About two months after my love story with Eric first began, I went through a time of extreme insecurity. Eric was away at a missionary training school, and I constantly wondered whether he would meet someone else and lose interest in me. If a few days went by without hearing from him, I became distracted and discouraged.
Out of desperation, I began to pray. “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?”
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.
Like a patient Father, He lovingly spoke 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. You have begun to find your happiness and security in a man, instead of in Me.”
I was startled to realize that I hadn’t truly surrendered this relationship to God. Instead, I was building my happiness and security upon my love story with Eric, instead of on my relationship with Christ. No wonder my emotions were constantly up and down!
“God forgive me,” I prayed. “I give 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 no longer did I become anxious and depressed when things didn’t flow exactly as I wanted them to. 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.
Where Real Happiness Comes From
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.
Remember, when we are in relationship with Christ, we have everything we need for happiness right now, whether we are married or single. As 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. The majority of us are called to be married. And 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 we are already in a relationship or marriage, it’s often tempting to cling tighter to our “significant other” than we do to Jesus Christ. God calls us to love our husbands (see Titus 2:4), but He calls us to love Jesus Christ even more (see Luke 14:26). Our security and identity must come first and foremost from Jesus Christ rather than from a relationship.
When the gaze of our soul does not remain fixed upon Jesus Christ, good desires (such as having a godly love story) can morph into unhealthy preoccupations before we realize what has happened. 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. Often, the biggest threats to seeking Christ with an undivided heart are not overtly sinful things, but good and God-given desires that subtly start to claim too much of our focus and affection.
How can you tell whether you are clinging too tightly to an earthly relationship or romantic dream? Here are a few 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.
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 a romantic relationship (or the hope of one) 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.