Love Intentionally by Lawson Bates
Let’s get honest for a second. Between dating, relationships, finding love, and pursing God's plan for my life, everything can feel pretty complicated at times, you know? As Christians, we all want to do things God's way, but how do we do that? How do we navigate our hearts safely through the world of romance and make sense of it all? Being single can feel tough, but there is something tougher: the scars and hurts from a relationship that wasn't built on the right foundation. No one has all the answers, but there are principles and truths from God's Word that will keep us from so much of the unnecessary pain that can come from our culture's casual, and often flippant idea of what dating, relationships and love should be. Here’s a few things we can do to live, love and date intentionally.
- Put Christ first.
The closer we are in our walk with Christ, the more selfless we will be. The further we drift in our walk, the more self-centered we become. Selfishness destroys any opportunity for a healthy relationship. Philippians 2:3 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves." Worldly wisdom says, "Live for YOU; do whatever makes you happy." Godly wisdom tells us exactly the opposite. If we're not willing to put ourselves second, we're not ready for any kind of relationship. 1 Peter 5:5 tells us to "clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." Self elevation will always lead to humiliation. When our focus is first and foremost on our walk with Christ, we'll realize the kind of love He has for us, and that's the kind of love we'll be able to show to others. As believers, that’s easy for us to all agree on, but do our actions, calendars, bank accounts, and thoughts show an allegiance to ourselves, or to God and others? Psalm 37:4 says, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." If we truly want God’s best for our future, we must learn to commune with Him - through daily Bible study, prayer, and a constant desire to seek & honor Him in our words, thoughts, actions, and goals.
- Find your confidence in Christ.
Confidence in yourself can quickly sour and turn to pride. Confidence in yourself says, “I'm cool; I'm awesome; I can do this.” That kind of confidence can easily turn to pride. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says, " So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!" Confidence in who you are in Christ, however, is acknowledging your weakness, but realizing that through His strength, you can be EVERYTHING He created you to be. Many young people try to find their self-worth in a relationship, in success, popularity, talent, good looks, etc...Remember this: You’re not defined by your body, social status, popularity, or what some guy says you are. You're defined by who you are in Christ! You're priceless, so you should act like it. I'm not saying to think of yourself better than others by saying you are priceless, but rather to remember that you are made in God’s image, and your life should reflect Him. True contentment and value in life is only found in a life lived fully surrendered to Him – a life passionately desiring to pleasing Him. Understand that you don't have to drop your standards or try to change who you are to get a guy's attention. You may get attention, but it won't be from the kind of guy that will help you be a Godlier person. NO RELATIONSHIP can meet the needs that only Christ can. If you're not confident in who you are in Christ, don't think you'll find that confidence or peace in another relationship.
- Choose substance over style.
How much does the person you're interested in encourage you in your daily walk with Christ? Do they see the best in you and help bring that best out? You know what's so much more important than being #goals on your socials? Having a pure heart toward God. It’s easy to focus on a person’s outward appearance instead of looking at their heart, but Proverbs 11:30 says, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives." What is the fruit of their life? How is their character? Are they diligent, thoughtful, patient, forgiving, trustworthy, obedient, respectful, etc.? We should constantly be asking ourselves the same questions. All throughout the Book of Proverbs, God warns about flattery. Sweet words may draw us to someone, but we need to look past the surface to see what their real attitudes, motives, and desires are. What do their relationships with family and friends say about their character? That will tell you more about a person than their words ever will. Most importantly, when you know who you are in Christ, you'll trust the fact that He is working ALL things for your good, and you won't settle for something that's anything less than His best for your life.
- Be intentional with your heart.
What does that mean? Proverbs 4:23 says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." You need to have the right intent, the right motives. Your goal in a relationship should be to draw close to each other, as you help one another grow closer to Christ. There’s the idea of mutually encouraging each other and helping each other be a better person. For a guy, part of that is respecting her, not using her for selfish gain and fulfillment. She absolutely deserves your respect and should expect nothing less. There's a difference between attention and love/commitment. Choose the boundaries in your relationship before things gets too deep, and have the courage to stick with them; that way you won't put yourself in a situation you'll later regret. True love is willing to wait. Lust wants what it wants now. Know the difference. Instead of just setting your goal to be in a relationship, or to have a good time, develop the kind of qualities that would make you a good friend. And as friends, focus on conversations and activities that are wholesome, that are respectful of each other, and that would honor Christ. That doesn’t mean you're boring, or no fun…in fact, just the opposite, by focusing on friendship first instead of building the relationship on the physical, there's no guilt attached. If the relationship grows into possibly deeper levels of commitment, remind each other to stay focused on the right intentions. For all of us, that should include purity and honoring Christ in every aspect of a relationship. In a world of “players,” heartbreakers, and people with wrong motives, choose to be intentional with your heart. Date with the desire to find your life partner, not just a rebound, a good time, or anything else. Date with a desire to glorify God. Date with purpose.
- Don’t mistake a breakup with failure.
When relationships end, we sometimes feel like a failure. Nothing is wrong with a relationship ending, if God has been honored. If each person treated the other with respect, and if intentions were pure, then you have not failed. There is something wrong with pursuing relationships for the wrong reasons, and there is something wrong with actions and choices that aren't Christ-honoring. There are times when a couple is seeking to please God in their relationship, but they find they're not best together. If they've stayed pure and had right motives, that isn't failure. Heartbreak is part of life and sometimes unavoidable, but it can grow us closer to Christ and can help us be more discerning – and often more humble. But the heartache and guilt that comes from sinful and wrong choices is a different story. If you find yourself in a breakup situation, don’t be quick to just make a rebound and find a quick replacement to heal wounds. Instead, ask God to use this time to teach you to be more like Him. RememberPsalm 147:3: " He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Most of ALL, choose to live out the command and take hold of the promise God gives us in Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct thy paths."