Courtship Versus Dating

Mirjam Horak

A few things come to mind when I think of courtship versus dating. I will write from my heart, from what I believe God has said to me personally, and from my own experience.

I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the gazelles or by the does of the field,
Do not stir up nor awaken love
Until it pleases. Sos 2:7

I’ve made plenty mistakes in the area of dating, one of them unfortunately leading to one of the most traumatic events in my life.

I know most people won’t have to go through as extreme a situation of abuse as what I did, but I do want to share my experiences as examples, hopefully so that others can learn from them without having to make the same mistakes.

Having grown up in the church, you’d think I knew all about Gods ways of joining a man and a woman together, and the process that would lead to marriage. But I unfortunately found that there is little teaching on the subject out there, and dating is the norm.

So, when I turned 19 and still hadn’t had a boyfriend, I was all too happy when someone came along who seemed interested in me. He asked me out on a date, and I accepted. We ended up dating several months, until I discovered he was not husband material for me – and I called it quits. I did this three times, until I finally sought the Lord on my husband, and asked Him for a word. That’s when everything changed.

The second boyfriend I had, I ended up getting engaged to. We were engaged for just over a month when the abuse started. Later, I found out he was in engaged to someone else at the same time he was engaged to me, and not only had I now been abused, but I had been betrayed and my heart was beyond broken.

I thought it would never be fixed.

Why did I get engaged to this guy? Because I was in love, and therefore I let my emotions lead me. On top of that, I had not sought the Lord on this specific relationship.

Had we prayed, and had I asked the Lord, I wouldn’t have entered into an engagement. To me, once you say yes to that big question, you’re in it for life.

So when the relationship became toxic, I felt I had failed God, my parents, and most of all I felt used, and defiled for life.

Stupidly, soon after I ended the second relationship, I entered into the next one. This was a relationship with a friend I had known for many years, and he had been in love with me for a long time. Emotionally scarred and not healed from the previous trauma, we started dating, but I was not sure he was husband material for me, either.

So one night I prayed. I asked the Lord about my husband. I asked Him for his name.

The Lord spoke to me, and although I did not receive his actual name, I did hear on who my husband would be like, spiritually. I now had something to work with. I wrote down everything God had shown me, and came to the conclusion that my current relationship was not for marriage. I had to end this relationship and it broke this guy’s heart. I felt horrible.

Long story short, in a few short years I had made a mess of not only my, but also these guys’ hearts. This couldn’t be the way God wanted to give me a husband. This couldn’t be Gods best for me.

So I gave up the search. It was the best decision I could have made at that point. Because it eventually led to me marrying the man God had been preparing me for.

When I stopped searching, I started to devote my self, my heart, my emotions – everything – completely to God.

He became my entire focus and my one and only goal. Within a few months I had a life changing encounter with Jesus that radically changed my life and healed my heart from the abusive relationship I had been in. He showed me He was my Bridegroom, and my heart became His.

I will try to explain as clearly as possible what He showed me regarding finding a husband.

Dating prepares for divorce vs courtship prepares for marriage

This, in my experience, was the truth.

Had I known this, I wouldn’t have gone through the wounding I did. I did not pray about my first three relationships and had no word from the Lord on any of them.

I therefore did what I “felt” was right, and my feelings led me into a hole.

You see, when you’re in the dating game, you are looking for someone that comes as close as possible to your requirements of what a spouse should be.

You see qualities you like and…fall in love. Your emotions take over and, in many cases, will lead you.

So now you’re in relationship- or what is called -dating. Everything seems great as you are in love.

Over time you start to see qualities you do not like so very much. Maybe you discover some bad habits, become irritated with some things… And eventually as it all adds up, you decide that actually, this is not the one for you.

So what do you do?

Easy!

You dump them and carry on with your search.

 

In summary;

in the dating process one puts up with things until fed up, and instead of working through the differences, will dump their other half, on the look out for someone that they feel will be a better match.

So why do I say I believe dating prepares for divorce? Because as soon as you see the ugly side of things, and the not so attractive part, you get rid of them and move on.

The issue is not dealt with, but rather done away with.  A few relationships later and…

Your heart has been unnecessarily wounded several times.

What does courtship look like?

Courtship is different.

The process is actually designed to keep you from falling in love prematurely, and prevent hurt feelings and broken hearts.

This is done by not letting your emotions, but Gods voice lead you.

In courtship you will have word from God on that specific person, and the word (prophecies) keeps you committed when problems come up, and encourages issues to be dealt with, rather than avoided.

Falling in love is not the first step in the courtship process.

This results in Gods word leading you, not your emotions.

The bible talks about counting the cost.

For me, courtship was really like that. God showed me who my husband was way before He would speak to this man.

The time it took for me to wait, was the time I took to count the cost.

I had to allow God to sort out issues in my heart and I had to lay things down before I was ready to marry this man.

Before getting into a romantic relationship, rather develop a deep friendship. Spend time praying together, ministering together, comparing Gods will for your lives and discovering the less likable things about each other; the kind of things you wont easily see when you’re in love!

This will give you time to truly count the cost. Did God speak to you about the other person being your spouse?

Will you pray through issues?

Are you compatible?

Because what it comes down to is compatibility.

Compatibility for Gods will over your lives, and as God showed my husband, compatibility for (spiritual) children.

The purpose of a romantic relationship is marriage

As opposed to dating, where the purpose is a boyfriend/girlfriend.

Following is an excerpt from an article that really helped me see the light on dating versus courtship.

 

“The American Dating System and the God of Monogamy”
By Steve Arsenault ~ Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary April 4, 2000

Dating, or more explicitly, the American dating system, is a distorted version of Gods intended way to bring a man and woman together. God is a God of monogamy and dating directly opposes this principle on almost every front.

Through factual information, historical truths, and biblical principles, I will show how the American dating system is not Gods tool for bringing a man and woman together as husband and wife, but rather a perversion of His intended way.

What do you mean dating is a perversion of Gods intended way? How else can a man and a woman begin a romantic relationship and eventually get married?

Before I answer this question, the term dating should be clearly defined. Dating is the system in which a man tries to find a woman (or vice-versa) who is compatible enough, according to his or her own personal standards or requirements, to become his or her spouse through multiple dates with multiple partners.

It is a system in which you try out different partners on an effort to find one that you would like to spend the rest of your life with. According to the dating system, when you find yourself in a relationship with a partner that you decide is not the one that you would like to marry, than you simply break-up with him or her and move on to the next partner.

I have also heard dating defined as two friends of the opposite sex just going out together as friends with no intention of a romantic relationship. I do not consider that situation dating. I call it friendship; nothing more.

Having clarified what I mean by dating, let’s talk about this system.

Many people consider dating a vital part in a person’s preparation for marriage. They feel it prepares them for the situations and problems they will face in marriage. I disagree.

Dating prepares you for divorce! In a dating relationship, because there is no life long commitment made, if a serious problem arises (or even a not so serious problem in some cases) the couple can deal with it by simply breaking up. In turn, the two partners then go and find new partners and hope that their new relationships will go perfectly somehow.

In contrast, marriage is a lifelong commitment, for better or worse, till death do us part! Unfortunately these vows are broken just as many times as they are kept.

Through the dating system people become accustomed to breaking up when a problem occurs rather than working it out. It is no wonder America has the highest divorce rate in the world. A person becomes so accustomed to breaking up that breaking up a marriage comes easily.

Dating leads to intimacy but not necessarily commitment.

By having intimacy in a relationship without commitment, what good could possibly come from it? What happens when you break up with someone who you have developed an intimate relationship with? It leaves you disappointed and hurt emotionally. It produces a lack of trust and a fear of getting hurt again.

As a result, each new relationship you have is started off with problems! You are bringing in your hurts, fears, and insecurities from past relationships which, in turn, hurts your new relationship. It is a vicious cycle that offers no real solution. Now what happens when a dating couple decides to get married?

Do the wounds and fears from past relationships magically disappear? Unfortunately they do not.

These fears and insecurities remain and continue to cause problems, and in half of the marriage relationships in America, contribute to divorce.

Does this sound like a system divinely created by a loving God? Does it sound like a system that the people of God should be involved in?

As one source states, The American Institution of dating is not improving the church or the family. The American dating system is named so because it was originated in America.

Up until the late 1800s a system known as courtship was the only accepted means for a young man and woman to come together in a relationship destined for matrimony.

In courtship, couples would never leave the presence of parents, pastors, or authorities, while together and would rarely be alone together, if ever. But, as the country began to grow and more women found themselves in schools with men, dating emerged. It was called going somewhere.

Couples would take some form of public transportation and go see a show together. By the time cars and movie theaters came about courtship had pretty much been replaced by dating.

People began to go from one partner to another showing little or no commitment. Since couples could easily be alone, their standards for how they acted towards one another had greatly declined. Jonathan Edwards, leader of Americas Great Awakening, is described by his biographer as,

“a great enemy to young people’s unseasonable company keeping and frolicking, as he looked upon it as a great means of corrupting and ruining youth. And he thought the excuse many parents make for tolerating their children in it was insufficient and frivolous; and manifested a great degree of stupidity; on supposition the practice was hurtful and pernicious to their souls.”

Amen to Jonathan Edwards!

Okay, so if dating is a perversion of Gods intended way, what is Gods intended way? I believe it is courtship. Courtship, unlike dating, has been used since the beginning of time with little variation.

The idea of courtship is centered around Proverbs 18:22 which says, He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord. In the original Hebrew language this scripture depicts a vivid scene.

It alludes to a man who is walking toward a specific destination and, along the way, sees a quarter on the side of the road. He picks up the quarter and continues on toward his destination. He was not looking for the quarter, nor did he have to try out the quarter to see if he would keep it.

He simply found it along the way and kept it.

Courtship is the system where instead of you trying out different partners until you pick one, you allow God to choose for you.

Throughout history God has used this system. It only makes sense that the same God who knew you before you were formed in your mothers womb and who sanctified you before you were born (Jeremiah 1:5) would already have chosen who your spouse would be.

If God has already chosen a spouse for you, why would He have you try out or date different partners? He wouldn’t.

In order to fully understand courtship we need to first understand that God is a covenant-making, monogamous God. His very word is founded on love, faithfulness, commitment, and trust in Him.

Therefore His system for bringing together a man and woman will be one that reflects and upholds these virtues. If you are trying out different partners, and breaking up with each one when you decide they are not the one, are you reflecting and upholding the virtues of love, faithfulness, or commitment?

I would certainly say no!

Courtship, on the other hand, does just that. It upholds the covenant making, monogamous nature of God. It allows, ideally, for only one romantic partner in a lifetime. This partner is already chosen by God.

It is your job to trust that He will bring your future spouse into your life in His perfect timing. Courtship allows for nothing less than absolute trust in God, and a loving, faithful commitment to the partner He brings to you. It involves trusting that God knows who will be best for you, including physical appearance!

These are the basic ideas behind the system of courtship.

The actual period of courtship begins after a couple has prayerfully made a decision, together with a spiritual authority, that it is Gods will for them to get married. Until this decision the couple has only been friends.

This period of courtship, which is the time between the decision and the wedding, is for the emotions to catch up with the prayerful and rational decision. This way our emotions do not lead us into the decision, but rather follow after the decision. After all, as Christians we are to be led by faith and not by feelings.

Hebrews 13:8 says that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever; He never changes. Neither do His ways. This is the reason we say that good theology always goes back to the beginning. The way God did things then is the way He does things now.

If the dating system did not come about until the late 1800s, then how could it be Gods chosen way?

Did God change His way of bringing couples together, from the way He had been doing it, in the 1800s?

According to Hebrews 13:8 He didn’t. So, if God does not change, let’s look at how He originally brought a man and woman together.

In the first two chapters of Genesis we read about the creation account. I believe there are some key principles of courtship found in this account. The bible says that God created Adam and put him in a garden, alone. Every day God would visit Adam and walk with him in the cool of the day.

God was building a love relationship between Adam and Himself.

As we read on we see that God looked on Adam and decided that it was not good for man to be alone. This is shocking news! Did God make a mistake and forget to create a partner for Adam? Certainly not!

God does not make mistakes and everything He does has a purpose.

So what was His reason for not creating a partner for Adam right away?

I believe it was because God is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 5:9) and He wanted to make sure that Adams first love was set on Him alone. That is why God walked with Adam everyday, building a mutual love relationship between them.

This is an important principle of courtship. God will not bring His chosen partner to you until your affections have been committed to Him first. Only after God saw that Adam loved Him above all else did God say that it was not good for man to be alone.

God decided to do now what He had already planned; He made a partner that was just for Adam and no one else. Then He brought her to him.

God did not create ten women and give Adam a choice. Nor did He create ten women and tell Adam to try each one out and see which one he was most compatible with or which one was the most attractive.

He created one woman who was created just for him. Then, according to Genesis 2:22, He brought her to the man.

Notice the fact that Adam was not looking for a partner. Adam was completely satisfied with his relationship with God, and Adams eyes were fixed on God alone.

Just like the man who found the quarter on the way to his destination, so Adam woke up and found that God had brought a partner to him.

This is a divine principle. God intentionally created us without partners, knowing full well whom He planned for us to eventually be with, so that we could develop a deep relationship of love with Him first.

Once He feels that He is the number one love in our life, He will bring His divinely predestined partner to us. This was Gods way at the beginning and it is Gods way today!

Gods way of bringing together a man and woman for marriage are reinforced in the story of Isaac and Rebekah. In this story, Abraham, the father of Isaac, sends his servant to bring back a wife from Abrahams homeland, for Isaac.

The servant goes to Abraham’s homeland and there he prays for help. Genesis 24:14 says that he prayed, Now let it be that the young woman who replies, Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac.

The servant then goes on to bring this woman, named Rebekah, back to Isaac to become his wife. These scriptures reinforce the fact that God has appointed a partner for us and He will bring that partner to us.

Is God dating? In Ephesians 5:27 Jesus’ relationship with the church (us) is represented as a love relationship. In Ezekiel 16 Gods relationship with Jerusalem (His chosen people) is represented as a love relationship.

In either case, is God dating? The last time I checked, He was still looking for a bride, not a girlfriend. I thank God that He is not dating!

If God were dating His people then He would have broken up with us a long time ago! He would have said that we gave Him to many problems or we were not compatible enough for Him. He, more than anyone else, Has the right to break up with His current partner but He doesnt!

God has made a commitment to us and promised that He will return for us as His pure and spotless bride. Right now God has placed us in the period of courtship between the decision to marry us, and the actual marriage. He is developing an intimate relationship with His bride to be and preparing us for eternal unity with Him. He has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us and He is not a man that He would lie.

He is a covenant-keeping God who gives us a divine example of the commitment that should be found in any relationship of love and intimacy. God does not date and neither should we. Benny and Sheree Phillips say it best when they ask,

“Do you want to experience Gods best for you? Then save yourself for that one person.

Save your emotions, and your heart. Save your I love you’s and your devotion.

Save your affection and handholding. When Gods will becomes clear and you discover that special person, you will see that it was well worth the wait .”

Many Christian couples and single people find themselves agreeing with the previous quote as they begin to realize that the American dating system is not Gods chosen tool to bring a man and woman together, but rather a perversion of Gods intended way, known as courtship. ~~ End of article.

 

So what did I do after thinking about all of this?

List your specs!

I made a list. There were about 10 points on my list. I told my Father what I wanted, as I believe faith is specific. I had been through an abusive relationship, and was certain about what I did and did not want in a husband.

If I was going to stand in faith for a husband, I would need something to stand on. The next guy would have to have all ticks on my list in order for me to consider he could be my future spouse. I like to brag now and say that I got 10 out of 10 in the husband God gave me.

So list what you are looking for. Tall or short, black brown or white, English or Chinese, what his/her job is, what his/her hobbies are…and whatever you feel must go on that list. List it!

Remember, God forces NO ONE into His will!

When God shows you who your spouse is, but the other person does not want to hear, or disobeys, they are free to do so. This does not mean that you heard wrong, it just means that everyone has a choice to obey Gods perfect will for their lives. Remember, there is Gods permissible, good, and perfect will.

This of course does not mean God will not provide you with a spouse, ever.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:2

Comparing Eternal Plans

One of the most important, and what I found one of the most exciting, parts of the courtship process, is comparing Eternal Plans. Your eternal plan is the plan for your life that God has shown you, your scroll from heaven.

I was so thrilled, and shocked at the same time, when my now husband and I first compared our eternal plans. They overlapped SO much, and fitted together like puzzle pieces. We could both see Gods hand in this, there was no doubt about it.

We compared this before we entered into courtship!

In fact, this was way before he had even heard from God. But there was mutual interest, and I had already heard from God, so we compared our plans and the next step was to wait for him to hear from God himself.

It is very important that both hear individually from each other.

Not via prophesies of other people, but directly from God yourself. A spouse is such an important issue, that God will speak to you directly about it.

On top of that, it is that word that will keep you running together, even when courtship or marriage gets bumpy. When God speaks, it is eternal.

His word stands forever. He is not confused and does not change His mind.

So you have that word to hold on to, when issues come up that require for them to be dealt with in love.

Other people speaking into your life

It is encouraging to be confirmed in what you’ve heard from God, yet I believe other people prophesying over your life regarding a spouse, must come second to you hearing yourself.

However, it is wise to have a mother, father, sister, brother or friend in the Lord that will listen to you and pray with you regarding this.

And if you have not heard from God regarding the person you think might be the one? Then stay friends until you do hear. It is worth the wait!

Prophetic people have this ‘handicap’, they can see way ahead. When God spoke to me about my husband, I had to wait another 3 years for him to hear from God, too.

All while around us, everyone could see what seemed so obvious. But I deeply respect my now husband for waiting to hear from God himself. It was a challenge for me, but I am grateful for the time we had to first build our friendship, and that’s how I ended up eventually marrying my best friend.

Another ‘handicap’ prophetic people have is that its easy to prophesy into someone’s feelings, desires and emotions; you either know about them as you might know the person, or you can pick up on their desires and longings and prophesy into it.

Although the prophecy could be correct, it might be completely premature and the absolute wrong timing.

Learning to walk together

One day I was praying about courtship. And God showed me a vision.

He showed me that courtship is like a running track on which athletes run.

Two people starting out, running the race together. They will begin by being joined at the ankles. Still having freedom to move, yet joined and learning to walk together. As they continue in the courtship process, they will be joined at both the ankles and the hip.

It requires a lot more to walk like this, and you’re becoming one more and more. Much more challenging! Next, in addition to the ankles and hip, they will be joined at the shoulders.

Almost completely as one and requiring to really walk in sync, they continue to run the race.

Finally, as they approach the finish line that resembles the end of courtship, but the beginning of the covenant of marriage, they are joined at the heart and truly become one.

In summary

We need to believe for Gods best in our lives. The Courtship versus Dating debate needs to be discussed and agreed upon with your partner.

I encourage you to keep your emotions, your heart, your thoughts, your body and relationships pure before God. Stay wholly devoted to Him and He will show you who He has prepared for you from before you were born.

In His perfect time He will show you His will. And when He does, you will be tested, you will need to count the cost. But it is worth it, He is your Father and He has nothing but the best in mind for you.

And remember that we all make mistakes. We live in a broken and fallen world full of demons that seek to steal, kill and destroy. When you make a mistake, there is forgiveness and a second chance, over and over again if we just come to God in repentance and ask Him to forgive us.

Pray for your spouse. Pray for them even before you have met them. I started praying for my husband many years before I met him and eventually married him. Your prayers are a precious gift to your future spouse, just as much as your purity is.

Read these related articles

Christian Courtship Process

Marriage Compatibility Test for Christians

‘Wait for me”

Rebecca st James

Darling did you know that I
I dream about you
Waiting for the look in your eyes 
When we meet for the first time
Darling did you know that I
I pray about you 
Praying that you will hold on
And keep your loving eyes only for me

Cause,I am waiting for
Praying for you darling
Wait for me too
Wait for me as I wait for you
Cause, I am waiting for
Praying for you darling
Wait for me too
Wait for me as I wait for you
Darling wait
Darling wait

Darling did you know I dream about life together
Knowing it will be forever 
I’ll be yours and you’ll be mine
And darling when I say
Till death do us part
I’ll mean it with all of my heart
Now and always faithful to you 

Cause, I am waiting for
Praying for you darling
Wait for me too
Wait for me as I wait for you
Cause, I am waiting for
Praying for you darling
Wait for me too
Wait for me as I wait for you
Darling wait
Darling wait

Now I know you may have made mistakes
But there’s forgiveness and a second chance
So wait for me
Darling wait for me
Wait for me
wait for me

Cause, I am waiting for
Praying for you darling
Wait for me too
Wait for me as I wait for you