By Kelly-Jayne McGlynn, Crosswalk.com
Editor’s Note: Crosswalk's Singles Advice is an advice column for singles featuring an anonymous question from a Crosswalk.com reader with a thoughtful, biblical reply from one of our single editors.
I lost a very special relationship about 4 months ago. We were engaged but he broke it off. There's a small chance we might work it out, but I want to make sure I go where God guides me. I'm praying for God to please take away my constant longing for him, if he's not "the one" for me. But it's not going away; which has me wondering if God wants me to hold on. How do I know if God can change my feelings if this relationship isn't right for me?
Hello! What a great question. I’m so sorry about this tough season you are in. Who we end up marrying is a HUGE decision, so it’s amazing that you are seeking answers—and that you want to be where God guides you. I really commend you for that!
The decision of who to marry, or any big decision in our lives, would be so much easier if God told us directly what to do, right? Although the Bible is full of people who God does speak directly to, the Bible is also full of people who God didn’t talk to. Ordinary people, like you and me, who are doing their best to live by his principles and do the right thing, without any direct communication from God. So, it’s of course possible that God is speaking to your through your feelings for this man, but thankfully God gives us many other resources to make base our decisions!
Remember that Your Feelings Are Transient
Maybe a gut feeling, like the longing you are experiencing, is directly from God. But it could also be so many other things. Feelings are a great starting point, but not a good ending one—especially because they are so prone to being manipulated by so much. Our past experiences, sleep hygiene, medicine that we’re on, what social media accounts we spend time on, what we’ve eaten that day, etc. can all influence our feelings.
Another thought is that it’s possible that your feelings of longing are due to chemical processes that happen in our brains when we are in a relationship with someone. The bonds that are made, especially if physical intimacy were involved, are deep and long-lasting. They probably wouldn’t fade within 4 months, so that’s something else to consider.
Regardless, it’s great that you are asking God to change your feelings—that’s a great prayer. As far as if he can change your feelings—of course he can! God is sovereign. Exodus 9:12 tells us that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God can control whatever he sees is best for his grand plan.
But there may be other factors at play as well that God is wanting you to see besides your feelings. It’s possible, and totally understandable as well, that maybe you are subconsciously holding onto the feeling of longing because it’s what you personally want. Maybe it’s leftover baggage from past relationships. Maybe he made you feel safe and loved in a way that you don’t feel like God does, and that is really what you are longing for and can’t let it go. Or maybe it’s simply bonding chemicals.
Surrender Your Desires to God
My first piece of advice would be to start with some self-reflection about whether or not your heart is truly trusting of God’s goodness and sovereignty. Before we start asking for open or closed doors, we need to be in a place of surrender and trust that God loves us, cares for us, and ultimately knows better than we do. Once our heart is in that place, it’s a lot easier to see past our own motivation and see God’s will for our lives.
Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Peace is usually a great indicator for if our heart is currently reliant on God. If you’re feeling anxious about this situation, chances are that you have some more surrendering to do.
Thankfully, though our hearts and emotions can be all over the place, God doesn’t leave us to make decisions based on feelings alone!
Let Scripture Guide You Above All Else
Once you are in a place of surrender, the next step I would advise is to seek out scriptures about what God intends for marriage and what kind of person he wants you to marry. (Here and here are articles expounding on such scriptures). Although our feelings are real and strong, we certainly can’t claim that they are directly breathed out by God like Scripture can (2 Timothy 3:16).
Let these passages begin to guide your thoughts about what God wants marriage relationships to be like, and if your relationship with this person reflected that. Maybe this is an exercise you have done before; in which case the challenge then is to trust the Bible more than you trust your feelings.
You’ll notice that passages about marriage, like when Paul is talking to the church in Corinth about considering staying single but getting married if they wish in 1 Corinthians 7, always talk about marriage as a choice. Although God is sovereign and works through our decisions, nowhere in the Bible does it say that God destines us to be with one single person, just like we are not destined for one single job or one single place to live. (In fact, the idea of a “soulmate” is a Greek idea, being made famous by Plato’s Symposium, and is certainly not from the Bible).
The book of Ruth is a great example of a man and woman who made a choice about who to marry based on what would glorify God and follow his principles. Certainly, God used Naomi to guide Ruth in this decision, but God did not speak to Ruth directly. At least, we have no record anyway that she was following feelings or signs from God—it appears she was following principles that God had already laid out.
So, the question of “is this man ‘the one’ for me and that is why my longing will not go away?” may not be as productive as asking yourself questions like “what am I longing for, really? What is God’s goal for marriage according to scripture, and do my goals and this relationship align?” Or, as Gary Thomas puts it in his awesome book The Sacred Search: “What if it's not about who you marry, but why?”
Hopefully these questions and scriptures will help guide you towards whether or not this is a relationship that God would want you to pursue more clearly than a gut feeling does.
Lean on The Body of Christ
Lastly, a huge gift and resource God has given us to help us make decisions is the people in our lives. They see what our blind spots miss and can make things obvious that our hearts make us want to ignore. They can also reassure of us encouraging things about ourselves that we’re unaware of! I love how the ESV words Proverbs 11:14:
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
It is so kind of God to give us an abundance of counselors in our friends, our family, and just in the people that know us well and can give us godly input. It is clear through scripture that God loves it when we are humble to others for advice! (Proverbs 19:20, Proverbs 27:6, Colossians 1:28, etc.)
As you are brutally honest with yourself in this process, ask trustworthy people in your life to be brutally honest with you, too. Ask for their thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of your relationship, why they think it ended in the first place, and how they saw it reflect or not reflect God’s purpose for such relationships.
These answers might be hard to hear, but they could also be amazingly encouraging. They could give you renewed assurance of why the relationship needed to end, or they could give you enhanced clarity on what you want your relationship to look like when you get back together. Either way, you’ll be able to move forward confident in that you are making a wise and faithful decision, leaning on the resources God has given you to make choices that glorify him.
What comforts me about these huge life questions is Romans 8:28-29:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Ultimately, as long as we are walking with God and seeking his will, God can work through literally anything for our good. He doesn’t leave us even in our worst decisions. He redeems them, loves us through them and uses it to glorify himself. So, with whatever you both decide, you can be confident that God will use it for your good if you are seeking his will. I pray that helps bring you so much peace!
Kelly-Jayne McGlynn is the Family Editor for Crosswalk.com. She loves being able to combine her love for God with her love of writing, and highly enjoys being at a job where the debate over the Oxford Comma actually matters.
Disclaimer: any single editor replying to reader questions through this advice column is a Christian seeking God's direction through his Word. We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. As we explore issues with you, we will seek God's guidance through prayer and the Bible.
Have a question? If you have a question about anything related to living the single life, please email [email protected] (selected questions will be addressed anonymously). While we cannot answer every question, we hope you'll find encouragement in this column.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages-Deagreez
Kelly-Jayne McGlynn loves her role as Family Editor for Crosswalk. She sees the act of expression, whether through writing or art, as a way to co-create with God and experience him deeper. Check out her handmade earring Instagram and Etsy for more of her thoughts on connecting with God through creative endeavors.