How should one date after several years away from Christ?
Great question. First of all, let me say I’m glad to hear that whatever else you’re thinking through with respect to life or marriage, you’ve returned to church and are seeking fellowship with God’s people.
To the heart of your question, there’s no magic amount of time after you re-engage that “qualifies” you to desire or search for a spouse. Given your situation, it will almost certainly be a more qualitative question of whether you are clearly walking with Christ and are spiritually healthy and grounded to the point that it’s wise for you to think about pursuing biblical marriage rather than just pursuing your own walk with Christ at a basic level.
In terms of how to get there — and how to discern when you’ve gotten there — there’s a lot you can do. First things first: Find a good, biblical church (for a quick read on how to think about the spiritual and biblical health of a church, I strongly recommend Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever) and really get plugged in. If the church has membership, join. Make it a priority to be at every service. If the church has small groups or one-on-one 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. It may take some work to find a good church and take these steps, but it is absolutely essential that you do.
I say all that for a couple of reasons. First, and most important, it’s for your spiritual good. All Christians need to hear and read God’s Word regularly, and we need other believers around us to build us up, hold us accountable, help us examine ourselves to make sure we are in Christ, and help us grow spiritually.
Second, all that stuff I suggested above will ultimately help prepare you to find, and more importantly, to be a good spouse. As I’ve written before, godly marriage can only be done by walking, growing Christians who are relying on Christ. The Bible is clear that believers are only to marry other believers. In 1 Corinthians 7:39, Paul instructs that marriages of believers are to be “only in the Lord” — that is, only to other Christians. Also, Ephesians 5:22-33, the fullest explanation we have in the Bible of what a godly, biblical marriage is, makes clear that what God calls us to in marriage — to bring God glory by intentionally reflecting the way Christ has loved the church and the way the church responds to the leadership of Christ — can only be carried out by people who are themselves in Christ.
If you get plugged into a good church in the way I’ve described above, you can be more confident that you will be growing spiritually. As you get to know more mature Christians and are discipled, there will be people in your life who are able to teach you about godly marriage and help you discern when and how to approach it. They can also vouch for potential spouses to you and vouch for you to others when and if that becomes helpful. As you serve in the church and minister to others, you will be around other godly single people — not a bad thing — and you will learn skills and characteristics that, among other things, will serve you well in marriage. And for purposes of finding a spouse, you’ll get to see who is serving faithfully and growing into godly men (or women, as appropriate) that might make a great marriage and ministry partner.
Bottom line: Engage with a good church, make sure you’re growing in Christ, then with prayer and counsel, start thinking about marriage.
I will pray for you to have wisdom as you pursue a life and marriage that glorify God.
Copyright 2013 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Scott Croft served for several years as chairman of the elders at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., where he wrote and taught the Friendship, Courtship & Marriage and Biblical Manhood & Womanhood CORE Seminars. Scott now lives in the Louisville, Ky., area with his wife, Rachel, and son, William, where he works as an attorney and serves as an elder of Third Avenue Baptist Church.