adventurous thing called love.
Feel free to join the conversation with your thoughts, comments and further questions!