I think we can probably all get on board with the truth that dating is awkward. What do I want? What do they want? How do I know whether it will work out? NOOOO I don’t want to DTR yet!
As believers in Jesus and followers of Scripture, we have a pretty solid picture of what marriage looks like. We even know a little about how we should navigate engagement. However, dating is a whole other, whacked out kind of reality that we know very little about based on God’s word.
As we (Austin & Lauren) navigated dating, we found ourselves in our first very serious, Christian relationship with one another. We value our time of dating deeply but fully recognize that it was filled with struggles specific to our walk with the Lord.
1. We struggled to know whether or not we were even supposed to be dating.
The first struggle of Christian dating is deciding whether or not it even needs to be on our agendas. I would bet that many believers who are single want to be dating. We want to find someone to walk out our ministry together with. It’s a good desire. It is a righteous desire.
What is unrighteous is when we want our own way more than God’s way.
Is God calling me to be in a relationship? Am I supposed to be single for the rest of my life?
Who knows? We are not given a playbook of our future. What we can do is be where we are while we are here. If you’re single, be single today. If you’re dating, be dating today. And if you’re married, be married today. All the while remembering that God can give and take away as He pleases.
2. We struggled by hiding our sin for fear of what the other might think.
At the beginning of a relationship, everything is new and exciting. We are convincing ourselves that this is the best thing ever. That there is a good and eternal reason for this stage of life we are submitting ourselves to. So we have to put on our best faces. We want to seem impressive as to not scare off our significant other. Yet as believers, we date for the purpose of finding someone to marry, and sweet friend, we cannot hide our sin in marriage. Nope. Not possible.
Be vulnerable with your struggles, and remember that he or she is not the answer to our sin problems. Christ is the only one who can transform us.
3. We struggled with our high expectations.
When we first get into a relationship with another believer, it is likely that we have only seen their holiest side yet. When we expect that to be the standard, we get let down swiftly. We preach it in the church, and we should preach it in our relationships: we are all sinners. Practice forgiveness often. If repentance is rare, pray about whether or not the relationship should continue.
4. We struggled to draw lines.
It’s awkward and it’s weird, but it’s so necessary. We have to have the tough conversations at the beginning. We have to commit to stop where Scripture clearly tells us to stop and give ourselves good margin where we are unsure.
Any intimacy you can save for marriage, do it.
That includes spiritual intimacy. Maybe you feel called to hold off on Bible Study before marriage. Maybe you don’t want to pray together when you are alone. Respect your own boundaries and respect the other’s boundaries.
5. We struggled to accept forgiveness when we crossed boundaries.
When our eagerness and lustfulness get the best of us, it can be easy to think, I had one chance. I blew it, so I might as well give up. Sisters and brothers, when we give up on repentance, we cheapen God’s grace. Don’t forget that He is faithful and just to forgive us of sins, and His Holy Spirit can and will give you the strength to sustain obedience in the future.
Most importantly, oh Christian, understand that just because someone is a believer does not mean it’s who God has for you.
Remind your heart of this over and over again. Our tendency is to see something good and say, “Yes! I want that. I know it’s God’s will for my life.”
Just because something looks good, just because it may even be good, does not mean it is what God has for us.
Our priority is Him and Him alone. He is the only one who will never leave us or forsake us. He will never let us down. He will walk steadfastly by our side no matter how our eyes may wonder.
As we date, engage with other believers, and consider our future, we must cling tightly to our King. We must remember that dating is not just for our fun; it is preparation for the covenant of marriage.
Marriage is the most sacred relationship that exists on earth. According to God’s Word, Marriage is our physical representation of the spiritual actualization of Christ’s relationship with the Church.
Dating is not about companionship. It’s not about having a Nicholas Sparks romance. It’s not about having the perfect, contemporary-hymn-filled wedding. It is about being a picture of the Gospel that others might be pointed to Jesus. It’s about being a unit of disciple-makers. It’s about honoring another person. It’s about making a ministry of your home.
Marriage is a choice. It will not survive on the rush of feelings that bombard us at the beginning of a relationship. It will survive on obedience to Him in everything.
So as you date, make the hard choices now. Choose to seek Christ before another person. Choose to forsake what the world tells you success looks like. Choose to be honest about your own sin. Choose to get back up when you fall down to your flesh. Choose to walk toward Jesus even if it means walking away from someone you love.
And if this is the person you are to marry, choose to choose them. Understand that there ARE days in marriage where we want to choose ourselves first. Where we want to love ourselves more than we love another.
Yes, dating is awkward, but it can lead to the greatest dress rehearsal for eternity we will ever engage in. Hold fast to the Father who formed us and our relationships, and the struggles will seem smaller as He becomes bigger.
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How have you struggled in your Christian dating life?
How has God been faithful in those struggles?