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!
As we went around and shared our prayer requests in my weekly Bible Study group I realized something: each and every one of us was waiting on something. A husband’s job offer…a baby to be born…a financial break-through…a house to be sold…a relationship to start…healing to come…and the list goes on.
What are you waiting for?
Whether we like it or not, waiting is a major part of the Christian journey and it always has been. When we look to the Bible, it seems almost every major figure was forced to wait long periods of time before God brought to pass His promises in their lives:
- Abraham? Waiting time: 20+ years before his wife Sarah gave birth to their first child.
- Joseph? Waiting time: 13 years before assuming the leadership of Egypt.
- Moses? Waiting time: 40 years tending sheep before God called him to deliver His people.
- David? Waiting time: 14 years before the throne of Israel was given to him.
- Jesus? Waiting time: 30 years until his ministry began.
Sheesh! I don’t know about you, but this sure puts some perspective on waiting. And it reminds us that we can’t get so caught up in the thing we are waiting for that we allow it to rob us of our joy and miss out on what God is doing right in front of our noses.
I want to share an excerpt from an email my pastor in Singapore sent me as an encouragement for my waiting soul and I hope it can be for yours too:
“I remember a period of my life when I felt frustrated for a prolonged period of time. Though I was in love with Jesus and actively serving in church, I kept feeling like I was not living in God’s perfect will yet, that I was not hearing Him like I should, not experiencing Him more like I wished… Then one day God told me, ‘Enjoy the moment, treasure each encounter, savor the whole journey. You don’t have to get there to be happy, but happily get there!’ So capture every moment and ENJOY the journey that is working out for His glory and purpose!”
We don’t have to get there to be happy. We happily get there by realizing that our joy IS Jesus with us here and now and not the destination or a desired outcome in the future. So whatever you are waiting for my friend, trust God IS faithful and will bring it to pass in His perfect timing. In the meantime, choose to live happily in the moment and savor the journey with Him each day!
*Leave a comment and join the conversation: What are some ways you have learned to endure seasons of waiting? What does capturing every moment mean to you?
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!
“This general lack of dating means many young adults don’t even know how to get a relationship started.”
This quote was pulled from the same USA Today article I wrote about last week entitled, ‘Is Dating Dead?’, which made the case that traditional dating among young adults just isn’t happening as frequently as it used to. Let’s assume for the sake of discussion that this lack-of-dating trend does in fact have some truth to it and is causing a lack of ‘know how’ in the start-up phase of relationships among young adults today. If that is the case, let’s tackle the question:
How does one go about getting a romantic relationship started?
The answer to this question isn’t so cut and dry. There is no real formula or hard set of rules, as there are tons of variable that come into play, such as: age and stage of life, background, baggage, geographical location, culture, theological views, etc. But I will share from within a Biblical framework, what I think are some guiding principals in starting up a romantic relationship. Since I am of the belief that men and women have different roles to play in this process, I will break it down separately for both genders:
MEN as Initiators:
Pray. If you’re feeling ready for a relationship, it would be good to start by consulting God on the matter. Ask God two questions: 1) Am I ready for a relationship? 2) If so, who should I consider? One of my favorite verses is “Seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). When we seek Him first and ask Him for guidance before acting, He will direct us and show us what steps to take or not take.
Pursue. If and only when you get the ‘go ahead’ from God, it is my understanding from the Scriptures that the men are to initiate. Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” This suggests there should be a process of looking for and finding someone with whom to pursue a relationship; someone who exhibits enough potential to become a wife. So men, turn over your fear of rejection to God and start finding. And don’t ever forget this: no matter what women say, we love being pursued!
Purpose. Once the pursuit of someone has begun, there should be a purpose stated from the outset. What is that purpose? That purpose should be to explore the possibility of marriage. God Himself said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). Dating is about finding that helper that God made suitable just for you and communicating that to the person you are pursuing. This may sound super serious and intense. Some might even argue that being so intentional and forward from the get-go takes the fun and mystery out of it. But it doesn’t have to. You can still keep the relationship playful and lighthearted in the beginning, but letting the girl know that you are not just ‘playing around’ shows you respect her and are taking her feelings seriously. And men, trust me when I say: this will make women even more attracted to you. I repeat: this will make women even more attracted to you. We love men who are intentional and who take the lead. Are you writing this down? LOL.
Pace. The tendency in a budding relationship when emotions are running high, is to put the ‘pedal to the metal’, running the danger of becoming too close too fast! Getting to know someone new takes time. It is through real life situations over a period of time, that a person’s true colors will come out. Learning to see a relationship as a marathon, rather than a sprint, will help you pace it differently. Is it possible to maintain a sprint for 26 miles straight? Only a fool would try such a thing (a.k.a me in my first marathon)! Remember the wise words found in 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient…” Simple, yet so profound. Remember that erring on the side of going too slow, is better than erring on the side of going to fast. Pace is everything in a long race. Don’t screw it up.
Protect. I heard a story recently where a guy was certain he had heard from God that this girl he was pursuing was ‘the one.’ Within a week of starting to date her, he told her this bit of information. She got excited at the thought, though she needed time to get to know him first. He then proceeded a few weeks later to take her to look at rings and continued to plant the idea that she was definitely the one he had been praying for all those years. Again, she was excited (the natural response of any woman!) but still hadn’t had the chance to hear from God on her own. Just as she was coming around to the idea, he abruptly broke things off with her, saying ‘It must not have been God’s will after all.” She was crushed. Not only did she lose the guy she was falling in love with, but she lost the dream of marrying him as well–a double whammy. Guys, this is not a good example of guarding a woman’s heart. Note: we are very emotionally-driven beings and many of us dream and fantasize from a very young age about our wedding day. I know, it’s sounds crazy to you, but just know that’s what you are dealing with. So can you please be gentle with our hearts and mindful of how you handle them? If you think you are hearing God tell you she is ‘the one’, be sensitive to the timing of sharing that information. Pray and ask God for wisdom and ask Him to allow her to get a confirmation in her heart too, if it is in fact His will that you marry. Building up plans and expectations for marriage and then not following through is like a dragging a woman’s heart through the wringer.
Pray. You’ll notice this list is sort of like a ‘prayer sandwich.’ It is crucial to remain prayerful in the beginning of a relationship and throughout. Continue to ask God for wisdom, direction and insight into the person you are getting to know. God promises to help us through life, “For I am the Lord your God, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13). It’s up to you to let Him.
WOMEN as Responders:
Pray. Same as with the men, if you are feeling ready to be in a relationship, consult God and ask Him if you are ready. For women, the questions would be: 1) Lord, am I ready for a relationship? 2) What kind of person should I consider to date? If your relationship and identity are firmly rooted in God and He gives you the ‘okay’ to be considering a relationship, put your full trust in Him to determine the what, when, where and with whom (More on this in my book, Entrusting the Key: From Serial Dating to Joyful Waiting). This will bring you under His umbrella of grace, protecting you from making poor dating decisions, preparing you for the season of relationship/marriage, and giving you the patience to wait for His leading.
Perceive. Once you have prayerfully asked God what kind of person He would have you be with (check previous posts on this topic), keep your eyes open to men that God might put in your path. Practice hearing God by asking for wisdom and discernment, and asking Him to give you His eyes to see people how He sees them, rather than being ‘too picky’ based on your own preferences. The Bible tells us that God gives generously to those who ask for wisdom (James 1:5). Be open to how God might direct your heart and try and maintain a certain level of flexibility. He may turn your romantic antenna toward someone you didn’t expect!
Put Out Signals. Yes, I said it: put out signals ladies! As in, don’t be afraid to respond to someone who is showing interest in you. Or, if there is someone in your midst to whom you are attracted, putting out some ‘vibes’ may encourage him to initiate something with you. Don’t get me wrong, I am not promoting promiscuous flirtation with misguided motives. No! But I think as women, we can do a better job of showing a little reciprocation to someone who has shown some initiative. Laugh, giggle, make eye contact, whatever…just allow yourself to be expressive of what you are feeling and sensing inside (within reason of course). Sometimes I think the reason why men don’t pursue more is because we are so busy being all holy moly and in love with Jesus (which we are of course), but we lose touch with how to interact and engage with the opposite sex. Responding positively and learning to relate on a level other than friendship can be a good, godly and healthy thing! Guys are human too and it takes a lot of guts to pursue someone new, so a little affirmation on our part is probably much appreciated, right guys? That is, if you are genuinely interested. If not, be just as honest the other way and kindly tell them, sooner rather than later.
Purity. You might find it odd that I am talking about purity right after ‘putting out signals.’ Both are equally important in the process of starting a new relationship and work hand in hand. Putting out signals as a way of responding to someone pursuing should always be done with a pure heart and motives. We are instructed to be holy in all we do (1 Peter 1:15). This means we should be mindful of how we dress, speak and conduct ourselves in the company of the opposite sex. Does this mean we have to dress like nuns and shun all means of beautifying ourselves? Heavens no! God created us to express our beauty in unique and creative ways and delights in His own creation. With this said however, we should also be mindful of the fact that men are wired differently that we are. For example, they are visual beings and have a stronger biological sex drive than we do. Therefore, we need to understand that the way we dress and interact can really stumble a brother if we are not careful. Just as men should protect our hearts from unrealistic fantasy and expectation, we should protect them in this area of sexual temptation.
Patience. It is easy to jump 10 steps ahead of ourselves (and God!) when we start feeling those fluttery butterflies in the early stages of getting to know someone new. C’mon gals, you know what I’m talkin’ about: before the first date even ends, we have already imagined ourselves in our wedding dress, walking down the isle, where the honey moon will be and how many kids we will have with..what’s his name again? He could just maybe, possibly, hopefully be ‘the one’ right? LOL. I have no idea why on earth God wired us this silly way (well, actually Genesis does a pretty good job of explaining it) but He did. So that means we have to really seek Him in prayer to help us stay in the present and not get ahead of ourselves. We’ve really got to be diligent about turning every thought, dream, desire, expectation and/or fantasy over to God, trusting that He will bring about His plans for the relationship in His timing, if it is His will. Tip: take the pressure off yourself to have to ‘know’ right away whether you’re going to marry the guy you are getting to know and just enjoy the process of getting to know him as a person! Easier said than done, I know. Patience, my dear sister, is the key to receiving the fullness of His provision and blessing! I am taking my own advice as I write this.
Pray. Entering into a new relationship is fun and exciting. At least it should be – that’s how God designed His sacred union! But we should be careful never to let that relationship come before God or substitute time with Him at any point. We must remain vigilant in staying connected to Him each day and keeping ourselves aligned with the awesome Truth of His Word, so that we can be led by His wisdom and His understanding and not the thumpity-thump-thump of our own hearts. He will unfold each and every desire of our hearts in ways we could never even ask for or imagine, as long as we truly ask and desire that His will, not our own, be done!
How did you like those prayer sandwiches? Starting and building a good, healthy, god-centered relationship is no easy task. But when viewed in the proper light, it can be seen as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and someone new, as well as grow more in the likeness of Jesus along the way. Fortunately, we don’t have to go at it alone either. We serve a God who promises to take us by the hand and lead us by His Spirit in all things–even our love pursuits. But it is up to us to let Him!
Feel free to share your responses to this post in the comments section. Thanks and looking forward to hearing your thoughts!