From my perspective, the Christian dating landscape has been less than ideal for a while now. Throughout my single 20s, dates were scarce, and I wondered if I’d ever meet a godly man who wanted to marry me. I eventually did (in my 30s), but my years of singleness showed me how out-of-my-control the road to matrimony truly was.
According to a recent article, the pandemic has ushered in challenges for both married couples and those wanting to get married.
Overall, people have become more cautious amid the pandemic, said sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.
“This caution is making them less likely to get divorced, less likely to get married, less likely to have a child,” he said.
It’s not too surprising that we’d notice a decline in marriages during a global health crisis. But I think if we look at the issues that have generally besieged Christian dating in our generation, a hyper-cautious approach to marriage has been one of them. Gone are the days where you meet someone in high school, go steady for a few months, and get engaged and marry by 22; at least that’s not the norm. Millennials have been much more aware of the potential pitfalls of marriage. And honestly, with many of our parents divorcing, the caution is not entirely unwarranted.
But how do we keep caution in its place? How do we take appropriate risks in a culture terrified of commitment? How do we set ourselves up for God-honoring romantic relationships and lasting marriages? Here are a few of my ideas.
Maintain your first love.
Something I’ve observed as I’ve matured in life and my faith is that all human relationships are temporary. Even a committed marriage is only until “death do us part.” But as a believer, when I have no one else, I still have Jesus. In Revelation 2:4, God tells the church of Ephesus, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (NASB).
One of the best ways to minimize fear and increase trust in God in the area of romantic relationships is to nurture your love for Christ. This can happen in many ways from personal devotions and prayer, to Bible studies, to a church service, to listening to worship music in your car. Even when the outlook isn’t great for your love life, the powerful love of Christ can and will sustain you.
I often hear singles talk about the fear of rejection that comes with putting themselves out there with something like online dating or asking someone out on a date. Staying home (especially now) and binging Netflix is the path of least resistance, but it also doesn’t throw you into the path of new people.
As a single, I cultivated some hobbies that helped me meet people and build relationships. I was part of an improv comedy troupe (which, on top of creating networking opportunities, was just a lot of fun) and I participated in leadership of the young adult group at my church. In my early 20s, I trained for my first 5K and ran close to a dozen other races after that one. Running became a great social outlet for me — something to do with friends and acquaintances.
An introvert by nature, I was also intentional about saying yes to gatherings. I often talked to new people at a church event or a friend’s barbecue. Pursuing healthy relationships of all kinds built my relational IQ, taught me conflict-resolution techniques, and added joy and depth to my life.
Hold onto hope.
Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” and boy was that my experience with being single. I hated seeing fatalistic statistics about the decline of marriage when there were no eligible men in sight. During that time, I wrote a series of blog posts on the topic of trusting God with relationships. In that series, I talked about how difficult it can be to hope in the Lord in the midst of extended singleness.
For the everyday pain singles face while they’re waiting for a spouse, I am reminded of two principles for living. First, regardless of whether God blesses me in this way, I am called to trust Him. In a very painful and confusing situation, Job said: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15).
Second, God is all-powerful and my lack of a spouse has nothing to do with His ability to provide. Not only that, but He wants good for me. Consider 1 Corinthians 2:9: “However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.’”
Hope in Christ is secure hope. Even when the world’s forecast doesn’t look good, God is bigger. He is trustworthy. We may not want to throw caution to the wind, but as we make Jesus our foundation, we can live with boldness and hope.
Copyright 2021 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.