Over the last two weeks we have been looking at the topic 'Restored', which explored the romantic interplay between men and women. So far, we noted the fact that relationships can get messy and we outlined the types of internal and external pressures that affect them. We acknowledged that God has made us for relationships, so today, we will talk about dating from God's perspective.
What is dating?
According to Wikipedia, "Dating is a form of courtship consisting of social activities done by two people with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a spouse."
Whenever we mention dating in Christianity, there are a number of reactions. The challenge with dating as Christians is that we are sometimes attempting to import approaches we used when we were not Christians, and this causes problems.
Loneliness is the number one fear faced by many people in modern times. Even as Christians, many of us find trusting God very hard, especially in the area of our dating relationships. We all start out wanting God's best for our lives, but after a while we may get frustrated and discouraged, and enter a relationship that could be destructive because we want to avoid being alone.
The Bible doesn't say a lot directly about dating because, in ancient cultures, people didn't date the way we do today. Most marriages were arranged. But the Bible has many clear and important principles that we can apply to our dating experiences.
Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG. says, "Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do." Sadly, many of us want to force a relationship instead of waiting on God.
So how do we engage God's voice in our dating relationships? Let us first look at the process called dating:
THREE STAGES OF DATING
Dating can be considered to have three stages:
- Companionship: At this stage, you get to know each other better as friends. You determine if you are really attracted to the person or not. At this stage, persons may engage in group social activities.
- Confirmation: At this stage, both of you agree that you want to pursue the relationship to see where it goes. During this time, you should spend more time with friends and family because when we become emotionally attached, the objective feedback of trusted persons is most important.
- Engagement: At this stage, you have decided you are happy with the person you are dating and this is someone you want to marry and spend the rest of your life with, and the feeling is mutual. Even then, it is important that you be counselled professionally or by your church's lay counselling team before you set a wedding date or get formally engaged.
Let us now explore three popular views on dating in the context of these three stages.
1 Date - who cares about a mate?
This was first made popular by TV shows and Hollywood, and says it is never good to be without a date. We must always have someone around. People who embrace this philosophy hop from one relationship to the next. This destroys our emotional and relational health and can ultimately sabotage our desire to identify the person God might have for us. This habitual dater ends up always staying in the companion stage, craving the euphoria of that stage.
2 Never date unless you have found your mate
This philosophy is on the other end of the spectrum and proposes that dating itself is bad. It says that dating should start at the engagement stage, so you find the person that you are going to marry and simply jump right in with pressure for marriage. The problem is, how are you going to find the right person if you never spend time with them? This philosophy requires a lot of guesswork and skips the essential getting-to-know and friendship-building stages. Unfortunately, many times it is during marriage that you realise you are not compatible with your chosen mate.
3 Date to discover your mate
This view allows you the best opportunity to enjoy dating, while staying within God's plan for our lives. This philosophy says that dating is a process that you can enjoy with the main purpose of discovering if the person that you are dating, is a person that we can or should marry. We go through each of the three stages and allow the relationship to mature healthily or dissolve naturally without animosity.
In 2 Corinthians 10:13 NLT, Paul says, "Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God's plan for us." So, you can enjoy dating and discover God's plan for your dating life, but only if you commit to staying within the boundaries He has set.
Wanting God's best for your dating life means that there are some critical questions you will have to ask yourself as you date to discover your mate?
Pause for a minute and think about how you have currently been dating. Consider what has been your motive for dating. Has this worked for you? Maybe you need to take a different approach to your dating life.
Join us again next week as we spend some time to look at the three questions we need to ask to discover our mate in the dating process.