By Sue Schlesman, Crosswalk.com
Should you remain single? Should you get married? Should you get remarried?
These are not simple questions. Other than your spiritual commitment to Christ, marriage is probably the most important and impactful decision you can make during your lifetime.
Who you marry or do not marry will directly impact your spiritual growth, your personal dreams and goals, your parenting (or your decision not to parent), your friends, and your choice of church, community, and so many other life decisions.
You are wise to investigate biblical marriage before assuming that you should marry or that you should marry a particular person.
What Culture Thinks Marriage Is
The last two generations of American culture have grown up with a staggering number of divorced parents, step-parents, and family instability. As the average age of marriages grows and as co-habitation increases, culture’s definition of marriage and the question of marriage becomes more undefined than ever before in history.
It’s no wonder Christians are fearful when it comes to saying “I do.” Why they hope for an obvious inclination from the Holy Spirit to push them either toward or away from marriage. Many people have never witnessed a healthy, biblical marriage at work during their formative years, so they are hesitant to get married or insecure about picking “the right person.”
Our rom-com culture presents love and marriage in an environment where a girl, after many bad dates, finally meets the perfect guy who finds her attractive. After some enjoyable misadventures and a jealousy triangle, they eventually admit their love, get married, and live in prosperity and happiness.
But that doesn’t make the facts surrounding falling in love and getting married realistic or true.
What the Bible Says about Married People
The foundational truths from Scripture about marriage differ significantly:
1. Married people are not luckier, more blessed, more significant, or more spiritual than single people. God doesn’t favor married people. Jesus and Paul remained unmarried. Paul explains that marriage is not a command; in fact, he prefers people to remain unmarried, like himself, and therefore freer to serve God (1 Cor. 7:6-7).
Keep in mind, the first-century church expected Jesus to return in their lifetime—they were incredibly mission-focused. No American dream mentality there.
2. Marriage to “the right person” means marriage to a Christ-follower. Scriptures abound with stories and warnings about marriages to ungodly individuals and the problems associated with bad marriages (Prov. 31:10-21, Prov. 12:4, Prov. 18:22, Prov. 19:13-14, Prov. 22:9, Acts 5:1-11, 1 Sam. 25:3 and 36, 1 Kings 11:1-4, 1 Kings 16:31-33).
3. Marriage is a metaphor or picture of the church, of Jesus’ love for us and our love for him. It is the personification of God’s community for the world to see. It is not a fairy tale, even though romance can feel like that occasionally (Eph. 5:21-33. Gen. 2:20-25, Hosea, Song of Songs, Matt. 22:5-10, Rev. 22:17).
4. Marriage provides the exclusive environment for sexual pleasure. The Bible is clear about sex between husband and wife. This is an unpopular position in our culture because sex has been tied to pleasure and passion rather than a monogamous life-long physical and emotional commitment between two married people (Ex. 20:14 and 17, 1 Cor. 5-7).
Photo Credit: ©Pixabay/mina6120
So How Do You Know Who God Wants You to Marry?
...or, if God wants you to get married? Well, this is what God wants for you:
Abundant life (John 10:10)
Marriage to a believer, if you get married (2 Cor. 6:14)
He wants you to fulfill your created purpose. If you can find someone who will help you do that and who you can help in their pursuit of Christ—and you love being with this person--that’s a good choice. Get married. If you don’t love a person who wants this for himself/herself or for you, you are headed for some trouble in your marriage and your spiritual development.
Scripture does not support the idea of “there’s one right person for everyone.” That’s Hollywood, Harlequin, and Disney’s doing. Yes, you can cite the story of Rebekah and Isaac, because Abraham’s servant went to find a wife for Isaac (in Gen. 24), and when Isaac saw her, he fell in love immediately.
Rebekah fit the criteria the servant had prayed about. But anybody could’ve come to the well and watered his camels. Rebekah might not have been beautiful, and she might not have agreed to marry Isaac sight-unseen. And we don’t really know if Rebekah and Isaac helped one another grow in their pursuit of God because they played favorites with their sons (which divided the family into two sides).
Their sons grew to hate one another, and eventually, Rebekah deceived her husband so her favorite Jacob could steal the blessing from his brother Esau.
So “the perfect person/love-at-first-sight” story breaks down a little.
The “love at first sight” makes fun dinner table conversation, and sometimes it proves true in a married relationship. But it also occurs in numerous disastrous situations. Take David and Bathsheba, for example (2 Sam. 11). Yeah, he was smitten (with lust, not love—he essentially raped her).
David and Bathsheba got married (even though David had other wives already), but David had to kill her husband to marry her and cover up her pregnancy. And their baby died. Not the best start for a beautiful marriage. Keep reading the story, and you’ll see that neither of them had a good life from that point on.
Do You Have a Godly Spouse Checklist?
If you want to know whether you’re dating a person who could be a godly spouse, then do a godly spouse checklist. Run through the criteria: is this person fulfilling God’s purpose for their life? Do you want to spend your life together? Does the person show honor, respect, and kindness? Are there red flags about habits or behavior?
Don’t make your decision about who to marry based on what people expect or want you to do. Far too many young couples tie the knot because all the friends tell them they’re “so cute together.” Don’t compare your girlfriend or boyfriend to a glamorized version of the “perfect spouse.” Fairy tales don’t exist. Marriage is hard work.
Choose someone who wants to work with you, not against you or in spite of you. Choose someone who is working toward the same goals that you are.
If you want a spiritual home and a spiritual spouse, he/she should be pursuing a relationship with God now, or don’t get married. Don’t assume that interest in spiritual things will happen after you’re married if it’s not happening now. The reverse is most likely true—your spouse will become less interested if he/she is placating you now by going to church or checking the spiritual boxes.
And if you’re already married, and you think you’ve made a mistake, you’re now faced with the same challenges that all married people face: you must work on an imperfect marriage and make it better. Although you can’t save your marriage single-handedly, one spouse devoted to God can influence their marriage toward change.
While You Wait and Work...
God’s love and grace transforms people who invite him into their lives. God wants to encourage all of us who are weary from waiting and disappointed dreams. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. We just have to give him control and wait for him to transform us and our expectations of love and marriage. We just have to pray and invite him into our struggle.
Be encouraged while you wait and work and wonder. Dig into Scripture. Pray without ceasing. God will speak to you—he will answer your questions about marriage if you are truly listening and growing. God loves you. His goal is to make your life full and meaningful. He is love.
As long as you are pursuing God, you will know who to marry, when to marry, or if to marry.
You’ll just know.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/MangoStarStudio
Sue Schlesman is a Christian author, speaker, blogger, English teacher, and pastor’s wife. She has a BA in Creative Writing and a Master’s in Theology & Culture. Her second book Soulspeak: Praying change into unexpected places is a Selah Award finalist. Sue’s material appears in a variety of print, online, radio, and podcast mediums. She has a passion for missions, social justice, traveling, reading, and the local church. You can find her writing about life, education, justice, and Jesus at sueschlesman.com.