One of the greatest challenges young women and men face today is the temptation to start a relationship with a person who doesn’t share their faith. I know this both from personal experience and from hearing and seeing the experiences of other young people in the church. I would like to share my experience, along with lessons I learned from dating a nonbeliever, and how God blessed me when I surrendered and fully trusted Him to find the right person for me.
It was the beginning of my freshman year of high school when, one day, I met him! He was very sweet, tall, and handsome, and was genuinely interested in me. He was the first guy that had ever shown interest in me like that, and I was flattered that someone would like me in that way.
He was also a Christian, but I knew we couldn’t be in a relationship because we didn’t share the same beliefs. I knew the potential tension this could cause, but I was caught up in the pleasant surprise that someone liked me! At church, I felt nobody thought of me as “relationship material”. It felt good knowing that someone liked me. These feelings, the doubt and the flattery of attention, eventually led to a relationship with this boy—my first boyfriend, my highschool sweetheart.
I loved him, or at least I thought I did. I felt like he was the only person who understood me. We had the same friends at school; we would go out to eat or on hikes, and for the rest of my high school years he made me feel cared for. I tried to ignore the tension caused by our differences and the way we would disagree over our beliefs.
My parents slowly found out about this relationship and grew concerned. I knew that their worries were valid. Though I felt frustrated with them at the time, deep down I knew our relationship wasn’t right or healthy. But I had trouble letting go and getting him out of my mind.
When I graduated from high school and started college, I thought it would make it easier to end things. But he was persistent and persuasive, and I couldn’t do it. I spent the next three years of my college life with him. It was hard and stressful. At times, I felt like I would never be happy again. I wanted him to visit my church and to eventually accept my beliefs as his own, but when he came, I felt uncomfortable and wished he had never come.
But it wasn’t always that way. For six years I spent time with his family and became a part of it. We developed a strong bond, and despite our differences, he chose me. We were in this challenge together, and while our differences divided us, it also somehow brought us closer.
He promised that he would join my church, but he said, “If I compromise and join, you’ll have to compromise on your beliefs as well.” Compromise! I hated that word! It meant that I would have to give up something, but deep inside I didn’t believe my faith should be compromised. I would go through my beliefs and discuss the similarities between mine and his, but we would never reach an agreement. Sometimes we would pray together, but I felt our words were empty. Still, I couldn’t wait to get out the door every day to be away from my family to be with him.
Slowly, I noticed that I was losing all my church friends and my relationship with my family was becoming strained and contentious. I tried to reason with myself, “What’s the big deal? Plenty of people get married to unbelievers and their families work out. Maybe I can go to church, and he can just stay home, but I would have to make sure our kids came to church!” I struggled. I cried a lot. I was under a lot of pressure. I used to beg him to come to church, to study with my pastor. But he always contested everything and never wanted to study. He only wanted to study with me, so he could confuse me and push a compromise.
I finally realized that I needed to end the relationship. But I didn’t have the strength to do it by myself. I had tried to put him out of my mind so many times, to end it, but I couldn’t. Little did I know that a whole army of people was praying for me and pleading with God to strengthen me and guide my life. Finally, after many prayers of my own, I realized that I didn’t need this person to be happy. I surrendered my will to God and broke up with my boyfriend. He left, and I never saw him again. It was one of the hardest things I have done, and I could never have done it without the prayers and support from my family and friends. God gave me such peace and assurance about my decision that I did not feel alone or unhappy. I was convicted that I had made the right choice.
I learned many lessons in that relationship, and it became very clear to me why I should never have begun a relationship with someone who didn’t share my beliefs and principles in the first place. But I also learned that God had always had a special plan for my life, if only I let Him be in charge. I’d like to share with you what I learned.
But why not?
The problem with pursuing a relationship and eventually marrying someone who holds different values than your own is that you and they serve two different masters. You are walking different paths that are leading in different directions, which will inevitably create conflict. The Bible says, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). This is why many faithful young people eventually open hand of their principles and compromise their beliefs in order to avoid conflict with someone they love and who loves them in return.
What I realized is that God’s principles of success in courtship and marriage depend on unity, not compromise. “The happiness and prosperity of the marriage relation depends upon the unity of the parties; but between the believer and the unbeliever there is a radical difference of tastes, inclinations, and purposes. . . However pure and correct one’s principles may be, the influence of an unbelieving companion will have a tendency to lead away from God.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p 174.
One day they will be converted…
“But one day he’s going to be converted!” I used to tell myself this all the time. The reality is that no one should be in a relationship with someone they have to change, fix, “convert”. Only God transforms the soul and convicts of truth! A relationship where I would be constantly hoping he would change, and he would be pressuring me to compromise would never allow for true happiness.
Other times I would think, “He’s already Christian. We share many similar beliefs, and he agrees to participate in some of my church’s activities. How can you classify a person like that as an unbeliever?” But the truth is that if “the companion of your choice were in all other respects worthy…yet he has not accepted the truth for this time; he is an unbeliever… You cannot, without peril to your soul, disregard this divine injunction.”—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 364. The truth I had to accept was that such a union would have eternal consequences for both our souls.
God has a special plan for YOUR life!
While dating someone that wasn’t from church, I often felt that there wasn’t anyone for me in the church. This was one of the biggest factors that made me cling to my relationship for so long. It wasn’t until I walked away from that relationship that God opened my eyes and made me understand that I did not need to get married to be happy. What I needed was to get to know Jesus first. He had other plans for my life, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
After my break up, I began to immerse myself in God’s Word. It was then that my friendship with Christ grew. I realized that happiness is only found through a fulfilling relationship with Jesus. As I began to trust God more, I committed my daily plans into His hands. If it meant that I would never find someone who shared my beliefs, someone with whom to spend the rest of my life, I wasn’t worried because God had big plans for my life, and I was ready to accept them.
It was during this time of complete surrender to Christ that I became friends with a young man from our church on the other side of the world. We began a beautiful friendship with Christ at the center, and the rest is a story for another day. Today we are married, and I am blessed to say I married the love of my life, someone who shares the same beliefs, goals, and love for God as I do. Someone who encourages me on my walk with God daily and proves true that “marriage affects the afterlife both in this world and in the world to come.”—The Ministry of Healing, p. 359
I will be forever grateful that I surrendered my relationships to God and allowed Him to choose the right person for me. Reader, if you are currently struggling in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share your beliefs or if you are contemplating such a decision, please learn the lessons that took six years of my life for me to learn. Put God first, ask Him to be your Counselor, and you will find true happiness. Even if you think you will never find someone with whom to spend the rest of your life, like I thought, let Christ be the One who brings fulfillment and companionship into your life! Let Him be enough. “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalms 37:5).