You might wonder why I, a 26-year-old single woman with no kids, took time to write a post on teenage dating.
Well, here’s the back story: At the end of a study in Ruth, I asked two young girls if they had any questions. One girl looked at me with an “I have a burning question I want to ask, but I don’t know if I should” kind of look that made me very nervous. I just knew it would be one of those questions I didn’t know how to answer right away. Sure enough, it was. She asked me how I felt about Christian teenagers dating because it’s an oft-neglected topic in her church.
In that moment I (nervously) told her I didn’t think it was wise for most teenagers to date because most teenagers aren’t spiritually mature enough for such commitment, and they don’t have a firm understanding of the kind of people they should date.
Now that I’ve had a moment to think about this question, I’d like to revise my answer. Rather than give a general answer to a question that is largely depend on the specific teenagers in question, I’ll answer by describing the kind of teens who might be ready to consider dating and the teens who should probably reconsider. (Note: I’m specifically addressing girls in this post, but I think the basic principles are applicable to boys as well.)
For young girls trying to figure out if you’re ready to date, here are some signs that suggest you’re mature enough to consider dating:
1) You strive to live a life of purity.
I only suggest dating if you’re the kind of teen who already pursues purity and seeks God’s help with the icky parts of your lives — the secret habitual sins and heart issues that prevent you from being a dedicated, loving Christian. You pursue purity and sanctification not because you think you can earn your salvation, but because you value God’s perfect standards, and you want, more than anything, to have a relationship with He who is Holy (Matthew 5:48, 1 John 3:3,Ephesians 5:1-7). So you’re determined to obey His commandments.
In order to guard yourself from the many opportunities for sexual sin a dating situation, you are the kind of teen who will set boundaries at the onset of the dating relationship (not after you’ve crossed those boundaries). You won’t allow yourself to be alone with your boyfriend in intimate settings that could lead to temptation. You won’t date without accountability or mentorship from your parents or older Christians. Most importantly, you won’t entertain impure thoughts about your boyfriend that could manifest in impure actions (James 1:15). You instead seek to treat your brothers with absolute purity, even the guy you’re dating.
2) You enjoy serving.
I hate to stereotype, but it’s generally true that teenagers are self-absorbed and oblivious to the needs of people around them. But you’re unlike most teens because you have a meek and humble heart that delights in serving The Lord and brethren. If you’re more focused on serving others as Christ served us (instead of getting your needs met), you’ll likely be more prepared for the kind of commitment marriage entails: a commitment to serving God AND each other in love through a special and holy union (Ephesians 5:22-33). You understand that a good, fruitful marriage will require a lot of hard, sacrificial work and little gratification in the ways we expect when we dream of our fairytale weddings and perfect marriages.
3) You’re marriage-minded and praying for a godly spouse who will help you get to heaven.
Let me preface this by saying I do NOT want to encourage you to make marriage an idol and the most important goal in your life (marriage is an admirable goal, but it shouldn’t be your main goal). But if you’re seriously considering dating, you should be the kind of teen who dates intentionally, not recreationally, and has a scripturally guided idea of the kind of man you should marry.
If this describes you, you’re likely a teen who understands that romantic relationships are hard and require a lot of work. So you won’t investment those efforts and emotions into someone you can’t marry (I.e., a nonbeliever). You also understand that there is more to a marriage than physical attraction or shared superficial interests. So you’re patiently praying for a believing man who loves Christ more than he loves you and is an obedient disciple (John 14:15, 21). You’re praying for a man who will be a spiritual leader, the kind of man who can help you serve God better with him than by yourself. Lastly, you’re praying for a man who values you more than he values himself (Ephesians 5:22-33). If you’re seeking this kind of godly gentlemen, you are far less likely to settle for someone who doesn’t share your spiritual fervor.
What’s the common theme here? Spiritual maturity. Mature teens seek wisdom in scripture and counsel from older Christians, rather than relying on common worldly practices. These are the kind of teens I’m in awe of because I was so far from that level of maturity in my teen years (and even my early 20s!). I’m blessed to know some very mature young women. Quite unsurprisingly, they don’t obsess over dating. They have biblical standards, and they are holding out for the right guy — the kind of guy who’s actually marriage material.
OK, now for the not-so-fun part of this post. To my teen readers who are considering dating for the wrong reasons, here are some signs you should reconsider dating.
1) You want to date because your friends are dating.
I get it, the peer pressure to date is real. Everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn’t you? However, I think this is the WORST motivation for dating. Just because other people — even other Christians — do something doesn’t make it wise or beneficial. We have to examine the purpose of our actions. Let’s remember that we are called to be set apart (1 Peter 1:15-16), we shouldn’t seek to live like unbelievers (Ephesians 4:17-24), and we should seek to bring glory to God in everything we do (1 Corinthians 10:31). I’m afraid too many conversations about teen dating neglect those simple truths. So if your primary goal in dating is to be like your friends instead of glorifying God, you should reevaluate your priorities.
Let’s keep in mind the exhortation in Romans 12:2:
And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
2) You want to date because you are bored.
Sewing is a fun recreational activity. Writing is a fun recreational activity. Dating multiple guys is NOT a fun recreational activity (just ask Taylor Swift). Dating can be enjoyable, lighthearted and even fun, but ‘having fun’ should not be the end goal of your relationships. You’re also setting yourself up for great disappointment because dating often involves complicated emotions that are anything but fun. If you date unwisely, the heartbreak you’ll experience afterwards will overshadow all the fun you had.
Perhaps you can counter your boredom by finding more ways to grow in your faith and serve others. Instead of filling your free time by looking at pictures of cute guys or dreaming of relationships, use that that time to think about ways in which you are weak in your faith — and then work on those things! This is the best time for you to strengthen the most important relationship you’ll ever have: your relationship with Christ.
3) You are desperate to date because you’re lonely.
Let me first acknowledge that I completely sympathize with you. I have been single for all 26 years of my life, and at one point loneliness seemed like my best friend in the worst way. It was always there, tugging at my heart and bringing me into despair. Because I can sympathize with you, I’m not going to tell you ignore your feelings of loneliness and pretend like you don’t seek companionship.
But I will advise you to seek companionship with God before you seek companionship with a man because your desperate desire to be in a relationship may be a sign that human companionship is an idol in your heart. Instead of seeking comfort in God first and foremost, you seek comfort from another human being. However, no human can satisfactorily fill the emptiness in your heart, and no human can successfully bear all your burdens. But God can. He has given his son to redeem us, he has given us his word and Holy Spirit to guide us, and he has given us access to Him through prayer. God has given us all we need to endure the seasons of loneliness in our lives, but we must seek him for our comfort instead if running into the arms of humans who will likely disappoint.
Oh, and one practical point about desperation: Guys can sense when you’re desperate for a relationship. Some guys will feel pity for you (but who wants that?!), and some guys will be totally turned off by your desperation. Then there are the guys who will try to take advantage of your desperation by using your desperation to fulfill their selfish needs. Don’t open the door to these kinds of guys. Please understand that you don’t NEED to be in a relationship to be a useful, faithful Christian. So work on taming that desperation in heart and strive for contentment with the blessings God has already given you.
My thoughts on teen dating based on personal experience.
As a teenager, I didn’t go on many dates and I didn’t have many suitors. I had to suffer through the rise and fall of my friends’ many relationships without my own battle stories to contribute. Consequently I made an idol out of relationships, and I wanted nothing more than have a boyfriend to flaunt around school.
Now I’m exceedingly grateful I didn’t settle for many of the guys I sought in high school. I was saved from having multiple encounters with the heart-wrenching pain so many teenagers experience – the pain of breaking up with someone with whom you’ve invested your heart.
To the teenage girls out there who are DYING to date or be in a serious relationship, I say you should wait. Search your heart and your motives. Make sure your spiritual priorities are straight. Seek guidance and counsel from mature Christians. Pray earnestly for God’s will to become clear. And then determine if you’re ready to date to date. I say all of this as a sister who loves you and wants what’s good for you, including a good guy.
OK, now that I’ve probably overshared my many thoughts, I want to know what you all think. Do you agree with my approach to teen dating? Are you all for it, or totally against it?