It’s so easy to imagine our relationship journeys will be this steady climb upwards as life goes on. But real life is never that way. There are highs and lows, and then long seasons in the middle, and then more highs and then more lows, and so on. As Christians, our job is to walk with Christ through it all (Psalm 23:4).
With that said, on our path to true love, there are usually some common steps God has us all go through so we can be prepared to honor him in a healthy marriage one day. Some of these steps are really hard to go through and some of them are really enjoyable.
So here are 5 phases that often happen when God is preparing you to find true love.
1. Dreaming and Discovering Your Desires
I’m not talking about literal dreaming while you are sleeping. I’m talking about having healthy hopes for the future, allowing yourself to explore what desires God has really planted in your heart, and forming healthy goals for yourself that are pleasing to the Lord.
Without clarity about whether you want to be single or you want to find true love one day, you will often get stuck in no man’s land, wasting your singleness or wasting the love God has given you for your future spouse. You need time to explore what you really desire.
Singleness and marriage are both good gifts and callings from God (1 Corinthians 7:7), but many Christians struggle to know which one God has given them. One way God will reveal this to you is by helping you discover which one your heart really wants.
A biblical call to singleness is marked by a happiness with singleness and purposeful focus on ministry in singleness. If someone just wants to be single because they are afraid of love, afraid of getting hurt like they did in the past, or too afraid to interact with the opposite sex because they have a low view of themselves – these are not biblical signs of a call to singleness. These are signs you need healing.
After Jesus gave his teaching about not divorcing your wife unless there was adultery, Matthew 19:10-12 (NLT)states:
Jesus’ disciples then said to him, ‘If this is the case, it is better not to marry!’ ‘Not everyone can accept this statement,’ Jesus said. ‘Only those whom God helps. Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’”
When God wants someone to be single they can accept, that for them, it is better not to marry. But when someone knows it is better for them to marry, it is a sign God has not called them to singleness.
For more on this topic, you can read this article: 3 Signs God Has Called You to a Life of Marriage and Not a Life of Singleness.
2. Dashed Hopes and Still Moving Forward
It’s hard to have dreams and hopes because inevitably some of the things we want will not happen in this life. This is why so many people are afraid to hope at all. We know that they only way to avoid the pain of an unmet longing is to not long for anything at all.
But this is no way to live, and this way of guarding your heart will actually prevent love from ever taking place. In order to prepare us for the up and down journey that will happen in relationships and love, God doesn’t teach us how to avoid all risk but rather he teaches us how to get through hard times when they happen.
God will let some things not work out for you on your journey to true love, but God will use these trials to help you learn how to keep moving forward when hard things happen. If you get into a relationship but you have not learned how to push through hard times, you will give up on true love as soon as things get hard . . . because things always get hard eventually. As Hebrews 10:35-36 (NLT) teaches us:
So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.”
3. Symbolic Desires to Specific Desires
As I mentioned in point 1, God puts us through seasons where he helps us uncover the deep desires in our hearts. Along this journey, an important transformation stage has to take place. Many of our desires get revealed to us in a general, mythic, or symbolic way.
For example, I’ve talked to many Christian singles who can’t understand why they are struggling to move on from someone in their past even though that relationship was not healthy. Many times we get attached to someone in our past because they have come to symbolically represent a deep desire we have for love. When you want a spouse one day, your heart and mind often try to put a face on this desire. Usually we use the face of the person we were last with. The pain you feel is not really about this person in your past. The pain is connected to them because of what they have come to represent for you. It’s not that you want this person in your past, it’s that they symbolically represent your desire for a godly spouse.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT) states, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” God knows our hearts better than us. When we get off track, he will correct us and bring us back on the actual paths he wants for us.
He will take us through seasons where he will crystalize the symbols and help us pursue our desire in the specific ways he actually wants for us.
4. Messy Beginnings and Building Deep Roots
It’s so easy to walk up to a beautiful house and say, “I want that.” But the finished product is always misleading.
Before this house was built, there was just an empty field. Then there was a big, messy hole. And then there was an ugly construction site. Before the painted walls and pictures decorating a finished house, there were concrete blocks and pipes being laid so the house would last and be functional.
Likewise, when God leads you to the one, it’s easy to think this is the end of your journey. But this is just the beginning. In singleness, you may be dreaming about the wedding. But God is thinking about the legacy he wants your marriage to leave behind 50 years after the wedding.
When God is preparing you for true love, there are often messy beginnings so your roots together will be deep and strong. As Hebrews 10:32 (NLT) states, “Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering.”
5. Walking Forward By Faith
In regards to our love for God, Hebrews 10:39 (NLT) states, “But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.” While no human relationship can compare to the love we are to have with God, human love is to reflect the love we have with God.
When God leads you to true love, it won’t be like you thought. You will probably imagine this experience to be full of clarity and certainty. Yes, you should see biblical signs of maturity so the relationship can be honoring to Christ. But in reality, there will still be many unknowns. The main difference, however, is that now you know you are going to move forward with this person through thick and thin.
When true love is present, you know you don’t know what is ahead, but you just know you are going to move ahead with this person because you love them and are ready to commit in faith. When you both are prepared to be faithful to each other, that’s when you know you are about to experience a life of true love with someone.