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(we'll keep this short & sweet)
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A well-known Christian magazine recently asked me to share my opinion about whether Christian singles should use online dating services to find a spouse. It’s certainly a hot topic among today’s Christian young women. Every week it seems, I encounter young women who are wrestling with thoughts like, When am I finally going to meet Prince Charming? and How am I ever going to find him? Should I try a little harder to get a guy’s attention – maybe create a really nice profile of myself for an online dating service? Or spice up my Facebook page with some photos of myself in a swimsuit? After all, I’m not getting any younger, and I don’t want to wait forever!
A plethora of books, blogs, advice columns, and magazine articles have surfaced in the last few years, attempting to give Christian young women some helpful tips for snagging a godly guy and achieving that much-desired state of wedded bliss.
“Call him up and invite him out to coffee!” offers one expert. “Just because you are the woman doesn’t mean you can’t give the guy a nudge in the right direction. Let him know you are interested – otherwise he may overlook you and move on to a different girl!”
“Join eHarmony and fast!” advises another voice. “When it comes to finding a husband, if you snooze, you lose! Online dating gives you far more guys to choose from so you can ‘shop’ for the partner you’ve always dreamed of!”
“You’ve got to be aggressive when it comes to finding a husband,” says yet another book on helping single young women find their husbands. “If you fall for that old-fashioned notion of ‘waiting on God’ for your spouse, you are likely to still be waiting when you are ninety years old!”
For many young women, these arguments can seem compelling. Modern experts point out that the odds are against you; that today’s men are less interested in commitment and marriage than ever before – therefore, it is up to you, as a woman who knows what she wants, to help push things in the right direction.
When it comes to finding a guy, there are loads of tips and techniques available for you to glean from. You can read books on how to strike up a conversation with a guy, get him to notice you, and increase your odds of him falling in love with you, and even books with tips on how to subtly push him toward a marriage commitment if he’s dragging his feet.
Well, I’d like to offer you some tips of my own on how to find a godly marriage partner. These tips don’t involve witty conversation starters or learning how to seduce a guy without acting like you are. And they won’t help you create a more appealing online profile. The tips I’m about to give you come straight out of the Word of God. And God is the greatest Romance Expert who ever lived! No matter what modern experts say about “the overabundance of strong Christian women compared to the overwhelming lack of godly males,” or the fact that “today’s men are more afraid of commitment than any generation before them” – these things do not hinder God’s ability to script beautiful love stories for His children. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And His pattern does not need to adapt around modern culture. His Word is timeless. And unlike the “new and hip” yet totally unproven relationship trends of our time, God’s romance advice always works.
Growing up in church, I listened carefully to the instructions given by my youth group leaders, and tried to follow the Christian “rules” of dating to the letter. But those rules never protected me from a broken heart and shattered life.
And as I observed my Christian friends, I saw they were all in the same boat I was in, an endless cycle of shallow and cheap romances that never lasted and left us emotionally bleeding and insecure.
It was my desperation that finally motivated me to start praying. I’d been a Christian from the time I was five, but since then God had taken a back seat in my life. I would have said that He was my highest priority – but in reality, I was far more preoccupied with guys, friends, and my social status. I didn’t really see anything wrong with the way I’d chosen to live. After all, I was going to church, dating “Christian” guys, and committed to saving sex until marriage. My life was far more moral than most of my peers. Even though God wasn’t the centerpiece of my daily life, I assumed that I was still on good terms with Him.
But the fact that I kept getting my heart broken again and again finally made me wonder if I was doing something wrong.
After a nasty break-up, still wallowing in depression and confusion, I began to cry out to God for answers.
“God, what am I doing wrong?” I cried out. “I’ve followed the Christian dating rules. Why am I so miserable and insecure? Why does every relationship end this way?”
Then came a soft tugging upon my heart. Suddenly I somehow knew that my life did not need to be this way and that God had something better for me. I felt Him gently whisper these words to my soul: You continue to get your heart broken because you are holding the pen of your life and trying to write your own story. I am the Author of true love. I am the Creator of romance. I know your every heart’s desire. I want to script a beautiful tale just for you, but first you must give the pen to Me. You must let Me become the center of your existence. You must let Me have total control of your love life, and every other area of your life as well.
The thought of giving God complete control of my life, especially my love life, was a bit daunting. I didn’t really mind obeying certain Christian guidelines for dating, as long as I could still hold the pen and write the story myself. But letting go of my right to make all my own decisions about relationships? I just wasn’t sure if I was ready to give God that much control. God was asking me to trust Him – fully, completely, and whole-heartedly. He was asking me to allow Him to write my love story. But what if He let me down? Even though my Sunday school upbringing had taught me that God loved me, inwardly I always felt like maybe He was more interested in making me miserable than in blessing my life. What if I gave Him the pen and He completely destroyed this area of my life? What if He never allowed me to find a love story at all? Or what if He directed me to someone I wasn’t even attracted to?
I wrestled intensely with the decision. And in spite of all my fears and misgivings about turning the pen of my life over to God, one realization was extremely clear. As long as I continued writing my own story, I knew I would only find more heartache and disappointment. I had only made a mess of this area of my life thus far. It was clear that I needed some serious help.
So, more out of desperation than confidence, I invited the Creator of the Universe to be the center of my love life. Did He disappoint me? Just the opposite. I was soon to discover that the Author of love and romance, who loved me more than I could comprehend, had a plan for my love life that would take my breath away with its beauty.
When God promised a son to Abraham in his old age, Abraham did what seemed only natural to do – he tried to give God a helping hand. After all, God had said that He wanted to give him a son. What was so wrong with using the good common sense that God had given him and sleeping with his wife’s maidservant? It was the only way, as far as Abraham could see, that God’s desire for him to be a father would ever happen. The thought of just waiting around until Abraham and Sarah were both on death’s doorstep was laughable. As the common saying goes, “God can’t steer a parked car!” Abraham bought that very lie – hook, line, and sinker. (By the way, God can make bread out of stones and dry land out of an ocean – somehow I don’t think steering a parked car is much of an issue for Him!)
So Abraham did what countless single young women do – he tried to help God out, tried to speed things up, tried to use the resources he had to make God’s plan happen. And he ended up not with the son God had promised him, but with his own humanly-crafted solution – Ishmael. Ishmael was not God’s perfect plan for Abraham’s legacy. Rather, God said of Ishmael, “He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him...” (Gen. 16:12).
God told Abraham that He would establish his seed through a child named Isaac who would be born to him and his wife Sarah in their old age. Abraham’s response was, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” (Gen. 17:18). Like so many of us, Abraham longed for his own handiwork to be blessed by God, rather than having to wait for God to fulfill His promise in His own time and way. God challenges us to let Him write our love stories in His own time and way, and our immediate response is, “Oh, that I could just create my own story and have You bless it!” That’s what our selfish nature craves. But our Lord has something far better in store, if only we would trust Him.
Allow the Spirit of God to search your heart. Are you trying to create an Ishmael of your own making? Are you attempting to give God a hand in finding a guy and getting married? Do you really believe that Christ can fill you as your All in all? And are you willing to make Him your first love, even if no earthly love story comes your way?
These are difficult questions to face. But remember that God cares more about this area of your life than even you do. He wants first place in your heart, not to make you miserable, but to bless you beyond all you could ask or think. Just read the rest of Abraham’s story – when God’s promise of Isaac actually came to pass – and be reminded of the loving, faithful, awesome God you serve! A heart centered upon Christ is not a death sentence – it’s a doorway into abundant life, into the most glorious romance you could ever imagine.
Here is the truth that many of us hesitate to really believe: if and when the time comes for us to be married, God will orchestrate the love story. But in the meantime, our focus is to be on serving Him and pouring our life out for Him, not on getting serious about getting married. The timing is up to Him, not us.
Why am I so convinced that we are to remain fully dependent upon Christ in every area of our life, including this one? Because Jesus left us an example that we should follow in His steps (see 1 Peter 2:21). And as part of His example to us, Jesus did nothing of His own volition, but only what the Father told Him to do and only when the Father told Him to do it: “Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner’” (Jn. 5:19).
What strange words to come from the King of all kings! He could do nothing of Himself? The One who created the heavens and the earth? It’s not that Jesus was actually helpless – it’s that He deliberately chose to be completely dependent upon His Father for every word, every choice, and every action. He said: “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works” (Jn. 14:10 NASB).
As Ian Thomas so eloquently explained:
The Lord Jesus acted at all times on the assumption that His Father was handling the situation, and Jesus simply took care to obey His Father’s instructions. Even when He was being reviled and tortured, “He left His case in the hands of God” (1 Pet. 2:23). By this submission to His Father, Jesus “learned obedience” (Heb. 5:8) as a Man, and the obedience was total; “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death – even the death of the Cross” (Phil. 2:8). Now, as God, He asks the same of you and me (The Indwelling Life of Christ, p. 20).
Trusting God to orchestrate our love story doesn’t mean shunning men or avoiding friendships with the opposite sex. Certainly, it is a great idea to pray for our future spouse and to be obedient to God’s voice as He guides our steps in the process of finding a spouse.
But marriage is not what we are called to pursue. Rather, His Word tells us in no uncertain terms what we are called to pursue: “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace…” (2 Tim. 2:22 NASB).
So, ditch online dating and Facebook flirting (real-life flirting too, for that matter). Don’t build your life around the pursuit of guys. Build your life around the pursuit of Jesus Christ. Find your fulfillment in Him and Him alone. If His plan for you is marriage, it should merely be an outflow of a much more important love story – your daily, intimate love-relationship with the King of all kings. And if you are uncertain that He alone is enough to fulfill you at the deepest level, just take a look at these amazing promises from His Word:
“O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup...” (Psalm 16:5).
“Jehovah is my shepherd, I do not lack.” (Psalm 23:1 YLT).
“For He satisfies the longing soul...” (Psalm 107:9).
“…the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23).
If you are single, God has a much higher calling upon your life than spending all your time and energy trying to snag Mr. Right. As Paul wrote, being unmarried is an amazing opportunity to serve the Lord without distraction (see 1 Corinthians 7:34). God has not called us to build our lives around the pursuit of our own selfish desires, but to be poured-out sacrifices for His Kingdom. One of the great tragedies of American Christian young women is our total preoccupation with self. When we are seeking our own happiness by desperately searching for a husband, it keeps us consumed with me, me, me, while the rest of the world is sick and oppressed and dying and impoverished. In the single season of life, we are freer than we’ll ever be to give our lives to those in need and become Christ’s advocates for the least around the world.
But we don’t use our advantage for that cause. Instead, we sit around complaining about the lack of available men and evaluating our own emotions. We attend retreats that are all about how we can feel better about ourselves and live more fulfilled lives. We read books about how we can somehow find the right guy. We spend hours online frittering our time away on endless social networks. We waste countless hours at the mall, snatching up the latest trends and trying to become more appealing to the opposite sex. We live a life completely focused on self. Meanwhile, children are starving, women are being prostituted, and countless families around the world are ripped apart by disease and poverty.
In your single years, more than ever, you have the ability to give your life for them; to pour out your time, your energy, your love, and your resources to those that have God’s special favor – the poor and the least. Are you using this gift for the benefit of those in need, or are you squandering it on yourself?
One of the best ways to find a godly marriage partner is to stop hunting for one, and instead focus your entire life around Jesus Christ and His priorities – which means living a poured-out life. We should never put off fulfilling God’s calling upon our life because we haven’t met our man yet.
If He wants you to be married, He is more than capable of bringing a man into your life in the most unlikely way, in the most unlikely place. God can bring your spouse to you in the remotest village in Africa, or in the most hidden slum of Haiti. Or like He did for my sister-in-law Krissy, He can bring your man along even in rural Michigan where the only available men seemed to be elderly widowers! I’ve heard many amazing testimonies of women who didn’t put their life’s calling on hold until they met their man, but willingly followed the call of God on their lives and became active in work for His Kingdom – even though it meant being less available to the opposite sex. And amazingly, it was in a place of seeming obscurity that God wrote their love stories and brought along their husbands.
Remember that there are many Christ-built warrior poet men out there who are praying and hoping for a set-apart young woman – one who is not following after the trends of the culture, one who is not wallowing around in discontentment or on the prowl for a guy. Nothing would thrill a true warrior poet’s heart more than to know that his future bride was spilling her life out for the sake of the Gospel. Want to find a godly guy? Focus on pouring your life out for Jesus Christ, and leave the rest to Him. As it says in Psalm 57:2, He will be more than faithful to fulfill His purposes for you.*
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