There are seemingly contradictory messages directed toward Christian singles (like me) who want to no longer be single (also me).
Some encourage us to “put ourselves out there” in hopes of speeding along the process toward finding a man or woman to date and eventually marry. Others say, “Trust God with your love life! He will bring the right one your way when it’s time!”
One path forward feels primarily active; the other, primarily passive. And for the longest time, I could see no way of reconciling the two. My default was to bend toward a posture of trust—it felt safer. So I waited. As I entered (and exited) college, many of my closest friends tied the knot. While I went out with some great guys, my relationship status successfully avoided any exciting changes.
During my college years, I never imagined that online dating might become a part of my regular vocabulary. It was so not me. I thrive on in-person connection, and I couldn’t fathom the thought of meeting online, even if the idea was to move in-person somewhat quickly. Plus, I’m simply not known as the girl to go out on lots of dates.
But after graduating college about a year and a half ago, as I settled into a routine at work and church and the various other contexts that made up my life, I realized: I’m not meeting new people and, based on my current situation, the number of guys I know probably isn’t about to expand anytime soon—unless I do something about it.
Cue: the dating apps.
Yet I had my doubts.
For my entire adult life thus far, I had committed to trusting God with my love life. I was so sure that trust in this part of life equated with passivity in some way, so the step toward online dating felt a bit bold—even wrong. One question kept reeling through my mind:
Does online dating reveal a lack of trust in God?
Surely, if I trusted Him, I’d be content to wait for His timing, content to sit back until a romantic partner came and knocked on my front door, or—maybe more realistically—approached me at church.
I felt torn between the two messages coming at me. Do I take action toward this good thing that I desire (a relationship, and ultimately, marriage), or do I sit back and wait until God brings it my way?
Quick side note–I realize it might seem unusual that I thought about online dating in such a serious way, considering that most of our culture is far past the notion that online dating might be considered wrong. In many circles, online dating is accepted as the “norm.” But I hadn’t gotten there yet. I hadn’t been exposed to the world of online dating through family members or friends so it felt foreign and a bit stigmatized. I also tend to agonize over “right” and “wrong” a little more than the average person, so in that sense, my search for the truth was fairly on brand.
All that said, I wanted to know what God had to say on the topic. So, I turned to Scripture in an attempt to reconcile the “opposing” advice I had been given and to determine my path moving forward. Of course, the Bible doesn’t talk about dating (let alone online dating), but it does talk about marriage.
I thought a lot about the Old Testament. While it usually wasn’t the responsibility of the person getting married to find a spouse, it was the responsibility of his or her parents (Genesis 24:4; 1 Samuel 18:17). Interestingly, the parents didn’t just sit back and wait till they saw the right “match” traipsing past their tents.
They took initiative to find an eligible spouse for their daughters or sons. There was absolutely nothing passive about it, and the Bible doesn’t seem to frown on this reality.
Slowly I became less certain that taking action in the realm of marriage necessarily equated with a lack of trust. It seemed as though the let-marriage-find-you approach was more unique to my 21st century Western experience than I thought—founded more on cultural preferences than God’s truth.
For me, the purpose behind dating is to build a relationship with the man that I will eventually choose to marry. All through the Bible we see people taking action toward marriage. Their means of action may not have been dating apps, but they were taking action never-the-less. I began to consider, What if trust is not inherently passive? What if it’s okay to not only want a relationship and marriage, but even to seek after it?
There are times when God asks us to refrain from a good thing for a season because doing so is better for us spiritually, relationally, emotionally, etc. That said, if pursuing online dating is the means by which I’m placing my desire for marriage above my love for the Lord, then online dating may not be the best thing at that time of my life. But the issue there isn’t really about online dating, nor does it have anything to do with taking action—the issue is idolatry.
I started to believe that maybe it’s possible to want a relationship—even take action toward it—without idolizing it. Maybe, at times, obeying and trusting my Savior involves action paired with surrender. And maybe that’s true with online dating, too.
I took the plunge and signed up for Hinge. That’s the place to be for my age group, so I was told. And I had this abstract concept of “action paired with surrender” in mind as I began.
I started talking to a cute guy who claimed to love Jesus (a good start). With a 90 minute drive between us, we started communicating via video chats. After a couple of conversations, I was pretty certain I wanted to meet him in person, and he mentioned grabbing coffee, too. After scheduling got tricky and communication fizzled out (though my interest had not), I had two choices: (1) Freak out and determine that clearly this is a sign that I am to be single forever or (2) during and after those multiple attempts to make it work on either end, I hand over the situation to the Lord. I trust him, knowing that He is good and for my good whether this ends in a relationship or not.
Hands open, palms facing the sky, I pray, “Lord, if none of this goes how I want, I still love you. I still believe that you are good.” I say it over and over again—knowing that eventually my heart will catch up to believe what my mind already knows to be true.
That prayer might sound a bit dramatic considering the circumstances. It’s just one guy that didn’t work out. But let me assure you, when it never works out, you start to question whether there’s something wrong with you. And then that prayer feels entirely acceptable, even necessary.
It’s easy to feel discouraged to come home from another date, only to tell my roommate, “It was fine—he’s great but it didn’t feel right.” And it’s easy to get frustrated when I struggle (yet again) to connect with the guy who seemed so right “on paper,” or when the interest ends up to be only one-sided. Yet despite the discouragement and frustration that dating so often brings about, I’ve come to find that I don’t have to wallow in self-pity or lose all hope.
For me, this online dating journey has been steeped with prayer, and it’s mostly when I forget to pray and I resist handing my situation over to the Lord that I get confused, overwhelmed, and bitter.
So I do everything in my power to keep prayer at the forefront of my mind. And every time I “match” with a cute guy who claims to love Jesus, I hand it over to God. Every time I get ghosted (yay online dating), I hand it over to God. Every time I find myself looking forward to a date, I hand it over to God.
If I knew with certainty that my time spent online dating would end in marriage, I wouldn’t need to trust God with this part of my life.
If it were easy to discern a man’s character over texting or video calls or an initial cup of coffee, I wouldn’t need to trust God for His wisdom and direction.
If it always came naturally to break off conversations that ceased to bring honor to God, I wouldn’t have to trust that His ways are good and for my good, despite the disappointment I may feel in that particular moment.
However, I’m not 100% certain that this will end in marriage. Discerning character in general is not exactly what I would call “easy,” let alone when it’s a stranger I just met online. And I most definitely have had to end conversations sooner than I wanted because I knew it was wise, not necessarily because doing so felt good.
Suffice it to say, I have ample opportunity to trust.
God is still in control. He doesn’t go “off duty” when it comes to the online world—He’s God over that, too. And while there’s so much about Him that I have yet to learn, I know He loves me. He wants what is best for me. And I believe that one day I’ll look back and understand the purpose behind these years of dating. I’ll know that trusting Him was the best possible thing I could’ve done, even if that reality is hard to see right now.
All that to say, it makes me smile knowing I used to worry that online dating revealed a lack of trust in God.
Because I’ve found the opposite to be true.