Marriage and the Family – Courtship

The choice of a lifelong partner is the decision with the greatest impact on a young person’s spiritual life.

The Will of God and Your Search

To seek the will of God only during a crisis is not wise. The will of God should be learned in the calmer waters of daily living so we can develop skills that will keep us from being shipwrecked in stormier times. When we come to a crisis, we might not be able to think clearly just at the point when we need to do this more than ever. The admonition of Proverbs 8:33-34 is: “Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” A Christian should be watching and waiting daily for God’s direction. As early as possible in the Christian life, therefore, a believer should take into account the will of God so that it automatically becomes a first response in every situation.

Having said this, we would acknowledge that some of the most momentous decisions we have to make come almost immediately after we are saved. At such times God often does graciously guide us in spite of our being weak and poorly equipped. The Psalmist reminds us, “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and He helped me” (Ps 116:5,6). We should not wait until a crisis comes, however, before learning how to discern the will of God. And certainly before we think about becoming involved in a marriage relationship, the most life-changing of all earthly relationships, we need to know God on a daily basis so we will be equipped to make a wise decision. Some Christians’ lives have been enhanced immensely by a suitable partner in marriage and others have been almost totally ruined. To avoid the heartache of wrong choices there are some simple, practical steps we can take that might remove some of the mystery out of knowing the will of God.

First, we must read the word of God regularly to discover Biblical principles for daily living. The Psalmist tells how God was guiding him, saying, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” We cannot know the mind of God without reading His Word. King David speaks of its preserving power, saying,” . . . by the word of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer” (Ps 17:4). Most decisions can be made without the help of special or supernatural circumstances, simply being guided by the principles we glean from Scripture.

Secondly, we cannot underestimate the value of prayer. In the presence of God our hearts are often searched so that mixed motives and unhealthy predispositions that would warp our judgment are discovered and eliminated. It is hard to decide what is God’s will when we have ulterior motives.

Thirdly, the will of God can be determined with the help of others. Caution is needed here because we don’t want to become an “opinion hunter.” While it is true that “in the multitude of counselors is safety” (Pro 11:14), it is also true that, “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going” (Pro 14:15). God has placed in our lives those who have more experience than we, and their advice can be helpful. Older Christians, parents, or shepherds in an assembly can often help us with principles that have guided them in situations similar to ours.

Lastly, we can look for some circumstantial pointers that might tell us how God is leading. Circumstances are usually helpful only when all the above have been put in place first. After these resources have been used, we can look at our circumstances to see how they fit into the principles we have acquired. But we need to be patient, not impulsive. If we move quickly, we might miss some principle that applies to our perplexity. To start with circumstantial guidance can be disastrous. Yet this is very often the place where Christians start when they have already made up their minds what they want to do. Guidance by circumstances—either alone or as a primary means – can be very dangerous, because circumstances can be interpreted in different ways by different people. Consequently, all the other factors in guidance must be considered first.

Emotions And The Will Of God

Emotions are another danger. They are in integral part of human experience and have their source in God Himself who made us in His image. But emotions must never be in the driver’s seat in our decisions or our relationships with others. The experiences of Samson in Judges 14-16 should be warning enough for any of us to underscore where emotions and impulses will take us.

The problem is that emotions are often so powerful when we are thinking of marriage that they will override all warning signs telling us of problems ahead. Emotions should always follow the discovery of God’s will. It was after a man discovered what he was looking for in Matthew 13:44 that joy came: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” Joy following legitimate discovery and acquisition is natural. Joy, or any other emotion, taking the lead in our choices can be fatal.

Finding The Will Of God Concerning A Partner

The danger of emotion based decision making is especially true in finding a marriage partner. Sometimes it takes only a few weeks or even days for a person to wake up to the reality that the mistake of a lifetime has been made. The pleasant emotions linked with marriage can be quickly replaced with the dread of a long life in a miserable, unhappy relationship. This is not our imagination. There are believers today that are only tolerating a marriage relationship because there is no other choice. It is not an enviable position to be in to realize that the future might always be as bleak as the present.

Yet finding a partner in life need not be not all “mystery.” If we have incorporated the principles of living daily within the will of God, we can apply those same principles to the finding of a partner with whom to share life. Then there are other considerations.

First, we must understand that to have a life-long relationship with a person, we must have similar goals. Of course, there will be differences between us, but they should not be major differences. The various aspects of living together need to be carefully considered. Are our spiritual values the same? Are our desires and goals for a family similar? What value does my prospective partner place on being in the fellowship of a local assembly? How important is social life, having friends, and showing hospitality to us? At what economic level will we be content to live? Before a relationship is begun, we need to rationally and unemotionally settle what is vital to our life together.

If there is any place where our emotions will tend to drive a relationship, it is certainly here. Therefore we must have and keep a firm commitment to God’s will, and have realistic expectations for our life before we even consider sharing it with someone. And we must never give up those expectations unless they are seen to be unscriptural, unrealistic, or unreasonable. This will solve the majority of the questions about the will of God for a partner.

Furthermore, we must respect the person with whom we plan to live our life. Deep and lasting friendships can never work where this is not an important ingredient. It would seem that David’s victory over Goliath generated a respect for David in the heart of Jonathan. Out of this came a lifelong friendship (1 Sam 18:1). This respect never ceased. The words spoken by David at the time of Jonathan’s death are some of the highest praises that one man ever spoke of another (2 Sam 1:17-27). While this was a mutual respect between two men, it is easy to see that if this kind of respect existed between two people in a marriage, it would be richly blessed.

If we determine before the Lord what are non-negotiable goals for our lives and seek to share those goals with someone for whom we can have life-long respect, we can begin to seek guidance from the Lord for a partner. With guidance from God’s Word and time with the Lord in prayer, the help of others, and with careful consideration of circumstances, the Lord can safely direct us to the person with whom we can share a happy and spiritual life.