Q. I'm a 25-year-old single woman who loves the Lord. Lately I've been very confused about how to find the right partner. In my church, dating is viewed almost as a sin. They believe in the praying method—that God will show you the right person when he's ready. I've watched a lot of young people in my church follow this model, and almost four out of five ended up being miserable—some have even backslid. God wants to give us the desires of our hearts, so what is the Christian way to find the partner God has for me?
—Tidimalo Gailele, via e-mail
A. The way your church is telling people to seek a mate reminds me of the joke about a man clinging to his rooftop during a flood. He prays that God will send him deliverance, and pretty soon a man in a rowboat comes by. "No thanks," the man on the rooftop says, "I'm waiting on God to save me." Later a family paddles up to him on a raft, and finally a helicopter drops him a rope ladder, but the man gives these the same reply. Finally, waves close over the rooftop and the man finds himself standing before God's throne.
"I prayed to you, Lord!" he protests. "Why didn't you save me?"
"I sent you a rowboat, a raft, and a helicopter," the Lord replies. "What were you waiting for?" It sounds like your church is telling people to expect a miraculous sign to direct them to their mate, rather than the more ordinary means he usually uses. God has given us his Word, our own intelligence, friends and family, and the example of believers before us as a guide. All these elements can work in concert when we are praying for discernment, about a mate or any other matter.