Should I keep dating if I feel that God may be calling me to overseas missions? My boyfriend is open to God’s guiding, but does not feel particularly led in this area. Both of us desire to serve God in our lives, and my boyfriend has made it clear to me that though he feels that our relationship is beneficial, he wants me to follow God’s leading first and foremost.
I'm torn because as of yet, I'm unsure as to what God is calling me to (we are both in our second year of university) and though I have been interested in missions for most of my life, I don’t yet know what that is going to look like in my own life. I don’t want to give up an amazing guy who I’m growing to care about a great deal, yet I don’t feel right about leaving him hanging, wondering about when I’ll finally figure out what God is calling me to.
As you can imagine, I have prayed about this a lot, but as of yet I don’t have any conclusions to act on. Your advice would be much appreciated.
I assume by the sincerity of your question that you more than "feel that God may be calling you to overseas missions," but that you believe He may be. This is more than semantics, and it matters a great deal because feelings are an unreliable guide to God's will for your life. They're far too fickle a guide to major life decisions. What is an unchanging, reliable source of guidance? God's Word.
As you read the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20, in the context of the whole New Testament, are you compelled to expend yourself on behalf of others, to serve in difficult settings and travel for the sake of sharing the good news of the Gospel? If so, that's a wonderful desire and worthy of your every effort!
When sharing your desires with fellow church members, family members and mentors, do they affirm your passions and intentions? Are your life circumstances such that you are able to go? If you answer yes to these questions, it may well be that you are called to missions. If you're interested but still not certain, listening to David Platt talk about "Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions" at the most recent Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Ky., may provide clarity. His impassioned plea in the face of such a great and immediate need for missionaries is the best I've ever heard.
Now for the complicating question: Are you called to marriage? If yes, then your call to ministry will necessarily be shaped by what God calls your husband to do. Once you are a wife, your primary calling will be to come alongside and help your husband in his ministry. This is certainly a countercultural view of marriage, but it is a thoroughly biblical one. If the man you marry is called to missions, to the mission field you'll go. But if he's called to medicine stateside, or law, or construction — whatever vocation he pursues for God's glory and the purpose of providing for his family — this will be the arena in which he most needs your help. That doesn't mean a dentist or accountant or grocer can't do short-term missions trips (they should!), but their primary vocations will be domestic and non-religious. (I resist calling such jobs "secular" because all work done as unto the Lord is sacred [Colossians 3:23-34] even if it's not work located in and paid for by the church. For more on this, see Gene Veith's God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.)
So where does this leave you, a woman dating and falling for a man who doesn't share your interest in missions as vocation and who is also not wanting to get in the way of God's call on your life? A few thoughts:
Dating is for the purpose of finding a spouse, and if you are the woman in the equation, you must know going in that your calling once married will be largely shaped by your role of wife. If you only envision a life as a missionary, then only date men called to the mission field.
It is the man's job to interrupt a woman's life plan and ask her to come with him, to join her life to his, to leave and cleave, to form a new one-flesh union — a family. Rather than leave this decision up to you, he should decide if you are a good fit with him — if you are a strong candidate to be his wife — and then take the risk of asking you to marry him. Then it's your turn to decide. But the responsibility for figuring this out and bearing the risk is his, not yours.
Marriage and motherhood are not spiritually inferior to missions. Both are essential, and for the vast majority of believers, and for all of human history, marriage and family are the norm. There is no shame in saying you desire marriage and family, even if it means you do missions trips occasionally or even frequently, rather than vocationally. (And once you have children, they will be your primary mission field. They are born without Christ, sinners in need of a savior and someone to tell them about Him. I realize this sounds simple, but it's not easy nor is it something you do in 15 minutes. Discipling children is a full-time job.)
If God has placed a godly man in your life, one who meets the qualifications for becoming a husband, then you have every reason to trust His providence and consider this a viable option.
This question reminded me of when I was pregnant with our first baby and struggling with knowing what I should do about my calling to Boundless. I was certain God had gifted me to serve the readers of Boundless and to carry out this vital ministry for Focus on the Family. And yet I had the circumstantial reality of a swelling middle — of new life growing inside me. What was I to do?
I mentioned my conundrum to my friend, Beth, a mother of three. She chuckled and said, "Look down; that's your calling." It was obvious to her — and should have been to me — except for the fact that I had absorbed many of the trends around me. Those included cultural pressure to use my degree, to make my career a priority and to achieve my financial goals, as well as the belief among my Christian friends that we must pursue our callings to ministry with gusto, lest we fail God, or at least fail to make the most of our God-given gifts and abilities. What I was overlooking, the part that was so obvious to Beth, was that in this season, God was giving me a baby, this miracle was pure gift from Him, and that was my priority. The possibility of a godly husband and God-glorifying marriage is no less a gift and no less a ministry than is motherhood or overseas missions.
May the God who made you give you wisdom to receive the gifts He brings into your life.
Copyright 2012 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.