Here are 4 signs God is actually leading you to repent of idolizing a relationship by pursuing a godly relationship with pure motives.
1. If You Sense the Biblical Calling to Pursue Marriage But You Know You Are Idolizing the Idea of a Godly Relationship, Repentance Means Turning Away from Sin and Towards God’s Original Design
Repentance in general means that we turn from our sins and back towards God. What often happens however, is that people simplify this idea and start to believe that repentance just means you turn from your sin. But that’s only half the equation to biblical repentance.
God didn’t make us to just be turning from sin all of our lives. God made humans to passionately pursue the good desires he has put on our hearts that bring glory to him. Our purpose is to glorify God, and we glorify God not only be resisting sin but by doing good that brings God honor.
When we apply this truth to repenting of relationship idolatry, repentance means we not only reject the bad but we also pursue the good God has placed on our hearts. For example, Romans 13:9 explains:
For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The “do nots” in the Bible are really meant to help us fulfill the active command to love. The rejecting of the bad must ultimately be done so that we can better pursue the good.
If you sense God calling you to a life of singleness, repenting of a relationship idol would mean you pursue a life of singleness with a pure motive for the glory of God. But for most Christians singleness, God has called you to a life of marriage (1 Corinthians 7:2, Genesis 1:27-28).
Therefore, if you sense that God has called you to a life of marriage rather than a life of singleness, repenting of relationship idolatry will not end with you just rejecting relationships all together. Repentance will mean you reject idolatry and pursue a godly relationship with the pure motive of glorifying God through your pursuit of marriage.
2. If You Are Being Tempted to Express Your Good Desires in a Bad Way When It Comes to Pursuing a Relationship, This Is a Sign God Wants You to Repent of Idolatry By Pursuing Marriage with Pure Motives
Repenting of relationship idolatry can be especially tricky because it will be very easy to confuse your sinful desires with your godly desires. Wanting a relationship that brings glory to God is a godly desire put there by the Holy Spirit himself. Wanting a relationship more than you want God is a sinful desire flowing out of the sinful nature.
Sin is often the pursuit of a good thing in a bad way. When God made Adam and Eve, he put all kinds of good desires in their hearts. But when their hearts were corrupted with sin, those good desires also got corrupted. Redemption through Christ does not mean God kills all the desires in our hearts. Rather, it means God sanctifies our desires and redeems them to what he originally wanted them to be.
Notice how this principle plays out in Proverbs 5. We are warned to reject adultery. Proverbs 5:8 states, “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house.” But notice God’s wisdom does not end with merely avoiding sin. No, it also tells us to pursue the good he created us to enjoy for his glory. Proverbs 5:18-20 then says, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?”
Just as a married person is called to reject adultery not only by staying away from adulteress people but by also pursuing sex with your own spouse, so too should Christian singles repent of relationship idolatry not only by trying to avoid this sin but also by pursuing a godly relationship with pure motives pleasing to God.
3. If You Have a Found a Godly Person You Want to Marry But You Have Been Tempted to Believe This Person Is “The Perfect One,” This Is a Sign God Wants You to Repent of Idolatry and Pursue Marriage With Pure Motives
So far I’ve really been talking about idolizing the idea of a relationship. But now we also need to talk about how to repent of idolizing a specific person.
All creation expresses something about God. But out of all of God’s creations, human beings bear his image the most (Genesis 1:27). Therefore, if God is not first in your heart, the thing that will be the most alluring to idolize will be another human. If our longing for God himself goes unmet, our hearts will look for the next best thing, the next most enjoyable form of love – which again is human love because we most closely resemble the image of God compared to other parts of God’s creation.
If you believe you have found “the perfect one” and this person’s name is not Jesus, you are wrong. The only perfect person is Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:22).
But this doesn’t mean you haven’t found a godly person. This person could be “the one” God wants you to marry but there is no such things as “the perfect one” God wants you to marry. God is not in the business of blessing his people with idols.
So if you have found a godly person you want to be with but you have gone too far and begun to idolize this person, repentance doesn’t always mean you must let this person go and not be with them. It could mean that if this is what God is saying to you. But repentance could also mean you accept this person is not perfect and that they cannot satisfy your heart in the way that you ultimately need. Only God can fully fill us like we crave. But this person could be a good spouse that is a blessing, just not “the” blessing from God. Notice the beautiful balance found in Psalm 16:2-3, which states:
I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’ As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”
First, David fully gives his heart to God and knows the Lord alone is his ultimate good. But when David’s heart is full of God’s pleasures, he then uses his fulness in God to love others. May we too find our hope in God rather than idolizing people. But may we also then use our fulness of joy in God to express love to those God wants us to express love to.
4. If You Don’t Know God’s Will for Your Future But You Know You Would Like to Be Married One Day, Oftentimes God Will Lead You to Figure Out His Will By Telling You to Walk Forward Towards Your Desires with Pure Motives
Do you know that it’s okay to pursue good things if your motives are pure even if you are unsure if God will one day give you this thing you desire? Notice what Acts 18:20-21 (NIV) says about Paul and the Ephesians, “When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, ‘I will come back if it is God’s will.’ Then he set sail from Ephesus.”
Paul didn’t get frozen in a theological knot when he had to make a decision on what to pursue in his unknown future. He just knew he wanted to serve the Ephesians again and his motives were pure, and so he felt free to pursue this good thing he wanted to pursue. But he also fully submitted to God’s sovereign will for him and knew that it was possible that God could reject this desire of his. But this didn’t stop him from pursuing it nonetheless.
We don’t know if God will let you get married one day. But if you want to be married for the glory of God, if you have rejected relationship idolatry, and you are now pursuing marriage with pure motives, there’s no biblical reason for you not to pursue it. God may still say no, but he may say yes. Like Paul who simply decided to do what he felt was good to do but also knew God could close that door, you too should pursue what is good while also submitting to the Lord’s right to close whatever doors he wants to close.
But again, that should not stop you from doing what Paul said, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Therefore, since marriage is a good thing that glorifies God, if your motives for marriage are pure, you can also say, “I will pursue being married one day if it is God’s will.”