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Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Ben Stuart

Book Review

Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Ben Stuart
Posted on April 16, 2021  - By Garrett Haley

Title: Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Navigating Life and Love in the Modern Age

Author: Ben Stuart

Published: 2017

Pages: 253

What is the best way to date and marry someone? According to Ben Stuart, pastor of Passion City Church in Washington, D.C, it depends.

“Dating is more like sailing across the ocean than it is like assembling a desk from IKEA,” Stuart says in his bestselling book Single, Dating, Engaged, Married. “Steps won’t work when you are crossing the ocean on a boat. You cannot get turn-by-turn directions. The environment is too dynamic” (p. 89).

You can and should learn from other couples’ good or bad experiences, but there’s really no way to know what steps and challenges you’ll encounter along your own relational voyage. That’s why we must familiarise ourselves with good principles. Like a compass or map, Stuart says, there are certain truths that we must keep in mind to help guide us across those tricky waters of dating, relationships, and ultimately marriage.

Spouses aren’t saviours

I appreciated this sage advice from Stuart. After all, we all come from different backgrounds, so when we hear the word dating, none of us think of exactly the same thing. Maybe you grew up in a context where casual dating was the norm, or maybe your circles prefer parent-arranged dating. Or maybe you, like me, come from a culture where the courtship or I Kissed Dating Goodbye mindset was all the rage.

Regardless, Stuart’s book is a welcome reminder of how we, as Christians, should chart our course and pursue relationships in a wise, godly way. Chapter 5 in particular is an excellent resource for learning how to date as believers today.

In this book, Stuart directly challenges the extremely selfish mindset we tend to bring into dating. Are we counting on our future spouse to satisfy and fulfil us? We’re made to desire a partner — but don’t think he/she will ultimately solve your problems. Christian relationships work best when we are walking closely with the Lord — then we’re able to channel the blessings that come from that to our significant other (p. 7.). “Receive the love of God and you will have an abundance to give” (p. 16).

In this book, Stuart directly challenges the extremely selfish mindset we tend to bring into dating

On p. 31, Stuart observes: “There is a tendency in every one of us to downplay the benefits of their stage in life and amplify the benefits of another.” But the truth is: every season of life carries enormous advantages. Are you realising them? Are you leveraging the blessings of your current life situation to serve and glorify the Lord? Yes, that includes singleness. As Stuart says, “God has ordained the single season for a purpose, and I want you to live it to the hilt” (p. 32).

Godly marriages

Rather than paraphrasing Single, Dating, Engaged, Married’s other main points in my own words, I’ll simply list below what I found to be the top highlights from its different chapters:

  • “God has given you singleness to secure an undistracted devotion to the Lord, not to fill your time with distractions” (p. 32).
  • “You are not half of a person waiting for another half of a person to complete you. Jesus and the apostle Paul were not incomplete as singles, and neither are you” (pp. 61-62).
  • “The loneliness of being single will not be assuaged by the loneliness of a king-sized bed, laying next to someone who cannot communicate with you about the biggest issues in life” (p. 71).
  • “Grace is attractive. Don’t leave home without it” (p. 142).

Jesus and the apostle Paul were not incomplete as singles, and neither are you

  • “If you never disagree about issues, then you may not know each other well” (p. 161).
  • “Marriage is a mutual commitment to lay down your life for the other person. This is what makes marriage both terrifying and fun. It can be scary to trust” (p. 222).
  • “Loving marriages become a picture to the world of what commitment to a loving God is like” (p. 242).
  • “Cultures change when the world sees the beauty of godly romance. For the sake of your soul, your spouse, and the wider culture, do not settle for anything less” (p. 243).

Hopefully these excerpts will encourage you to dig into this excellent book yourself!

Lastly, at the end of the book, Stuart returns to the sea voyage analogy with this wonderful reminder: “We can careen into the treacherous seas on our own, or we can surrender the helm to the One who can skillfully pilot us through life’s tempestuous seas. … Before you get a relationship with a guy or girl right, it is essential you get a relationship with God right. He is your source of life. He is your source of love” (p. 243).

Garrett Haley

About Garrett Haley

Garrett Haley is a native Texan and serves as a deacon at his local assembly in Lubbock, TX. He enjoys reading, writing blog posts, leading church discussion groups, and pondering life’s deep questions. Preaching on occasion and organising church get-togethers are a couple of his other favourite areas of service.



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