The hour was approaching
quicker than a piano down an elevator shaft. It was set up by a friend whom I
barely know and whose knowledge of my tastes and desires is as reliable as
broken sieve. But a date is a date. I asked another friend if she were me if
she would go on a blind date. Her response with a gallingly loud and extended
emphasis on the fourth word was, “If I were you, I would go on any kind of
date.” Upon parting my confidence level was falling faster than the afore
This date is not only
unknown but so is our destination. With a voice pleasant enough over the phone,
he assured me that it would be fun and interesting. Fun is appealing unless his
idea of a bawdy time is calculating the first 100 Fibonacci numbers. “Interesting,”
though, leaves me a little too squeamish. It is a pendulum that slices through
too many options. To some, art and music are interesting. The tones, the
colors, the artistry are all fascinating. For others, spiders the size of
dinner plates silently stalking up to the glass walls of the display case and
staring them in the face sets them a twitter. No matter how hard I tried, my
expectation of this “interesting” keep tugging my imagination into the latter
category. “Spiders aren’t so bad,” I thought, “and besides, the glass has to
be—what—six inches thick?” I just wanted to cry.
I don’t even know how to dress. Should I go stylish and casual? I put
on a red babydoll chiffon top, white ruched leggings, and green pumps. I looked
in the mirror and felt like the Italian flag. Off it came.
Maybe sophisticated would be ticket. I went with a black top, black
ponte pants, black boots, and a black scarf. I went to the mirror. I looked
like I was about to fly out the window and swoop down on a screaming soon to be
anemic victim. Off it came.
Let’s try slinky. I put on my short, black cocktail dress. “Not bad,”
I thought as I turned to and fro in front of the mirror. Then I thought about
the insect zoo and what might happen if one of those monsters escaped and ran
up my leg. Off it came.
I settled on white slacks with black flats and a black top. I touched
it up with a red scarf. “Straightforward, simple, and loose enough to allow me
to run fast.”
“You know,” I thought, “why am I going through all of this trouble
when I’m going to spend the evening counting numbers and staring at things with
more legs than my dining room set?”
My emotions were running the full gamut from dread to horror. I could
write an encyclopedia article on what it is like to swallow a bowling ball…repeatedly.
I looked up at the clock. “It can’t be that late!” I thought that
maybe someone snuck into my house, climbed up on the counter, pushed the minute
hand forward, and then stealthily snuck back out all just to ruin my evening. I
rushed to my car and drove to our rendezvous. I patted the sweat off of my
forehead and breathed deeply. “In a few hours it will all be over and I will be
safely back at home.”
At our precise meeting time another car drove up and parked.
“He drives, I guess that’s a plus.”
The door opened and a man wearing black creased pants, a collarless
shirt, and a gray blazer got out and confidently strode over to my car. He bent
down to my window.
“So we meet.” He smiled perfectly. “For our secret evening I thought
that we might have dinner at the restaurant on the hill, ‘La maison de
l'élégance,’ and then take the ‘Cruise under the Stars.’ I hope that satisfies
I had to brace myself with my hand to keep from swooning.
Marriage is the decision of a lifetime, how can
I know for sure?
Does the Bible give any guidelines to help me
pick my potential mate?
Should I look for signs?
What if I make a mistake?
Because we know
that God loves us and wants us to have a life filled with abundance (John
10:10) we all want to know what God’s plans are for our lives. Or to put it
another way, what the will of God is in our lives. Romans 12:2 says, “And do
not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and
acceptable and perfect.” Do not we all want to do that which is good and
acceptable and perfect? Whenever we know God’s will and follow it we can be
assured that it is the best for our lives and that God will bless us and
provide for us. That is a pretty good deal. Or to put it the way that God does
in Isaiah 1:19, “If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land.”
There is only one
problem. How do we determine the will of God for our lives? This becomes
especially important in the area of knowing whom to marry. It is probably our
biggest decision in life and just as it should be fantastic when we make the
right choice it could be terrible if we make the wrong choice. So getting God’s
input is very desirable.
Our hearts can be
very deceitful. They say that love is blind and unfortunately that can be true.
Relying on our own wisdom and instincts we can easily make a mistake. “There is
a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”—Proverbs
There is one
important principle, though, to keep in mind whenever the topic of God’s will
comes up and that is described in Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp to my
feet, And a light to my path.” God will lead us and guide us; He has not left
us alone to stumble through the darkness. However we must realize that His
guidance will rarely be for very far into the future. Lamps back in Old
Testament times were not the halogens that we have today. Those lamps cast very
limited light. It was enough to illuminate the immediate surroundings and guide
a person safely through the path that they were on. But that lamp did not shine
far into the distance. In the same way, God will guide us through the immediate
situation but He usually does not show us any events in the distant future.
Therefore, unless you are currently in a great relationship that is “the one”
you probably will not know when you will get married, who you will marry or
even if you will marry.
We are going to
look at several guidelines for knowing the will of God in your life and will
examine them from the issue of knowing whom to marry.
God’s will for your life there are two keys. The first is to pray much. We will
not be able to know what someone is telling us unless we talk to him. God
rarely does something so obvious as to put a talking donkey right in front of
us to tell us what to do. We need to ask God for His guidance and then to pay
attention to what He might be trying to say. The way that God answers may be
through any of the ways that are listed below.
For something as
important as marriage it would probably be a good idea to do some praying and
fasting. Fasting helps to rid us of the distraction of the body and to put us
into a more spiritually sensitive state. How long that you fast for and exactly
what foods or all foods that you abstain from is entirely up to you. My
recommendation would be to take one entire day, go someplace where there would
be no distractions such as the corner of a park, and abstain from all food and
drink except for water. Plan out the entire day and set aside large chunks for
prayer. You may not get God’s answer that day but that is OK. Spiritual success
is not necessarily defined as getting what we want when we want it.
The second key is
to seek God’s will with an honest heart to obey whatever He tells you to do. If
we already know what we are going to do and are only looking for confirmation
from God then He may not respond. God will not be treated as a rubberstamp. If
we have already decided that we are going to marry this person no matter what
God says then God may stay silent. In Proverbs 1:28-29 God says, “Then they
will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they
shall not find me, because they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of
the LORD.” Also, God may stay silent if He knows that no matter what He says we
will distort it to hear only what we want to hear.
There once was an
old Scottish woman who went from house to house across the countryside selling
her wares from a cart such as thread, buttons, and shoestrings. When she would
come to an unmarked intersection she would throw a stick up into the air and go
into whatever direction the stick pointed to when it landed. One day she was
seen tossing the stick up several times. Each time she would bend over, look at
the stick, pick it up and toss it again. A man who was standing nearby asked,
“Why are you throwing the stick up into the air over and over again?”
“Because,” the woman replied, “it keeps pointing to the left, and I want to
take the road on the right.”
most definite but perhaps most time-consuming way to determine God’s will is by
understanding what He has said in the Bible. The Bible is God’s most important
way to communicate with us. Why did God give us the Bible instead of just
speaking to each of us individually and personally? Because if He did the
latter than God’s character and God’s ways would be open to the interpretation
of each person and each person could claim whatever they wanted because after
all, “God told me this” and how could anyone disagree? Then in order to
determine universal truth about God we would not only have to know the words
that were said but to validate them based on the character of the person saying
them. God would then be unknowable because we would never be able to separate
those words that were truly from God and those that were from the emotions or
imaginations of the other person.
Even today that
problem exists on a large scale with different religions and cults competing
for the souls of men with each claiming to have “heard the voice of God.”
This problem also
arises on a smaller scale when a Christian claims to have been told something
by the Holy Spirit that affects other people. We are going to examine that more
closely in the section “Other people’s prophecy or revelations.”
But unlike divine
voices or impressions in our heads the Bible can be opened up and everyone can
read the exact same words that millions of others have been reading for
thousands of years. We can all study the same Hebrew and Greek words, we can
all understand the same context, and we can all compare it to similar passages
in other parts of the Bible. Of course, there are issues of interpretation and
application but for the vast majority of scripture and certainly for the major
themes there is universal agreement among those who are Christians. Because we
know that the Word of God is true and accurate we can study it and know the
mind of God. Therefore, we do not have to seek God to know if pre-marital sex
is OK because we can go to His Word and see that it is wrong. We do not have to
go on a quest to find out if stealing is right because the Bible tells us that
it is sin.
The first place
that we should always look regarding God’s will is to the Bible.
We should see if there are any commands that
directly address our situation.
We should see if there are any principles
regarding this issue.
And we should see if there are any people in the
Bible who went through a similar situation to what we are going through and
then see how God worked in their lives. This would be our example.
Luther wrote, “I study my Bible like I gather apples. First, I shake the whole
tree that the ripest may fall. Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken
each limb, I shake each branch and every twig. Then I look under every leaf. I
search the Bible as a whole like shaking the whole tree. Then I shake every
limb—study book after book. Then I shake every branch, giving attention to the
chapters. Then I shake every twig, or a careful study of the paragraphs and
sentences and words and their meanings.”
However, there is a way of using the
Bible to discern God’s guidance that I would caution against. That is to pray
for God’s guidance, randomly open the Bible, put your finger down, and take
whatever verse your finger is pointing to as though God Himself directly handed
it to you. Now I realize that many people will claim that they have done this
and it has produced amazing results. One woman thought that she had a terrible
illness and might die so she did what I just described and the verse that she
saw said, “Indeed, may you see your children's children.” She believed that God
was telling her that she would live long enough to see her grandchildren. It actually
turned out that she did not have any illness at all. So was that truly a
promise from God? It could have been. God can do whatever He wants. But I would
certainly take this method with a large grain of salt and would absolutely
qualify it with other means of guidance.
has a man talking to his minister about his failing business. The minister
tells him to go to the beach and open up his Bible and let the wind blow the
pages. When the wind stops, look down and do whatever you see first. Six months
later the man comes into the minister’s office wearing an expensive suit,
wearing a Rolex watch, and hands the minister a check for $20,000. He says,
“That advice you gave me worked great. I’m driving a Rolls Royce, my bank
accounts are overflowing, and I have more money then I know what to do with. So
in appreciation I want to give you this check.” The minister was stunned but he
asked, “So what did you see when you looked into your Bible?” The man replied,
the Bible as our guide in the case of marriage we can be certain that God’s
will is that a Christian must only marry another Christian. There are a number
of reasons for this.
It is commanded. There is probably only
one command in the Bible that God gives regarding Christians in marriage and
that is that a Christian must only marry another Christian. He gives no
commands or even suggestions regarding age, race, culture, economics,
education, or emotional or spiritual maturity. Though large differences in any
of these areas can bring additional difficulties to the relationship God did
not see cause to even warn about them. However, God in no uncertain terms tells
Christians that they are not to marry a non-Christian. We can read this in 2
14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers;
for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has
light with darkness?
15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or
what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
16 Or what agreement has the temple of God
with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I
WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL
BE MY PEOPLE.
This fact of it
being commanded should be enough. We do not need additional reasons. Either we
are obedient or we will be rebellious. Either we love God and want to please
Him and trust Him or we love ourselves more and are willing to push God aside.
But for those who
need further convincing here are more reasons for why a Christian should only
marry another Christian.
It creates a complete unity. Why is this
so important? We consist of three parts: body, soul, and spirit. The body is
our physical being and our five senses. Our soul is the intangible part
consisting of personality, creativity, intelligence and so on. Our spirit is
that part of us that communicates with God and perceives the supernatural.
Everyone who is alive has a functioning body and soul. But only someone who has
been born-again has a spirit that is alive. Ephesians 2 talks about how we are
dead because of our sin, but through God’s mercy we are made alive. A
non-Christian (someone who is not born-again) only has two of the three parts
that are alive. A non-Christian is spiritually dead. A Christian has all three
that are alive.
that a non-Christian can unite with someone else, whether they are a Christian
or not, is with their bodies and souls. A corpse cannot unite with anything; it
cannot feel anything and it cannot give anything. To marry a non-Christian is
to marry a spiritual corpse. But two Christians can unite in all three areas.
This gives the potential for a much more fulfilling, intimate, and satisfying
It creates a potentially stronger marriage.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 is commonly used to show that a marriage that includes God
will be stronger than one that does not. God is usually considered to be the
third strand. Verse 12 is the climax “And if one can overpower him who is
alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”
However, in this case the first two strands can be the body and the soul and
the third strand can be considered to be the spiritual part of a marriage. Two
non-Christians working together can resist all of the pressures that threaten to
tear a marriage apart if they are deeply attracted to each other physically and
with their souls. But greater strength comes when a couple is bound together in
spirit also. This is a marriage of three strands and it is a marriage that is
not quickly torn apart.
It strengthens each other’s spiritual walk.
More than likely the non-Christian will dilute the Christian’s walk with God
rather than the Christian deepening the non-Christian’s spiritual interest. 1
Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good
morals.’” Bad company does not necessarily have to mean someone who is a
criminal. It could also mean someone who has wrong or no spiritual values. Too
many Christians think that they will marry a non-Christian and then their own spiritual
interests and activities will spark the other to be the same. But be warned,
more than likely the Christian will first become frustrated and then will
become lax. Proverbs 13:20 also warns, “He who walks with wise men will be
wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” It is difficult for a
strong Christian and a non-Christian to dwell together without their beliefs
stepping on each other. Oftentimes a compromise is settled on. The
non-Christian may pay patronage by going to church but the Christian will stop
being so involved.
It provides mutual spiritual encouragement.
It would be hoped that for a Christian, Jesus Christ would be the most
important person in their life and the most exciting and interesting
conversations would be centered around the Bible or what God is doing in their
life. But if one is not a Christian then this whole area of shared interest and
communication is lost. In a non-Christian marriage it is much less likely that
they would pray together, read the Bible together, or encourage each other with
God’s promises and faithfulness. When the Christian partner is struggling with
something they would most likely hear from the other some quip or cliché rather
than a promise from the word of God.
It provides a more consistent belief system
for any children. When the two people in a house have different belief
systems then that precludes a consistent model for the children. Who will the
children go to when they have moral questions and will each parent’s answer
differ significantly? And when they get to a time of decision it is not simply
a choice between mom and dad’s beliefs versus the world’s beliefs. Now it is
between mom’s beliefs, dad’s beliefs, and the world’s beliefs.
It affords similar spiritual authority.
Should there ever be a problem in the marriage or the need to seek counsel
about a decision, if both partners are Christians then they should be able to
seek the counsel of their pastor or to study what the Bible says. But if one
person is not a Christian then their respect for these authorities will be
diluted or non-existent. In that case any counsel, no matter how wise, can be
quickly disregarded because “I don’t believe the same thing that you do.”
non-Christian marriages can work but they are drawing from a well that is not
as potentially deep as that between two Christians. It is much more difficult
and the shared interests will be less.
self-centered if you:
Walk into an
already existing conversation and take over without even knowing what the
current topic was.
Find that most
conversations center around your life, thoughts, opinions, experiences, needs
Have had a
small tragedy and someone else has had a large tragedy but all that you talk
about is yours.
and easily grow bored when other people are talking about themselves.
trips involving other people but only want to go to places that you like
without any regard for their desires.
Are at a
potluck or dinner party and take nearly every piece of one food because you
Rarely ask how
someone else is doing and just jump right in with your life.
people when you need something.
extra money only on yourself.
by someone else's success or attention.
interrupt other people.
Do not work
hard because you do not feel that you are paid what you are worth.
people's thunder by leaking out secrets and information before the source
person can announce the news.
cooperate simply because you do not want to.
Get angry when
your personal expectations are not met.
everyone must accept you the way that you are or that is just too bad.
support, aid, or be involved in someone else's work if you are not going to get
a big share of the credit.
incessantly when you are inconvenienced.
other people's difficulties with "That's not my problem."
More than once
have dumped friendships or given people the cold shoulder just because they did
not do what you wanted them to do.
other people would fail just so that you can look better.
unconcerned about other people by doing things such as talking during movies,
cutting people off while driving, cutting in line, talking loudly on your cell
phone in a public place, etc.
humiliate someone in public because they did something to you that you did not
Go to church
wondering what you can get from others rather than what you can give to others.
anything that you are not interested in to be boring or unimportant.
can be the most overused or underused method of determining God’s will that
there is. It can be overused when two people think that they are right for each
other when, in reality, the only things that they share in common are some
interests. Just because you both love baseball and animals and computer games
does not mean that you will be able to live together in marriage. There are
greater issues involved such as trust, responsibility, support, sensitivity and
so on. Those previous common interests may mean that you will be great friends
and that there might be potential for something bigger but that is all that you
can say at the time. You will need to spend more time together to see how the
deeper areas are compatible.
can also be overused when the compatibility is not even with each other but
with some third person. An example might be when the guy looks just look an
ex-boyfriend or ex-husband that she still might like. Or if she looks like some
celebrity that he is infatuated with. Or if your friend thinks that this other
person is very attractive and, even though you do not agree, you still think
that your friend’s opinion is good enough for you.
way that it can be overused is if you both are greatly compatible but one is a
Christian and the other is not. In that case then no matter perfect a fit you
two are it is not God’s will for you to marry each other.
way that this can be underused is if there is a sense of desperation and, even
though you do not really get along well together, you feel that this is your
last chance and so you might as well go for it. You figure that you can “learn
to live together.”
can also be underused if you think that you have had some direct revelation
from God that this is the one and so you do not even consider other issues.
This may occur more frequently than any of us would hope. The question is, “Is
it wise to base such a life-changing decision on something of such tenuous
certainty as supernatural guidance while ignoring other more clear means of
us face it, marriage means being together. It means spending a lot of time
driving together, eating together, sleeping together, planning together, and
making decisions together. If you cannot get along together then how will this
work? It is true that the Bible does not say that compatibility is a necessary
prerequisite to marriage. It is also true that two people, even if they start
out with the odds against them, can have a great marriage if they both make a
big effort to work at it. But starting a marriage with doubtful compatibility
is like starting a new, highly complicated job with no skills. You may be able
to figure it out as you go but it certainly makes it a lot harder.
how do you know if you are compatible? I would suggest studying the section in
this book on “Keys to good relationships.” Of course there does not have to be
100% compatibility because people can adapt and change. And until you have
spent a lot of time together in marriage you probably will not realize a number
of the issues anyway. This is not like filling out a compatibility
questionnaire, adding up the numbers, and seeing if you pass the test.
Compatibility does not usually have an absolutely “yes” or “no” answer to it.
It is more of an overall sense that the two of you and those whom you get
counsel from will know.
there should be a balance to the relationship, the ability to have fun
together, to understand each other, and a continual deepening of the more
important qualities between each other. You should be able to talk to each
other for hours and hours and yet be comfortable with silence. You should care
about each other and be more interested in what you can give to the other
person than what you can get.
“Where there is no guidance, the people fall, But in abundance of counselors
there is victory.” Getting good counsel is a vital step in discerning God’s
will for marriage. But why is counsel important? —For several reasons.
Blind spots. Very few, if any, people are
without blind spots. These are characteristics or mindsets that are not seen by
the person who has them. They may be weaknesses or they may be sins. For
example, a person who frequently interrupts others may not understand just how
rude and arrogant that is. Or a woman who dresses seductively and does not
realize its impact may just think that she is doing nothing more than following
fashion trends. Counsel shows things to people that they do not see on their
Objectivity. Other people may be more objective
when examining a situation. It has been said that “love is blind.” That may not
always be true, but many times other people are able to see the whole picture
in a clearer light. They are not as likely to be overly influenced by one or
two issues as we might be. In one real situation an ambitious and hardworking
man was dating a woman who was very attractive and outgoing, but she was also
lazy and irresponsible. The man was unwilling to look past the positive traits
and consider the implications of these negative traits. He knew that they were
there but he did not want to factor them into the equation. Only from others
pointing out the consequences was he able to realize that, ultimately, she
would have driven him crazy.
Experience. Other people may have
learned valuable lessons from experience that you might not have yet. There is
nothing noble in having to learn about the hardships of life directly when you
can avoid them using the experience of others. A man who married when he had no
savings and no job can warn someone else who is in the same situation to wait
until finances are better and not have to go through the same terrible
struggles and arguments.
Wisdom. Some people have greater wisdom
than we do in the Scriptures or in evaluating life’s situations. They are able
to apply God’s word to many situations and give tremendous insight.
who should we seek counsel from? Perhaps the three most valuable resources are
1) our family, 2) our close friends, and 3) any spiritual leaders such as
pastors, elders, or ministry leaders. But for all of these people we must
always be honest. If we know how to word things to get the answer that we want
then we are not sincerely seeking counsel; we are only dishonestly completing
what we think is an obligation. We should always give as complete a picture as
is necessary and we should answer even the hard and contrary questions with
integrity. Counsel should never be seen as a challenge to fake out the other
seeking counsel for the first time from a person do not give reasons as to why
you disagree with what they are advising at this time unless it helps to
clarify the situation. It would be best to think about their points. You can
always go back and explain why you do not necessarily agree with them.
But as in
everything there is a word of caution related to counsel. Just as you can
misread God’s leading or misunderstand where various factors are pointing so
can other people. The counsel of others, even if they are sincere and of great
spiritual maturity, is not to be readily accepted as the word of God. This is
true even if several of them are in agreement on an issue. Now of course if
many others are saying one thing and you are of the opposite mind then you
should tread very carefully to go against everyone else. Maybe all of them can
see something that you are blind to or are unwilling to accept as true. The
burden would lie on you to give a good reason as to why you should swim against
However there are
instances where people are giving advice not so much from an objective,
God-fearing viewpoint but are merely speaking from their own emotions. There
are several ways that this can happen. Sometimes personal feelings can cloud
the issue. One case that I remember is where a man who had a number of women
friends wanted to marry a very attractive woman. So he asked the advice of
these friends. All of them gave him the same advice to “get away from her.”
But, as was discovered later, all of these women were not interested in the
young man’s best interests; they were simply jealous and were being catty. If
he had asked for details or examples as to why the women felt that way he would
have found out that they had none. All of their advice was based on vague
feelings. Their reasons were usually of the line, “I just know it” or “I have
this sense about her.”
there are other reasons as to why some people might give wrong advice. One is
that they do not want to lose a close friend. Another is that they think that
God has greater, more noble plans for the person that marriage would only ruin.
Or they know someone else who is interested in the other person that they would
rather see together. Or they are not married and simply do not want anyone to
get married; sort of the “misery loves company” idea. And there are many other
selfish, wrong reasons as to why people may give bad advice.
But the fact is
that you are the one who is ultimately responsible for the final decision. If
you go along with everyone else and it turns out to be the wrong decision then
you cannot blame them.
despite any cautions, counsel is a powerful way to determine God’s will for you
in marriage. It should be sought frequently throughout the relationship and it
should be carefully considered no matter whom it comes from and what was said.
Even in bad counsel there may be a grain of truth that can be extracted.
You are problem oriented if, when a
problem occurs, you:
complain frequently about the problem itself.
problem to prove just how miserable a person you really are.
Do not make
any real effort to solve the problem.
Do not really
consider implementing anyone’s advice regarding how to overcome the problem.
problem to your growing list of unresolved problems.
Involve a lot
of other people in your problem but not to seek answers.
your problems as an excuse for not doing what you should.
See a problem
and immediately start thinking why it is overwhelming.
you into inertia rather than into action.
your problems as making you a lesser person.
problems being a burden and discouragement to others.
See a problem
as a hedge.
God’s will there is always a temptation to make it more mystical than it
usually is. We want it to be told to us by “the voice of God,” i.e., something
clear, supernatural, and definite. We want to be able to tell our story the
same way that many of the Old Testament prophets did by including the words,
“Then the Lord said…” Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, God does not
usually make it either this easy or this mystical. Most of the time discerning
God’s will is much more pedestrian. Proverbs 24:2 sums it up well, “It is the
glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a
If you want to
cup your hand to your ear and listen for the whisper of the Holy Spirit then go
ahead and do so. But more than likely you will either hear nothing or will
think that you hear only that which confirms what you want to hear anyway.
But this is not
to say that God does not speak to us in this manner. So how do we know that it
is God who is giving us these promptings or impressions and not our own desires
First we should
check our hearts to make sure that we are being honest with ourselves. I know
one person who whenever his opinion was challenged or if he really wanted to
get his way he would tag onto his comments, “The Holy Spirit told me.” Of
course this puts God on his side and who are we to argue with God? But when we
do this to ourselves regarding marriage then we are only deceiving ourselves
and turning the wonderful experience of looking to God and trying to understand
the relationship into a quick and dishonest revelation.
Second, we should
see if this revelation or impression contradicts anything in the Bible. If it
does then you can be assured that it is not from God.
We are going to
take a specific look at several types of supernatural guidance that people rely
Some people have
vivid dreams that they think are revelations from God. A man might be wondering
about getting engaged and while he is sleeping he sees in his dream a giant
diamond ring floating in the air. He wakes up and believes that God was telling
him that they should get married. So now the issue is settled.
Yes, God did
speak to people in the Bible in dreams. I was able to find 22 such instances.
Yet God knew enough to give us a stern warning in Jeremiah 23:25-28, “‘I have
heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, “I
had a dream, I had a dream!” How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the
prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their
own heart, who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which
they relate to one another, just as their fathers forgot My name because of
Baal? The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My
word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?’
declares the LORD.”
It is said that
dreams follow what we have been thinking about or doing during the previous
day. If that is the case then it would certainly be expected for someone who is
considering such an important decision as marriage to then dream about it.
Also, dreams can
be vague and surreal. This opens them up to many possible interpretations. If
someone dreams that the two of them are at their wedding but, as she is walking
down the aisle, something catches her train and her wedding gown tears does
that mean that God is telling them to get married but to expect some rough
moments or is God trying to hold back the marriage by putting His finger on her
In my opinion, I
would put very little, if any, weight on a dream for guidance in making such an
important decision as marriage.
concept comes from Judges 6 where Gideon was asked by God to do something
dangerous and seemingly impossible. So Gideon asks God for a sure validation by
putting a lamb’s fleece on the ground. He asks God that the next morning the
fleece be wet with dew and ground around it be dry. It was so. Then Gideon
asked for the reverse situation for the next morning and again it was so. This
gave absolute surety to God’s call.
we do the same today? We may not use the exact same sign but there are other
creative types of fleeces that we can use. We may say, “If we both wind up at
the same meeting together then I’ll take that as a sign from God.” Or, “If I
hear this one particular song on the radio today then I’ll know.” Or, “If my
car starts on the first crank, something which it almost never does, then I’ll
know from God that the relationship is a go.” But what is the problem here?
There are several.
we are telling God how He should reveal His will to us. Suppose God wants us to
seek Him longer in pray or to get more counsel? Why should He circumvent those
necessary things by putting a silly song on the radio? We want quick. God may
want patience. We want easy. God may want sincere seeking.
the last possible fleece that we can see in the Bible is in Acts 1:26 when the
Apostles drew lots to see who would replace Judas. Interestingly though, we
never read about that person again. Since Pentecost there is no other instance
of a fleece or lot being used even when there were times of uncertainty.
Perhaps God stopped using fleeces or lots at that time.
the fleeces that were used in the Bible were generally quite specific and
unlikely. Gideon’s fleece on the first day was unlikely. It being reversed on
the second day made it quite the miracle. Are we willing to put out fleeces
that are miraculous or are we just counting on coincidence?
are we willing to stake everything on that one fleece? If it does not turn out the
way that we want will we say “best two of three” or will we accept the results?
I am sure that someone can say, “I used a type of fleece to determine if I
should marry this woman and it confirmed that I should and now we’ve been
married twenty wonderful years.” That is great but how do you know that the
fleece was from God and not just a happy coincidence? Just because it turned
out to be true does not mean that it was from God. As they say, even a stopped
clock is right twice a day.
someone will come up to you and tell you that they have had a prophecy or
revelation from God about you and may even tell you that this is what God wants
you to do. Should you just accept that the Holy Spirit did tell that person
something and act on it or should you challenge it or should you discard it
altogether? There are several reasons to be careful about this when it happens.
For one, God
knows how to get in touch with each one of us directly. He does not necessarily
have to go through someone else. This is especially true if you are diligently
seeking God through prayer and His word. But you can argue that God may have to
use another person simply because the main person is not paying attention to
Him. Fair enough.
if it is difficult for you to tell if your own supernatural revelation is valid
then how much more difficult is it to validate when it is coming from someone
else? Just because someone comes to you with a “thus sayth the Lord” why should
you accept it as so and then make a crucial life decision based on that
so-called revelation—even if it is from someone like your pastor? The burden of
proof is on the person who comes with the revelation to prove that it is such
and a reply of “I just know it” is not good enough. In the Bible, prophets were
well-known people who had a perfect track record of proclamation
(pronouncements and warnings) and prediction (telling the future). They were
very knowledgeable of scripture and of the ways of God. If they made even one
mistake they were to be stoned to death because it showed that they were not
speaking for God. Even those prophets that were always right oftentimes still
took their life in their hands. Prophecy was not a casual hobby.
in the Bible, prophecy was usually given as prediction and not as guidance. For
example, in Acts 11 Agabus gave a prediction of a world famine. The result was
that the disciples decided to send a contribution to help those in Judea. Then in Acts 21 the same Agabus predicted that
Paul was going to be bound if he went to Jerusalem.
The result was that the other disciples pleaded with Paul not to go. Paul went
anyway; he did not see that as a declaration from God as to His will, only what
would happen. The decision to go or not was still left in Paul’s hands. In both
of these cases prophecy did not come in the form of “This is what God wants you
to do” as much as “This is what God says will happen.” Then in light of that
prediction those involved could decide what to do. However, if someone who was
known as a prophet came to you and said that if you married this is what would
happen it is still your option as to what to do. Even a prediction of a crisis
does not necessarily mean that the occasion should not be carried out as we saw
there are instances where a prophet does proclaim the will of God. One example
is in 1 Kings 12:24 where Shemaiah the prophet tells Israel, “'Thus says the
LORD, ‘You must not go up and fight against your relatives the sons of Israel;
return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me.’ So they
listened to the word of the LORD, and returned and went their way according to
the word of the LORD.” But then in the very next chapter we can read about the
disobedient prophet who falsely claimed that God spoke to him in order to
we should be very careful not to assume that everyone who thinks that they have
heard from God did so in fact. Some people just like to think that they are
more sensitive to the Holy Spirit than other people are and so think that they
have God’s inside information. I have known people who wanted to make a point
or have something done but could not justify it themselves so they tack the
Holy Spirit’s name onto it because who would want to go against the will of
God? The problem is that the vast majority of the time the Holy Spirit is used
as nothing more than as a bully to get others to agree with that person’s view.
This is dangerous. God is gentle and gracious and does not appreciate being
used as a big stick.
the less, prophecy is a gift of the Holy Spirit and God does count prophets
highly. So we should consider the words of a prophet. But even for those few
people where that may be true that still does not mean that God told them
something about you. I believe that even if God did choose to speak to you
through a prophet that He would still confirm that through several of the other
means of discerning His will.
sign is a situation where someone asks for something clear and external to
determine or confirm God’s leading. Sometimes a sign can be predetermined. This
was covered under “Fleeces.” Other times a sign can be something spontaneous
such as a strange coincidence or occurrence.
problem with signs is that many times they are open to interpretation. I knew
one case where a man who was in his twenties was involved in a Christian group
that his parents, who also were Christians, did not approve of because they
felt that the group had gone off in some of its practices. This man was going
to a conference sponsored by this group in another state. Soon after leaving
town he hit a deer and badly damaged his car. He had to turn around and limp
back home. His parents interpreted hitting the deer as a sign that God did not
want him go. He interpreted it as a sign that going to the conference was so
important to God that Satan tried to stop him with the deer. So he made an even
greater effort to make it to the conference. Who was right? It depended on each
person’s predetermined ideas and desires. Was it a sign from God or an obstacle
from Satan or was it nothing more than a stupid deer that ran in front of a
problem with spontaneous signs is that we tend to pick and choose them as we
please. If there is an unusual occurrence that is in line with what we want to
happen then we take it as a sign from God. But if it disagrees with our desires
then we just blew it off as nothing more than an unusual occurrence. By doing
this we can accumulate a slew of positive signs and no negative signs.
similar problem is that if we are on the alert for signs then we can start to
see them everywhere. One man was asked to be an elder at his church. He was
unsure as whether to accept or not. But then the word “elder” started showing
up everywhere. His mother made elderberry pie. The TV news made mention of an
elder statesman. A family member referred to another member as being elder. To
him this was God’s confirmation that he should take the position. Of course it
could be true that God did have all of that happen for that very reason,
however it could also simply be that the person had become acutely sensitive to
that word. It is the same principle as when you buy a particular car. Before
then you might not have noticed that car on the road at all. Now all of a
sudden they seem to be everywhere. No, hordes of people did not suddenly rush
into car dealers throwing suitcases of cash at the salespeople in order to buy
that car; you just suddenly became aware of them.
as with a fleece, God may not choose to inform you of His will with a sign no
matter how much you may beg for one.
what we may think of as a sign is nothing more than a favorable circumstance.
If you are thinking about getting married but are not sure because of poor
finances but then you get a raise from work you may take that as a sign from
God to go ahead with the wedding plans. But maybe it was just a favorable
circumstance. Maybe you deserved that raise and would have gotten it anyway.
But we will look more closely at circumstances in that section.
despite all of the previous warnings I do believe that God can and does use
signs. I just do not think that He uses them as frequently as people think that
they see them. The same problem as relying on hearing the “voice of God” exists
for signs; that is, we want something quick, definite, clear, and easy. We do
not want to have to wade through the scriptures to find relevant passages even
though that will greatly deepen our spiritual knowledge. We do not want to have
to seek out counsel. We do not want to pray and pray and pray. We want to hear
or see something, snap our fingers and say, “That’s it! Now I know.”
I was about to propose marriage to the woman who is now my wife we were sitting
on a couch in the living room. As she was talking I glanced outside the window
and I saw two Canadian geese flying across the sky. Usually Canadian geese fly
in the “V” formation as a group so seeing two alone seemed to be unusual. Was
this a sign from God that I should go ahead with the proposal? Perhaps it was
but I was going to ask anyway whether I saw the geese or not. So if they were
from God I do not so much think of them as having been a sign as much as just a
nice gesture from God.
In his book
“Knowing God’s Will” M. Blaine Smith2 says that we should ask God to
validate any possible supernatural guidance by asking Him to either “provide
specific help or resources which you would clearly need to carry the guidance”
or “to provide clear reasons for following the guidance you believe you have
been given supernaturally.”
To be safe, even
if we think that God is inwardly leading us regarding such a major decision as
marriage we should confirm it with some of the other ways that God gives us direction.
I do not believe that God is only going to give one confirmation in the vital
decision of marriage and expect us to take it and run.
You are solution oriented if, when a
problem occurs, you:
start thinking of ways to solve the problem.
Talk to others
about the problem so that they can give their advice.
as a way to make you more capable and more godly.
Keep making an
effort until you finally solve the problem.
Add this to
your list of “wins” when you overcome it.
solutions being a hope and encouragement to others.
See a problem
and immediately think of how God’s grace is sufficient.
See a problem
as a stepping-stone.
can be very difficult to read. Do good circumstances mean that we should keep
going ahead and bad circumstances mean that we should stop? But what about
Matthew 14 where Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and cross the Sea of Galilee only to have a terrible storm arise and
terrify them? Did that storm mean that they should not have listened to Jesus?
Or what about the blind beggar in Mark 10 who cried out to Jesus only to have
the crowd sternly warn him to be quiet. If he had listened to their rebukes he
would never have been healed. Or what about Jesus, who knowing what the cross
held for Him, still went to be crucified? There are many situations in the
Bible where people went ahead despite the circumstances only to be rewarded in
the end. The entire chapter of Hebrews 11 tells us about these people.
Probably we have
all heard some story similar to the one where someone got a flat tire and was
stuck on the side of the road only to find out that there was a major accident
up ahead that he would have been in if his tire had not blown. In Hebrews 1:14
angels are called “ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake
of those who will inherit salvation.” I believe that much of what these angels
do is to protect us from harm by manipulating the circumstances around us. The
comic strip “Rose is Rose” has a guardian angel that cleverly protects his
none of these are examples of circumstances being used for guidance. So can
circumstances be used for guidance? I believe that they can but the key is to
pray and ask God to do that. One simple example is someone who is looking for a
job. He can ask God to close up any job possibilities that are not good and
open up any that are good. But God does not absolutely guarantee that He will
do this so we should still pray and think about any job that is open.
you are already married and are thinking about having children but neither of
you has health insurance and your income is barely paying the current bills or
even if finances are not a problem but the marriage is shaky. In either case I
would highly suggest waiting to start a family; the circumstances are not very
you are thinking about buying a new place but some tile fell off of the ceiling
while you were checking it out. I would counsel you to look elsewhere.
notice that in all of those examples whether the circumstances were
supernaturally produced or not did not make a difference. Reason alone told you
what direction to take because it was fairly obvious.
would dissuade people from using circumstances as some supernatural indicator
when considering marriage unless it forces an obvious answer. For example, you
are about to propose and then you discover that the girl is only 16 years old.
That is a clear circumstance that you need to stop. Or he is arrested for
murdering his previous girlfriend. I would seriously rethink the whole wedding
But suppose you
buy an engagement ring and it is stolen or lost. Do you break up figuring that
God is telling you stop? I do not think so. Or suppose two times in a row you
are about to pop the question and she gets called out of town on business. Is
that a signal from God? Maybe it was nothing more than bad timing. Maybe there
is a whole slew of things not working out? Should you just quit on the idea and
break up? How do you know that maybe God is allowing those things to happen so
that you can confirm to yourself just how much you really want this marriage.
Here is the main
point, in life it is rare for everything to fall into place and sail along
smoothly. Those things worth having will not come easily. There will be
hindrances and problems to work out. Are those signs from God to stop or trials
from God to build your character or maybe they are just circumstances that have
no supernatural meaning. How do you know the difference? Probably you do not.
That is why you should only use circumstances as reasonable indicators of which
direction to go but not as supernatural indicators. If God closes a door then
you need to go elsewhere. But if the door merely has a bump in front of it then
whether you stop or go through is up to you.
you ask most Christians how did they know that they were to marry their spouse
you will often get the reply, “You just know.” They cannot point to anything
specific because the answer lied not so much in any one event or revelation but
simply in a coming together of many smaller things all of which pointed to the
same conclusion. When this happens there is a sense of peace and confirmation.
verse that is often used in this regard is Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace
of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and
be thankful.” The “peace of Christ” is not the peace that we have with God
through reconciliation but, rather, an inward peace of the heart and mind that
comes from God. It is not a psychological peace that we drum up ourselves
because we think that everything is going well; it is a special peace that can
only come from God. The word “rule” means to umpire, to arbitrate, or to decide
a debate. Nearly
the entire chapter of Colossians that this verse is nestled in is dealing with
various human relationships. So when our relationships are right God will give
us this peace but when they are wrong it will be withheld.
believe that when we are in a right relationship we will have a deep, inner
peace. This does not mean that everything is going well or that there are not
any conflicts but that God is giving us an affirmation. The verse does not
read, “the peace of Christ will be in your heart.” God specifically says that
we should let the peace of Christ rule or umpire in our heart. What is the
difference. In the first case we would understand that God gives us peace. But
in the second case God tells us to use this peace to make a wise choice.
course, a person must be careful not to try and force this peace so as to make
it appear that they are following God’s will. Nor should anyone base their
decision entirely on this factor. God does not say that this is the only factor
necessary in determining His will in relationships. If that were the case then
He would not have to give all of the commands regarding how we should act
around each other. Some people are so nervous about everything that they could
not feel God’s peace even if it were up to their necks.
is one factor that we should consider when deciding if we should marry someone.
Does everything look good but there is an inner turmoil? Then I would wait. But
do we have a deep sense of God’s peace regarding this relationship? Then maybe
we should this to the list of positive factors.
is not going to be much of an issue for the great majority of people, but there
must be an observation of laws governing age, how closely you are related, and
the relationship is leading you into sin or is violating your conscience then
it is time to back away and either slow things down or break up. How might this
occur? Maybe he is trying to get you to have sex before marriage. Maybe he
wants you to become involved in something illegal such as drugs, theft, being a
fraudulent witness, assault, or arson. Maybe you often get drunk together.
Maybe she is trying to separate you from your parents or good friends. Maybe he
is trying to keep you from going to church anymore.
some sin is becoming a large part of the relationship then that is a bad
indication. God will never bless sin. He will never bless moral or ethical
unrighteousness. If that person is leading you into sin then that is a good
indication that the relationship is not from God.
is always a tricky issue. The Bible does not give even a hint as to how long
two people should know each other before proposing marriage. But there are
several issues regarding time that should be considered.
It takes time to seek God and learn His will.
Perhaps the biggest difficulty with learning God’s will in marriage is that it
usually requires patience and concentrated focus on seeking God. Unfortunately,
for most of us those are two things that do not come easily. But if we can
maintain these two disciplines then the assurance is worth the wait and effort.
It takes time to learn about the other
person. When we are spending a lot of time with someone we are hit with a
lot of information about that other person. This can come from his or her
words, actions, body language, comments from other people, how we get along
alone versus when we are in a group and so on. Conclusions that we had in the
beginning change as we learn more. At first we may not think that she is very
funny until we realize that she is indeed very clever but in a subtle way. What
we first perceived as indecisiveness turns out to be thoughtful contemplation.
It takes time to get to know a person.
It takes time to learn about ourselves.
A relationship also reveals a lot about ourselves even if we have been in a
number of previous relationships because each one is different. We may learn
that we have areas of intolerance or impatience that we did not know existed.
We may realize that we have a long ways to go in learning fiscal
responsibility. Or we may come to an understanding that having a dog is the
most companionship that we can handle right now. As has been said, it is not so
important as finding the right spouse as it is being the right spouse. Time
gives us a chance to cut away those parts of ourselves that will cause problems
in the marriage.
It takes time to process our thoughts.
Though our brains are extremely complex and wonderful they can only do so much.
Usually in a relationship things can happen quickly and often. It takes time to
correctly put together all of the events and all of the phone calls and all of
the time together and determine just how compatible we really are. We have to
be careful not to let our desires get ahead of our understanding because if we
do then it is easier to make mistakes.
It takes time to settle our emotions and be
more objective. In the beginning of a relationship usually everything seems
so wonderful. You are both on cloud nine and it would be hard to believe that
anything could go wrong. It is clear that your marriage will be the most
wonderful that the world has ever seen. Eventually, though, reality settles in.
Some of those habits that at first seemed so cute are now down right
irritating. Being together constantly was great then but now you need a little
time off. This is not to say that the relationship goes down hill from that
point on but, rather, that you are both seeing each other in a more objective
and realistic light and not through pumped up emotions. In truth, this is
better. And as time goes on the emotions should actually deepen. In the
beginning your emotions are running on adrenaline, but as the relationship
grows your emotions will be running on understanding. Time does not necessarily
diminish the emotions as much as corrals them and keeps them from going wild.
It takes time for issues to be discussed.
Every serious relationship is going to have a large number of issues. Do you
share any of the same hobbies? Do you both want to have children and how many?
Do you have the same taste in music? Do you both like to travel? And so on.
Many of these issues are vital and as some of them are discussed other ones
will surface. In a sense it may be a long time, if ever, before all of the issues
are fully dealt with. But whereas in the beginning the number of these
unresolved issues are great and may come at you like a flock of birds, as you
spend time together they will be less and less. At some point all of the major
issues will have been discussed and either there will be agreement or
compromise. The more of these issues that are discussed the more you will both
know how compatible you are.
It takes time to see how we are able to deal
with various circumstances together. In the beginning everything is rosy;
there are few arguments, there are few disagreements, life seems wonderful. Of
course you are both getting along fantastically. That is not a true test of how
you will both get along in marriage. What happens when those irritations start
coming up? How do you handle arguments or disagreements? Is there communication
or silence? Is there self-control or anger? Is there sensitivity or
accusations? This, in a sense, is the true test of how well you both can deal
with each other. Sometimes it may take a while to determine this. Of course, it
is not necessary to wait forever if you never argue nor is it necessary to
force an argument just to see how it goes. But over time different
circumstances will arise and this will give a better understanding of your
ability to work together.
It takes time to determine finances and
other possible responsibilities. Maybe one or both of you are on shaky
ground financially. This may take some time to work out. Or maybe there are
children involved; determining all of the issues involved with that may not be
easy. Or perhaps there is a sick parent or one of you has serious health
problems or you do not know where you are going to live or there is a major
legal case pending. All of these things may take extra time to work through.
But what about
people who get engaged after dating for less than two months? Were they foolish
or undiscerning? Can we roll our eyes and whisper that they are making a
mistake? The politician’s answer to that is yes and no. It is certainly
questionable when two people make a lifelong commitment after such a short
amount of time. However, we do not know what God may have said to them. I am
not big on supernatural revelations but I do believe that, though rare, they
can happen and how am I to say that God did not tell them to get married?
Because God does not specify a minimum amount of time to date or court then
neither can I.
believe that as two people get older they have a better understanding of who
they are and what they want. This being the case I think that older people
generally need less time to determine if this person is the one for them.
You are a bully if you:
in seeing others hurt or in pain.
Want to be the
center of attention even if it means putting someone else down or pushing them
to the side.
Are a sore
loser and find yourself either despising the winners or wanting to bring them
down some how.
Tend to pick
physically than communicatively.
weaker than yourself and want to intimidate him or her.
Feel good if
you have hurt someone.
take from others and rarely give anything in return.
physical power is the best way to succeed.
following considerations are not so much regarding how to discern God’s will as
much as issues to consider when trying to decide how deeply to get into a
relationship or if you should propose marriage or accept a proposal.
Are either of us on the rebound? When a
relationship breaks up no matter who initiated it there will usually be some
intense emotions. There may be a hollowness because an important part of your
life is now missing. There may be a drop in self-esteem and a feeling of
rejection. There may be a need to not be the only one of your friends not
dating someone at the time.
This can cause
two undesirable results. One is that all of this may lead to a frantic
desperation. There is a sense of having to get someone, anyone, and as quickly
as possible. If you are dating someone who is on the rebound then you must be
careful that you are not little more than a quick fill-in. Are you in that
person’s life because you are simply a body filling in a desperate need or are
you there because you are truly appreciated and desired for who you are?
other possible result is that because of this turmoil the person is not who
they normally are. Their emotions are haywire and their thoughts are confused.
Of all types of relationships this is one that should be taken slowly until you
can be sure that they have truly recovered from that break up and are now their
normal, usual selves again.
because someone is on the rebound does not mean that you should run for the hills,
but there should certainly be more caution and discernment than usual.
What about divorce? This is a
much-debated issue. Many large books have been written on the subject. I cannot
even begin to explore this topic with the detail that is required, but I would
like to present some thoughts. If this is a vital issue to you then I would
suggest studying the topic in more depth.
There are many
Scriptures that can be studied regarding divorce but one of the key passages is
the so-called “adultery or exception clause” that is mentioned in four
“And it was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE
OF DIVORCE’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for
the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a
divorced woman commits adultery.”
but especially verse nine, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except
for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Mark 10:2-11 but
especially verses 11-12, “And He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and
marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces
her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.’”
“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and he
who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.”
There seems to be
four major schools of thought.
1) There is no
divorce and no remarriage. This is the strictest interpretation and contents
that under no circumstances is divorce commanded or desired by God. Only
because of people’s “hardness of heart” was it even permitted. Marriage was
designed by God to be life-long, permanent, and covenanted. A covenant is a
promise and God does not revoke His promises. So even though we may break the
marriage covenant through a legal divorce God will uphold the covenant and
consider the two people to still be married. Therefore if either remarries He
will consider it to be adultery and so remarriage is always forbidden.
interprets the word “adultery” in the adultery clauses as referring to an
incestuous and, therefore, illegal marriage (it violated Leviticus 18:6-18)
that was never sanctified by God anyway.
2) The second
view is that divorce is allowed under very narrow circumstances but remarriage
is always prohibited. Here the adultery clauses permit a legal divorce in the
single case of adultery but any remarriage would be considered adultery.
Therefore the divorced person must remain single for the rest of their lives.
3) The third view
is that divorce and remarriage is allowed but only for adultery or desertion.
This allows that the adultery clauses state that for adultery (desertion is
covered by 1 Corinthians 7:15) allow a legal divorce and freedom to remarry.
4) The fourth
view is that divorce and remarriage is allowed under a number of situations
such as adultery, desertion, and abuse. This perspective more factors in the
idea of God being forgiving, gracious, and compassionate. It is unlikely that
God would allow repentant murderers and criminals to be allowed to participate
in the full blessings of God but divorcees must remain single for the rest of
their lives. The adultery clauses and 1 Corinthians 7:15 (which allows the
broader categories of desertion, abuse, and homosexuality) permit remarriage.
In all of these
four views God sanctifies marriage through a covenant. Divorce is never
encouraged and even for adultery reconciliation must first be vigorously
much time studying this topic I have concluded that it is much less clear and
more open to debate than I had previously thought. However, I feel that the
fourth view is the more correct. In all areas of life God knows that people
will make mistakes and yet He allows second chances. God does not necessarily
force anyone to be burdened by a past mistake; that is the whole point of
forgiveness. David committed adultery and murder but he was permitted to remain
king. Peter denied Christ but was able to remain an apostle. Jonah fled from
God’s command but was permitted to still be God’s spokesman. Mark deserted Paul
but afterwards was considered useful and as a son to Paul.
Some people make
terrible mistakes when they get married. In an adulterous or abusive situation
I cannot see a person having to be forced to remain in that marriage or to
remain single if divorced. Also, even if a person divorces for a wrong reason
such as they just got tired of being married but then the ex-spouse remarries,
I believe that frees the first person to then remarry.
However, if you
are in this situation then you must develop your own convictions based on what
you truly believe Scripture is telling you. Romans 14:22 applies here, “The
faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who
does not condemn himself in what he approves.”
What about finances? If you are in dire
financial straits but you truly believe that God has told you to get married
then you must obey God and trust that He will provide. However for anything
short of such an absolute confirmation, it would be prudent to wait and see if
you are able to improve your situation first before plunging into something as
potentially stressful as marriage. Money is one of the biggest sources of
arguments within marriage so why start out with this potential problem looming?
However, God never says that we must be rich or even financially stable in
order to get married.
Also, it should
not make any difference, in my opinion, who makes the most money. Ultimately
there is not the husband’s money and the wife’s money; it is equally both of
their money no matter who put it there in the first place.
Are one of us only looking for a father or
mother for a child? If this is discerned to be the case then I would
suggest being very careful about entering into marriage. The question must be
asked, “Would I still marry this person even if I did not have a child?” or
conversely, “Would he or she marry me if they did not have a child?” Marriage
must be more than being a live-in big brother or big sister or a glorified
What if one of us is seriously ill?
Though illness can complicate the situation God does give abundant grace to
handle this with love, patience, compassion, and humility. Just because someone
is sick that should not exclude them from participating in the blessings of
marriage. If love can overcome sin then it can certainly overcome illness.
But for an
illness that is degenerative, the healthy person must be aware of the future
burdens and possible sorrows. If they can accept that with their eyes wide open
then great, but a false nobility can be disastrous. It would be better to be
wise and understand your limitations then to be foolishly confident.
If possible, it
might be helpful to talk to someone who is already in a similar situation. You
might be able to find such people by contacting organizations focused on that
What if we are different races? This
should not be an issue. Yes, there are bigoted people out there but the sin of
others should not prevent you from doing what you believe God is telling you to
The Song of
Solomon (or Song of Songs in some translations) is a story about a woman
marrying King Solomon. The woman as stated in chapter 1 verse 5 was black but
Solomon was white (in 5:10 he is described as being ruddy or rosy). Skin color
should be no more of a factor than eye or hair color.
Of course, just
as someone may prefer redheads so someone may prefer a person of their own race
and that is fine. But to claim that an inter-racial marriage is wrong in itself
is to misunderstand how God views people and is to fabricate differences
between races that simply does not exist.
is a wonderful thing and it should also be a permanent thing. Even marriages
that last for only a very short time will affect a person for the rest of their
lives. It is not a decision that should be made glibly. For a Christian to be
able to know that this person is God’s will for them gives a sense of wonderful
peace and assurance. But discovering this will is not usually easy. It should
involve a lot of prayer, a lot of counsel, a lot of discernment, God’s word,
and a sensitivity to any other means that God may want to speak to you. Great
care must be taken to not force any of this to match our predetermined desires.
It would be better to wait longer or even to break up the relationship then to
fall into a miserable situation just because you were both anxious.
issues must be realized regarding God’s will and marriage. One is that people
can choose not to do God’s will. Rarely does God force someone to do something.
He may make it very clear what He wants someone to do but the ultimate choice
lies with that person. The problem is that when this happens there is usually
disastrous results. And unfortunately that wrong decision will almost always
affect other people and will certainly do so in the area of marriage.
When the original
Israelites who left Egypt
were on the edge of the Promised Land God told them that they could not enter
it because they had sinned. Some did not listen and tried to enter it anyway.
They were beaten back by the inhabitants (Numbers 14). Jonah was told to go to Nineveh; instead, he went
to Tarshish. A great fish swallowed him (Jonah 1). God told Lot
to flee to the mountains. Lot begged to go to
Zoar instead. The result was that the nations of Moab
and Ammon were born to his daughters—two nations that harassed Israel
(Genesis 19). So too God may tell two Christians to marry each other but one may
rebel and choose a different mate; maybe even a non-Christian. That being the
case there are now two people who did not do what God wanted them to do—the one
rebelled and did something otherwise and the one who might have been obedient
but was left empty-handed because of the other person’s wrong decision. For the
first person God forgives those who truly repent and God does have mercy.
However, that person will surely miss out on most if not all of God’s blessings
for marriage. For the second person God is not thrown into despair because His
original plan was confounded. He is certainly able to bring someone else into
that person’s life that results in an equally blessed and wonderful marriage.
The main point
here is that sometimes things do not work out even when you have done
everything that you should have and everything pointed to this relationship
being God’s will. Because people have a choice in the equation things may not
happen as they should. Therefore, you should not beat yourself thinking that you
blew it and read everything wrong. Maybe you did not, maybe it was the other
person who missed God’s will. Of course even here you should not go and point
your finger at that person and make railing accusations concerning their
spirituality. Rather, you might want to explain to him or her in sincere,
mature detail how you understand God’s will concerning your relationship. But
you cannot force their choice; that is solely their responsibility before God.
But know that for you God can still turn a barren wilderness into a paradise.
problem is the opposite of the previous one. This is where you have misread
God’s will concerning this other person and think that He has spoken and this
is “the one” when, in fact, He has not. Then the relationship falls apart. You
will be tempted to be angry and bitter and disappointed. You will want to blame
God for the situation. In this case it is best to seek counsel from others. You
must resist any of your emotions calling you to sin. You must do what is right.
even if you do make a mistake and go against God’s will and marry someone that
you should not have, that does not mean that you are necessarily doomed. God
gives tremendous grace and because of that He can turn even the most despairing
situation into one of glory and triumph. You can change to become that perfect
mate. And if you married a non-Christian you can always pray that God will turn
his or her heart to Him. When you make a wrong decision it will be a harder
road, but it is does not have to be a road that leads you over a cliff.
Ed. Frank S.
Mead, 12,000 Religious Quotations (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989), p.
Genesis 15:12, God put Abraham to sleep and then gave him
the vision about his descendents.
Genesis 20:3, God tells Abimelech in his own dream that he
himself is in trouble.
Genesis 28:12, Jacob had the dream about the ladder.
Genesis 31:10, God tells Jacob in a dream about breeding
sheep to maximize his own herd.
Genesis 31:24, God warns Laban in a dream not to cross
Genesis 37:5, Joseph had the dream about himself becoming a
Genesis 40:5f, The baker and cup bearer each had dreams
about their own future. Joseph then interpreted their dreams.
Genesis 41, Pharaoh had a dream about the future of Egypt.
Judges 7:13, Gideon dreamt about how he was going to conquer
1 Kings 3:5, God appeared to Solomon in a dream to ask him
what it was that He could give to Solomon.
Daniel 2, The king had a dream about future kingdoms.
Daniel 4, The king had another dream relating to himself and
how he would fall.
Daniel 7, Daniel has a dream about future kingdoms.
Matthew 1:20, An angel appeared to Joseph to tell him that
it was all right for him to take Mary.
Matthew 2:12, The magi are given a dream to not return the
same way that they came.
Matthew 2:19, Joseph is told in a dream to go Galilee to avoid Herod.
Matthew 27:19, Pilate’s wife had a dream to leave Jesus
alone or else she would suffer greatly.
Acts 9:10, God appeared to Ananias in a vision and told him
to go see Saul.
Acts 10:3, God appeared to Cornelius in a vision telling him
to send for Peter.
Acts 11:5, Peter saw a vision about how the Gentiles were
now considered to be clean.
Acts 16:9, God appears to Paul in a vision telling him to go
Acts 18:9, God tells Paul in a vision not to be afraid
because He is with him.