While the Bible doesn’t speak specifically to long distance dating relationships, numerous passages about love apply insight to relationships of all kinds. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is one of those passages. How can we relate some of those Biblical principles to the unique challenges of long distance relationships?
Lesson #1: Love is patient.
Long distance relationships are characterized by a LOT of waiting: waiting to see each other, waiting to receive a letter or gift, and waiting for the distance to be closed. The days leading up to a long-awaited visit can feel like an eternity!
In these times of waiting, we have an amazing opportunity to learn the beauty of patience. Patience is evidence or fruit of the Spirit’s work in our life (Galatians 5:22-23). Through it, God gently (or sometimes strongly) reminds us that our contentment does not come from our circumstances (Philippians 4:12-13).
If you find yourself becoming impatient with God, take a moment to check your heart. Cherish those seemingly endless 10-hour drives as times to work out your emotions with the Lord and turn to Him in praise. In your relationship, remember to be patient with each other as you wrestle with the difficulties of long distance.
Lesson #2: Love does not envy.
Envy creeps into a long distance relationship when you resent the amount of time someone else spends with your significant other. Perhaps it’s a friend of yours who sees your boyfriend more often than you. Maybe it’s a girl you barely know, and that makes it all the worse.
Either way, envy will poison your joy. Unless you have reason to believe otherwise, remember that your boyfriend’s intentions are likely not to harm you or make you doubt him (see #4 for more on trust). Still, you should be honest with your boyfriend about what you’re feeling. Keeping silent about the hurt you feel will only build up sinful anger and bitterness in your heart (and love also keeps no record of wrongs, remember).
On the other hand, be thoughtful toward your boyfriend and don’t create situations that tempt him to become jealous. Don’t hang out with guy friends so much that they seem to know you better than your boyfriend. Don’t take a guy who is “just a friend” to a dance or a wedding if your boyfriend can’t come. While he may tell you it’s okay, he will probably have secret mixed feelings.
If one of you is unwilling to pull back on a potentially toxic friendship with someone of the opposite gender, think about what is more important in the long run: your relationship or your friendship. Authentic love for someone means that you sometimes respond to their requests even when you don’t fully understand why they are important.
Lesson #3: Love is not self-seeking.
At a certain point in your long distance relationship, you need to ask yourselves if you are apart for the right reasons. Are you dating at a distance so you can focus on attaining your dream or God’s dream for you? Are you placing your hope in a high-paying salary? Your pride in your reputation as a self-sufficient woman? Your joy in your ability to succeed in your career? Your peace in a familiar town and group of people?
Certainly, God does give us dreams that require us to step away from our loved ones (Mark 10:28-30). I believe God has designed beautiful dreams for all of us, if only we would fervently seek Him for discernment. But I think we need to be careful not to declare the exact boundaries of what God’s dream is for us.
Just because God has worked through you where you are doesn’t mean He always wants you to stay there. Our understanding of marriage as a symbolic foreshadowing of the Church entering into the eternal presence of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33, Revelations 19:6-9) means that part of the joy of marriage is experiencing life together. Long distance dating should be a season of your life, not a permanent state of being.
This is an enormous topic, and be cautioned that it may not be as relevant if you haven’t been dating very long or you if just graduated high school. Before either of you considers moving to pursue marriage, you both need to be 1) confident in who Christ has created each of you to be 2) confident that you would be able to establish a healthy marriage together. Take time (lots of time) to pray and seek the counsel of mature believers before making this decision.
Lesson #4: Love always trusts.
Trust is a unique challenge in long distance relationships. When trust is broken in a long distance relationship, it may take months or years to rebuild.
Broken trust occurs when our behavior does not match our words. If you flirt with another guy, you are breaking your commitment to be faithful to your boyfriend. Whether or not that commitment was verbalized, you can safely assume it was implied. Behavior includes unfaithful thoughts and emotions because we are still accountable to God for sin in these unseen realms.
When you break your boyfriend’s trust, you should confess your sin both to God and your boyfriend, seeking restoration. When your boyfriend breaks your trust, it’s okay — and healthy — to feel sad and upset. But just as quickly as this news devastates you, it should also cause you to call out to God for the strength to extend grace toward your boyfriend.
If broken trust becomes a pattern, one of you may need to end the relationship. However, if the person who broke trust is sincerely sorrowful about their sin and committed to growing in faithfulness through Christ, consider taking steps to restore trust.
The truth you ultimately must grapple with is that no human is perfectly trustworthy. Far from being discouraging, however, this reality should encourage you because it demonstrates how much both the sinner and the sinned-against in any given situation need Jesus. God never breaks His promises to us and He is always true to His Word. While it’s crucial we trust our boyfriends, our final trust must rest in God at all times.
Lesson #5: Love always perseveres.
There is no doubt that a long distance relationship will stretch your resiliency and perseverance. You will be tempted to give into complaining, despair, or anger with God. You will likely considering giving up on the relationship, wondering if the fleeting happiness is worth the excruciating sorrow.
Take heart and know that in the Lord, our sorrows do not last forever. They are but a moment, and we know that in “all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28). Your pain is not in vain. Persevering will boost the strength of your character and will “keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8).”
That said, it is definitely possible to persevere in a long distance relationship for the wrong reasons. Many dating relationships do not last, and the struggles that arise in long distance may be the tipping point a relationship needs.
In the end, seek the One who shows perfect love.
These principles are just the beginning of what the Bible has to say about love and relationships. In all things, we should look to God as the ultimate model of love. The enduring love He displayed for us on the cross cannot be equaled.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16)