Dealing with Doubt and Discouragement

This is the last article in my series on Christian Dating Myths. Addressing Myth #5: There are no good guys out there or there must be something wrong with me.

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Dating is hard. It is hard to meet people. And when you meet people, it is hard to make a meaningful two-way connection. It is filled with insecurities, rejections, nerves, anticipations, loneliness etc. In my dating years, there were multiple occasions I cried out with questions like “Am I ever going to meet someone?” or “Is there something wrong with me?”

When faced with what feels like failure it is natural to be filled with doubt. And yet sometimes Christian teaching leads us to feel shame about our doubt or perhaps worse, to believe our doubt.

There are three points I’d like to make about this.

  • Christians are not immune to discouragement. Don’t fall for the Christian dating myth, that if you were more spiritually mature, then the loneliness of singlehood would not affect you. The fact that you feel lonely is not a measurement of your spiritual maturity. Like the Psalmists, we are free to express our disappointment, confusion and longings to God and others. And also like the Psalmists, through faith we can remind ourselves to have hope and faith; we can trust in a good and loving God who is constantly at work in our lives and is for our good (Romans 8).
  • You are worthy of God’s blessing. Christians sometimes believe that God is waiting for you to “fix” yourself or “God is still working on you” before He blesses you with marriage. No matter what your past, your flaws or brokenness, you are worthy of God’s blessing. He determined that when he sent Jesus to die for you. (John 3:16)  When you begin to wonder what is wrong with you, remind yourself that you are a daughter/son of God, that He deemed you worthy of His love, so surely you are worthy of a human’s love as well. Someone can love you in the midst of your brokenness, just as you can love someone in the midst of theirs.  And just as you are not perfect, so are the people you are dating. In dating show others grace, be hopeful and remind yourself that if there are guys God has chosen as his own, then surely there is a good chance there is a great catch out there for you. Your mission is to find them and be available to them.
  • Believe God’s best for you. When you are lonely, discouraged, fearful and disappointed, it is hard to believe that God wants to bless you. It takes confidence in his love for you and that you deserve what He has promised. Act confidently in his desire to bless you. Be faithful to do what he has called you to do in order pursue His best for you. Trust in his plan for your life, even when it isn’t matching up to your hopes.

Having doubt is normal, but pray God would fill you with confidence, trust and peace in His goodness. This can only come from knowing Him.  You can know Him better through His word, prayer, fellowship, honesty, obedience and faith. Perhaps God wants to use your desire for marriage and your discouragement in dating, to grow your confidence in Him and yourself; as successful dating requires you to believe that you are worth dating and that there are also people worth dating. It challenges our basic beliefs about ourselves, others and God’s goodness.

For some other thoughts on these ideas check out these two videos:

Matt Chandler on Contentment in Singlehood

Henry Cloud Video on Believing there are No Good Prospects for Dating

Sometimes when you are extremely discouraged you may need an outsider resource to help you. If so, please call me. I love what I do as a counselor, helping those climb out of the pit of discouragement.

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Myth #4: All guys want is sex. (It’s not possible to date without it leading to sex before marriage.)

505841_99073813This is the fourth myth in the 5 Christian Dating Myths.

Many women don’t have a clue about men. But one thing they know: men constantly have sex on their minds. This idea is clearly and consistently taught.

While men must deal with the reality of sex on their minds, girls deal with the pressures of being told they need to keep themselves pure. Often young Christian girls are involved in purity rites and given jewelry in exchange for promises that they will protect their purity and save themselves for marriage.

Esteeming purity is a great thing, as God’s design for sex is solely within the bounds of marriage. But much of what we teach about sex, leads to fear about dating. The message many girls receive is: dating is dangerous, men are dangerous, they will be aggressors, users, and you have to be your own protector. Should you fail, the consequences will be devastating and life-long.

So when faced with living out those purity promises in the in the real world, how do you actually do this? Particularly in the days where dating in our culture often means sex after the third date.

For many girls, the answer is simply to avoid dating altogether. This is often not a conscious decision. If you talked to many of these girls, they are in tears about not dating. They long to be asked to the prom, to be out on a Saturday night, etc. But their fears keep them safely guarded against the possibility of failure. Their fears may range from fear about men’s intentions, their own abilities to stay pure, fear of having to set boundaries, of looking or feeling awkward, not wanting to disappoint someone, their fear of looking prude, etc. And this is not just the girl who has never been kissed before, this can also be the girls who has sexual sin in her past, but has a desire to stay pure in the future.

Fortunately, God has some very practical answers to these anxieties. For example, in my own journey, God made it clear to me one day that despite my past failings, “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17) I had known that I was a new creation, and saw my desires for sex change when I became a believer. But it was years before I understood that I was also a new creation in the sense that I had new abilities to abstain from sexual sin through the power of the Holy Spirit. You see I did not really believe I was a new creation with the ability to do new things. I knew that I could believe new things, but actually do them? I had never tested that ability when it came to sexuality. Was it possible for me to date without succumbing to sexual sin?

By meditating on that verse, not only did God affirm my own identity as a new creation, He affirmed the men around me as new creations as well. As a believer who wanted to date other believers, God’s word provided me the assurance that the men I would be acquainted with also had the same desires and abilities as a result of their faith. Therefore, I could go forward and confidently date, knowing that there would be men who would be gentlemen with abilities and interests that went beyond sex.

God taught me this, but then I had to test it. What I found astounded me. I found that there were men who would take me on many dates without expectation of physical intimacies. This was a brand new experience for me, and it was so fun and refreshing! I also found that the conversations which I dreaded about sex were actually not that hard, were well received and not nearly as scary as I had believed.

Sex is a very real fear for many women when it comes to dating. But there are so many other fears that keep men and women from pursuing a mate with confidence and freedom. Jesus’ most often repeated command in the four gospel accounts is “Do Not Fear.” God longs for us to live confidently in the knowledge that He is a loving, sovereign and ever-present Father.   His message extends beyond just our confidence about where we will spend eternity, but also to the practicalities of our every day lives, even our dating lives!

Challenge yourself to identify the fears that are holding you back, and pray that you would begin to believe and act on God’s truth. Living in your fears may keep you safe, but Christ came to set you free. (John 8:32)

Written by Kristine Newton Sung, Licensed Professional Counselor, Heritage Counseling & Consulting, Dallas, Texas.

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Is Dating About Marriage?

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This is the fourth article in my series of 5 Christian Dating Myths. This addresses Myth #3: Dating is about marriage. (I should only say yes if I suspect there is potential down the road.)

 I had a very serious boyfriend in high school. We were convinced that marriage was in our future and so were my classmates, voting me first to get married in my senior yearbook. But like many young romances, we broke up.

As I went to college, I assumed more dates would follow and a new gentleman would sweep me off my feet.  Unfortunately, just the opposite happened. No one was asking me out.

Looking back, I think my expectations about dating changed. In high school, I looked at dating as an opportunity to go to a dance, be taken out to dinner or go to a movie. And if someone asked, I generally said yes. In college, I saw dating as way to find my potential spouse. I think subconsciously, I didn’t want another painful breakup, so I was picky about who I even allowed myself to be interested in. My seriousness about dating, and my pickiness about men, did little to encourage the opposite sex to see me as a fun, safe, dating prospect.

When I became a believer in my mid-twenties, dating took an even more serious tone. I learned things in church like ‘dating was just using each other’ or a means of ‘practicing for divorce.’ I learned ‘serious Christians’ should be courting, not dating.

The more I studied scripture, however, the more I saw that the bible has very little to say about dating. So for the Christian, is dating okay? What is the purpose of dating? Is dating just using other people? Is it okay to say yes to someone if you don’t think you have an interest in marriage with this person?

I found the best answers to these questions about dating in a book by Henry Cloud, entitled  How to Find a Date Worth Keeping. As a Christian psychologist, he identified and addressed the high-pressure view of dating I had developed over the years. Rather than see dating as a way to find a mate, Dr. Cloud suggested to see dating in the following ways:

  1. A time to find out about other people and what they are like.
  2. A time to find out about yourself and how you need to change.
  3. A time to have fun, experience new things, learn.
  4. Opportunities to love and serve others.

I encourage you to read his book. It changed my life.  For a briefer look at some of his thoughts, here is an article he wrote for Crosswalk.

When I changed my view of dating, not only did I get asked out more often, I had more fun in life. I experienced new people, places and things. Not every date was fabulous, but there was progress, and that felt good.

Most surprisingly, God helped me realize that my previous attitude about dating was more about self-protection, and little to do with loving others well or trusting God. By changing my view of dating, I found myself more open and accepting of others and thus better fulfilling Jesus’ command in Matthew 22:39 to “love your neighbor as a yourself.”

  • Questions to consider:  What is your view of dating? Is it biblical? Is it helping your dating life? Are you growing as a believer in Christ as a result of your dating view? Are you loving others well in the process of dating? Are you trusting God in the process? Where/how could God be trying to stretch you as you work through singleness?

Written by Kristine Newton Sung, Licensed Professional Counselor, Heritage Counseling & Consulting, Dallas, Texas.

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Christian Dating Myth #1

This is the second in my series about 5 Christian Dating Myths. Often Christian girls are told that there role in dating is simply to wait to be pursued. They are led to believe that there is nothing women can or should do to improve their dating life. Just have faith and wait on God’s timing. Whatever you do, “don’t chase boys!” Recently I read a church singles blog that went so far as to shame a girl for “taking matters into her own hands” simply because she wanted to tell a guy that she liked him.

In many ways there was a lot I and other single girls like about this myth: I have no responsibilities. I don’t have to take any risks. I just need to be myself and God will ensure someone will notice me. And being shy means that I am a ‘good’ Christian girl.

However, for me, as the years passed I wondered if this was true. Was it biblical to simply wait and pray? It seemed that in every other area of life God requires my active participation. Finding a job, making friends, doing ministry, going to seminary all required me to take some action. So why was dating any different? If I did something beyond praying and waiting, did that mean I was taking over for men and sinfully thwarting God’s design for marriage?

Looking to scripture, I saw, there are women who we admire, who take active roles particularly in the way they relate to men. Ruth is probably the best example. She perfumes herself, dresses up and then presents herself at Boaz’s feet after he climbs into bed. That seems a lot bolder than telling a guy that you like him! And scripture applauds her, it does not condemn her.

There are times when God calls us to patiently wait on his timing. But perhaps like Ruth, God wants you to take some action. This is not unspiritual. In fact, it may require greater faith in God for you to take a risk, be vulnerable and perhaps learn some new skills that will help you better relate to those around you. Perhaps instead of telling women to simply wait and pray, we need to be teaching women how to be open, friendly and available so that men are more encouraged to step out and ask girls out?

For myself, I fell for this myth hook line and sinker, for two reasons. One I was shy with guys and stepping out was uncomfortable and scary. So I loved the idea that I would just have to be myself and someone would notice me. I believed God loved me and would simply give me the desires of my heart.

Secondly, I was fearful of becoming a woman who controlled her spouse. I thought by waiting for this courageous pursuer the church kept talking about, I would get a guy strong enough to fix my tendency to control. Along the way, God graciously reminded me that my hope for a great marriage was not in finding the perfect guy to counter balance my sinful tendency. My hope is in Christ who loves me despite my sin, and who promises to day-by-day make me more like himself as I walk with Him daily. It is through him that I find the greatest hope for a happy and blessed marriage, not by following a man-made dating prescription.

How about you? Are you falling for this myth? What would it mean for you to become more active in your dating life?

5 Myths I Believed About Dating

I see so many great, smart, cool, fun women who are not getting asked out. I was one of them for many years.

So what’s the deal? Why are great women often overlooked? Certainly, we hear how men need to step up and initiate more dating. That is great!  But is there anything that women can do to have an impact on their dating lives? Often we are told: “Be patient, pray and wait.”, “Don’t chase boys” or “The guy needs to take the lead!” Is that it? Is spending years on the sidelines waiting patiently the spiritual exercise God intends for women who are not getting asked out?

Could it be there are myths women learn at church that lead to non-existent dating lives? Could these myths be encouraging anger and discouragement with men and God rather than encouraging spiritual growth, self-examination and personal responsibility? I believe so, and I’d like to suggest there are at least five myths that I believed which hindered my dating life for years:

Myth #1: There is nothing you can or should do to improve your life. (Just have faith and wait on God’s timing.)

Myth #2: Any guy worth having is confident and will know exactly how to pursue you. (Guys don’t need any encouragement from me.)

Myth #3: Dating is about marriage. (I should only say yes if I suspect there is potential down the road.)

Myth #4: All guys want is sex. (It’s not possible to date without it leading to sex before marriage.)

Myth #5: There are no good guys out there OR There must be something wrong with me.

In the days that follow, I will explain how I came to believe these myths, how they impacted my dating life and how God challenged and changed those beliefs. What I’d like to suggest is that there is more hope for women than to simply “Be patient, pray and wait for a guy to pursue them.” And that God desires more than you spending years on the sidelines waiting patiently.

The result has been a deeper relationship with God and a better understanding and belief in His truth, as well as finding and marrying my best friend. As a small group leader and a Licensed Professional Counselor, I have seen these ideas help not only myself but also other girls who have gone from never getting asked out on a date, to dating and for some engagement and marriage.