My name's Tim, and I'm 19. I'm one of those people who never dated through high school, and it's never really bothered me before. However, recently (past few months or so) I've become increasingly conscious of being single. While I acknowledge that it isn't something that should concern me, I can't help but feel lonely or sad (pinch-in-the-chest feeling) whenever anything related to dating is brought to my attention. How should I react to this change in myself?
Thanks for your question. Let me offer some thoughts about how to "react" to these new feelings that I hope will encourage you.
First, you can take comfort in the fact that your increased desire for intimate fellowship with a godly woman is normal, good and right. Embrace that desire and cultivate it according to the biblical design. That means acknowledging your feelings not just as a desire for female companionship, but as a desire for marriage.
As I and others have written in numerous Boundless articles, the Bible treats marriage — at least for people who do not feel particularly equipped to remain single and celibate for biblical reasons (see 1 Corinthians 7) — as a normal part of growing into godly maturity. Jesus himself and other biblical authors treat marriage as a part of the normal progression into biblical manhood and adult life. Jesus described the usual life people were engaged in before the flood (and will be in the times just before Christ's return) as "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage" (Matthew 24:38). Also, in Luke 20:34-35, Jesus draws a distinction between normal life before His return ("The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage" and after our resurrection from the dead, in which we "neither marry nor are given in marriage"). We also see both Paul and Peter positively describe marriage as a wonderful picture of the Gospel and a relationship that sanctifies and protects and enriches the lives of God's people.
In other words, your desire is a good thing. Too many young men your age continue to show no interest in pursuing marriage because it represents a level of responsibility and maturity that they don't want to embrace. As I write below, you'll want to think through the right time and way to approach dating and marriage, but you're certainly on the right track in desiring it.
Second, if you're not already doing so, begin deliberately preparing to be a godly husband, which essentially means consciously seeking to grow as a Christian and as a man. I know that sounds basic, but to be a godly husband is to be a godly leader (Ephesians 5:25-30), and that means having a basically solid and consistent walk with Christ yourself. Join a good, biblical church and get really involved. Make it a priority to be at every service. If the church has small groups or other discipleship opportunities, take advantage of those things. Get to know people, and just as importantly, be transparent and let people get to know you. Look for ways to serve others. Be involved in the church's ministries. Seek out an older, more mature Christian brother (preferably married) and ask him to disciple you — maybe with a particular focus on preparing for marriage, but certainly with an eye toward maturing in Christ generally. Cultivate self-discipline, consistency and faithfulness in the way that you serve others. All these things will stand you in good stead as you consider and ultimately pursue marriage.
And that's the third step: pursue. I generally counsel single men and women alike that they should start dating once they can comfortably see themselves married in a year's time. The purpose of dating is to find a spouse, and if you are not in a position to marry, for whatever reason, then you are not in a position to pursue a dating relationship — no matter what your desires might be telling you. Think this through for yourself with the help of mature believers who know you well (one of the reasons to join a good church, by the way, is so those relationships exist when it comes time to seek counsel in major life decisions!).
Nineteen is young, but not necessarily too young to start preparing and even to pursue. What is your financial situation? Are you in school? Would it be feasible for you to marry before graduating if you found the right woman? How would your family or other mature believers characterize your readiness for marriage? These and other questions will be important in deciding whether you are ready to begin dating and seeking out a spouse, or if you hold at the "preparing" stage for a bit.
The last thing I'll mention (I'm not mentioning it last because it is least in importance!) is to pray. You are right that this is not something to be anxious about, but these desires can tend to come on pretty strong once awakened and take up a lot of spiritual and emotional energy. Pray for wisdom. Pray that the Lord would help you to combat the feelings of sadness and loneliness and to find satisfaction in Him as you grow and search for a wife. Pray that He would prepare you to be a godly husband and that He would provide a wife for you in His timing.
Pray. Seek counsel. Prepare and be patient. The Lord is faithful. If you think through these things well and take some of the steps I've talked about, then for my money, you will have "reacted" in a godly and faithful way to your new feelings. I will pray that the Lord, in His goodness, would provide you wisdom, comfort — and ultimately, a wife.
Copyright 2014 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.