Providence, Dating, and the Puritans

The last time I blogged about dating was in December, 2009. I’m no authority on it and its probably best I’ve not written on it in the past two years that much. I’ve learned much about it in the past year. Yet there are somethings I seem to lack retention of, or perhaps lack faith in. Given the conversation I had with my pastor a few days ago about the work of providence in dating and a rather lengthy conversation tonight with my roommate and a fellow student I figured it was time to post again.

My last post dealt much with the providence of God. I’m a firm believer in the providence of God in all things. I really believe that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” and that “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give all things?” (Romans 8:28,32) I believed when I rolled my truck this summer that it was in the providence of God and when my grandfather died of cancer in 2007 that God meant it for good. But I was accused this week and rightfully so of not trust in God’s providence when it comes to my non-existent dating life. The weighty accusation hit me hard.  If I truly believe in the perfect meticulous providence of God I must believe he is sovereign and working for my good and his glory in whom I date and end up marrying or not marrying. I’m not so sure why it can be so easy for me to accept God’s goodness in cancer of a loved one, but so hard to accept it from my own covetousness idolatry. (I think its the covetousness that is idolatry.)  As I’ve been thinking about this through the weekend/week I have been resting sure that God’s providence is truly at work in my life. I must be wise and biblical in trying to discern what is providential, but providence is at work in the lives of those who belong to Christ.

Thoughts of providence take me first to scripture and secondly to the Puritans. Books like Flavel’s ‘The Mystery of Providence’ and Watson’s ‘All Things for Good’ have proved time and time again to be beneficial to my Christian life. I love the Puritans and their piety which was driven by the glory of God. I thought it’d be a good idea to see if Flavel had anything to say about dating. Wouldn’t you know he’s just like the Bible, he doesn’t say anything specific about ‘dating/courtship/call it what you want’ but he does talk about God’s providence in marriage and the family. I simply would like to post the entire chapter upon my blog since the whole thing is worthy of reading. I can’t do that, so I’ll share some highlights.

That Providence has a special hand in our marriage is evident both from Scripture assertions and the acknowledgement of holy men, who in that great event of their lives have still owned and acknowledge the directing hand of providence. Take an instance of both. The Scripture plainly asserts the dominion of Providence over this affair: ‘A prudent wife is from the Lord’ (Proverbs 19:14) ‘Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord’ (Proverbs 18:22). So for children: ‘Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is the reward’ (Psalm 127:3)

Flavel’s use of scripture here is encouraging. The work of providence in marriage is the work and grace of the Lord. Indeed I think Christian marriage to be much a blessing to attempt to be a gospel witness to the world in showing love for someone as Christ loved the church. I’d add its only by God’s grace that such a gospel imperative could be kept by fallen men.

In an attempt of living a pious life that glorifies God I hope it can be said of me unwaveringly that, “it has ever been the practice of holy men to seek the Lord for direction and counsel, when they have been changing their condition.” (Flavel). Attempts at courtship/marriage shouldn’t be shots from the hip but rather acts dependent upon God and his grace.

I’ve often heard the question asked and been asked, “Do you think there is that one special person?” I think the best answer to that question is yes, the person you marry. How that pans out I’m not quite sure. But Flavel offers some encouraging words that I believe to biblical and if I dare experiential.

There is very much of Providence seen in appointing the parties for each other. In this the Lord often goes beyond our thoughts and plans; yea, and often crosses men’s desires and designs to their great advantage. Not what they expect, but what His infinite wisdom judges best and most beneficial for them takes place. Hence it is that probabilities are so often dashed, and things remote and utterly improbable are brought about, in very strange and unaccountable methods of providence.

That sounds like ‘dating’ language if you ask me. “Things remote and utterly improbable are brought about in very strange and unaccountable methods of providence.”  Praise the Lord for statements like, “In this the Lord often goes beyond our thoughts and plans.” His plans and ways are high above ours and I’m quite thankful every desire I’ve ever had and every girl I’ve ever prayed about hasn’t panned out as I would have had it at the moment. But I am thankful for those times that things have worked out and God answered prayers for my desire. I’ve learned a lot from my previous relationships and have seen God’s sanctifying grace in them. I am not trying to say those previous relationships were failed acts of providence or that I’m so thankful that they are behind me. The Lord uses those things too with great benefit. God knows what is best for his children.

My issue and sin as I previously confessed is to not trust in God’s providence in my dating life. Flavel gives a good lists of do not’s involving providence and our response to it:

Beware that you do not forget the care and kindness of Providence which your eyes have seen in so many fruits and experiences. It was God’s charge against Israel ‘that they soon forgat his works’ (Ps. 106. 13). A bad heart and a slippery memory deprive men of the comfort of many mercies, and defraud God of the glory due for them.

Do not distrust Providence in future exigencies. Thus they did: ‘Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?’ (Ps. 78. 20). How unreasonable and absurd are these queries of unbelief, especially after their eyes had seen the power of God in such extraordinary works.

Do not murmur and complain under new straits. This is a vile temper, and yet how natural to us when wants press hard upon us! Ah, did we but rightly understand what the demerit of sin is, we would rather admire the bounty of God than complain of the straithandedness of Providence. And if we did but consider that there lies upon God no obligation of justice or gratitude to reward any of our duties, it would cure our murmurs (Gen. 32. 10).

Do not show the least discontent at the lot and portion Providence carves out for you. O that you would be well pleased and satisfied with all its appointments! Say: ‘The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage’ (Ps. 16. 6). Surely that is best for you which Providence has appointed, and one day you yourselves will judge it so to be.

Do not neglect prayer when straits befall you. You see it is Providence dispenses all, you live upon it; therefore apply yourselves to God in the times of need. This is evidently included in the promise (Isa. 41. 17) as well as expressed in the command (Phil. 4. 6). Remember God, and He will not forget you.

Do not worry your hearts with sinful cares. ‘Behold the fowls of the air’ (Matt. 6. 26), says Christ; not the fowls at the door that are daily fed by hand, but those of the air, that do not know where the next meal is coming from; and yet God provides for them. Remember your relation to Christ, and His engagements by promise to you, and by these things work your hearts to satisfaction and contentment with all the allotments of Providence.

Do not forget the care and kindness of Providence which your eyes have seen in so many fruits and experiences.
Do not distrust providence in the future.
Do not murmur and complain under new difficulties.
Do not be discontent at the lot God in his providence has laid out for you.
Do not neglect to pray under difficulties.
Do not worry your heart with sinful cares.

Praise the Lord for wise words from caring friends and wise words from an old dead guy with awesome hair. But praise be God for his perfect meticulous providence even in the things like our dating lives!

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 

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4 thoughts on “Providence, Dating, and the Puritans

  1. “I’m quite thankful every desire I’ve ever had and every girl I’ve ever prayed about hasn’t panned out as I would have had it at the moment. God knows what is best for his children.”

    well, that’s rough.

  2. Awesome job, Sir! I think you did well, and lately I have been struggling with trusting God with my dating life, or lack thereof. 😉 But I like what Mr. Flavel says about the subject, and I believe that he’s right. Just like Isaac, Jacob, Ruth, Moses, Hosea, Jeremiah, and even the single Paul God is in control of our future mates. We know because of His love and grace that the person He has picked for us will be the best! Thanks and keep writing!!

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