It was a warm September evening, twenty-three years ago. I sat quietly on my bed, gazing through my open window at a beautiful sunset. But I couldn’t enjoy it. My heart was heavy and my mind distracted.
Friday night had come and gone, and he still hadn’t called. An entire week had passed and I’d heard nothing from him. “Maybe he’s lost interest in me,” I told myself gloomily. “With all of the beautiful, godly girls he’s been meeting, he’s probably found someone else.”
It had been two months since my friendship with Eric had shifted into a romantic relationship. Only a few days after Eric first shared with me that he felt God was directing our lives together, he had left on a previously scheduled trip to spend a year at a missionary training school on the other side of the country.
It was difficult to be apart. Just as our relationship was beginning to grow, we suddenly found ourselves miles away from each other with no easy way to communicate. Usually he called at least once a week. Hearing his voice always gave me an emotional boost. It helped me feel connected to him and reminded me that he still cared about me even though we were miles apart.
But that week, I’d heard nothing from him. Anxiety began to plague me. I felt restless and depressed. I stared at the silent phone sitting on my desk. What had been so important to keep him from our weekly time of talking and encouraging each other? I was agitated and confused. Out of desperation, I began to pray.
Raising A Knife to What You Most Love
“God, why am I feeling this way?” I asked in frustration. “Why can’t You just prompt Eric to call me and put me out of this misery?”
Even the good and perfect gifts that God had given me needed to be continually surrendered back to Him.
As I buried my head in my arms, I began to sense a quiet voice speaking to my heart. “The reason you are so concerned about losing Eric is because you are clinging to him far too tightly. You have begun to build your hopes and dreams around this relationship, instead of around Me.”
Immediately I remembered the story of Abraham and his son Isaac. Abraham dearly loved and treasured Isaac as a miraculous blessing from God. But after God had given Abraham this good and perfect gift, He asked Abraham to surrender his son back to Him:
“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Gen 22:2).
Abraham’s mind must have reeled in confusion. Why would God give him a miraculous son in his old age only to ask for him back again? Yet Abraham obeyed. He raised the knife over Isaac to sacrifice what was most precious to him as an act of surrender and obedience to God.
What prompted such unfathomable obedience? Quite simply, Abraham had his priorities straight. Isaac was important to him, but God was more important. Abraham demonstrated his complete dedication to the Father by his willingness to give up everything that was precious to him in order to put God first.
Treasuring the Gift More Than the Giver
As I thought about this story, I began to understand. Even the good and perfect gifts that God had given me—like my love story with Eric—needed to be continually surrendered back to Him. Otherwise, the blessings I received in life would become more important to me than the One who had given them to me in the first place.
“God forgive me,” I prayed. “I surrender my relationship with Eric back to You. I let go of all my hopes and expectations. Do with this love story as You will.” I rose from my knees with a newfound joy and freedom in my heart.
Yes, I still deeply cared about my relationship with Eric. But I didn’t become anxious and depressed when things didn’t flow exactly as I wanted them to anymore. My romantic future was laid at the feet of Jesus. “Lord, have Your way in this love story; I surrender it back to You.” This became my heart’s declaration each time the phone failed to ring or the mailbox was empty.
I began to realize that there was no safer place for my cherished hopes and dreams that at the feet of Jesus.
Releasing our Grasp
During our single years, it’s tempting to both idolize and idealize our marriage hopes and dreams thinking that we’ll finally be happy once we meet Prince Charming and settle down. But this is a dangerous mindset because it keeps us from finding the perfect satisfaction in Jesus Christ that He intends for us to have. And if we expect marriage to solve the deepest needs within our soul, we’ll only be placing unhealthy, unrealistic expectations upon our future husband and harming our marriage in the process.
Corrie ten Boom wrote, “Marriage is not the answer to unhappiness. Happiness can only be found in a balanced relationship with Jesus Christ. When you belong to Christ, you can be happy with or without a husband, secure in Christ alone.”
Of course, God puts a high value on marriage. It was, after all, His idea in the first place. There is certainly nothing wrong with desiring to be married, preparing for marriage, or taking steps toward a romantic relationship with someone as God leads. The problem comes when we place our marriage dreams on a pedestal, putting contentment on hold until that season of life finally comes.
When the gaze of our soul does not remain fixed upon Jesus Christ, our God-given longing for marriage can become an obsessive need to find a guy, and a healthy love story can quickly become an idol in our heart.
How can you tell whether you are clinging to tightly to an earthly relationship or romantic dream? Here are three warning signs:
- You can’t imagine giving it up. You have thoughts such as, If I lost this relationship, I’d be miserable and depressed, or If I don’t get married, life won’t be worth living.
- You spend more time and energy on that area than you do on your relationship with Christ. For instance, maybe you spend hours each week trying to find the right guy, but only ten minutes in prayer or in studying God’s Word. Or maybe you invest the majority of your time and energy into a relationship (or the pursuit of one) and have little time left over to seek Christ or share Him with others. As much as we don’t like to admit it, the areas that claim the majority of our spare time are those that have the biggest hold upon our hearts.
- You find more delight and happiness in that area of your life than you do in your relationship with Christ. It’s not wrong if a human love story brings us a certain level of comfort or happiness. But Jesus must always remain our source of deepest satisfaction. A great way to determine whether you are finding your fulfillment in Christ is to ask yourself the question, “If this relationship or romantic dream were suddenly stripped away from me, would Jesus be enough?”
If marriage (or the hope of marriage) has claimed more of your affection and focus than Jesus Christ, ask God to change your heart. Freshly surrender this area of your life to Him, and remember where the deepest source of fulfillment is truly found—in Him! Remember, there is no better place for your most precious dreams than at the nail-scarred feet that were pierced for you.