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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

5 Ways to Deal with the Question, “Why Are You Still Single?”

Written By Noni Elina Kristiani, IndonesiaOriginally in Bahasa Indonesia

“It’s a new year already but I see you’re still single, eh?”

“When are you getting a boyfriend?”

“You know, your friend from high school already has two children. When will you be like her?”

Those are the questions I often get. As someone who has been single for quite some time, I can laugh with my friends when they joke about my singleness. But sometimes it still upsets me to hear such comments.

Recently, I received a direct message on Instagram, where I often share my thoughts and feelings about life. The message was from a girl who was in her final semester of university. She told me that she always feels sad when those she considers her close friends tease her about being single. She also shared that she feels uncomfortable whenever they start talking about their dating life. Coupled with their thoughtless teasing, she often feels hurt by her interactions with her friends on this subject.

While I completely agree that true happiness doesn’t come from having a life partner, but from an intimate relationship with God, it still isn’t easy being single. I believe God will satisfy all my needs, and I have no problems waiting for God to bring the right person into my life in His perfect timing. But sometimes, comments and questions from people around us can make us singles feel left out.

If you can relate to the story that the girl shared, or have felt hurt by inconsiderate comments on singlehood before, I’d like to share five tips that have helped me confront and deal with such comments:

 

1. Be honest with God about how you feel

How do you feel when someone asks, “Why are you still single?”. Perhaps some of us don’t take these questions to heart and can confidently share the reasons why we may still be single. But I’m sure that there are many of us out there who might feel upset upon hearing such questions. If you fall under the latter category, I want you to know that it isn’t wrong to feel this way.

Sometimes it’s okay to not be okay. When we’re hurt by the words or behaviors of people around us, I believe God wants us to be honest with Him and to bring our thoughts before Him. Admitting my feelings to myself and God in prayer enables Him to heal me from the hurts and disappointments that the words of others inflict on me.

 

2. Bless those who offend you

Even though questions about our singleness don’t cause us any physical harm, they are still hurtful and can make us feel depressed. Whenever we feel offended or stung by the comments of others, it helps to remember the example that Jesus showed as He went to the cross when He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Even though it may be hard to do so, forgiving those who hurt us and choosing to bless them instead is a good way to recover from our pain and hurts. Not only does it release us from any form of bitterness, it also enables us to turn our attention to how we can be more aware and sensitive of how other people are feeling, and pray for them instead.

 

3. Build an intimate relationship with God 

While others may base our worth on our relationship status, we can be assured that God doesn’t. He sees us as precious just the way we are (Isaiah 43:4).

The more we immerse ourselves in God’s Word, the more we’ll understand our true worth and learn to define ourselves based on what He says about us, not what the world says about us.

As I’ve begun to read the Word more, I’m also coming to a better understanding of what true love looks like. This has helped me readjust my expectations of love from what the world offer us, to what God offers us through our fellowship with Him.

 

4. Spend your time wisely

Rather than fretting about other people’s comments about our relationship status, it’s more helpful to use our time for personal improvement—especially in the areas of our gifts or talents. If there’s a dream you’ve always wanted to achieve, go ahead and start making plans to work towards that. Invest your time in building up the lives of those within your community.

I’ve found that filling my time with activities that are edifying—such as serving the young people in my church and training disciples, as well as joining a writing community—has helped me live this season of singleness with joy instead of resentment or self-pity.

 

5. Develop a heart of gratitude

It’s easy to be grateful when everything’s going well in our lives. But can we also be grateful when everything isn’t going according to what we’ve hoped for—especially in the area of relationships?

It’s never easy, but I’m learning to cling on to the wisdom of Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “. . . give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Practicing gratitude has helped me become truly grateful for the season of singleness I’ve been in for the past eight years. It also helped me become truly happy for my friends when they find their life partners and start tying the knot.

Even though they have been painful, I am grateful for the questions and comments I’ve received over the years about my singleness—because they have helped me examine my life more deeply and reconsider how I can make the best out of this time in my life.

As I’ve grown closer to God, I’ve been strengthened by His promise that He will make “everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). So even though it may be tough to constantly field questions about my singleness, what’s more important is that I know I can face all of life’s challenges with joy, because God knows exactly what He is doing with my life, and He is with me every step of the way.

 

These days, I’m learning to take on a different perspective. Instead of asking God when I will meet my spouse, I’m beginning to ask: “God, what do You want me to learn in this season? What do You want me to do?”

Since then, God has shown me areas where I can serve Him more fully. When I’m more focused on what He wants me to do, the questions and assumptions of other people don’t matter as much to me anymore. What matters most is knowing that whether I’m single or married, I will never be alone because God is my guide.

Why I’m Afraid of Being Vulnerable

Written By Daniel Hamlin, USA

There was a night a number of years ago that still stings a little when I recall it. I had been interested in a girl and finally found the nerve to tell her how I felt. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.

It wasn’t so much the idea of expressing my feelings that felt so overwhelming. It was the possibility that those feelings wouldn’t be reciprocated and as a result I’d experience the dreaded, terrifying, and humiliating wound of rejection. But after weeks of hanging out with this girl, it was time I laid it all on the line. So I did.

You know how sometimes the pain we fear (like getting a shot at the doctor) isn’t nearly as bad as we anticipate? Well this wasn’t one of those times. She rejected me and it hurt—it hurt bad. It wasn’t the fact that she didn’t feel the same way that hurt, it was the fact that I had allowed myself to be that vulnerable with someone.

That night was a low point for me. I sat awake, talking to God but not saying much. I didn’t really have words to express myself, just pain and humiliation. But in the midst of my despair that night, I was led to Isaiah 46:4, which says, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and rescue you.”

I felt God reassuring me that no matter what happens in my human relationships, He will always be there when I need Him. He will sustain me in happiness or heartache. As I sat alone with God, I knew rejection was something I needn’t fear from Him.

 

Why we need to be vulnerable

I’m not sure I will ever be comfortable being vulnerable, but I am learning to come to terms with it. I find that when I am vulnerable, I trust in God more; vulnerability has a way of fostering dependency on God. We learn to trust Him in situations that are beyond our control; we learn to trust His strength instead of our own. We also learn to find our validation in Him and not in man.

Vulnerability is often looked down upon in our culture. It seems many people have a difficult time opening up about their feelings, even with their closest family members. We’ve been taught to equate vulnerability with weakness, but to be vulnerable isn’t to be weak. It’s to accept the fact that we’re human—and that we need to lean on God for strength in every area of our lives.

I believe there is wisdom in caution, to be sure. Jesus said not to “cast our pearls before swine.” In other words, it is wise to be cautious about who we open up to, who we trust with important matters, particularly the matters of our heart. But this doesn’t mean we avoid all emotional connection with others, it just means we wisely discern who we choose to open up to. But perhaps many of us have used this caution as an excuse to avoid risk and emotion in life altogether.

The truth is, if we are never vulnerable, then we will never truly know love because love by its nature requires risk—risk of rejection, risk of being hurt. This applies both to romantic love and brotherly love. For love to be love, there has to be vulnerability, there has to be something to lose. Vulnerability comes with risks, but that doesn’t mean the risks aren’t worth taking. Refusing all vulnerability in life will likely do us more harm than good.

 

What to do with our hurts

So what happens when we do get hurt, when we’ve taken the risk and find we’ve been wounded?

Psalm 55 gives us a picture of how David felt after being betrayed by a close friend. David says, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshippers” (Psalm 55:12-14).

David felt the sting of betrayal; he felt the bite of having someone he opened up to, someone he was vulnerable with, turn on him. We can feel his pain as he says, “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me” (v 4). Anyone who has been hurt emotionally can relate to what he says. So what was David’s conclusion? To turn to the Lord.

In the midst of betrayal and brokenness, David turned to the Lord, “As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me” (v 16). David’s heart had been pierced by one of his friends. Yet in the midst of his heartache, he exhorts us, “Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken” (v 22). When David felt the pain of betrayal and rejection, he didn’t get bitter and close himself off. Instead he pressed into the Lord where he found comfort and healing.

God has promised that those who trust in Him will not be disappointed. When we look to Him to satisfy our emotional needs, we find He is faithful to do so. And the reward of that is a deeper relationship with God and a greater understanding of who He is as our loving Father. It also frees us from the fear of showing our vulnerabilities in our human relationships because we aren’t seeking satisfaction or validation from man, but rather finding it in Christ.

 

What true vulnerability looks like

Personally, I used to hate being vulnerable (ok, I still do). The thought of being vulnerable still makes me squirm a little because it means I have to relinquish control of how people perceive me. It means I have to admit I’m human.

But I’m beginning to view vulnerability in a different light. True vulnerability is actually surrender to God. It means we are giving control to God and trusting Him instead of ourselves. If we protect ourselves from ever being vulnerable, from any and all risk, then we limit what God is able to do in our lives and we hinder the meaningful relationships He desires us to build with each other. But when we unite faith with vulnerability, it gives us a God-sustained strength capable of taking down the giants in our lives—giants like the fear of man, the need for man’s approval, or the fear of rejection.

It’s interesting how sometimes our worst pain can be looked back on and remembered with appreciation, even thankfulness. That night I was rejected, as painful and sorrowful as it was, will always be remembered as a night I experienced God and His comforting hand. The reality is had I not gone through that experience of rejection I would not have the confidence I have today that God will be with me no matter what I go through. That experience provided God the opportunity to prove He is faithful, even in my vulnerability.

I believe being more vulnerable is helping me become more like Christ. It is making me find my confidence in Jesus rather than an image I portray to others, and it has allowed me to finally be comfortable in my own skin. This doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle with insecurities, it just means I’m learning to let them go and derive my identity from Him.

When God became human, He embraced what it means to be human; He showed emotion. Jesus didn’t hide from relationships or betrayal, He didn’t run from being vulnerable. Instead He embraced vulnerability because it meant God’s purpose would be accomplished. And when I am tempted to view my vulnerabilities as weakness, I find it comforting to recall the words Jesus once spoke to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

If you, too, are struggling with vulnerability, I’d like to invite you to entrust your fears into the hands of God—who will always sustain you and carry you, even to your old age. It may be painful at first, but also incredibly freeing.

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.