Putting the Romance Back in Your Spiritual Life

For your Maker is your husband — the LORD Almighty is his name.
Isaiah 54:5a

 

As a counselor I sometimes tell starry-eyed couples that romantic love isn’t real. Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration because love certainly is a real feeling, but it’s no more illuminating than the world seen through a bottle of Johnny Walker Red. Romantic love has chemical and emotional components which change the way we assess priorities and consequences. In love our maturity level slips backward to that of a teenager. We ignore danger. We glorify the imperfect. We idealize the unknown. We absolutely know we are going to live happily ever after!

 

Strangely enough, the same dynamic seems to happen when we fall in love with God. How many of us – if we are honest and brave enough to say it – have been disappointed with Him? How many of us would say that it isn’t all going the way we planned, that it’s harder than we thought, that God doesn’t always hold up His end of the bargain?

 

Of course, there really is no bargain. What we have is a done deal – God agreed to die for our sins, and we agreed to live for His righteousness. That’s it. Savior and Lord. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health… well, you get the idea. It sounds very sweet when you say it in church, looking like a model, holding your best friend’s hand. It seems a bit different in the drudgery of everyday frustrations, the despair of bankruptcy, the challenges of addiction, the weariness of long illness, life lived alongside someone you aren’t even sure you like anymore.

 

If faithfulness is difficult to maintain with a visible, warm-blooded spouse, it can be even more difficult when your Spouse lives in a Paradise you’ve never actually seen. One thing we can know, however; with a human partner, there is sin on both sides. While we don’t understand a lot of God’s ways, there is no sin in Him. All His acts toward us, even unanswered prayers and unforeseen disasters, are meant for our good (Rom. 8:28). That’s where faith comes in and where faithfulness finds its biggest challenges.

 

In a marriage there are ways to deal with those challenges other than running away. For example, you might try being a little more honest with your partner, sharing your disconnection or even your anger with them. You might talk to a pastor or a counselor or a trusted friend. You might attempt to rekindle your romance by spending more time with your lover, writing them amorous notes and reading some of theirs, reviewing the history of your relationship or taking up new interests together. You might examine your own sin as you deal with your disappointment. You might work at knowing and loving the person who is, rather than the person you made up in your head when you were ‘under the influence.’

 

These same remedies are applicable to our relationship with God. Go back and read the last paragraph from that perspective. And then ask yourself, will you love God when He isn’t what you thought He was? When He doesn’t do what you want Him to do? When He doesn’t treat you the way you want to be treated? It’s what you promised when you gave Him your heart. If you’ve lost your first love, then things are getting real. Your Maker is your Husband, and He will never leave you nor forsake you. How will you keep your love alive?


Please reply in the COMMENT section.  I’d love to hear some of your ideas.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

imageDear Christian Counselor,

 

I have decided to break up with my boyfriend. We have been dating online for 4 months and have gotten emotionally close. He loves me and wants to marry me, but I do not want to pursue a romantic relationship any further. I want to be as gentle and loving as possible in this process because I know what it’s like to be on the other side. I need help in what to say, what not to say, and how much I should say. Can you help me? Thank you!

 

Agapephilia


Dear Agapephilia,

Your desire to be kind and honest in this situation is admirable. I also commend you for being aware of what you want. No doubt, it is difficult to end a relationship with someone. Your best bet is to go with your inclination to communicate with kindness and honesty. Focus on what you want to let him know. You never have to share more than you feel safe sharing, even if it means repeating what you’ve already said.

 

It might help you to practice with an empty chair or a friend in order to become more confident in communicating your message. Some people like to write down key points or even to script the entire conversation. You could then read that message over the phone to him.

 

With all of this said, he will most likely still feel hurt regardless of how gently you deliver your message. You cannot rescue him from that feeling. You also do not have to apologize for your decision. It might take him some time and the help of friends to grieve and process the end of your relationship.

 

Lastly, decide ahead of time what you want your relationship to be like after you break up. Some will disagree with this, but I recommend making a clean break. That means no communicating or staying friends until both parties have the opportunity to heal and move on. Be mindful of family or friends you can talk to afterward about the breakup. God’s love will be there for you, as well as your ex; neither of you need to walk through this alone.

 

–Jessica

Unhappy in Love

Dear Christian Counselor:

I have low self-esteem and seem to attract men who are emotionally needy.  I end up being “the emotional rock” in the relationship.  I am there for them when they need a shoulder or ear (“love bears all things”) but when I need them, they can’t be there for me in the same way.  The relationships end, and I feel even worse about myself than before.  How do I change the way I see myself and those whom I attract?  Thank you and God bless.

—Bella


Dear Bella:

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately on this same general topic, so you are not alone in your struggle. I hope you don’t mind if I use your letter to introduce a new resource for all the women who have written to say that they are unhappy in their romantic relationships.  I’ve created a .pdf document which you can download from the “Resources” page (or click here) with six principles for romance, geared specifically toward women.

You already understand that you are struggling with low self-esteem, and I think that is really another way of saying you are not confident of God’s great love and purpose for you.  I would highly recommend that you spend your time working on that problem before you consider getting involved in another relationship. There are many ways to do that, from personal study to support groups to intensive, one-on-one counseling.  Start asking around at church, and if you can’t find something, get a group of friends together to read God-Esteem by Roger Sonnenberg or From Bondage to Bonding by Nancy Groom.

It sounds like you may be offering a listening ear in order to feel good about yourself in addition to meeting a need in your partner.  When you enter a relationship looking for emotional validation, you place expectations and responsibilities on the other person that are bound to disappoint you both.  When you don’t need another person to make you feel whole, then you will be ready to stand beside someone else and build a real life together.

Louise

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