Should I Date a Struggling Christian?
Q. Last year, I met a girl at school I really like. I really think I've fallen in love with her. Over time, she's started sharing that she's struggled with smoking, drinking and drugs. She says she still struggles with those things sometimes, and I'm worried about that. We're really close, but I wonder if I should keep dating her. I'm a strong Christian, and I think she could become stronger in her faith, too. But I also don't want to be pulled into these struggles. What do you think?
A. First, let me say that this girl is blessed to have a friend like you in her life. But does she need you to be her boyfriend? And if you remain her boyfriend, will you be "pulled into these struggles"? I understand why you are concerned. I could see this happening in a couple of ways. Your own strengths could be weakened and you could find yourself doing things that go against your faith. Another way you could be pulled into her struggles is to simply become consumed by them. She could take up every moment of your day. She could have you on the phone for hours. She could become terribly possessive and make you feel guilty for not always being there for her. This, unfortunately, is how addictive behavior can work. And it does sound like your friend could have addictions.
As I realize you know, you must avoid both potential traps. So does that mean you should stop dating her? Since I don't know you, I can't really say. I'd encourage you to confide in your youth pastor, asking him or her to help you make wise decisions about your relationship with this girl. I do think you can keep being her friend.
How can you be the best friend you can be? First, I'd recommend guiding her toward a Christian counselor who can help her with her substance abuse problems. (Your pastor or youth leader can help you with this.)
Next, I'd encourage you to get her connected with other Christian friends. Get her involved in your youth group or other ministry organizations you're involved in. Surround her with people who can support her and love her. Show her how great it feels to have friends who will love her and care for her no matter what she's going through.
Carla is an editor of the Teen Devotional Bible (Zondervan).