We all have a desire to love and be loved. We experience different levels of love from parents, siblings, friends, and others. But most of us also want to find that special someone we can share a deeper level of love with. Finding true love can seem incredibly difficult, and it’s often hard to understand why. A big question to consider first is, “what is my definition of true love?” Understanding what we mean by “true love” can help us see what we’re really seeking and why or why not it’s working.
The world tosses around the word love very loosely. Love is often associated with intense feelings that, in truth, are self-centered and noncommittal. In so many movies and TV shows, we see characters who follow their hormones and have sex before marriage. When “love” is shallowly rooted in pleasant emotions or physical feelings, it turns off as easily as it was turned on. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to experience good emotions toward the person we love; however, if that is the foundation of the relationship, the relationship is in trouble. If the kind of “love” we see demonstrated in today’s sex-saturated culture is what we’re looking for, no wonder it seems difficult to find; it’s not true love we’re after but an experience that, by nature, can’t last for long.
The Bible gives a much different picture of love. True love is of God—in fact, He is love (1 John 4:8)—and He’s the One who put the need to love and be loved in us. Therefore, understanding His design for love is crucial. True love, according to the Bible, is rooted in sacrifice, commitment, and an impulse to benefit the loved one (see John 15:3). God’s love for us took Him to the cross. We know for certain that Jesus was not experiencing “happy” emotions on His way to the cross (Luke 22:42–44). The Bible describes our relationship to Jesus as that of a bride and bridegroom (Matthew 9:15; Ephesians 5:32). True romantic love is designed to lead to and grow within a marriage commitment (Genesis 2:24) and should be rooted in sacrifice (Ephesians 5:22, 25–28).
Any number of things could make finding true love, according to God’s design, difficult. Here we will focus on a few big obstacles that we face:
Thinking there is only one “right” person for us. This is a lie that can keep us fearful that we’re settling for less than the best. Waiting for one’s perfect “soul mate” to show up can be a long wait. Whomever we choose to marry becomes the “right” one for us, because we’ve made a lifetime commitment to that person. The Bible has narrowed the field: our true love must be a believer who is living for the Lord (2 Corinthians 6:14–15); beyond that, God will provide wisdom and discernment (James 1:5). Wise, godly people who know us well can also provide guidance in finding true love.
Thinking that a person will or can fulfill us. Only God can truly fulfill us, so we don’t have to find romantic love to have a sense of fulfillment! None of us are perfect, and to expect another imperfect human being to meet every need is unrealistic, unhealthy, and can only lead to disappointment.
Not being willing to change or grow. It’s easy to imagine the kind of person we would love to be in love with, but how much effort do we expend in becoming that kind of person ourselves? We all have our own issues that we must address with God’s help in order to be the kind of people He desires us to be. It can be tempting to think that finding true love will magically solve those issues. But being in a close relationship with someone will not fix our problems; it is more likely to expose them more. This can be a rewarding part of the relationship, as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17), if we are willing to change and grow. If we’re unwilling to change, the relationship will be strained and could eventually be destroyed. This does not mean that every personal issue must be dealt with before we get married. Rather, we should get into the practice of asking God to show us what things need to be cleaned out of our lives (Psalm 139:23). As we become the people God wants us to be, we will be better suited for whatever relationships are in store.
Thinking it’s too late to find true love. Finding true love and getting married is an important step and not to be taken lightly. A cautious step is better than a quick and reckless one. Three times, the Song of Solomon warns, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5; 8:4). God’s timing is always best.
We know that God cares about our desire to find true love. When we fully surrender that desire to Him, we release the burden of trying to make true love happen ourselves (Matthew 11:29–30).
Love is an essential quality of God, and He shows us in the Bible how real, true love works. Redefining love or trying to find it outside of God’s design is asking for frustration and disillusionment. Surrendering our desires to God, submitting to His will, and finding our fulfillment in Him are the keys to finding true love. “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).