What if I don’t feel peace in my dating relationship?
I’ve been pursuing a woman for about six months, and I’m still unsettled. Our relationship began in the most honorable way possible on my end, and the Lord really has given us a lot of unity in our beliefs about Scripture, the family, money, and physical intimacy. She’s gentle, sweet, incredibly humble, and helpful beyond description. She loves my family, and I adore hers.
The complication is that we met in college, and she graduated recently, returning home a few states a way. The Lord has provided me a truly miraculous opportunity to pursue her in her hometown this summer with a place to stay and eat basically for free as well as a job and provided transportation.
Everything looks great. But everything doesn’t feel great. I just can’t come to a place where I’m completely at peace, and I don’t know if the Lord would have me stay to learn to love like Christ or if this is His sign to trust Him by giving up such a good thing. Any thoughts on how to seek Him more accurately?
Thanks for writing. Believe me when I tell you that you are not the first person (or the 100th) to struggle with that final bit of commitment in what seems to be an otherwise “marriage-ready” relationship. Your question about how to seek God more “accurately” on this is a great one to ask. Let me offer some thoughts that I hope will lend a helpful perspective.
One thing to mention straight away is that you seem to be relying a lot on feelings to make this really significant decision (“unsettled,” can’t get “completely at peace,” etc.). If I’ve understood you correctly, you seem even to be elevating certain feelings to a level of decisive authority as to whether you should proceed.
As I’ve written in this space before, feelings obviously have their place in helping us discern what our hearts desire, but normally the main way God authoritatively leads His people is not through subjective feelings but through His Word. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that “[a]ll Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (emphasis added). This is the main passage supporting the doctrine of the “sufficiency of Scripture,” which just means that God’s Word is sufficient to guide us in all areas of life and doctrine — even areas of life not explicitly dealt with in Scripture. As a general matter, I would encourage you to look to God’s Word in your decision-making instead of waiting for an authoritative “feeling” from God. A great book on this idea is Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something.
There are a couple of other things to consider that are more specific to your situation. First, as to your feelings, “complete peace,” for many people, is a pretty high bar in a fallen world. Marriage is obviously a really significant, life-long commitment, and a lot of people are scared by it no matter how good a particular situation looks. Let me encourage you not to jeopardize or jettison what sounds like a wonderful woman and relationship simply because you are not completely without worry or trepidation about marriage. If you are like many people, you will have that twinge of worry no matter who is sitting across the table from you.
Also, I would advise you to seek counsel from a brother or couple in your church who know you well to kick the tires on what’s really bothering you. Are you concerned for her, or are the specifics of your worry more self-focused? I know what you wrote in your question, but are you really thinking that the Lord might want you to call things off, or is that spiritual language camouflaging a desire for the perfect at the expense of the very good? I’m not saying there are necessarily sinful answers on the other side of these questions — there may well not be. But the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9), so it’s worth some self-examination and some transparent conversations with people who know and love you before you make a big decision based on a gut feeling.
Again, as a theological matter, the Lord simply does not work in the lives of His people by mystically and capriciously “directing” them, for no particular reason, to give up what His Word otherwise calls good, wise, biblical pursuits and blessings. (See Matthew 7:9-11, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”)
And marriage is just such a blessing. Marriage is a good gift that is part of God’s creation order (Genesis 2); Jesus seems to treat marriage as part of the normal progression of life (Luke 17:26-27); and Paul affirms and instructs on marriage in multiple passages (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 7; Ephesians 5:22-33). In other words, marriage is a good, normal thing to be pursued for those of us not called to long-term singleness and celibacy — which is most of us.
Obviously, I don’t know you, your girlfriend or the specifics of your situation, but taking the description in your question at face value, it seems, shall we say, quite positive. The Lord has given you agreement on major theological and marital issues; your girlfriend seems to have godly character, and you have great affection for her. You have pursued her in a holy and honorable way — you even like each other’s families! On top of all that — to the extent that, in His kind providence, the Lord secondarily uses circumstances to guide us — He seems to have set you up with an ideal (“miraculous”) logistical situation in which to pursue this woman further. I assure you that all of the above is not a giant, mystical “Psych!” from God whereby He is actually “telling” you through a still, small voice to run screaming from His blessings just to prove that you trust Him. Even if God worked that way (which He doesn’t), you will have plenty of opportunities to trust God — and to learn to love like Christ (Ephesians 5:25) — in marriage, whether it’s to this woman or someone else.
In His providence, the Lord may yet — through biblical means and for biblical reasons — ultimately cause you to marry someone other than your current girlfriend. If that happens, it will be for His glory and for the good of both of you (Romans 8:28). In the meantime, lights don’t get much greener.
I will pray for wisdom and blessings for you both.
For His glory,
Copyright 2014 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.