What I do not know is like the ocean to the dewdrop of my present knowledge, and it is the same with us all. This has been true, and will remain so well beyond our time here on earth. Sometimes the hesitation in a relationship is the product of our own homegrown fears ceded to us by family, friends, and past relationships. At other times the hesitation flows from true wisdom and caution is appropriate. Ah, but knowing the difference…
The fact of the matter is that we cannot make decisions based on what we do not know. I say this because I remember quite often waiting for a second opinion or a more favorable report. Perhaps it is the loyal soul in me, but letting go was always very hard, even when it was clear the relationship was going and should go nowhere. Sometimes it was a fear of being alone, and sometimes it was the ever present, “But what if…”
“What if this IS the person for me and I am just too wounded to let myself be loved?”
“What if I am just too picky?”
“What if she is serious about changing?”
“What if I never find someone else?”
“What if this is all in my head?”
The what ifs are sumptuous, hanging fruit in a tempting garden. The what ifs beckon beyond mere reality to the possibilities. That is not all bad. We must be ready to hope and to hope for people. We must be truly ready to believe that people can and do change. I have changed. I have moved past mistakes and become a better man. We have all learned from past mistakes. We dare not hold anyone (including ourselves) to the sole standard of perfection without extending grace. And yet, when hindered we must be hindered. You cannot build a life on what ifs—at least not a secure one.
The fact of the matter is we cannot make decisions on what we do not know. The fact that a person could change is not enough to support an ailing relationship. We do not know that they will change or grow. The hope that a person may grow is no reason to nurture a dying relationship. What we do not know may offer hope, but we act on what we know.
This means that the difference between an obstacle to overcome and a hindrance that must be heeded is the extent to which any person aids or hinders the higher goal of loving the Lord with all our heart mind soul and strength. There is something quite powerful in the words of Hebrews 12:1—“throw off everything that hinders.” If you have been there and have shed the weight of a dying relationship you know well—it is freeing. But it doesn’t always feel good.
The loneliness is no easier just because the right decision has been made. It is there that the “what ifs” really do their work. Loneliness can cause you to question even the best of decisions. In fact, having to lay love on the alter, having to raise the knife, having to give it up to the Lord, may leave you feeling even more lonely.
But we throw off what hinders not because we will then get what we want, not because the need will cease, but because the ultimate goal is not JUST to marry. The ultimate goal is not just anyone. We are “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before and who want us to finish the race well. We are in the lineage of heroes who have given all for the faith, and it would be tragic to give in to “the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1).
If the decision is whether to continue with someone who continually draws you into sin—there is no decision. Run. “Flee from sexual immorality’ (1Corinthians 6:18). “Flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1Timothy 6:11). “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2Timothy 2:22).
It may be a temporary stay or a permanent cessation, but if you are involved in sin the relationship needs serious help! This is the stuff of police reports—the person who is abusive but claims they “love” you. If they are drawing you into sin—they do not love you! Not the way Love should love, sacrificially, unselfishly.
No one who loves you will ignore the fact that they are a hindrance in your life. Anyone who sees this fact will act on your behalf to save you from destruction or distraction. If they do not, they love being with you more than they actually love you. They love the fun of it, the sport of it, the pleasure and companionship—but they do not truly love you. “Love is not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
If someone is not drawing you deeper into fellowship with the Lord, that person is a hindrance to running “the race marked out for [you]” (Hebrews 12:1). If this seems harsh or exclusive—so be it. To live a life pleasing to the Lord you may need to be somewhat ruthless. If this is why you are still single, no apology is needed.
Be kind and gentle. Extend the grace of God, and never forget love. Never forget love! In all cases we are dealing with the heart of a brother or sister in the Lord (I assume) and we are to act as Children of God. But being kind cannot pass for a relationship. This profits no one. Make no excuses for getting out. Run the race “with perseverance” and run it well (Hebrews 12:1). The fact that we are admonished to persevere tells us the race will not always be easy. It is rare that ending a relationship is easy—even if you are the one doing the ending.
In dating, the women I most appreciated were the ones that, knowing the relationship was going nowhere, spoke honest words to me. I felt respected. They were saying to me, “I think highly enough of you that I am going to speak honestly and trust you will take it well.” In fact, my admiration of them only grew and it made their decision even harder. I did not always agree, but I look back with appreciation and am edified.
It is not possible to build a solid relationship on “what ifs”, but many have. It is not possible to establish a firm future on what a person “could be”, yet many have. It is like building our house on sand not stone (Matthew 7:24-27). It is not a matter of if the storm will come—but when. Think now if the house you are building will stand. If it will not—get out!
You cannot make decisions on what you do not know. You cannot build a future on possibilities. You cannot simply hope that the qualities of a godly woman or godly man will manifest somewhere down the road. This is a recipe for disaster. If these qualities are in short supply now they may never improve. Hoping they will materialize without solid evidence to this effect is really dreaming—mere fantasy. Then the love you think you feel may be no more than the hearts wishful thinking.
If God is trying to hinder you, if something is missing, something that is a matter of righteousness or Godliness, be hindered. If it is a godly man or woman you are looking for (and I pray it is) expect the person you are dating to live up to this great charge. Call them to live up to this great charge. The truth is you may look back and thank God He hindered you. But first, if He is hindering you, you must be hindered.
This article was first published on Crosswalk.com Friday, March 26, 2010