Posts

3 Questions to Ask When You’re Dating

Dating can be such a thrilling adventure, especially since it might possibly lead to marriage! However, before we even step into a relationship, there may be many questions in our minds. For instance, how can I know that I’m ready for a relationship?

While I don’t claim to be an expert, here are three qualities that I have found to be foundational in my own relationship, and I hope they will point you in the right direction.

 

 1. Are They Good-Looking or Looking at God?

What attracts you to someone? Is it their physical appearance? Character? Personality? Career?  I’m sure you can add a few more items to the long list of traits that might attract us to another person. But if we dig deeper, we know that none of these things on their own can sustain a relationship in the long-term. As Christians, we must look for something much more important: whether Christ is the director of their life.

When I first met my fiancé Brian, I wasn’t entirely attracted to him. I thought he looked kinda cute, but hardly gave him a second thought after our first encounter. However, over the next few weeks of working in the church office (we were both interns at the time), sharing break time together, and sneaking conversations over work tasks, I began to see his passion for the gospel and his desire to spread it wherever he went. This was very much in line with my own desire and calling in life—I have felt a burden for foreign missions for the past several years.

As the months went on, I came to develop a deep admiration for Brian—for his dedication and loyalty to Jesus. Since then, my romantic interest in him also started building, and I became deeply attracted to him. Safe to say, I was falling in love. As it turns out, he was too.

So, my relationship with Brian didn’t happen the way most people expect. Instead of being brought together by a physical or personality attraction, it was his dependency on Christ as the author of his life that drew me to him. I found that attraction to the other traits followed close after.

 

2. Are There Opportunities for Healthy Growth?

We’ve all probably heard the words “love is a not a fairytale.” Which is true, because for any relationship to succeed, it takes work, effort, and sacrifice. Feelings are not strong enough to get a couple through all of that. No matter how strongly in love or “mushy” a couple is . . . feelings change.

There are days when we have arguments, disagreements, or opposing views, and it can cause both of us to question whether God really did mean for us to be together. In those times, it is especially important to be on guard against frustration, anger, impatience, and even self-righteousness.

As we worked through these challenges, we’ve learned to make room for God to mold and shape our hearts. We’ve learned to allow these circumstances to catapult us toward prayer and seeking counsel in the Word, as well as from seasoned believers. It’s now our prayer that we will have the humility to accept the Spirit’s conviction and to obey whatever the Lord places on our hearts.

The inevitable difficulties and trials in a relationship demand more than simply being head-over-heels for each other. Ultimately, we need our common foundation in Christ to help us see how we can become a good team, complement each other, and most importantly, become more Christ-like through the entire process.

When we are both drawn to Christ and to helping each other be more like Him, we don’t need to fear attacks—for we know that even during  periods of trial and testing, God is working to sanctify us and make us holy (Philippians 1:6).

 

3. Do Your Differences Divide or Complement?

Brian and I could not be any more different. I am an outspoken, strong-willed, at times fierce, free-spirited woman from the jungle in central Mexico. He is a reserved, thoughtful, strong, silent man from metropolitan Hong Kong. The comments about how different we seem never cease, and we laugh because others don’t even know the half of it.

Of course, sometimes these comments can be discouraging, especially when we hear others tell us that we won’t be a good fit, or would mostly likely end up having a catastrophic relationship because of our differences.

For Brian and I, we are reminded that in the early times of the Apostles, the Spirit of God brought together multiple nationalities and people of different cultures and languages in birthing the Church (Acts 2). And we know that at the end of the day, it is not culture and traditions that would carry on into eternity, but what we do in obedience to the Lord.

Just as diversity in the body of Christ allows it to work so effectively (1 Corinthians 12:12-14), we believe the same applies to marriage. Together, Brian and I have discovered that we complement each other with our strengths and weaknesses, and are able to reach a wider range of people in our international surroundings because of this multicultural relationship we have been given.

Having said that, we also believe it’s important to be humble and seek God with an open mind, especially if trusted friends or family raise concerns about a relationship. Sometimes these concerns are unfounded, while other times people outside of the relationship may have a clearer perspective.

One instance where having outside input was helpful was when one of my spiritual mothers gently shared that I needed to be more patient and understanding of Brian’s Chinese upbringing and less stubborn about only doing things according to my culture. Another time was when one of Brian’s close friends helped him realise how he needed to grow in boldness as the leader of our relationship, especially when times get hard. These insights have helped the both of us see our own blind spots, and enabled us to grow in the way we relate to and love each other.

It is important for us to always examine the differences we have with our partner, and seek God to understand whether these help us sharpen one another, or whether they will create a division in the relationship.

 

It is often easy to seek fulfilment and purpose in a significant other. But we know that ultimately, nobody can meet our needs the way God can. Whatever our circumstances, we belong first and foremost to God. He loves us like no one else will, and values us like no other (Matthew 10:29-31). In every step of our relationships, let us not chase after what the world values, but instead seek to please God.

As you consider dating or entering a relationship, don’t panic or worry over how you’ll handle it. Pray about it, and ask God to bless you with wisdom, strength, and guidance. Surround yourself with godly counsel and couples who will be able to help you navigate the challenges you might face. Take this opportunity to trust in Him more, know Him better, and He will show you the way you are to walk in because He is a faithful God.

 

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a two-part series on dating and marriage. If you’re considering taking your relationship to the next level and wondering if you’re ready for marriage, read the second part of the series here

4 Ways to Navigate A Painful Break-Up

Written By Hilary Charlet, USA

Heartbreak. Tears. A break-up you never saw coming.

Do you remember it? The moment your heart was shattered into a million pieces? The place you were at? The time of day? The weather outside?

It’s funny how sometimes we can remember such vivid details.

I was sitting in my car, waiting to meet my mother for coffee. The weather was partly cloudy—a brisk fall morning. Perfect for a coffee date at my favorite spot. While I was waiting, my boyfriend at the time asked if he could call me. I had just driven five hours home after spending the weekend with him. Everything was great, or so I thought. Until the call. “I can’t do this anymore,” he told me.

Wait, what?

I had been fine when I talked to my mom roughly 10 minutes ago, but by the time she arrived to meet me, I was a mess. My sudden change confused her. Well, surprise! I just had a break-up I never saw coming.

Break-ups can be hard. They can be messy. Picking up the pieces of what you thought could have been forever can be incredibly hard. Moving on seems impossible. I know. I’ve been there. Your heart feels empty.

But in the days after the break-up, I found comfort in Jeremiah 31:4. God tells the nation of Israel, “I will build you up again, and you . . . will be rebuilt.” God promised to rebuild Israel, to give her direction, hope, peace and love. Surely, He will watch over me the same way. Even if I feel like a wreck, God can fill those empty, lonely places in my heart. You know those pieces of our hearts lying on the floor, broken? God can build those pieces into something incredible. I know because I’ve been there.

But it takes time to recover. It doesn’t happen overnight. How do you muster up the strength to accept what is and move forward in the immediate aftermath? Here are four things that helped me on that journey.

 

1. Know your worth

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. God created us in His own image, for His wonderful purposes (Ephesians 2:10). Though people around us might disrespect us or question our worth, we know that we are bought by the blood of Christ. Is there any greater comfort than knowing how very much God Himself values us?

 

2. Enjoy your own company

You don’t have to have someone to go out on dates with to be happy. Spend time with yourself, get to know yourself better. Go on road trips. Go out for coffee. Read. Journal. Find your passion and do more of that.

There is beauty in this season where you are not committed to someone else. You have a unique time to grow as an individual, and more importantly, in your relationship with Christ. There will perhaps be times you feel lonely and might yearn for a relationship. But remember, God is always there, and He can fill those spaces in our hearts with a love that’s greater than any we will experience on this earth.

 

3. Surround yourself with the right people

They say you become who you surround yourself with. Are you surrounding yourself with people who will ask you the right questions, encourage you in your journey, and support you as you walk this road? Friends need to know how to have fun together (ice skating, game nights, etc). But they also need to know how to challenge and grow one another. Be sure you’re aware of who you’re spending your time with and how it affects you.

 

4. Forgive and seek forgiveness

If someone hurt you, lied to you, cheated on you, or ghosted you, don’t stew on it. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God has wonderful things in store for you, but you won’t see it if you’re too busy remembering past wrongs. If you have been hurt, ask God to give you the strength to forgive and move on.

On the flip side, what if it was my fault? What if I lied, I cheated, I hurt someone that cared deeply about me? Then pray and ask God for forgiveness. If appropriate, also ask forgiveness from the person you hurt. Even though they may or may not give it, we need to remember that ultimately, we are not accountable for other people’s actions. We are accountable for our own. Ask God to continue working in your life and bring about healing.

 

Break-ups hurt. And healing takes time. I won’t even admit to you how long it took me to realize that simple fact, because it was far too long. But in the long process of healing, we know that God is continually renewing us, day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). He is here. He is never leaving or forsaking us. He is filling the pieces in our hearts that grasp and yearn for something that only He can provide—His unconditional and unfailing love.

God’s love for us is so much better than we can ever imagine. He will walk with us as we recover from a break-up. His love will fill us, whether we end up single or married. Resting in His love, peace, and assurance is so much better than any “happily ever after” in the movies.

In this post-break-up season, I have struggled with pain, insecurities, and doubt. But the Lord has also taught me to lean on and depend on Him completely, to rest in the promise that He is good and that He is working everything together for my good, regardless of how messy it has been (Romans 8:28).

If you have ever experienced or are currently in the process of a break-up, I pray for God’s comfort and healing in your life. I know things are difficult now, but God is with you. I pray that, like me, you will come to experience how much we are loved by God, who died so that we could live. And that’s a love that is irreplaceable.

Journey of Sexual Purity

Title: Journey of Sexual Purity
Artwork by: Ross Boone (@rossboone)
Description: 
These images depict some of the emotional dynamics of trying to resist temptation. For me, it applies to my struggles with masturbation and my past struggle with pornography. But the same process drives other temptations like alcohol, over-eating, or even bingeing on TV shows.

I believe that God can use our struggles to help others. So as I have dealt with my temptations, I’ve tried to note what helped and what didn’t. I hope that you or someone you love can learn or benefit from these illustrated concepts.

 

Sometimes, when we slip and fall into temptation, the guilt and shame we feel drive us to do it a few more times. As a result, we completely “fall off the wagon” and find ourselves unable to get up again.

So whenever we’re tempted by sin, it helps to remember that more may be at stake then just one little slip.

 

 

On the journey of resisting temptation, we will slip and make mistakes—but not everything is lost if we can learn from them. Even though it sometimes feels like we are falling back to square one, it helps to remember that what we’ve learned through every mistake can strengthen us and help us go further.

 

 

The choice to abstain from a temptation can feel a bit like carrying a burden. Sometimes I feel weighed down by it and have found myself thinking, “How could I ever carry this forever? Let me just put it down for a while.”

But if I picture it (purity) as a burden that is meant to be carried, because it keeps me focused on who God wants me to be, I almost enjoy carrying it!

 

 

When does a first look become more than just a look? My mentor used to tell me, “The first look is free”, but if we do not catch ourselves at this point, we may not realize that letting our eyes linger can create inappropriate desire, discontentment, and eventually cause us to indulge in what we’re trying to resist.

 

 

We often think that one little vice isn’t really that bad. But that’s because we don’t see how it could lead us away from a glorious, satisfying righteousness towards the slippery slope of a self-indulgent life with less self-discipline.

 

What My Failed Blind Date Taught Me About God

Written By Daniel Hamlin, USA

I could feel my heart pulsing. Any sense of calm I’d been harboring fled like an outgoing tide. In the Pacific Northwest, I experienced a similar feeling looking over the edge of a cliff hundreds of feet above the wild Pacific Ocean. This time the cause was even more intimidating—I was on a blind date.

I’m not sure why I agreed to the date; I hate blind dates. The awkwardness, the apprehension, the fear of rejection. It is everything I try to avoid in life.

But there I was, trying to put on a brave face and introduce myself to a girl I was expected to impress. And if I didn’t impress, well, then I’d get the joy of having that wonderfully embarrassing conversation with the person who set us up and explain to them how it just wasn’t meant to be.

 

The Plan

Truth be told, I really did want to impress Katherine. We talked a couple times on the phone before we actually met in person for our date. She seemed fun, down-to-earth, and enjoyed the outdoors. I wanted to think outside the box and do something on our date she hadn’t done before, something other dates wouldn’t have thought of.

I came up with a plan.

I had it all figured out—we were going fishing. I know it’s not exactly every girl’s dream to go fishing on a first date but I promise it wasn’t as bad as it sounds (well maybe it was). I packed a few snacks, some chairs and fishing poles, and drove us out to a nearby lake nestled in the hills.

I set up the chairs near the water and cast our lines. We sat next to the lake talking and getting to know each other. It was quite pleasant. In fact she seemed to enjoy it, so much so that she wanted to get dinner after we were done fishing.

But the thing was, I hadn’t really planned anything other than fishing. I hadn’t thought that far ahead. It was an afternoon date and I didn’t take into consideration the possibility it might actually go well and she might want to get dinner afterward. So I winged it.

 

The Failed Date

I offered a few suggestions on where to eat, trying to get any hints as to what she might like, but she just politely said it was up to me to decide. Like I said, I really wanted to impress Katherine, so without telling her where we were going, I made my way to a favorite steakhouse. It was a little pricey but I hoped that would impress her.

The steakhouse is one of those classic western ones, with cowboy attire and big game trophies mounted throughout the dining room. As we sat in our booth, I couldn’t help but feel relieved at how well the date was going.

After a few minutes, the waiter returned to take our orders. Katherine ordered first.

“Can I just get a plate of vegetables?”

It was at this point that I remembered a small but significant detail about Katherine that she’d told me on one of our phone conversations—she was a vegetarian! It was also at this point that I became keenly aware of the big, dead, moose head that hung above our booth.

Yes, it is true. I took a vegetarian on a date to a steakhouse.

There was no second date.

 

How Dating Is Like Hearing God

I share this story because it taught me something about how I approach my walk with Christ. Most of us have a tendency to think we must do something great for God, show some extravagant gesture of just how much we love Him, and how great a sacrifice we’re willing to make for Him.

But even in that desire to offer Him something out of gratitude (which I believe is a good desire), it’s usually a gesture or sacrifice that we’ve determined to be what God wants. What I did with Katherine is exactly what I often do with God. Instead of listening to her, I simply chose a restaurant based on what I thought would impress her.

It’s easy to do the same with God. Instead of listening to Him and learning more about what pleases Him from His Word, I often try to please Him by doing things my way and calling it “sacrifice” or “service”.

For example, surfing has played a significant role in my life, and the Lord has used it as a means of ministry over the years. But at one point, I considered quitting surfing in an attempt to show God just how much I was willing to sacrifice for Him. I realize how minor of a dilemma this might seem to some, but for me there was nothing minor about it. It was my passion, my pursuit, my lifestyle. And I wrestled over this for days.

Then I read 1 Samuel 15:22 and it felt like a veil was removed from my eyes. It says, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” I realized then that God didn’t want my sacrifice, He wanted my obedience. I needed to obey God with all aspects of my life, including surfing, not simply sacrificing it for the sake of impressing Him.

Don’t misunderstand me, I believe there are times in life when the Lord asks us to give up certain things and we need to obey at all costs because He knows what’s best for us, but it should always be done out of obedience and not sacrifice. The difference between the two is that sacrifice magnifies self, whereas obedience magnifies God.

If I truly want to please God, it won’t be accomplished by impressing Him with my own efforts but rather by simply obeying Him.

Obedience means that there is trust and intimacy between the two parties. To obey is to listen first and respond accordingly. I took Katherine fishing because I knew from talking to her on the phone that she liked nature and the outdoors. Our phone conversations weren’t quick, one-sided remarks, but there was dialogue between the two of us.

Our relationship with Christ should be similar; we should have an open and ongoing dialogue with Him. The only way to truly get to know someone is to spend time with that person, to do life with them, and talk to them in honest conversation. I believe our relationship with God is no different. The only way we learn to hear His voice is to spend time with Him; to read His word, to talk with Him, to become close with Him.

I’ve found where I often flounder with Christ is where I floundered with Katherine. I wanted to take a shortcut, to impress her by showing her how much I was willing to spend on dinner. Instead of making our date about her, I made it about me impressing her. And I often find myself making my walk with Christ about me impressing Him rather than about Him. I believe the one thing God desires most of us is intimacy, and there is no shortcut to achieve that, it can only be accomplished through personal relationship.

As we live in obedience to God we find something truly remarkable—liberty. When I realized I didn’t need to impress God, that it wasn’t about my sacrifices or efforts at all, that the only sacrifice that mattered was His sacrifice on the cross, then I began to experience a freedom and joy like no other. C. S. Lewis once said “Obedience is the road to freedom.” But the onramp to that road is the ability to listen to the Lord.

Perhaps if I’d listened first, I might not have thought it was a good idea to take a vegetarian on a date to a steakhouse.