Having just concluded a 7-week series on dating in Faith Bible Church’s college ministry, if I were to boil down most questions underlying this “grey area” topic, uncertainty seems to come from two key questions:
Why is the topic of dating so tricky? Well, both of the questions above are laced with all kinds of emotional, relational, social tensions which make neither of them easy to answer. But navigating through cloudy topics does not have to be done with uncertainty. We can at least answer the first question above.
But approaching Question #1 requires answering a more balanced question: “What is wise?” Wisdom begins with acknowledging who God is and then responding accordingly in joyful obedience. That’s the fear of the Lord. This requires having convictions to walk by that are based in biblical principles.
Having such convictions will not remove the cloudiness that can come with dating, but they will give a chance at certainty: Not that a relationship will necessarily turn out how you hope (Question #2), but that the things that matter most were done well.
Let me share with you the biblical convictions which I believe can provide such certainty if we walk in them.
There is not an area of the Christian life that does not belong to the King who created it and purchased it with his blood. And since this is true, we need to make it our primary concern to apply to dating relationships the greatest commandments God has ever given: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). There is not a moment in any relationship where these commandments are of secondary importance.
Dating relationships, or the pursuit of them, come with so many pressures to please oneself, a significant other, or the expectations and standards of the world and social media. We could please any or all of these as much as we want, but none of them will leave the believer’s heart at peace.
“When we can confidently say, ‘I’ve sought to please the Lord,’ then no unexpected outcome, no disappointed friend, no sense of uncertainty can cause our heart to waver. ”
At any stage in dating, the believer needs to believe Isaiah 26:3, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you,” and 1 John 2:17, “The world and its desires are passing away, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”
When we can confidently say, “I’ve sought to please the Lord,” then no unexpected outcome, no disappointed friend, no sense of uncertainty can cause our heart to waver.
Equally true is that no sense of accomplishment or relational bliss will outshine our joy in the Lord! “My Father is happy with me” means “I can lose nothing” and “I need nothing else.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” God desires that our relationships be characterized by thankfulness.
When you’ve received a gift you really loved, how often have you sold it to get something of lesser value? We don’t do that!
So it goes with our relationships. When we receive God’s gifts with thankfulness, we joyfully take care of them, we use them for their intended purpose, and we don’t spend them on ourselves.
So many struggles and pains in relationships happen because we are most concerned about how much more we can get out of a relationship, rather than soaking it in through thankfulness. Thus we pursue relationships selfishly for our own pleasure, for social status, for emotional stability, and we end up with less than we started with.
When we aren’t thankful, we don’t steward well. And God simply won’t let our hearts be satisfied when we aren’t using his gifts how he designed them to be used. The alternative is so much better: Worshipping God through the gifts he’s given us.
Many relational tensions happen because we wonder, “What are they thinking of me? What’s the easiest way to do this? How do I get them to like me? What if I do something awkward? Will they reciprocate?”
The focus of each of these questions, “me,” leaves no room for genuine love, kindness, service, or selflessness. They’re a means of making things go well for me, not the other person. This causes tension because the other person perceives my actions as being about them. And if they’re doing the same thing toward me, tension and uncertainty are certain to grow.
Instead, may we obey Romans 12:9-10, which says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” When both believers are most concerned for the other, this is a recipe for a peaceful and God-honoring relationship.
I humorously named the college ministry dating series “That Moment When It Still Doesn’t Make Sense.” While this is a little sarcastic, it plays well with the reality that the dating process is sometimes coupled with a “date” of its own: Frustration (a close friend to uncertainty).
No matter the advice a guy or gal receives, rarely are the lines clearly defined, rarely are the results foreseeable, and rarely do we ever have much certainty about whether we’re “doing it right.” And that’s frustrating. It’s unsettling. But it seems there’s a reason for this: It calls us toward faith and trust in the Lord.
Two souls, two lives, two backgrounds, two sets of expectations, two sets of emotions, two relationships with Christ, two loads of “baggage,” two hearts, and two possible ends – being together or not being together.
Certainty in dating relationships requires faith because relationships are full of so many precious and sensitive factors which we simply aren’t capable of handling safely on our own: Two souls, two lives, two backgrounds, two sets of expectations, two sets of emotions, two relationships with Christ, two loads of “baggage,” two hearts, and two possible ends – being together or not being together.
Putting faith in any of these things would drive a person nuts and lead only to disappointment, no matter what the outcome. And to aim at perfectly balancing all these things would take all joy out of the whole thing because it’s impossible.
So, what does faith look like amidst all this? It looks like believing that what matters most is loving God most. It looks like believing what Jesus said to his disciples in John 15:10-11: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Peace amidst uncertainty can only come if we believe these words and respond with a wholehearted pursuit of obedience to God first and foremost in a dating relationship. This means we can still have certainty, even through the cloudiness.
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