Did you ever wish there was a manual for dating?
If you’re a Christian, you might have developed the precious habit of looking to the Bible for instruction. But if you have, you have you may have been disappointed in the lack of direction.
Should I…go to the local watering hole and wait for the right girl to show up? (Genesis 24) Do I need to talk to my uncle about it first? (Genesis 28)
The Bible doesn’t cover the topic of dating as specifically as we wish. So how do we take Biblical concepts of healthy relationships and purity and apply those to the 21st century in a realistic way?
The Tip of the Dating Iceberg
I hesitate to tackle this enormous topic. There is so much to be said about dating that I find my mind shooting off in several directions at once. Courtship? Isaac and Rebecca? Song of Solomon??
So I decided just to back up and stick to my own specialty. These are the answers I’ve been giving college students over the last twenty years.
The Most Frequent Questions I’m Asked About Dating
What Does It Mean To “Guard My Heart”?
“Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.“
Proverbs 4:23 NIV
Many young people have learned this verse from a young age and wear it as armor over their hearts, training themselves not to fall in love. Unfortunately, I believe that this interpretation incorrect and unhealthy. Let me explain.
First of all, the “heart” as mentioned in this verse doesn’t refer to our emotions or our ability to love. We aren’t meant to refrain from letting ourselves fall in love with a good and godly partner. In this verse, the “heart” refers to the seat of the Gospel.
Here are some verses to show you what I mean:
“The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?”
In our natural state, as slaves to sin, our hearts can’t be trusted. Our hearts are broken and sick.
“And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.”
But God, in his great love, fixes the unfixable. He heals us, and gives us a new heart when we put our trust in him.*
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
God redeems us from sin and cleanses us when we trust the blood of Christ, shed on the cross for us.
Therefore, in Proverbs 4, when Solomon instructs his son according to godly wisdom, he says, “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart” (vs. 20, 21). The most important truth – the truth about God – is being held within our hearts, so to speak. So Solomon says, “Above all else, guard your heart” (vs. 23).
I daresay this is our number one instruction in life…and in dating. Is the man you’re interested in pulling you away from your first love? Guard your heart. Is the girl you’re falling for making you question your beliefs? Guard your heart.
That guy or girl is pleasing for this moment, but God is our eternity. Guard your heart.
Fall deeply in love with the man or woman who helps you guard your heart!
This reminds me of a bonus question young people often ask me…
I’m in a new relationship. We both love God, but I’m not spending as much time with God as I was before. I guess I’m distracted. Do we need to break up?
First of all, good for you for the priority you’ve given to spending time with God in your life! You won’t regret that.
But I also want to encourage you that what you’re experiencing is normal. As my seasons of life have changed I’ve noticed that the way I spend time with God has changed as well. Similarly, the way I understand him and experience him has evolved over the years.
There were sweet times when I was young and single, with different requirements on my time from what I have now. During those times I sometimes found myself with long stretches of time on a quiet morning that I could spend with God.
Later, I got busy at work and felt that I was at a loss as to how to connect with God without those long periods of study. But eventually I learned to look forward to my first break of the day, when I would crack open the Word of God and read it like a book, getting a feel for the story of Scripture.
Years later, with toddlers under foot, Steve shooed me from the house every Thursday morning so I could study the Bible at a cafe without distractions.
My point is that the way you spend time with God will change over the years, but that is a good and beautiful thing. God called me to get married and have a family. I didn’t need to hold desperately to my old way of connecting with Him as my circumstances changed. God is transcendent and he is bigger than our kitchen table quiet times. He is big enough to be known through conversations about grace with a new boyfriend, through worship music over breakfast as you’re headed out for a hike with the new girlfriend, and even (especially!) through desperate prayers for deliverance from temptation as you head out to see him for a romantic date.
Your experience of your relationship with God will change as the seasons of your life change. But marriage is good! (Genesis 2:18) Kids are good! (Psalm 127:3) Make adjustments and carry on. He is with you.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
Philippians 2:13 NIV
*This is why we sometimes tell children to “ask Jesus into their heart.” Although that phrasing isn’t found in the Bible, the concept is reasonable, as we have broken hearts that need Jesus.
You’ll love Lisa Anderson’s take on the possibilities (and pitfalls) of dating. This book is fun and easy to read, and provides a great perspective for dating realities.
Debra Fileta simplifies the dating process (as much as possible) by offering a 3-stage approach: Dating Inward, Outward, and Upward. I think you’ll find that this book gives your dating perspective the overhaul it’s been needing.