“I’m so done with dating.”

It was my first night back at college after Christmas vacation my freshman year. The holidays had been everything but merry, thanks to a gut-wrenching breakup.

I was exhausted, annoyed, and tempted to throw my phone away with all of the times my ex-boyfriend had tried to contact me. A week before, I had felt so miserable in our relationship, and the freedom I was experiencing now was like a breath of fresh air. “No more dating,” I told myself sternly. “I’m going on a dating fast.”

In that moment, a fast from dating seemed like the best idea in the world. I had heard about other singles in my campus ministry who did this for a period of time, in the same spirit that the Scriptures encourage us to fast from eating. From what I’d seen, they had benefited from it. Some had even come out of their fasts with amazing, godly young men for boyfriends.

In my eyes, it seemed simple. It was like a vending machine. I could take my time, give it to God, and then get a five-star guy to go to the altar with me!

But my logic was flawed. At that moment in time, with a hurting heart, I neglected the real reason to do a dating fast. I thought it would be a time to unwind from my previous relationship, make it clear to my ex that I was no longer interested, and simultaneously attract a godly man on my campus.

That shouldn’t have been what my fast was about, though. An actual dating fast, or “season of singleness,” is when an individual abstains from going out on dates in order to focus energy on growing in a deeper relationship with the Lord.

The dating fast sounds like a wonderful opportunity in theory. Instead of going out to dinner with an eligible bachelor Friday night, you spend the evening praying and poring over your Bible. Instead of wondering what’s the best way to ask out that cute girl, you invest your energy in prayer and time with the Lord.

Then, each time you find yourself daydreaming about a romantic evening, or scrolling through the wedding section of Pinterest, you turn back to the Lord in prayer. You invest deeply in your relationship with Him and purposefully seek out God and His character as you build your own character through your time as a single person.

Perhaps a previous relationship burned you badly, and you need some time to heal. Maybe you simply feel you’re too focused on the opposite sex, and you need to re-center your life. Any reason will do to start your journey through a dating fast, as long as your ultimate goal is to grow in spiritual intimacy with Jesus.

If you are interested in a dating fast, here are a few tips to help you along the way:

1. Develop a plan.

Use this time to develop your own quiet time with God. Without the distraction of a significant other, most of your time is your own. Designate Friday or Saturday night as Bible study night—mark it on your calendar as time for you and God. You can also use any spare time you have doing personal devotions, journaling, or praying. I’ve found that a wonderful thing to do in the middle of my crazy life is to put on soft music and simply rest in the Lord.

You can even venture outside or into your hobbies. You may take a hike and thank God for all of the creation you see, use paints to express who He is to you, or learn a new worship song on your guitar. Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly.

2. Keep silent about your fast.

Don’t talk about it to anyone other than the Father. In Matthew we find Jesus’ instructions on fasting:

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)

In the first part of this passage, Jesus mentions that we shouldn’t be “gloomy like hypocrites.” In other words, don’t pout in your fasting. If you’re going to fast, then you shouldn’t be complaining about it. Doing so causes others to notice you in your fast and asks for sympathy.

Spending intentional time drawing closer to the Lord really shouldn’t incite complaints, anyway. Drawing nearer to Him is something that should, and will, bring joy to a heart that is truly committed.

Jesus then encourages us to put on our best face as we fast and to keep fasting “in secret.” We should put on a humble spirit, and come before the Lord and the Lord only. If you tell everyone that you’re choosing to fast from relationships, that makes the fast about you. Boasts and pride have no room in the fasting process.

3. Don’t let a new relationship interrupt your fast.

Let’s say that during your fast you grow interested in an individual who crosses your path. Suppose someone asks you out on a date? You’ve made a commitment to the Lord, and He doesn’t ask us to break our promises. If God has put the person for you in your life during your fast, He will have that person there for you sometime in the future. After you have fulfilled your commitment to grow in relationship with Him.

So how do you handle that situation? Do you just ignore the person? Talk with the individual and explain why you aren’t interested in dating at this time. You can mention your fast and explain what you’re doing with the Lord. Then ask him or her to keep what you are doing confidential.

A person truly worth dating will understand, keep your confidence, and will encourage you on the journey. If not, you should reassess your desire to date them in the first place. A Christian brother or sister who’s truly invested in Christ may be disappointed you can’t date right away, but should be able to both understand and encourage what you’re doing.

4. Put a time limit on your commitment.

Many young people who choose to go on dating fasts give no end time. They simply fast, and fast, and fast … at least until they find someone they find attractive. Then with a snap of their fingers the fast is gone.

A sure way to safeguard from doing this is to take a tip from Moses. Exodus tells us,

So he (Moses) was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:28)

Moses fasted, but when his 40 days and nights were up, he descended the mountain. He didn’t sit on the mountain waiting for God to give him more than the Ten Commandments! He took what God had done during his time of fasting and used his knowledge with the people of Israel.

When you start your fast, give yourself a timetable. Doing so will help protect you from violating your promise to the Lord.

Looking back on my own dating fast years ago, I wish that I had truly known what I was getting into and the commitment I was making. My frustrated heart was tired of young men who wouldn’t treat me well. So in an attempt to gain happiness, I tried to use God as a matchmaker. I went into my fast and broke many of these guidelines, only to realize that I was going about things in the entirely opposite way that God had intended.

Exercising wisdom during my dating fast would have saved me another broken heart. And it would have brought me even closer to the One my heart needed the most.

Kaitlyn Kellough is a student at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.

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