Author: Michael W. Smith
Choosing a marriage companion is the most important decision one will ever make, second only to the decision to serve the Lord. While many consider marriage a ‘heart’ issue, it is more importantly a ‘soul’ issue. Many a person’s eternal destiny has been set due to the choice of the one with whom they decide to spend their life. Marriage is the closest of all human relationships, and it behooves all to approach this decision with prayer and much consideration.
The desire for marriage and companionship is God-given. “It is not good that the man should be alone…Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen 2:18,24) Marriage is a wonderful institution, ordained of God. Living is richer and fuller with someone to share the joys and sorrows of life. The grass is a little greener and the storm a little less intense with a companion by your side.
Marriage has also proven to be the downfall of many a person and brought much heartache and grief when the union was outside of the will of God. It is much better to live single than to rush into marriage out of a misplaced sense of desperation or carnal desire. Many a person would like to turn the clock back, but that is not possible with marriage. Contrary to the practice and teaching of the world, marriage is a lifetime commitment. Once the vows are said, the couple is sealed as husband and wife before God until the union is dissolved by death alone. “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress… (Romans 7:2-3: reference I Cor. 7:39) Hence, it is imperative that the decision of whom to marry is approached with caution and wisdom.
Some things in the scripture are spelled out and are just a matter of obedience on our part. There are other things in which God gives mankind some direction but also leeway due to personal preference and desire. Marriage is one such issue. While God has a plan for each of our lives, God will never force someone to marry or not marry. He has given us some freedom of choice in this area.
Choosing the ‘right’ person to marry can be confusing and a time of uncertainty often ensues. There is no exact science or formula to follow to find that ‘perfect’ soul mate. There is no assurance, in any case, that the person one marries will bring marital bliss. But there are Biblical guidelines, sound principles, and some basic prerequisites that must be followed for a marriage to be in the order of the Lord and to set the foundation for a successful, godly home.
Before an individual even considers marriage, he or she should be saved with a good solid experience with the Lord. If there is spiritual instability, so will there be instability in the choice of whom to marry. Most likely, a wrong decision will be made and the result may not only be a life but an eternity of trouble. It is paramount that an individual focus first on his or her own spirituality and be living very close to the Lord.
It is important that marriage is entered into for the right reasons – God’s will, desire for companionship, and love. The wrong reasons include the following: everyone else is getting married; there may not be another chance; to escape dad and mom, on the rebound – trying to fill an emotional vacuum; financial security; lust; or marrying due to pressure from parents and peers.
Marriage should be approached with feelings, opinions, and desires being fully submitted to the will of God. The Holy Spirit will lead and direct in choosing the one with whom to spend life. If God is left out of the decision, the choice will be wrong. Sometimes it would seem easier if the Lord would speak out of the sky saying, “This is the one for you.” This is not usually the case. We are led by the Word and by the Spirit. There should be a real sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. If there is a sense that the Lord is not pleased with the potential union, it should be stopped until the Lord gives clarity in the decision. Too many times people make up their minds and allow their affections to go out to someone, then ask God to bless the union. By that time, it is hard to really know God’s will because the feelings and emotions are so strong. It is best to seek God first. When there is clearness before God, then is the time to move forward with the potential husband or wife.
The most important relationship is our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If He is the most important aspect of our life, then every decision should center around Him. Marriage is as much a spiritual union as it is a physical or civil union. A spouse generally has the largest influence and impact on their husband or wife. It is for this reason the scripture teaches that marriage should be in the faith. This is an absolute. If someone is not saved, they should not even be considered or thought twice about in the context of dating or marriage. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers… (II Cor. 6:14) While this scripture deals explicitly with idolaters, it would also apply to that closest of all human relationships. How can someone profess ultimate love for God and yet enter into a union with an unbeliever whose values and beliefs are different? The Old Testament also was very clear in instructing the children of Israel not to marry men or women of other nations. Solomon, a man of much wisdom, violated this commandment, and in his old age his heart was turned away from God because of his wives. It is a trick of the enemy to think that one can keep his or her integrity with God and marry outside of the Faith.
Similarly, just because someone is saved does not make him or her suitable marriage material. It is so important that the fundamental doctrines and faith in Christ are the same. Many people have married ‘saved’ men or women of other groups, movements, and faiths. There is then a pull to worship at times with the group of the spouse. There may be doctrinal differences and standards of holiness that are not observed. This can create friction and division in the home. There must be a union of spirit and faith in a marriage not only for the married couple but also for the successful raising of the children. When these are absent, the long-term tendency, unintentional though it may be, is for a couple to veer toward the more liberal, compromising lifestyle. This applies as well to people fellowshipping in the same congregation or group. Just because an individual attends the same church is no guarantee that he or she is spiritually stable. A common faith and spiritual stability is essential to the unity of the home and well being of the soul.
It is important before pursuing a relationship, that the other party has a good track record of spiritual growth and integrity. Someone who has recently been saved is not a good person to begin courting. A lengthy period of stability is important, for many start out for God, but many fall by the way side. How tragic it is when two people marry and then one falls quickly away back into sin.
Even after the spiritual criterion has been met, there are also many other things to consider. One should never marry with the assumption that the spouse will change or be different after marriage. There will be growth, change, maturity, and areas in which to improve in every marriage. But there is no assurance that the change will always be in the direction one wants or desires. So, if the potential companion can’t be accepted as he or she is currently, he or she probably isn’t the appropriate companion. What irritates before marriage will most likely be compounded after marriage in daily living. Hence, it is not fair to marry an individual, expecting him or her to change who he or she is as a person. It is also important to practically understand that nobody is perfect and without faults. There is no Bro. or Sis. Perfect out there in the sense of being without weakness or shortcomings.
Some people are more compatible than others. Compatibility has to do with the ease of companionship, communication, interests, lifestyle, ambitions, and goals. Some people are drawn together because of differences and some because of similarities. There is no right or wrong here. But there needs to be a strong sense of compatibility that goes beyond the surface. Honest, open communication on most subjects is vital before marriage to give insight into each other. Gaps may be revealed that would hinder a successful marriage. This is one reason it is important to get to know someone before entering into any kind of a committed relationship.
Before marriage, there must be a strong element of trust and faith in each other. If there are questions and issues of trust, the union will be weak from the onset. There should be a high level of respect, acceptance and admiration for the potential spouse. If not, it is either not the right person or the right time for marriage.
When a man considers marrying a woman, he must ask himself if he is willing and able to love her as Christ loves the church and if he will put her welfare and interest above his own. A woman must also be willing and ready to submit to her husband in everything. If there is not a willingness to observe these biblical principles, that individual is not ready for marriage. If the intended spouse does not believe in the Biblical family structure as stated above, it would not be in the order of the Lord to marry that individual. A women needs to consider the ability and willingness of the man to provide for her. The man needs to consider his intended’s willingness and ability to be a keeper at home as the scripture teaches.
While there are exceptions to the rule, people are many times like their parents. So it is wisdom to look at the parents and family of the potential spouse. A lot can be learned by this kind of observation. How does the family get along? What is the relationship between the parents? How does my intended get along with his/her parents and siblings? If the intended is short-tempered and sharp with the family, he/she will probably be that way with his or her companion after marriage.
We are all, to some extent, products of our raising. Hence one needs to be at peace with the raising and background of the potential spouse. It is also important to consider that the spouse will not only be a husband or wife, the spouse will be the mother or father of the children if the Lord permits children to be born into the family.
There is wisdom in seeking advice and council from others. A good place to start is with one’s own parents and spiritual leaders. It is wise, before entering into any commitment, to talk to those who know the one in whom you are interested. They may be able to give sound advice and some perspective to the situation. It is good to go to the person’s pastor and talk to him. There may be issues that would be revealed that might make a difference on whether the relationship is pursued.
Godly council should not be taken lightly or discounted. This is another reason it is important to give consideration to all of these things before allowing one’s affections to go out. Very few people take contrary advice once their heart is set. It is much wiser to evaluate first, giving the soul and mind preference over the heart. Once the heart is given, the soul and mind usually get outvoted. It is best for the heart, soul, and mind to be in one accord. No individual has the ability to match make and bring about successful, godly marriages. People need to be very careful about trying to bring two individuals together. No one should be married because of the pressure to do so. No one can know better than oneself, in honesty before God, the one whom is best to marry.
A relationship based on physical attraction alone is doomed for failure. A pretty or handsome face can lose its glamour real quickly when there is not grace in time of stress. Marriage should not be based on the physical nor should it be in spite of the physical. While outward beauty is vain and fades, there should still be an attraction. Part of a healthy marriage relationship is the intimacy that belongs to marriage alone. If there is not an attraction and draw, there will be problems in that marriage.
While a godly marriage in the will of God is most importantly a ‘soul’ issue, it is also an issue of the heart. For the soul in marriage cannot be satisfied without the strong love of the heart. True love is a requirement for a good, strong marriage. Love is that which brings kindness, gentleness, happiness and joy. It is love that enables one to sacrifice and give when it hurts. It is love that draws and binds together in the hard times as well as the good. Love comes from the heart and words can’t always explain the whys or wherefores.
Choosing a marriage companion is not always easy, but it should be committed to God in knowing that God has a plan for all of us. Single people, young and old alike, should be careful not to rush into a relationship, but rather, wait on the Lord. Marriage has the possibility of security, fulfillment, and love, but it also has potential to wound and destroy.
Marriage is a wonderful institution that God created for the betterment of humankind. It proves to be a wonderful blessing and union when it is in the will of God. Marriage should be entered into with much prayer and consideration – for it is an issue of the soul.