Thanks for writing. I certainly understand why you’re torn, and I’m glad to see you prioritizing your faith as you consider whether and when to date. I know (from experience!) that when you’re sixteen and interested in pursuing a relationship, taking the topic “out of your mind” can be pretty much impossible. I can at least offer some suggestions for thinking the issue through and pursuing singleness well.
First things first – you are right that, when the time comes to start dating and pursuing a wife, you should limit your search to those women who clearly believe the Gospel and are walking with the Lord. The Bible teaches us that Christians are only to marry other Christians (1 Corinthians 7:39; Ephesians 5:25-33), which means that Christians should only date other Christians (more on that in a minute).
Even if there were more Christian girls at your school, however, I would not encourage you to pursue a dating relationship given your age and circumstances. As I’ve written on Boundless before, the purpose of dating is not just to have fun with no larger goal in mind, and it’s not to “practice” being married or relating to the opposite sex in a romantic way. The purpose of dating is to find a spouse (and to determine whether marriage to a particular person would be good and wise). I know that is exactly the opposite of what our culture – and certainly your peers and friends at school – will tell you, but there’s a lot of biblical support for that approach even though the Bible doesn’t ever directly discuss dating as it’s practiced today:
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-7:19 (command to be pure, seriousness of sexual sin and instructions regarding marriage)
- 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (do not wrong or defraud one another in relationships — by implying a relationship or commitment by your words or conduct that does not actually exist)
- Song of Solomon 2:7 (“do not awaken love before it pleases” — i.e. before the proper time, meaning marriage)
- Proverbs 6:20-7:27 (warning to avoid sexual sin and foolish relationships)
- James 1:13-15 (temptation is to be taken very seriously)
- Romans 13:8-14 (love others, work for their soul’s good; don’t look to please self)
- Romans 14:1-15:7 (favor others, not self — value what’s good to their souls)
- 1 Timothy 5:1-2 (treat single women as sisters in Christ, with absolute purity)
- Titus 2:1-8 (young men and women should focus on self-control/godliness)
Because of my views about how believers should approach dating, I generally counsel people that if they are in a position where they cannot picture themselves married within a year, they are not ready to date. Don’t get me wrong – I’m super pro-marriage, and I think people are often “ready” and able to be married at a younger age than they think. So, for example, I think it’s often fine (though challenging) for people to be married before they finish college. But even I think that in today’s society, pursuing marriage before one has finished (or at least is of the age to have finished) high school is a touch early.
So as a 16-year-old believer, how can you use your singleness well, and how should you be relating to the opposite sex? The answer to the first question is pretty simple (though not easy): focus on growing in Christ and growing into godly manhood. There are tons of ways to do that – from developing good practices in personal and spiritual disciplines, to reading good books, to investing deeply in your church and youth group, to pursuing accountability and discipleship relationships, to preparing diligently for college and the working world, to other things too numerous to list here. If you want to look back on your late teenage years and find that you used them well, keeping that larger goal in mind is a big step.
As for relating to girls your age at school, church and other social circles, treat them like friends and (if they’re believers) sisters in Christ. I generally counsel single people to be really cautious about intimate friendships with members of the opposite sex (especially that involve a lot of one-on-one time) because of the temptation to sexual sin, confusion and hurt they often cause, but you can read all about that in my other columns. In the meantime, hanging out in groups and casual friendships in the context of church, school, job – whatever – is perfectly appropriate and a great way to care for others.
As for the pressure you’re getting at school (probably on many more issues than just dating), I know it’s difficult, and I will pray for you in that. Remember that our response to attacks and pressure by the world is one of the ways to test our faith and to make sure it is genuine and really our own. Remember too that “[n]o temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
My friend, it’s a kindness of the Lord that he has brought you to himself at a young age, even if it means you have to wait for some of the good gifts he has for you. I doubt that anything I’ve written here will take dating totally off your mind, but I will pray that God will give you patience, faithfulness and wisdom as you wait on and pursue Him.
For His glory,
Copyright Scott Croft 2016. All rights reserved.