Q&A: Is it possible to date my ex's friend?

Question More than a year ago, I broke up with my boyfriend.  Currently, I am quite interested in another guy that my ex is also friends with. Here’s the dilemma: I don't want to hurt my ex. I was the one that broke up with him. I broke his heart, and even now, I feel so guilty about it.  Should I stop what is happening because they know each other, and if my ex sees us together he may be even more hurt?

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How should you respond if a non-Christian asks you out?

Last week I answered a question from a woman who isn't sure how to turn down a date with an unbeliever. She wrote,

A few weeks ago a non-Christian asked me out. I didn't know he was interested in me, was taken off guard, and didn't know how to respond. I felt very uncomfortable saying, "Sorry, I won't spend time with you because you aren't a Christian." Instead, I made up a lame excuse and left. I'm sure that was not the best way to handle the situation. It certainly wasn't honest. What do you think is the most sensitive and loving way to explain that you only date other Christians?

It's a good question both because it reaffirms the biblical command to only date and marry believers, but also because it reminds us that some ways of saying no are better than others. I replied,

In order to follow through on your desire to date and marry a believer, you must love Christ above all else. He must be more valuable to you than any human relationship — He must be your greatest treasure. Then, rooted in His love and empowered by the Holy Spirit, you will not only have the ability to obey His commands, you will also be able to do so — including saying no to a date with an unbeliever — in ways that testify to your faith.

So what to do in this specific situation you’ve raised? In short, you should reply “No, thank you.” Said with a smile, those three little words are powerful for guarding you from all sorts of undesirable situations. ... sometimes it’s necessary to say more than that. I agree it’s not a good idea to say, “Sorry, I won't spend time with you because you aren't a Christian.” But you can certainly say, “As a Christian, I’m committed to dating only those who share my faith.” A response like this may cause a young man to stop and think, and may open his eyes to the Gospel.

You can read my full answer at Boundless.org.

Hope for marriage when there's so much divorce

FullSizeRender Is it folly to hope for marriage when divorce is happening all around you? That's the gist of the question I answered this week on Boundless. A young woman wrote,

Over the past two years I have noticed more and more people separating and getting divorced after 15, 20, even after 30 years of marriage. Although none are in my family, they are all in close connection with my family. My brain is finding this increasingly difficult to compute, make sense of and deal with.

I hope to marry one day. I pray that my marriage will be as successful as those of my parents and grandparents; however, with more and more long-term marriages failing around me, I find myself increasingly closing myself off, unwilling to take the risk of even trying to get to know men with a potential to marry.

How can I practically accept and come to terms with the increasing number of failing long-term marriages in my life while still being able to keep my heart open to the hope of marrying, and without letting the fear of the risks increase to the point where I let my desire for marriage die?

A recent commentary for the Religious News Service noted that given the consumeristic approach westerners have toward getting and staying married, as well as the decline in cultural incentives to stay married, “routine mass divorce is inevitable.” This is bad news for marriage. But it is not new bad news, nor is it adequate reason to lose hope in marrying for life.

The ability to stay married, and especially to stay married in a godly, loving, sacrificial and fruitful marriage, has never been something we can achieve in our own strength. ... Staying married may not be easy, but it is simple. Marriage is a matter of obedience. For two believers who have been given hearts of flesh in place of their hearts of stone (Ezekiel 11:19-20, 36:26-27), obedience is possible in the strength of Christ (Philippians 4:13, John 15:5).

Obedience is an outmoded idea, but it is essential to keeping one’s marriage vows. Obedience may not be sexy, but it is durable and dependable. And most hopefully, for the believer, in the power of the Holy Spirit, it is possible.

To read the rest, visit Boundless.org.

How can I tactfully let people know my desire for marriage?

When I was single, I was embarrassed to admit my desire for marriage because it felt like an admission of defeat. Thankfully God sent an older, wiser woman to help me see the benefits of enlisting help and letting people know that I hoped to marry one day. What does it look like to express the God-given desire for marriage in a way that doesn't come across too strong? Following is my answer to this question from a 26-year-old professional single woman. Q: I am pursuing an exciting career — but one that I would be willing to put aside to get married and start a family. It is my ultimate goal to bring God glory whether married or single, and since I am single right now, I am enjoying pursuing a professional goal.

However, at times I am suspicious that my current career focus may be getting in the way of being able to realize my marriage-and-family dream. Since I've embarked on my professional journey, I have been asked out much less, and my interactions with guys have turned much more professional. I find that the young men in my life show a high respect for me and give me support and affirmation in my professional journey (which I'm thankful for) but not much romantic interest.

How can I balance professional goals but also tactfully make it known that I want to be married?

A: The desire to let eligible men know you're interested in marriage without sounding desperate has long been a dance between grace and wit, but lately, it's gotten even trickier. In earlier times, marriage was the hope and goal of most women. It was the cornerstone for men and women, the foundation upon which adulthood was built.

Increasingly though, marriage researchers say it's the capstone, the final flourish added to the already completed structure. Many in our culture, while not happy about this trend, are willingly following the script that makes it so. Women are excelling in college and grad school, out-earning their male peers, and delaying marriage. The more they're cheered for doing so, the harder it is to prioritize marriage.

But it's not impossible. <Click here to read the full answer.>

I Married an Unbeliever, Now What?

Last week advice columnist Starshine Roshell answered a question at TheWeek.com from a self-described Christian woman married to an atheist man. She wrote,

I have been married for two years, and we just got pregnant. Neither of us was planning it and we were using birth control, but I guess we were the lucky 1 percent. I really love my husband... but he is a devout atheist and I am a devout Christian. I want to have the baby, and so does he, but we are having a hard time deciding how we will bring up our child. What do people do in this situation?

Albert Mohler talks about this question, and Starshine's response, on today's briefing with a strong word to Christians who are thinking about marrying an unbeliever (atheist or otherwise.). This is a cautionary tale: Scripture is clear that we are not to be "unequally yoked."

But what if you wrote the question (or could have)? What if you are already married to an unbeliever? Or what if you became a believer after you were married? This side of the altar, what are you supposed to do?

A few years ago I answered a question like that on Boundless.

QUESTION

Ten years ago, as a young girl raised with strong Christian parents and about to graduate from a Christian high school, I would have never believed that I would be where I am today. I feel sick to my stomach after reading these articles. The reason isn't because the articles are offensive, but rather because according to these articles, my life is terribly offensive to God.

I did "Missionary Date" my now-husband in college (well, actually I was in denial; his referring to himself as a Christian did not make him one), have been "unequally yoked" to him for five years now, and at the young age of 20 and 23 made "not having babies" our option. At 26, he had a surgery that made having babies not an option.

I've taken three wrong turns and I am lost. I am determined not to divorce and I'm reluctant to reverse our decision (and surgery) about not having children since the reason I decided not to still remains: I'm too afraid to raise a child without a Christian husband. Please advise me on the right way to live under these circumstances that I've created for myself.

ANSWER

Thank you for writing. I'm so glad you did because I want to assure you and encourage you that while those articles speak to where you are, they were not written to condemn you. The primary reason for the first article is to encourage not-yet-marrieds to make wise dating decisions. The purpose of the second is to exhort believers who don't yet have kids (whether married or not) to have a biblical worldview about bearing children.

In your case, the articles are descriptive. But as your email reveals, they don't go far enough to say what to do if you've already ignored such advice. You've admittedly made some mistakes. The Bible calls them sin. That's the hard truth. The good news, however, is that Christ died to cover your sins with His blood and there is forgiveness at the foot of the cross and the empty tomb.

Scripture goes on to tell believers in exactly your circumstance what you can do about it. Paul tells the believers in Corinth who are married to non-believers that,

If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace (1 Corinthians 7:12-15).

Peter also addresses your situation, encouraging you that you can win your husband to Christ without even speaking a word.

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

I admire your commitment to your wedding vows and your disdain of divorce. Both are evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in your heart and both are powerful testimonies to your husband of your faith. I would encourage you to keep praying daily for him both in your quiet time as well as in agreement with other mature believers (keeping in mind that prayer for him should not be confused with gossiping about him). God can save him and often does lead whole families to faith through the persistent prayers of a believing relative.

You can't change the past. But you can repent for your disobedience, and you can start acting from this point forward with biblical wisdom. How do you do that? By praying and asking God for wisdom (James 1:5); by studying God's Word so that you can know what it says and what it requires of you (Psalm 119, 2 Timothy 2:15, Micah 6:8); and by asking your pastor or the elders of your church for help and accountability. Have you asked for counsel and prayer from those in leadership? The body of Christ is a strong help to us when we're facing major challenges if we will walk with other believers in the context of a biblically faithful church.

Finally, even if your husband never comes to know Christ personally, you can trust God's sovereignty to ultimately redeem your situation; to bring beauty from ashes.

This is not the time to be downcast or discouraged, but the time to repent for your sins, walk by faith, and to put your hope and trust in the Lord's ability redeem your life and marriage in a way that demonstrates His faithfulness and miracle-working activity in the lives of those who trust Him.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man (Romans 8:1-3).

There is great reward, joy and life to be had in the path of obedience. I pray God will equip you for what you must do. I pray He will give you a long and fruitful marriage that bears witness to His sovereignty in your life.

Sincerely, CANDICE WATTERS