“She’s hot; she’s not.”
“I hate his shoes.”
“She has a pretty face, but she’s too tall.”
“I don’t like his hobbies.”
Have you ever looked through a dating app and had these kinds of conversations with a friend? Have you had these thoughts as the glow of your phone illuminates your face late at night? Have you begun to feel like dating apps are controlling you?
According to a 2018 survey, among a sample of 500 Christian singles, 44% were actively using two to five different dating apps simultaneously. Pew Research Center found that three in ten Americans have tried online dating. Among Christian singles, that number soars to 80%!
Consider Your Heart
In Galatians 6:6–10, Paul introduces the concept of reaping and sowing. In agricultural terms, sowing is the planting and careful cultivation of seeds, whereas reaping is the harvesting of the produce from those seeds. In human terms, this can be understood as those things that are borne out of our manner of life. It’s the sense that, over time, our small, daily choices, behaviors, and thoughts grow into a harvest. Paul also mentions the idea that there are ways to sow into the flesh, reaping corruption, and ways to sow into the Spirit, reaping eternal life.
Dating apps can be a means for bringing about Christ-centered marriages. But what are you sowing in your heart with your use of dating apps? All things are God’s servants (Eph. 1:22). How should faithful Christian singles consider this popular means of meeting and intentionally dating?
Six Heart Diagnostics
- Stewardship or Distraction?
How has your engagement with dating apps impacted your time? With many single Christians engaging across multiple platforms, the time it takes to engage should be considered. To be sure, for singles seeking to marry, it may be wise to give your time to pursue dating as an intentional investment. But it’s worth asking—how much time are you investing? Is this something you’ve prayerfully considered, or have you been slinking into a three-hour nightly routine of browsing apps alone?
- Consuming or Serving?
In The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that the explosion of choice in our modern world has created more anxiety and paralysis, not greater wellbeing. The growth of online dating has ushered in seemingly endless eligible men or women for you to consider. This can quickly be problematic. Has your engagement on dating apps caused you to become a consumer of others rather than a servant of others? Are you becoming so choosy that you can’t see the hidden beauty and character of the men or women with whom you interact? Have the abundant options on dating apps given you a sense of ever reaching for perfection in a mate, yet never quite finding it? Are you training your mind to make snap judgements based on appearance alone?
- Contentment or Insecurity?
How has engaging dating apps impacted your heart’s contentment in your current state? Is the number of matches, likes, and messages causing you to steep in insecurity? Do you feel grateful for how God made you, or are you increasingly insecure as you seek to get to know people on dating apps? Do you leave apps feeling angry, frustrated, alone, anxious?
- Isolation or Community?
Is anyone journeying with you as you are looking to date, or are you going it alone? Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out from all sound judgment.” Don’t engage with dating apps alone! You need the benefit of wisdom from others who know you and who will help guide you. Dating is an emotional and potentially tumultuous process; you need trusted friends and mentors. Your local church is meant to be a wealth of support and encouragement as you seek to be faithful in all things—even dating apps.
- Pride or Humility?
Man judges by outward appearance, but the Lord judges the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). While outward appearance is indeed a factor in romantic love, how heavily are you weighing it in your dating journey? Are you prizing the things the Lord prizes, such as the hidden character of a gentle and quiet spirit, or are you driven mostly by outward appearance?
- Integrity or Self-Centeredness?
One of the biggest challenges in the dating app world is having to speak honestly about your interest or lack of interest in someone you’ve met. Ghosting (never responding again to someone you no longer wish to get to know) is a common practice, but it communicates great disrespect for other image-bearers. Have you adopted a worldly mindset about how to treat others when you’re dating? Have you regarded anyone according to the flesh? (2 Cor. 5:16.) Can you say you’ve treated others with kindness and regarded them as more important than yourself? (Phil 2:5–7).
If these diagnostic questions have you feeling like your heart is off track, I want to encourage you. St. Augustine of Hippo famously said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Dating and romance have a way of uncovering the deep longings of our hearts. If you’ve misplaced those longings and sought to secure them in dating, relationships, and people, it’s God’s tender mercy that turns you away from that empty path.
If you’ve been isolated, consider how you might invite one or two others into your dating journey. Pray that the Lord would use dating to help you draw near to him and walk by faith. Consider a break from dating apps altogether if they’ve led you to pursue unholy relationships or unwise choices. Bring your deepest desires before your loving Lord. He knows what you need. He is the answer to your heart’s deepest longings. He is your ever-present, compassionate Savior, and he wants to walk with you today and forever.
Director of Women's Ministry
Caitlin McCaffrey is the Director of Women’s Ministry at Harvest USA. She holds a BA in liberal studies from The Master’s University and an MA in teaching with an emphasis in applied behavior analysis from National University. She is a board-certified behavior analyst and certified brain injury specialist with training in trauma recovery and biblical counseling.More from Caitlin McCaffrey