Note: A girl just emailed me asking for advice. “I’m falling in love with an atheist” she explained. The man she’s falling for just happens to be her dance partner, causing her to interact with him several times a week. Knowing that she’s not the only girl who has fallen for someone who doesn’t share her faith, she graciously agreed to let me share my response with you.
Dear “I’m falling in love with an atheist,”
I am so glad you wrote. Please don’t read this letter with a harsh, condemning tone, but with an urgent, pleading one. I am deeply concerned for you. If this letter feels like I’m dumping a bucket of cold water on your head, it’s because I want you to wake up. Let’s start with who a Christian is.
An atheist and a Christian are not compatible.
A Christian is a person who is now one with Christ. A Christian has been rescued by Jesus out of the darkness of sin and has been brought into His marvelous light—transformed from the inside out. A Christian has the spirit of Christ living inside of them! A Christian is someone whose entire identity has been refashioned around Christ. Christ is their life. Christ is the reason they are now accepted and beloved by God the Father.
An atheist, on the other hand, denies that God even exists. An atheist is a God-hater, just as you and I were until God graciously opened our eyes to our need to be forgiven and cleansed of our sin, to be reconciled with our Creator, and to be given an “alien” righteousness so we could live with a holy God forever.
An atheist and a Christian are not compatible. How do I know this?
Well, years ago, the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, urging them not to enter into any kind of a close partnership with an unbeliever. After telling them not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (picture an ox and a donkey trying to plow a straight row together . . . fail! It won’t happen—they’ll each want to do their own thing), Paul peppered them with the following questions:
“What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?
“What fellowship has light with darkness?
“What accord has Christ with Belial (Satan)?
“What portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?
“What agreement has the temple of God with idols?
“For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty'” (2 Cor. 6:14–18).
One way we can apply this to our lives today is that we should not marry (and therefore we should not date or long to date) someone who is not wholeheartedly pursuing and delighting in God. King Solomon made this mistake, and we’re told in 1 Kings 11:4 that,
“His wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God.”
You will have to choose between God and this man. You can’t have both. James warns,
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Let me be clear about this, though. If you choose God over this man, God will not love you any more than He already does. It won’t earn you extra points with God. If you truly trust in Christ Jesus as both your Savior and your Lord, you are already His 100% dearly loved child.
Does that mean that you have the freedom to date this man? No way! Besides, why would you want to, when Christ has revealed Himself to you as the greatest treasure there is—both in this life and for the life to come?
I get it that you have strong feelings toward this man. I’ve been where you are. And if you’re anything like me, my guess is that what you’re feeling isn’t true love, but something closer to romantic desire . . . and even maybe lust. I encourage you to:
Explore whether you truly have been born again, and whether Jesus Christ really is both your Savior and your Lord (He can’t be one without being the other!).
Tell an older, godly woman about your struggle. Be completely honest with her, and ask her to help hold you accountable.
Break off your relationship with this guy. Stop dancing with him. Don’t text him. Run!
Pursue Jesus through His Word. Get to know Him. Learn to enjoy Him the way He delights in you.
Two weeks ago I shared how I was finally dating a godly man, and I was less than enthused. I knew he wasn’t meeting my expectations, but I couldn’t have even told you what exactly those expectations were. So one tear-filled afternoon, I finally forced myself to sit down and identify my expectations for a dating relationship.
I realized how much culture had informed my expectations rather than God’s Word.
You might not have a boyfriend yet, but I’m positive you know what it’s like to feel blue because your expectations didn’t pan out. Maybe that new haircut didn’t transform you into an instantaneous beauty queen like you expected it to. Or that 4.0 didn’t get you the praise you thought it would.
So what should you do when the tears start to fall, and you find yourself head to head with unmet expectations?
First, grab a pen and some paper, and write down your expectations that aren’t being met.
Then go back and examine each one. Are your expectations based more on truth or on a lie? Do they line up with God’s Word?
If they’re not based on truth, confess to God that you’ve been believing lies, and begin to praise Him for revealing truth to you.
Jesus said in John 8:32,
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Here, look over my shoulder at what I wrote down about my (unmet) expectations for dating:
I expect . . .
His full attention, but he has other interests. For example, he comments on trees and fields we drive by rather than only having his eyes and mind glued on me.
Magnetic eye contact, but he doesn’t drink me in with his eyes. His eyes seem under control.
Never-ending interest in me—and all that interests me—shown by question asking. But he doesn’t ask nearly as many questions as me.
Him to always be pushing the envelop physically, not able to keep his hands and lips off me. Culture has always told me he’ll only want one thing, but he’s self-controlled and can keep his hands and lips off me.
Fun, romantic, creative dates planned by him. We’ve only been to one nice restaurant, and we haven’t done that many fun, creative things together. But we’re also long-distance . . .
Him to always want to talk to me. This just isn’t the case. We’re both very busy; him even more so than me.
Continual compliments, mostly about how beautiful I am. He does compliment me often, just not often enough for my insecurities.
It was eye-opening to see my expectations spelled out so baldly on paper. As I looked at them, I realized how much culture had informed my expectations rather than God’s Word.
I wiped my hand over my eyes, picked up my pencil, and continued with a second list, based on things that are truly good:
A few things I didn’t expect that I do have . . .
Friendship. He called me his “buddy” when he was here last week.
Excellent communication. I didn’t know it could be so good.
I’m totally myself with him. No pretenses, no holding back the truest parts of me.
Influence. He mentioned this past week (again) how I “inspire” him.
A self-controlled man. All the stereotypes and experiences I’ve had tell me men will pressure me. But he told me he doesn’t feel right “stealing the cookies out of the cookie jar” before he’s committed to me in marriage (referring to kisses).
A humble man who’s honest about his weaknesses. This morning he texted me, “I continue to be amazed at how sinful I really am. Yowza!”
An imperfect man whom I respect. I’ve seen his weaknesses and sin (though I’m sure not all of them), and I still respect him. I believe I see him growing in godliness. I will continue to watch for this.
Now that I’m on the other side of this tumultuous season, I share this with you to encourage you to do the hard work of identifying exactly what your expectations are. Then, if they’re not in line with God’s truth (like mine weren’t!), repent and turn from them. Renew your thinking with God’s truth instead.
Ultimately, Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6). He alone will never disappoint. So here’s to not only having right expectations; here’s to our greatest expectations be firmly rooted in Him!
I’d rather be paid in praise over a paycheck any day, I texted a friend.
Can you relate, or am I the only high-maintenance girl out there who loves to have all her work noticed and applauded?
I realized how much praise motivates me as I was examining each area of my life with the help of The Personal Vitality Plan. As I wrote down what was going well and what was being neglected in the area of my work, I kept stumbling across words like:
Except those were words that did not describe the way I felt. I scribbled on the corners of my paper,
I wonder what it would take to get me to a place of looking forward to going into the office each day . . . Is it my problem or theirs that I’m not wholehearted, passionate, excited, and motivated about my job?
My thoughts soon meandered down the path of guilt as I reasoned with myself, Who has time to praise me for every little thing I do? How high-maintenance of me!
But then it hit me.
God’s a Father who delights in His adopted children’s worship and love of Him.
There’s nothing wrong with being motivated by praise—as long as I’m seeking HIS praise. I just tend to look for it in all the wrong places. My employer and coworkers—incredible as they are—are too busy to notice everything I do and to reward me for it.
God’s not, though.
Did you know that God is a lavish Rewarder? He loves it when His people go all out for His praise.
Don’t misunderstand me. He doesn’t love it when we work to earn His approval. But when we know that we already have His approval through Christ, He applauds our effort to please Him! Not because we deserve it; but because He’s a Father who delights in His adopted children’s worship and love of Him.
No, we won’t hear His praise right . . . this . . . second, but we will hear it! Audibly. How I want Him to say something like this to me when we first meet face to face,
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21).
And so, I’m heading into the office with a whole new goal: to be fully pleasing to the Lord in my work.
How about you? Are you feeling unmotivated in your own work, whether it’s at the office or at home or somewhere in-between? If so, I’m praying the apostle Paul’s prayer for you and for me:
“And so . . . we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9–10).
We know His will. Among other things, God’s will is that,
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23–24).
So how about it? Are you feeling unmotivated? How about working today for God’s praise?
What an honor, to work heartily for the One who sweat great drops of blood for us, so that we might one day soon enter into His rest and hear Him exclaim, “Well done!”
Today, a blockbuster romanticizing BDSM (bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism) will hit the big screens near you. In case you’re not familiar with these terms, a sadist receives sexual gratification by dishing out pain; a masochist receives sexual gratification by receiving pain.
A Strong Woman’s Dilemma
At first glance, it appears downright puzzling that women would consider this to be enjoyable entertainment . . . and flock to it in droves. Dr. Juli Slattery asks,
In a culture that constantly celebrates women’s independence and freedom, do you find it strange that a book about bondage is spreading like wildfire? All of a sudden, words like “submission,” “master,” and “obedience” are not only acceptable but sexy.
In a conversation about Fifty Shades on The View, Barbara Walters suggested that the reason women love this book so much is because, “when you go home, you want the guy to be in charge.”
Well, yes. Women want strong, confident men . . . and we want to be in control. But unfortunately, through insisting on control, we’ve contributed to the very thing we despise: a culture of increasingly weak men.
Christian Grey to the Rescue
Enter counterfeit solution Christian Grey and the dark world of BDSM. Dannah Gresh and Dr. Slattery write,
Although Fifty Shades is fiction, we assure you that the world of BDSM is not. Since the book’s release there has been a dramatic increase in the sales of bondage gear. What was once viewed as a strange, aberrant practice is becoming increasingly mainstream for married couples and for those looking for an exciting affair.
But, they warn,
Solving the “weak man” problem with BDSM is about as logical as curing obesity by promoting anorexia. Both are dangerous distortions of appetite. The true answer is for us to grasp what health looks like.
So what is healthy in the bedroom?
Great Sex Is Not Grey
First, a couple of basic reminders about sex. Because, while E.L. James, the author of Fifty Shades of Grey, would have you believe that sex is grey, God is not grey on this topic. He’s black and white, so that you might catch a glimpse of His unrivaled beauty:
Great sex was God’s idea (Gen. 1:18–25)! If that blows your mind, that’s because, as Dr. Slattery says, “Sex has been dragged through the mud so thoroughly that most people can’t even comprehend that it is intended to be something holy.” Oh, and “holy” does not equal “boring!” God designed loving, passionate sex to be enjoyed in the safe context of a covenant commitment between one man and one woman.
Great sex is not ultimately about us; it’s about God. God designed marriage and sex to tell the story of His loving sacrificial leadership toward His Bride, the Church, and of the Church’s joyful submission to Him (Eph. 5). Again, I appreciate Dr. Slattery’s reminder:
Christ taught and modeled that authoritative leadership is for the purpose of loving sacrifice, not domination, control, abuse, or humiliation.
Submission is all about power—not weakness. . . . God’s design for women to submit is not to take away her power but to channel it in a way that builds a courageous lover and leader in her husband. God’s plan works!
Christ Jesus to the Rescue
So what if you don’t have a strong man to love and serve and lead you?
Actually, you do.
Christ Jesus, God’s own Son, left His powerful position and riches in Paradise to stoop low to serve you. He became a man so He could receive the righteous blows of God’s justice as the willing Substitute for your sin.
Christ Jesus is the strong man your heart desires. Christian Grey is a cheap substitute for the strong, loving leader you were designed for.
Christ Jesus became a man so He could bleed, so that His blood might wash your dirty heart and body white as snow. He experienced physical and emotional pain unlike any you will ever know—so that you, through His wounds, might be healed.
He did all this to restore your broken relationship with God, so that you might glorify and enjoy Him forever, “to the praise of His glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6).
Christ Jesus is the strong man your heart desires. Christian Grey is a cheap substitute for the strong, loving leader you were designed for.
Calling Out the Hibernating Strong Man in Your Husband
Until you are with Him in person, God has given you the means to fulfill your sexual desires, married woman. Not through dark, harmful, twisted sexuality, but in the God-blessed, sanctified context of biblical marriage.
Some of you are experiencing this joyful gift right now. Others of you wonder if your husband even has a sex drive.
I’ll share a secret with you that I learned from reading Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart. Great sex will not begin in the bedroom. Here are a few excerpts that speak to this:
Becoming a great lover requires you to exercise the muscles of temporarily suspending what you want in order to understand and bring joy to your husband. . . .
Sex in marriage will always take on the form of the relationship, even for couples that try to use it to cover up other problems or to think of it as a separate issue. Many couples come to counseling complaining of problems sexually. Almost invariably, their sexual dynamics are a perfect illustration of what is happening throughout their entire relationship. . . .
If God created and defines sex as a “deep knowing” (“yada”), we can reason that the ultimate sexual satisfaction will be found when we are truly known by one another. If you want a satisfying sex life—to truly experience yada—friendship with your husband is the pathway to achieve it. When the deep knowing is given priority in our love lives, the physical aspect of sex just works better. . . .
Regardless of whether your sex life is sizzling or hibernating, my challenge to you is this: How can you begin to call out the strong leader in your husband?
So you don’t have the love (and sex!) you want. Does that mean that erotica is a good outlet for your sexual frustration?
Before I answer that, let me tell you how I define erotica. Erotica is art, literature, or movies intended to arouse sexual desire. It doesn’t have to be a harlequin romance novel or an X-rated movie to count. I can hear you protesting, But when I read a book or watch a movie, I’m not actually having sex myself. So isn’t that the lesser of two evils?
This Valentine’s Day, the world offers you a solution: You don’t have to have sex yourself; you can watch someone else have sex, or you can read all the steamy details through erotica like Fifty Shades of Grey. While that might initially sound better than having sex yourself, don’t believe for a minute that erotica has any place in a genuinely born-again believer’s life.
Is Jesus a Killjoy?
Jesus clearly taught us that any kind of lust is sin:
“Everyone who looks at a woman [or man] with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her [or him] in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).
Was Jesus just being a killjoy? Quite the opposite! Did you know that great sex was God’s idea?! (Gen. 1:18–25). If that blows your mind, that’s because,
“Sex has been dragged through the mud so thoroughly that most people can’t even comprehend that it is intended to be something holy.” —Dr. Juli Slattery
By the way, “holy” does not equal “boring!” God designed loving, passionate sex to be enjoyed in the safe context of a covenant commitment between one man and one woman. (I can’t wait!)
But if you—like me—aren’t yet married, than you do know what it’s like to wait! And wait. And wait. And wait.
Why Erotica Is Not the Solution
Here’s why Dannah Gresh shares that erotica is not the solution for your sexual desires:
While erotica might originally heighten sexual feelings, over the long haul it erodes something much more important—intimacy. Whether you are married or single, you are longing for more than sex. Your body, your mind, and your spirit were created to crave intimacy. The Old Testament [word] for sex [is] yada—to know, to be known, to be deeply respected. Transcending the physical act, God’s language speaks of the deep emotional knowing you ultimately long to experience. The physical aspect of sex is just one part of the equation, but our culture tends to hyperfocus on it with no attention to the ultimately more fulfilling aspect of yada—emotional intimacy. Sexual activity by itself is an empty substitute for true intimacy, and will never be enough. Erotica places undue emphasis on the physical and disables your ability to connect emotionally.
The Tragic Ending Erotica Doesn’t Tell
If you’re still skeptical, take it from a girl who’s been there. Dannah and Juli share this girl’s story in Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart,
I am single and erotica has ruined my life. I have been addicted for ten years, and I am only twenty-five. No one knows that I have lived an isolated life because I have found more solace in fantasies aroused in my mind by erotica than in real relationships. Erotica seems harmless because it’s just words on a page but it brands your mind, creates false expectations for future relationships. I can’t even maintain real relationships because I feel like a shallow pretender hiding one of the biggest parts of my life. Erotica perpetuated my “need” for meeting people online because I didn’t know how to develop or maintain relationships with people outside of the screen. Eventually, I decided to take my online relationships into reality. Many of the stories I read portrayed rape or power-struggle situations as exciting. A no didn’t always mean no because, in the end, the girl always seemed to end up just fine. So when I met one of my first guys offline, I was thrust ever too quickly into a scenario I had read about but, unlike the stories, I didn’t end up fine. My no didn’t mean no, and I was sexually abused by a man who did the same things to me that I had read about in those erotic stories. But in my story, there wasn’t a happy ending. Ever since then, I have carried the weight of shame and guilt from putting myself into that situation six years ago. Erotica makes it seem normal for us to be used and abused, but it’s not normal.
Dear single, erotica is not the answer to your longings for intimacy. Christ is. He’s also provided community so you can experience emotional intimacy right now. And if and when He provides you with a godly spouse, the physical intimacy of sex will just be the icing on the cake of the friendship and emotional intimacy you already share together. (And if you’re married, erotica isn’t for you either, for all the reasons mentioned above. It will erode your intimacy with your husband, rather than enhancing it.)
I’d love to hear from you. Here are some ways you can join the conversation:
Do you agree that erotica doesn’t belong in a born-again believer’s life? Why or why not?
How do you see the difference between sex and intimacy?
Got any great ideas for how single girls can cope with unmet sexual desire? Please share them!
I’ve been dating an amazing man for several months now (surprise!), and until recently, I’ve not enjoyed it.
Let me fill you in on some background info before I tell you more:
Before my boyfriend came into my life, I’d pretty much learned (by God’s grace!) how to live the single life with contentment.
My boyfriend built a solid friendship with me for over four months before we began dating.
As soon as we started dating, though, I didn’t value our friendship. I expected non-stop romance . . . and NOW!
Romance Me Now, Please!
For most of my life I’d observed dating relationships in romance novels and watched them unfold on the screen. As a result, I expected to be fawned over and hotly pursued from my boyfriend’s first admission of liking me. Here’s a peek into one of my journal entries,
I thought dating would be all excitement and fireworks and distraction and butterflies in my stomach 24/7. (Thankfully it’s not, because then I’d really get nothing done!)
Sometimes it is exciting, but most of the time it’s simply comfortable and nice. It feels like real, everyday life instead of the stuff fairy tales are made of.
Suddenly I had a real, flesh-and-blood relationship . . . and I found myself mourning the loss of my long-anticipated fairy tale fantasy.
Who Says Fairy Tales Are Better?
One night, my boyfriend and I were having a playful conversation that opened to my eyes to the fact that fairy tale fantasies aren’t necessarily better than real life. It went something like this:
Me: And then, after getting married on the beach, I’ll ride my dolphin off into the sunset and live happily ever.
My boyfriend: That would put you in shark-infested waters in the middle of the night. (He’s so smart like that!)
Hmmm, I thought, maybe—just maybe—fairy tales aren’t so wonderful, after all!
Meet Prince Charming
A couple months ago, my boyfriend and I sought counsel from a wise elder in his church. After hearing the ins and outs of our relationship, this man spoke words I will never forget,
What I see when I look at you two is two young people who love Christ, understand each other’s shortcomings, have been honest about them, and are still willing to love the other.
That’s more to build on than, “When I look in his eyes, I see stars, and there’s this feeling in my tummy.” That may happen too. But long term, you want a more realistic picture of what you really need. Prince Charming is the grace of God ministering to your area of brokenness.
Oh, how grateful I am for my Prince Charming! How relieved I am that I chose to stick with this real-life relationship rather than rejecting it for some unrealistic, fairy-tale fantasy in my head.
And who knew . . . the romance/desire has developed naturally over time, rather than hitting like a ton of bricks from day one like I expected.
How about you? Have you thought about what expectations you might have for a future dating relationship? Where are these expectations coming from: God’s Word or the culture?
Check back in two weeks to see an exercise I worked through that helped me sort through my expectations for my boyfriend. You won’t want to miss it!