Approaching The Marriage Decision: Part 2
Should I Marry?
When considering marriage, one of the first questions to ask is simply, “Should I marry?” Choosing to marry and choosing to stay single can both be good, right decisions in the sight of God. Some will choose to marry, some will choose not to marry, and some desire to marry, but it does not occur. Neither marriage nor singleness should be looked at as a guarantee of a blessing or a lesser state. God wants us to be fully devoted to Him in whatsoever state we are in and allow Him to work through us there.
The Bible is clear marriage diverts one’s attention away from being fully focused on God’s work. While marriage is not condemned for this, it does require time, effort, resources, and priority.
1 Cor. 7:32-35, “But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin.The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.”
The Apostle Paul mentioned he wished people would remain single in order to focus on God’s work. However, he recognized God did not intend for each person to be single.
1 Cor. 7:6-9, “But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself [unmarried]. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.”
The Bible does not prescribe the specific way or method to get married. However, God gave us many timeless truths and principles in the Word to guide us. In addition, there are a variety of examples of marriage decisions in the Bible including Isaac & Rebekah, Ruth & Boaz, etc. It is safe to say none of our marriage decisions will be exactly like these situations. These stories are meant for our example (1 Cor. 10:6) but not necessarily to be replicated in an exact way. They are not to be considered normative for all people at all times, and care should be taken to learn from the principles found within these stories but not to demand God work in the same way in our lives.
In considering the marriage decision, some people can become overwhelmed with its gravity while others may not take it seriously enough. On one hand, the marriage decision is one we make similar to how we would make any big decision; we use a Biblically-based process of prayer, counsel from others, and study of the Word. On the other hand, additional time and discernment is required as this decision has life-long implications, impacts more than just one individual’s life, and has ramifications for future generations. We show respect for the God-ordained institution of marriage by prayerfully seeking His guidance and direction. In this way, we don’t take it lightly, yet we don’t remain paralyzed with fear of the unknown. We seek godly wisdom and then step out in faith.
Avoiding Common Errors
There are some common errors which can be seen when approaching the marriage decision. Often individuals will focus too heavily on supernatural stories or expect God to directly “speak” to them and work in what most believe to be overtly miraculous ways. For most couples, however, their coming together is a process of God slowly working through their lives. Once in a while, we hear of a more spectacular experience which a couple went through.
The tendency will be to compare this situation with our own and expect the same level of remarkable workings. Unfortunately, it can become easy to overemphasize the miraculous and minimize the “ordinary” way in which God works the majority of the time in the majority of individual’s lives.
Another error occurs when individuals expect God to work in their lives exactly how He worked in someone else’s life. Making demands upon God is not wise. It is important to neither limit God’s ability nor demand He provide us with specific clarity in a specific manner on our specific time schedule. Too often, single individuals base their knowledge of how couples become engaged on the folklore of others; this folklore is not based truly on fact but on a conglomeration of stories, perceptions, and myths.
Finally, many individuals fall into the belief there is only one, “perfect” potential spouse for us in this world. While this is a romantic idea, it is not supported scripturally. That being said, there may be individuals who would relate better to us, who will be more spiritually refining for us, or whom God may be leading us toward. However, the idea that if we miss out on “the one” we have fallen short of God’s perfect will is a potentially damaging thought process which we should balance with the whole counsel of Scripture. It is important to be aware of this inaccuracy and other common errors as we approach a healthy perception of marriage decisions.
How Well Should I Know a Potential Spouse?
Sometimes individuals go to extremes about how much they should know about a potential spouse prior to marriage. Some individuals err on the side of believing it is more spiritual to not know a potential spouse while others believe they need to know nearly everything before they can move forward. It is not more spiritual to not know a potential spouse, yet neither is it automatically better to know someone well. In general, engagement is a time for learning about each other and working through some of the stages of coming together in marriage. As necessary, premarital counseling can help couples grow in their appropriate understanding and knowledge of each other as well.
Life Direction is More Important than Personality Type
As we consider a prospective spouse we may ask, “Are they my type?” It is important to realize questions of an individual’s life goals and the direction they feel God is leading them are different than questions of preference or type. We can have overconfidence in our opinion of the type of spouse we feel we would like to marry. We can misinterpret our own wisdom to justify why we should not be open to what could be God’s prompting toward an individual who might stretch us in our current state. This is very different than understanding and prayerfully thinking through whether a potential spouse has similar life goals and a life direction. Or maybe a potential spouse has significant life issues which need to be considered. A balanced perspective reliant on trust in God and utilizing wise counsel from elders and godly mentors is critical in this area.
Understanding the Role of Emotion and Love in the Marriage
Some marriage decisions will originate out of strong emotion for another individual, and some will originate from a sense of commitment or companionship. The feeling we often call love is composed of three aspects: commitment, emotional intimacy, and passion. In a healthy marriage, these three aspects are all present and reasonably balanced, similar to the triangle pictured here. It is important to realize in a marriage decision that one of these sides can easily get out of balance.
Individuals who become infatuated with someone based on the passion side of love can be convinced they have found “the one” while overlooking the commitment, character, and counsel. Others may be concerned that their emotions toward a potential spouse are automatically “self ” and must be crucified and play no role whatsoever in the decision. Yet others may have respect for the spiritual depth or friendship a person brings into their life, but struggle with the decision because the passion side of love isn’t present to a degree they thought it should be.
In each of these situations, the individual needs counsel from godly mentors and encouragement to understand the various aspects of love in marriage. Healthy and unhealthy marriages can be started from any of these situations. Keep in mind the balanced triangular view of love, and prayer for surrender to God’s direction in this matter, not our feelings (or lack of feelings), should be sought. Wise, biblical counsel from others can often help discern through emotions in these matters as well.
The Importance of Leaving and Cleaving
Finally, when two people enter into marriage, they are to leave their family of origin, cleave to their spouse, and establish a new family unit. Relationships with family and friends will change. These former relationships can and should continue to play a role of support in the lives of a couple, but there must be a transition to one’s spouse becoming the primary support in life.
These considerations are not meant to be scary or limiting, but they are meant to be part of the call to “count the cost.” (Luke 14:28) We ask God for wisdom as we consider the cost of the commitment of marriage, viewing the commitment with eyes of faith.
To view the complete PDF of The Marriage Decision, click here.
For Further Information:
The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not About Who You Marry, But Why?
Author: Gary Thomas
In this 224 page book, the author helps single people of all ages make wise marital choices by rethinking what basis those choices should be made on. You will be encouraged to think beyond finding your ‘soul mate’ and instead adopt a more biblical search for a ‘sole mate’ –someone who will walk with you on your spiritual journey. Thomas asks, “What if we focused on why we should get married more than on who to marry? What if being ‘in love’ isn’t a good enough reason to get married?” And most of all, what if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? The Sacred Search casts a vision for building a relationship around shared spiritual mission.