Dear Younger Self, It’s Time to Break Up and You Know Why
Written by JT Chen, Singapore
You probably didn’t expect that you’d be here today, thinking about whether you should break up with your non-Christian boyfriend.
Just a year ago, you were so excited to enter university. For the first time in your life, you could study what you like and stay in a hostel away from your parents. You couldn’t wait to live on your own terms.
Yet amid your excitement, you were struggling in your walk with God. Even though you tried your best to obey Him, you were not experiencing the joy or peace that you were expecting to come from obedience. Sharing about Jesus with others only led to one rejection after another, which made you feel even more insecure about yourself. You also tried to fit into your spiritual community, but they couldn’t handle your questions about the faith, which made you feel like you were being too critical and doubtful.
So, you thought that perhaps you should just try to live by your own rules and see how that goes. Not that you were giving up on God completely, but since it wasn’t “paying off” to obey Him, you thought maybe you’d hedge your bets.
That opportunity soon came in the form of a kind and friendly senior (let’s call him X) you met at your hostel. You were flattered by his attentions, happy to be lavished with gifts, and touched by his sincere efforts to be there for you.
You thought you had hit the proverbial jackpot. By the world’s standards, X was a great guy to date and potentially settle down with. The only thing that “bugged” you a bit? He was not a Christian.
You knew that God clearly commands in His Word that believers should only marry believers (1 Corinthians 7:39). Yet you agreed to begin a romantic relationship with X when he asked. Then you tried to rationalise this decision:
- “I can help X become Christian. Surely I can use his love for me to influence him towards Christ.”
- “X is a good catch, even better than some of the Christian guys I know. It would be foolish to let go of someone with good character who comes from a good family and has good career prospects.”
- “I am tired of feeling lonely and unwanted. Don’t I deserve to have someone who would love me as much as he does?”
You felt so strongly about the relationship that you ignored the pleas of concerned church leaders and friends who warned you that this could derail your walk with God.
It’s been over a year since you got together, and you’re still rationalising your decision, but a part of you isn’t so sure anymore.
The signs of him wanting to be Christian are faint, to say the least. Sure, he’s been attending church services and small group meetings with you, but you sense that he would rather be somewhere else. He also has yet to share with you how he thinks or feels about God. It seems like a conversation he would rather avoid for fear of creating tension with you.
You might have thought that you are exposing X to Christian influences for his good because you love him and want him to know Christ. But, if he has to work hard to fit in with your Christian friends and join your Christian activities in order to keep you, how will that help him experience the grace of God? If he has to change his beliefs and become someone he is not, just to be with you, how can that be love?
Even if God is working in X’s heart, you cannot know or dictate the way God works, and you cannot control how X responds to God. And while God can turn your impure motives around for His purposes, how and when He does that is not for you to decide.
While you face the discouraging reality of X’s lack of response, you are also discovering that living life on your own terms is not as liberating as you thought it would be. Instead of experiencing the freedom of “being yourself,” you feel like a hypocrite—claiming to follow Christ, yet living as if His views do not matter in one of your most intimate relationships. And because you feel guilty, you find yourself unable to serve Him with joy.
I believe the Holy Spirit is sending you signals to convict you. That queasiness you get every time you are on a date with X, and that twinge of guilt whenever you hold hands, they’re not figments of your imagination. These are promptings to repent before your heart hardens so much, it’ll no longer respond to Him. Throw yourself on God’s mercy before it is too late!
As much as you want to respond to the Spirit, you are afraid to repent because it likely means giving up the relationship. You’ve considered alternatives, such as holding out hope that X might become a Christian. But you know that day may never come. And even if X says yes to Jesus, you’ll also be worried that he might be converting just to keep his relationship with you.
You’re also afraid you might never find someone else as loving as X, and that you’d never be happy as you are right now. You’re probably thinking, “As long as X respects my religion, we should be able to get along fine. I know some believers who married non-believers, and they look happy.”
It’s tempting to just go with that, but do you really want to stake your relationship with God and your future happiness on an uncertain outcome? Marriage will introduce more complex challenges, such as raising children, that will test and reveal the gaping differences in beliefs and values between a believer and a non-believer. Maybe it doesn’t bother your partner now that you attend church services, as long as you don’t expect him to. But will he be okay with you raising his children as Christians?
No marriage is perfect, even between believers. However, when both spouses are committed to Christ, there is a greater possibility that both can grow in Christlikeness through their challenges and glorify God through their union.
I know all this may be hard to hear now, but God promises deep joy in Christ that is supernatural (Galatians 5:22-23), lasting (John 16:22) and satisfying (1 Peter 1:8-9). If you decide to repent, you are choosing joy that can never be taken from you, no matter your circumstance.
Maybe you still find it hard to imagine what joy in Christ feels like. Could this be because you’ve been obeying God not out of gratitude, but out of a need to prove yourself to be “good” and to win the approval of others? If so, it’s no wonder you are unhappy even when you are doing the right thing!
There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. Christ gave up His life for you when you were at your worst (Romans 5:8). Even today, God is patiently waiting for you to turn back to Him (2 Peter 3:9). No man, not even the most spiritually mature Christian, can love you as wisely, graciously, and sacrificially as God does.
Perhaps deep within you is also the fear that if you break up with X, you will hurt him and push him further away from God, causing irreversible damage to the chances of him becoming a Christian. But hear this: you can trust that God loves X more than you do. You cannot hurt X so badly that God, in His grace, cannot save him. Remember that Jesus—not you—went to the cross for his sins. Trust that God has His way of reaching out to X, with or without you.
Right now, the most loving thing you can do for X is to live a life worthy of the gospel (Phil 1:27a). If you truly love X, you would want him to see how the gospel can make a difference in his life so that he can see his need for it.
One way to demonstrate this is to show how the love of Christ works in the church. This means how you relate to your spiritual family can contribute to X’s perspective of the church and of Christ.
It has been more than a year since your leaders tried to change your mind about going out with a non-believer. You know you had hurt a couple of them with your unkind retorts, and yet they have stood by you all this time, even if they did not agree with your decision. Don’t you think it is time to apologise to them and seek their forgiveness?
Your Christian friends are looking at you trying to integrate a relationship you know displeases God into a lifestyle that you hope can still be God-honouring. This may lead some of the younger believers to think that it is okay to continually, wilfully disobey God and still be known as a Christian (1 John 3:9-10). You have placed a stumbling block in their walk with God. Don’t you think you should make things right on that end?
There is never a perfect time to end a relationship. But once you have made your decision to repent, pray for wisdom to break the news to X gently but firmly. Do it before you back out from what you already know is the right thing to do.
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