Ever secretly wonder if God is stifling your ability to find a mate?
Prior to getting married, I prayed that God would help me meet someone nice. A few weeks later, I was on eHarmony.com and was matched with a girl I got excited about. But within weeks of follow up conversation, she backed out and I recall being deeply upset. To my friends observing, I played it cool, but deep inside, I was fuming at God because Job 1:21 says, “The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away..”
Swearing never to return to online dating, I got connected with some new friends and was introduced to a nice girl who liked me back. We dated for a few months, but shortly thereafter, the relationship ended because she felt, "God was leading us in different directions." This time, I was clearly ticked off at God. Not only were her words concrete evidence that it was God's fault, but Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him."
So I fumed some more. I kept wondering why God was, ‘hatin’ on me and salting my game with the ladies! I was so upset with all the relationship roadblocks that I convinced myself God wanted me all to Himself. To serve Him. Alone in ministry. All the days of my life. In solitude, with no one to love but Him alone.
- No wife. Yay! Praise God???
Needless to say, this foolish line of thinking created in me a dark and subtle despise of all things God had to say. I remained committed to my faith, but grumbled and pouted the whole time.
Fast forward to today, (skipping the long painful seasons where I had to own up to my emotional unhealthiness, and seasons where I learned to find joy in Christ.) I am happily married to the girl I always prayed God would bless me with. We have two gorgeous boys, and I am a pastor to mostly single, college students & 20somethings; many of who just so happen to have some of the same issues I struggled with when I was single.
Looking back though, I am deeply grateful for what I truly believe were, “God-sent Roadblocks.” Truth is, I had no business being in a relationship back then. There were enough flaws and shortcomings in my life to do significant emotional damage to anyone who tagged on to me as "girlfriend". I knew this fully well. But the comfort of having someone by my side I could call girlfriend was stronger than my ability to reason through what was right or wrong for me. Thankfully, God in His great mercy and foresight didn’t, and doesn’t make decisions like I do. He repeatedly put some very clear, sometimes dramatic dating-roadblocks in my path, (while patching up my wounds), and ultimately guided me on a path that led to my sweetie-pie!
I point this all out because in a personal study through the Old Testament book of Judges, I’ve met a guy named Samson, and he is ignoring similar roadblocks God used to direct my life and dating relationships. If you don’t know the story, here’s a quick summary starting in (Judges 13).
The nation of Israel sinned and God allowed their enemies, the Philistines, to invade their lands. In the midst of hardship, God sends an awesome angel to tell a specific couple they will have a child. They’re told the child will grow up to be deliverer of Israel. The child is also to be raised as a Nazarite. He can’t drink alcohol, can’t cut his hair, and can’t touch anything unclean. The child is born and named Samson. He grows up and is super strong. As an adult, he wants a hot wife. He finds her on the other side of town. Dad, mom, and God are not happy with his choice.
That pretty much sums up the story so far. Our focus here is (chapter 14).
God plotted out a very specific life-path for Samson to walk in which involved the awesome task of rescuing an entire nation. Even better still, God gave him super-human strength to accomplish this feat (think Thor meets Superman). But the desire to, “get some” clouded his ability to think clearly. Check out the list of roadblocks God put in Samson’s path to keep him from dating the wrong girl. Roadblocks, which by the way, he’s going to ignore. Roadblocks, which God might presently be putting in your dating-path to protect you.
- His parent’s counsel against marrying a Philistine woman in verse 3. (If both your parents express serious concern about the person you're seeing, YOU SHOULD GIVE SERIOUS THOUGHT to their counsel.)
- A young lion attacks him on his way to see his new Philistine-squeeze, verse 5. (If your first date is tragic and there are repeated "red flags" that concern you about him/her, don't follow it up with date number two to see if things will change!)
- The fact that he felt the need to hide his, “lion attack” experience from his parents in verse 6b. (If you ever have to lie about someone you’re dating or a bad experience you had with them, ...uh, press pause.)
- The fact that he ate honey out of an animal’s carcass, which is a no-no for someone who’s taken a Nazarite vow, verse 9. (If their idea of a great date involves roadkill, take a hint! ....Unless of course, you love roadkill; in which case, you just found THE ONE!)
- The fact that he had to hide, (again) the real source of the honey from his parents in verse 9. (Catch them lying multiple times in the dating stage? Chances are, that pattern will continue into your marriage.)
- The party he attends in verse 10 would have had plenty of alcohol present. Whether Samson participated in the drinking is uncertain. Either way, alcohol is another no-no for someone who’s taken a Nazarite vow. (Hence, if your date gets drunk while you’re out on a date, excuse yourself politely, sneak out the back and get the heck outta there!)
- His new wife coaxing him into revealing the answer to his riddle, which she later revealed to her townsmen in verse 15-17. (If they flirt with you, fine. But if they flirt with everyone in the room, get out!)
- The fact that on his wedding night, he killed 30 men and walked out on his new bride at the wedding altar, (she would later given to his best man in verse 19-20). (If they display any signs or rage or lash out at you during the dating stage? Flee! Then call 911).
Over and over, Samson was faced with situations where he should have taken a hint. Considering all the warning signs, you’ll see that God was really working overtime to keep him from making some really unwise decisions that would affect him all the days of his life. Needless to say, he insisted on marrying, “the wrong girl”, and it resulted in his wife and father in-law being burned alive, the entire Philistine food industry burning up, and plenty of bloodshed in a chainsaw-massacre-style slaughter (chapter 15). This pattern of behavior also led to his brutal death/suicide. Ever heard of Delilah?
It pays to listen when God says about the person you're dating, “NOPE!”
So, is there a dating relationship in your life you deeply desire that’s not working out? Perhaps a relationship where you have major concerns but are hopeful it will all work out once you get married? Here's one simple, yet profound advice, "WHO YOU MARRY IS WHO YOU MARRY!"
Do people change? Absolutely. Will you ever find the perfect guy/girl with no flaws? NO. Will you ever meet someone who doesn't have at least a few red flags? NO. But it still doesn't mean you should jump into a relationship with eyes wide shut. Your task in the mean while is to strive to be as (emotionally and spiritually) healthy as you can and seek out other single folks who are striving on that journey along with you.
Sometimes, certain relationships may feel like God Himself is getting in its way. It may come in the form of family, friends, or even the Holy Spirit's counsel to press pause. When that happens, before pushing back and insisting that heaven and earth can't separate you from your one true love, consider that what you perceive as God “holding you back” might actually be His gracious means of keeping you from your own foolish error.
Don’t end up like Samson. Stick with God’s good plan for your life.
Trust me, it turns out well.