Considering Marriage - How can I be sure? (1)
John Salisbury, Northampton, England
It is God’s will, generally, that men and women should marry and have children, thus making the family unit the foundation of human society. It would be normal, therefore, for young Christians to desire marriage and to have as a priority on their prayer agendas the matter of being guided to the person of God’s choice.
Not all young Christians feel the same, however, and the Lord Jesus in Matthew chapter 19 verses 11-12 gave three reasons for remaining single. Firstly, there is a genetic reason –some are ‘born’ eunuchs, that is, it not being in their nature to marry. Then, there is a physical reason – some are ‘made’ eunuchs, either by accident, incident or illness. There are also those who, for a spiritual reason, ‘have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake’. This might be in order to serve the Lord singlemindedly, like the apostle Paul, or it may be simply because the right man or woman has not been found. The Lord implies that such are special people who serve Him at great personal cost, ‘All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given‘, Matt. 19. 11.
The years spent as a single person are important! They are the years when young Christians should concentrate on developing a personal relationship with the Lord and seek His help in developing the gift imparted by the Holy Spirit as they commit themselves to involvement in the Lord’s work. This is a unique opportunity to ‘attend upon the Lord without distraction‘, 1 Cor. 7. 35.
Feeling the need for a spouse is natural, but finding the man or woman of God’s choice is a deeply spiritual experience! After all, the choice of a husband or wife comes second only to salvation in the ranking of important decisions we make in life. So then, how do we go about it?
First Corinthians chapter 7 verse 39 speaks of marriage ‘in the Lord’. This would involve two people who, as individuals, have made Jesus Christ the Lord of their lives and who have both prayed much that He would so order their circumstances that they might be introduced to the man or woman of His choice. This having taken place, and after a period of courtship, they then commence married life together knowing that the Lord is the One who brought them together. It is most important too that He remains the Lord in their individual lives as well as their joint life as a married couple. This is marriage ‘in the Lord’. What a difference compared to the ways of the world!
What has been termed ‘recreational dating’ is a modern phenomenon of the Western world whereby young people of the world engage in dating simply for the pleasure to be found in satisfying the lusts of the flesh. Any young person reading this article will be only too aware of peer pressure at school, college, university, or the workplace to engage in sexual immorality by ‘sleeping around’ for pleasure. Even what may be called today ‘steady’ relationships have little or no thought of marriage as the end result, short-term sexual gratification being the main object.
Young Christians should be aware that the word of God teaches that all sexual activity outside the marriage bond is sin. We must take care to ensure that the ways of the world do not affect our viewpoint. The usual reasoning goes like this: what harm can there be in dating a young person of the opposite sex with an open mind, to see how things go? Surely, even if it doesn’t work out, they can move on, having learned from the experience, and look for someone else? Sooner or later they will find someone who ‘feels right for them’ and then they can get serious and talk about the future together! Such ideas are foreign to the word of God and the ways of God! We need to appreciate that untold harm is caused by such a casual attitude to this major decision in life. Every failed relationship will leave its scars. Someone, generally the person who thought this was for real, gets badly hurt. Instead of joy, happiness and security, they experience heartbreak and tears! Every time young persons engage in this dating culture and become emotionally involved, they give a part of themselves to the other party which can sometimes never be retrieved. In kindness to one another, this is a serious error to be avoided at all costs. So then, how should a young person go about finding a man or woman? Simply by following biblical guidelines:
Timing. Some practical considerations need to be taken into account. For instance, if a young person is going to university for a number of years, with the prospect of having to pay back a student loan at the end of it, how likely is it that such a person is going to be able to consider marriage with all its financial implications in the near future? Perhaps young persons should consider before the Lord whether He would have them pursue a career of this nature, and by doing so put marriage to the back of their minds for some years, or whether they should pursue another avenue of work that would enable them to enter marriage much earlier and raise a family for God. It is worth remembering that there can be no higher honour than seeking to raise a family for God and that He places great value on home-makers.
Company. Mixing with the right company is important. A spiritual man or woman will be found only in places where spiritual Christians circulate! There are many opportunities for young Christians to meet others of like mind. In the activities of the local assembly, at conferences, young people’s weekends, in activities on the mission field, etc. How important to make use of them!
Lifestyle. Sending out the right signals is important. Commitment to the local assembly, and perhaps to the wider sphere of service for God, would be important characteristics, particularly if the young person looking on has an interest in serving the Lord in a ‘fulltime’ capacity. Similarly, how we dress may be a guide to a person’s spirituality. Provocative dressing and the latest outrageous hairstyles are not going to attract spiritual young people. A flirtatious temperament is not indicative of spirituality. It would be better to look for those who show a commitment to the Lord and to the work of the assembly.
Attraction. Don’t forget that God wants us to fall in love! This is not just a calculated choosing of someone we think ticks all the right boxes! If God is in the thing, the spiritual young man or woman will fall in love with the man or woman of His choice and a wonderful married life will follow, provided they both continue to walk with the Lord; an experience well worth waiting for as we seek God’s guidance in these matters. Marriage in the Lord will not be disappointing and it will most certainly be the most fulfilling!
Prayer is the most powerful tool at our disposal! But to be answered, prayer must be in line with God’s will. Only after having followed these guidelines can young Christians really come to the Father and ask Him to overrule in their lives for their blessing and His glory. The persons who do so must ‘ask in faith, nothing wavering‘, Jas. 1. 6, knowing that they ask of the God who gives ‘liberally’, holding nothing back.
Praying and planning should not go together, in the sense that we should not pray to our Father in heaven about a matter and then proceed to make plans that will ensure that we receive the answer that we desire. And yet how often we pray about something, then go off and try to bring about an answer to our own prayer!
Waiting times are testing times and God often makes us wait before revealing His will for us. This is particularly difficult for young Christians, who will want immediate answers to heartfelt prayers. Men of God in the Bible failed spectacularly because they couldn’t wait God’s time. Abram failed with regard to the promise of a son and Ishmael appeared on the scene; Moses thought he was going to redeem Israel when he slew the Egyptian, but he was forty years ahead of God’s timing!
Nothing is impossible with our God. He seeks only our blessing and is willing to guide in these important matters if we will allow Him to do so.
To be continued