Starting a Christian long-distance relationship can let loose a flood of conflicting emotions. Just as the rush of falling in love hits you, fearful uncertainty sweeps over and overwhelms you.
My husband and I dated long-distance for a year and a half, so I won’t gloss the truth: the emotional ride doesn’t get smoother. Distance takes a toll on your heart.
Yet there’s a greater truth that can make the distance not just bearable, but beautiful. If you place your hope firmly in Jesus Christ, he will teach you how to rejoice in the midst of the hardest situations (Philippians 4:11-13) and use your story to encourage others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Pursuing Christ won’t be easy, but it’s worth it. If you’re just starting a long-distance relationship, the advice in these five steps can help you begin with a strong foundation.
1. Go to God with your emotions.
No one understands the pain of separation better than Jesus. When Jesus was on the cross, our sin caused him to experience the most heart-wrenching feeling of separation from God the Father (Matthew 27:46). He is intimately familiar with the horrible feeling of being torn apart from someone you love.
As you begin your Christian long-distance relationship, take all of your emotions to God and don’t leave any behind. Be honest with him about what you’re feeling, and then allow him to comfort you with his Word and shape your heart to reflect his. He keeps track of your tears (Psalm 56:8), and he mourns with you (John 11:33-36).
Whenever you feel frustrated, sad, or confused about your relationship with your boyfriend, press into prayer with the Lord. He hears you, and he is near you (Psalm 34:18). These three God-centered prayers for long-distance relationships can help you think about how to combine lament with worship.
2. Treasure wisdom.
Learning to discern what God says from what your heart says is a key sign of spiritual maturity in a God-centered long-distance relationship. Wisdom from God is extremely valuable in all circumstances (Proverbs 4:7), and especially when you are determining the next steps in your relationship.
How can you get wisdom? Root yourself in the Bible. Knowledge of God is where all wisdom begins (Proverbs 9:10), and James offers us this great hope: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5).
3. Know why you’re dating.
Long-distance is too difficult for you to enter into it half-heartedly and unintentionally. You need to know why you are doing this, or you will surely be walking into a heartache.
We found that creating a purpose statement for our relationship helped us clarify the direction we were headed. Consider the purposes of Christian dating, and then check out this sample statement of purpose.
4. Establish boundaries.
While sexual purity may seem easier in a long-distance dating relationship, many couples find the battle is harder after spending time apart. As the heart grows fonder, the temptation grows stronger.
Setting healthy boundaries in advance helped us prepare for emotionally intense visits. Boundaries also provide a concrete standard that you can ask others to hold you accountable to.
At its heart, however, purity is not primarily about what you do physically, or even about romantic relationships. Emotional purity goes much deeper, penetrating the essence of what it means to know Christ.
5. Connect with a community.
When you first start a Christian long-distance relationship, it can be tempting to isolate yourself from the people around you. Friends may struggle to understand what you’re experiencing, and visiting your boyfriend on weekends can quickly eclipse time spent with family and friends.
I encourage you to make the decision now to stay invested in your friendships. You need friends near you who love you and point you toward Christ.
You can also seek out an older person in your church who is willing to mentor you, formally or informally. I’m convinced some of the best advice for dating is discovered in personal conversations with wise believers.
Can you relate?
Connecting with other believers is one of the most vital pieces of advice you can take in a Christian long-distance relationship, whether or not they understand what you’re going through. Sometimes, though, you might want someone who can relate.
I know firsthand that distance can be discouraging and lonely. I want you to know that you’re not alone and encourage you to look to Christ in everything.
So, whether you just started dating or you’re trudging through year three, you can follow @datingatadistance on Instagram for encouragement, practical tips, and updates on our latest resources. God can use your time apart for his glory and your good, and that’s worth getting excited about.