In the fall of 2007, I wrote a series for the Boundless blog called “Trusting God With Relationships.” At the time, I was single and rapidly approaching my 30th birthday. The series generated hundreds of comments from readers who found themselves in a similar place.
Two and a half years later, my life has changed drastically; in the course of nine months, I began dating, became engaged to and married the man God chose for me. In light of what has happened since I wrote these posts, I believe even more fervently the truths contained within. And so I have adapted them as an article series.
I often notice people becoming uptight when we begin discussing the issue of trusting God with relationships. This is because they equate trust in God with passivity. But since when did “trusting God” mean “do nothing?” We’re all rather attached to eating, right? But do we sit at home waiting for meals to come to us? No, we work to purchase food. Similarly, if you want the job, you apply for the job. If you want to get involved in your church, you show up at the small group. And if you want to get married, you take initiative with members of the opposite sex by building healthy relationships with them and either pursuing or being open to pursuit.
Men, if you want to get married and the Lord has clearly (or possibly) put a godly woman in your life, do something about it. My friend Jacob is a missionary in Europe. He met Amber when he first moved there three years ago, and their paths continued to cross. One night a group got together to watch a movie, and Jacob looked at Amber sitting next to him on the couch and thought, Why have I never considered her? Wow. She’s a godly woman. They began dating and last month he proposed to her during a team trip to Paris. They’ll marry in January.
Women often feel they are completely powerless. But they may not realize that their negative perceptions of the guys who are not asking them out may be keeping those very guys away. One male friend described this attitude as “poison.” I had to confront this attitude in myself several years ago:
My mom recently asked, “So what are you looking for in a guy these days?”
My reply was, “I’m not sure, but I know what I’m not looking for.”
This statement reveals a critical attitude that on further consideration I believe is unbecoming of a Christian woman. Regardless of whether these men are potential mates, I should be considering how I can spur them on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). As I allow God to replace judgment and criticism with openness and love, I will be nurturing characteristics valuable in a marriage relationship.
Women, do your very best to be receptive to every guy who shows interest. It doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every date. It does mean that you treat men with respect and choose to look for the best in them. It may also mean being open beyond your comfort zone.
I’m not talking undisciplined vulnerability here. I’m suggesting Christian women not rely on worldly dating games, such as playing “hard to get.” Certainly you will make yourself unattractive if you throw yourself at the guy, but staunchly refusing to ever reciprocate signs of interest may discourage him. These tendencies are often based in pride: It’s his job to pursue ME. I deserve to be pursued. What you mean is “I deserve to be pursued in the way I THINK a man should pursue me.”
A lot of healing needs to take place between the sexes. We should be the aroma of Christ to one another. Trusting God with relationships does not mean sitting at home and never interacting with the opposite sex. It means deliberately walking the straight path, keeping your eyes open to the possibilities.
Building Trust Between Sexes
One reason it is difficult to trust God with relationships is a lack of confidence or distrust in the opposite sex. Christian singles may be hitting the same barriers to marriage as those with a worldly mindset — hesitancy to commit, lack of viable choices in partner, a desire to establish wealth and possessions first — but here’s the honest truth: Christians need to have a radically different perspective about the opposite sex, dating and marriage. Consider Corinthians 5:17-19:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
Several months ago, I was stunned by one Boundless blog reader’s response to my blog. He said, “It’s obvious there’s a lot of woundedness here.” Each sex feels wounded by the other. Women feel slighted because the men they believe should be asking them out either won’t take a risk or seem uninterested in committing to a relationship. Men are frustrated because the women they’d like to get to know either won’t give them a chance or send them mix signals. Our first reaction is to blame others. “I’m doing everything right. It’s him/her who is holding up the process!”
I recently heard some great advice for getting along with people who naturally irritate you. When this person says something that irritates you, instead of assigning motives (I know she said that to boast or I know he said that to manipulate), pour in as much grace as possible. Choose to be compassionate and look for what is really going on beneath the statement (Maybe she’s feeling insecure or maybe he feels I don’t trust him). Perhaps your reaction wasn’t appropriate or was fueled by your own past hurts.
Focus on the Family promotes the Love and Respect conference. The central idea of these conferences is that women need love and men need respect. This is a breakthrough concept for married couples. However, single men and women are motivated by these same responses. As a woman, are you seeking to respect the single men you know or are you tearing them down (even just in your mind)? As a man, are you looking to care for the women you know or do you cast a suspicious eye on them, afraid they’ll get the wrong idea? As singles, we have not been very successful in cultivating an attitude of love and respect. I have experienced a love and respect dynamic in micro-settings, and I believe it’s the best start for a healthy, godly relationship.
Part of trusting God with relationships is discerning how He would renew our minds and make us new creations. If we’re not seeking this with all our hearts, the ministry of reconciliation — particularly between the sexes — will fail. If Christian relationships, and the way we go about them, were radically different from the world, it might send a message to the world about the reconciliation offered in God through Christ.
Trusting God in the Dark
I cannot conclude this series without considering the formidable task of trusting God with relationships in the absence of possibilities. When there’s a promising online match, a friendship that appears to be blossoming into more or an interesting fellow you met at that last wedding you attended, trust is a bit easier. There’s something tangible to rest your hope in (even if it never goes anywhere).
But what of the dry spells? I discussed this in an article I wrote last year:
I am single. I’m not ashamed to say it. Most of the time I’m OK with it. By “OK” I mean I don’t break down in tears after attending my fifth wedding in one summer. I don’t mourn with a tub of mint chocolate chip and “Sleepless in Seattle” every time I have a quiet Saturday night … or four. And I barely cringe when my married friends get a twinkle in their eye and utter those dreaded words: “Soooo (they drag this word out endlessly), is there a guy in your life?”
I smile and explain (with maybe a bit of overcompensating enthusiasm) that there’s not currently a special someone (nor has there been for three years), but I’m confident, in God’s perfect timing, the right one will come along.
I know from experience, this kind of waiting gets old. Really old. Relationship advice is all well and good, but how do you apply it to the reality of no viable options? I cannot tell you that God will deliver you a spouse. I can tell you He cares about you deeply, is invested in this idea of marriage and has the power to provide a godly mate. Still, I also know you can’t negotiate with God to secure that person.
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.'”
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when enduring a dry spell is to avoid giving in to bitterness. Not only will it render you spiritually useless, but others will cease to be drawn to you.
Along with pursuing the straight path, rejoicing in God’s romantic heart, actively building community and seeking to respect and build up the men I know, I must choose to live in the life-giving joy of Christ. The truth is, the Lord is worthy of my trust even when I don’t see how He’s working. And because of that, in the dry spell, I still have hope.
On Jan. 21, 2009, I met with a young man from my church to discuss starting a young adult Bible study. God worked in spectacular and specific ways to bring us together, and by March we knew He was calling us be married and spend our lives serving Him together.
On Sept. 12, I married the man I had been waiting for — and I caught a fresh glimpse of God’s beautiful, incomprehensible care for me. He truly did more for me than I had “asked or imagined” (Ephesians 3:20).
Now I endeavor to walk the straight path with another, living in the glorious hope of the One who has called me.
Copyright 2009 Suzanne Gosselin. All rights reserved.