Trusting God with Relationships, Part 4

Trusting God with Relationships, Part 4

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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.

This doesn't mean just go out and pursue anyone and everyone. From a female perspective, I can say that this is perhaps one of the most odious patterns we observe in single guys. The guy who is clearly not discerning in his choice of date but employs a shotgun approach. One time I turned down a guy's invite to accompany him to a party because I already had plans. Thirty minutes later he called back and asked my roommate to the same party. I'm sure his intentions were pure, but his actions gave the impression that it mattered little to him which girl he took.

However, 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. I will address this more in my next blog. 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.

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  • Comment by  AdamSloope:

    It is amazing to read this article and know a Christian woman wrote it. It's great to see no walls up in this blog.  I recently wrote in my own personal blog that if each person involved in a dating relationship would enter it with humility and honesty, things would work out.  I think both sides, mostly mine (the guys) beocme prideful and think we deserve something.  But the reality is just that, we don't deserve anything and God calls us to humility.  I think men and women alike should learn how to not take the whole dating process personally, but look at is an organiz expression of what God gave us the desire to do, find a companion, a help mate if you would.  There is nothing wrong with dating, like so mnay college and single ministries have been brain washed to think.  Great post!

  • Comment by  Tami:

    Thanks, Suzanne. This was really encouraging! This especially:

    "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."

    I think this message gets lost in some of the Christian courting/dating etc. literature. Maybe it's just me, but I read a couple of Elisabeth Elliot's books in college/postcollege, and I got the exact opposite message - to the point where I've (at certain times in the past) thought that showing ANY sign of interest prior to a guy's "statement of intent for courtship" was somehow ungodly, or destined to get me in a heap of trouble for not waiting on the Lord. Meanwhile, all the other girls were chasing after guys, and getting them. So I appreciate hearing this from you.

    I'm not one to chase, but I guess good guys like to hear that women appreciate them once in a while? Who knew? ;) j/k

  • Comment by  tiredlonelytwentysomethingwoman:

    Dear Suzanne,

    as much as I appreciate that post, how do I REALLY go about doing that? I'm not going to activities and going to church to pursue a relationship. I am keeping my eyes open to possibilities, but how do you continue this pattern when all you see around you is so much immaturity? I go to a church with a lot of young adults. Many early to late twentysomethings still act like they're still in college, and some even still have the "big man on campus" mentality when it comes to dating. I could give you a list of qualities in the kind of man I would choose to marry, and it's not based on my detractions about guys. It's based on issues of character, growth, and direction.

    At this point I'm wondering if maybe I'm supposed to be single...

  • Comment by  Tami:

    TLTW, my suggestion is to pray for the young men in the church, that they grow in the Lord, if you aren't already.

    I could've written your post a year or two ago. Since I started praying for the men in my church to grow in the Lord, I've seen awesome growth in their lives. Is God working because of my prayers? Or has He just given me eyes to see what He is doing? Yes.

    A note of (I hope) encouragement to you: It has taken considerable "reconstructive soul work" (i.e. time in prayer and the Word) and faith on my part to recognize that God sees me. He knows my heart, and knows that I am doing my best to seek Him and obey Him. I say this because I know it's easy to *not* recognize that when you *feel like* He is passing you over. But He is NOT. Don't fall for that lie.

  • Comment by  Kyu:

    What about for youth group kids?  What type of message should we be sending to them?  I'd like to get people's opinions on this based on their own experiences.  (ie, did your youth pastor tell you not to date in high school? Or did they never discuss this topic at all?)

    [I believe that if you're not ready to marry, then you're not ready to date; and we should make this clear to them now.  But does anyone disagree by thinking that it's not our business as youth leaders and teachers to teach them this?]

  • Comment by  NeedACatchyName:

    This is really an awesome post Suzanne.  It's great to see a post on Boundless that call both genders to examine themselves, their motives, and their approaches to dating, instead of pointing fingers and blaming other people on the ills that have infected Christian dating.

    Oh, and as a guy, I can say that this comment by Tami:

    "I'm not one to chase, but I guess good guys like to hear that women appreciate them once in a while? Who knew? ;) j/k"

    is 100% correct.  While girls shouldn't have to "chase" or "pursue" guys, when a girl is completely cold or trying not to show any interest at all in a guy who might be pursuing, most guys just interpret this as a sign that the girl just isn't interested and therefore there is no real point in pursuing her.  Again, that doesn't mean that you should pursue guys or ask them out, but it does mean that you can show a little interest back when a guy shows interest in you.

  • Comment by  K:

    Tired & Lonely -- Hmm, you might consider a different church. If your church only has 1) immature men or 2) older men with "lust in their eyes," as you mentioned in another post, then something seems off. If this turns into a recurring pattern no matter what church you're at, then it might be time to reevaluate things.

    On a side topic, I appreciate Suzanne's perspective. Personally, I think women take this "let him be the pursuer" stuff too seriously sometimes. If you're interested in someone, be a bit flirty (if flirty is your style), or reciprocate signs of interest, or just start a conversation. Signaling interest in someone is not the same thing as chasing them down, tackling them, and shrieking, "Marry me!"

  • Comment by  Ben:

    "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."

    This is so true, at least from this man's perspective.  God designed men to pursue, and we are thrilled to do so, and God designed women to respond.  The response helps drive and fuel the pursuit.  If a man's every attempt at pursuit is met with seeming disinterest or the "hard-to-get" attitude, what motive is there to keep pursuing?  My married friends all say the same thing in this regard.  The man is to engage and the woman is to respond and that is what makes dating and marriage beautiful.

  • Comment by  Carrie:

    Tired, lonely -- in several of your recent posts I'm hearing some of the thoughts I have often.

    I'm just going to respond to your last sentence "At this point I'm wondering if maybe I'm supposed to be single".

    My advice is: Yes, if you are not married, then you are single. You are single until you say "I do" and kiss. I'm sensing that you think God is holding out on you (as I tend to think from time to time). As I learn more and more how to be a good friend in general, I can tell you that relationships can get very sticky. Often, we long for that emotional high that a relationship with the opposite gender can bring. I am very guilty of this. I keep learning that I need to put the other person's needs ahead of my own. When I see how much dying to self is required, I often want to crawl into my little corner and hide. When a relationship happens, it'll be good. Just be patient. God is still good.

  • Comment by  Childlesssinglewoman:

    Carrie - Tired, lonely etc's comment was "At this point I'm wondering if maybe I'm supposed to be single..."

    I think the point you missed was the "supposed to be" bit.

    But to address the main point, let's imagine for a moment that the comment was about sickness rather than singleness. If a person is sick, should they ask whether maybe they are "supposed" to be sick? Or do they pray (and seek prayer from others) for healing and also make an appointment to see a doctor? (Being a co-worker with God in other words.)

    Just because a woman is single does not mean a) she is "supposed to be single", nor does it mean b) she needs to be patient and wait for the Lord to bring her husband to her. (And btw, I don't think it is just a case of longing for the "emotional high that a relationship with the opposite gender can bring". We are hardwired for marriage, with very few exceptions!)

    In my opinion we are getting all over-spiritual and muddled because of two main issues that the contemporary church is dealing (or not dealing) with:

    1) The lack of men in church circles, which has wide-ranging implications even for the single men in the church, not just the single women (and the Body as a whole, and our ability to impact our culture).

    2) The very new teaching of the "gift of singleness" and all the other modern spin-offs (ie. waiting on the Lord for a spouse, Jesus is all you need etc)

    We really have got ourselves in a muddle and are trying to explain it away with holy-sounding gobbledygook (words with "the appearance of wisdom" as the Bible seems to me to label this type of thing) that makes it seem like all this singleness and barrenness amongst Christian women is very pleasing to God and exactly how He wants it to be!

    We need to outreach to men as a matter of absolute priority, stop making excuses for the resulting widespread singleness by inventing new doctrines, and encourage the single men in the church to be serious about the Godly pursuit of marriage.

    I think then we won't need to worry about "making an idol out of marriage" (another way to make women feel guilty about their desire to be a wife!) or whether God is trying to teach us "patience" (when His very design ie. the biological clock seems to disprove this theory straight out in any case!).

  • Comment by  BDB:

    Tami wrote:

    >>but I read a couple of Elisabeth Elliot's books in college/postcollege, and I got the exact opposite message ... showing ANY sign of interest prior to a guy's "statement of intent for courtship" was somehow ungodly,<<

    Well, keep in mind that the examples in EE's books are real life examples, she didn't make those up.  But she did a good job of gathering together 20 different examples of how people met.  Only two of them involved the woman showing zero outward interest.  In both cases the women had reached a point spiritually where they wanted to be totally obedient to God.

    I'll grant you that the only men who will move forward without any visable interest are those who have read stories like that, and/or those who've learned to do what God tells them to do even when it seems preposterous.

    See Acts 9:10-19, where God instructed Ananias to go pray for Saul and restore his sight.  His first response was, "God, that's crazy."  (Loosely translated.)  But God explained it to him, and he obeyed.

    But not everyone is at that level of spiritual maturity.  If you really believe that God is telling you to show no interest, then you better make darn sure you're being obedient in every other area of your life.  For example, if God nudges you to go volunteer in a ministry you've never tried before, you better do it; there's a real possibility that God will nudge the guy to volunteer in the same place; and he will be able to observe your character without dating you.  I can tell quite a bit more about someone's character in a volunteer situation than I can in a social situation: do they show up consistently, how do they handle things when the plan goes awry, does she treat others with respect, etc.

    In fact, here's another piece.  In one of the ministries I'm volunteering in, I introduced myself to a woman who I had never seen before.  She responded that she had seen me around.  This got my attention for two reasons: 1) she noticed me before I noticed her, and 2) I wondered how long she'd been watching me without saying anything - not to mention wondering what I was doing at the time.  But since I've volunteered in a bunch of different settings, it could be a dozen different things.  I'm volunteering in public after all.  I just hope I wasn't doing anything stupid.

  • Comment by  Y:

    Suzanne,

    Thank you for writing the article. Until recently, I've been really passive in my search for a future life-partner. After my last serious relationship with a fellow sister at church failed, I refused to look at or hope that another lady at church as a potential wife. But at the encouragement of the Pastor and a few brothers in Christ, I started seeing how many great, single and godly ladies there are who are around my age.

    I started pursuing one recently, and did the total opposite of how I would normally start a serious relationship with a member of the opposite sex. I came straight out and told her that I was interested, and like her from my observations of her in church group activities, and I asked her out for some activities and fellowship to get to know her better on a personal level.

    Things went great, and I started to know this godly and extremely attractive woman, but lately she asked for some time and space alone to sort out her feelings and to seek God in whether to continue the relationship or not. I'm still praying for her every day, and I really hope that she and I can be more than just brothers and sisters or friends in Christ, and I know that God is in control, but I can rest in the thought that I've done my part in telling her what's in my heart.

  • Comment by  sandra:

    BDB,

    I am a single with LOTS of time on my hands.  You mentioned that you volunteer at a lot of places.  What sorts of places do you volunteer at?  

    I'm just wondering, because I'd also like to help out in my community, but I never hear of any opportunities!

  • Comment by  Ariana:

    The fact that so, so many singles have the same struggle seems significant to me, especially given that many are Christians who are faithful to the Lord.

    The best that I have been able to make of it has been to consider marriage a gift, like every other blessing we are given.  And not all people are given the same gifts.  There are things that I have and am able to enjoy that my fellow believers do not.  Also, I have experienced protracted painful periods in my life that others have not.  I don't know that singleness is qualitatively different from those other times.  We can say, "It is not good for man to be alone," in order to convince ourselves that romantic companionship is a *need* and therefore bolster our hope that God will meet our need.  But I don't know if that's the point.  Since the Lord does leave many people single for long periods of time, whether they *need* a companion or not, I think that He calls us to genuinely rejoice always and abound in the fruit of the Spirit in every situation and phase of life in which we find ourselves.  In order to genuinely rejoice there's a way in which we have to let go of marriage as the answer to our lives.

    Marriage is one other way of the Lord manifesting His goodness and love, and one other way for us to participate in His goodness and show forth the fruits of the Spirit.  If we are lonely, it's not because we're single--it's because there's a depth of relationship and connectedness missing from our lives (esp. since lots of marrieds are unhappy).  Marriage may be the most easily identifiable  solution to that lack, but it is by no means the only one.  

    Finding the alternatives takes work, particularly in our culture.  But God is faithful.  I've been amazed by the unexpected ways that the Lord has answered prayers in this phase that tends toward loneliness.  Finding a good romantic relationship is the most obvious solution to the struggles of a single.  But I do think that the Lord would have us look under other rocks and open our minds about how He might answer our prayers, and thus open our hearts to other goods that He has for us, that we can't see because we're so focused on this one.  

  • Comment by  Paul:

    Tired and lonely,

    I've sometimes struggled with the idea (which probably comes from either my weak human nature or the enemy) that God's will could possibly be this oppressive thing that will be exactly opposite my desires for my life (finding a Godly woman to spend my life with being one of them). However, I'm really starting to believe that God doesn't place these things on your heart if He doesn't intend to fulfill them.  I'd take an introspective view of things and find out if God is truly calling you to singleness (lack of availiable males would not count). If not, then do what you can, pray, trust, and then don't worry... and also, don't turn down any social occasions from good people! :)

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