There was a time when people considered courtship old-fashioned, but now even dating seems to be passé. Is there any hope left for either? I still think so. It may not be easy in our hookup culture, but dating can still be redeemed. Here are six components that we desperately need to recover.

1. Know what time it is.

As Proverbs 18:22 says, “He that findeth a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” This shouldn’t need saying, but it does: men, there is a time to seek a wife. After all, “he that findeth” implies “he be looking!”

I’m consistently surprised at how many guys want to get married and show literally no intentionality. Many are just too cowardly to put themselves out there and possibly be rejected. So they arrange what is now known as the “sneak-a-date,” where they just happen to be at the same place as a girl they like. (“Oh, look, we’re here together again! How about that?”)

Fellas, please find your spines. When it’s time to seek a wife, do it with boldness. Put on a shirt with buttons. Bathe. Shave. Actually ask her out on a date. And when you know it’s right, don’t string her along. Marry her. Know what time it is in your life. And if it’s time to get married, then act decisively.

2. Don’t play the “God Card.”

If I had the power, I would once and for all abolish the practice of people playing the “Dating God Card.” You know what I mean. It’s the whole, “God told me that we are going to get married.” I’ve been on the receiving end of that … several times. Most people in our church have probably, at one time or another, heard this holy-sounding hogwash. But God’s not asking this girl out: you are. So ask, and don’t hide behind God.

3. Marry (and date) in the faith.

One of the most damaging things you can do to your children and grandchildren is to marry a non-believer. I see it so much, and it breaks my heart. People in our church begin dating someone they like, but that person isn’t a Christian. “No big deal,” they think. “He’ll probably come around someday.”

First of all, that’s probably not true. But here’s the bigger question: have you thought about your future kids at all? The biggest impact on your kids’ spiritual lives is going to be your spouse. Do you really want to make their most formative influence someone who doesn’t share your faith? Do you realize how incredibly selfish that is—that you would lay your children’s souls on the altar of your own short-lived passions?

God doesn’t tell you to avoid marrying non-believers because he’s out to spoil your fun. He’s thinking about your faith and the faith of your kids, even if you aren’t.

4. Seek character.

As the Apostle Peter said, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, … [but] that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3).

What makes character so beautiful? As Peter says, it is “unfading.” Physical beauty (what we usually care about in dating) simply doesn’t last. With age, we all sag and wrinkle and gray. But it’s not only age: the power of a person’s beauty doesn’t last, either. Psychologists tell us that romantic relationships start off with 12-18 months of infatuation. At the time, you think that feeling will last forever. But the impact fades. Just wait a year.

Wisdom in dating means prioritizing character. Watch how the other person treats their family. Notice if they honor their commitments. And—this is huge—see if they can keep their hands off of you. If they can’t control themselves now, they aren’t likely to control themselves in other ways once you’re married.

And while you are on the lookout for a spouse of good character, you had better focus on its development in you. As Andy Stanley says, “Are you the person that the person you’re looking for…is looking for?”

5. Don’t ignore godly counsel.

In what is arguably the most important decision of our lives, we tend to isolate ourselves and tell ourselves that “our heart knows best.” Well, it doesn’t. Your heart is an emotional sucker, and when you’re infatuated, it’s a complete emotional idiot.

We all need a community around us to speak into our lives with wisdom. This is particularly true of dating. Godly friends can raise a red flag when we think things are just fine; they can also let us know when we’re hung up on something that shouldn’t actually matter. As Matt Chandler put it, “One sure way to walk in foolishness in a romantic relationship is to date someone who troubles the godly counselors in your life.”

6. Trust God and don’t compromise.

It may sound trite, but Christians need to simply trust that following God is worth it. The proof of trust is that you won’t compromise, even when things get difficult. So when you want to get married and it’s not happening on your timetable, you have a choice—trust God or compromise. Faith isn’t shown in your high intentions, but by refusing to compromise when things don’t go your way. 

Your Father knows your struggles. He knows your desires. Jesus said that not even a hair would fall from your head without God knowing. He certainly knows how important this is to you. And he is watching over you, ready to help if you ask. So ask, trust…and obey.

 

For more, be sure to listen to the entire message here.