Developing Great Relationships

Is this the One? -- How to Know the Will of God Regarding Marriage


Is This the One?—How to know the will of God regarding marriage.

        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 referenced piano.

     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 your expectations.”

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 14:12.

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.

In determining 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.”

God’s commandments

        The 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.


Martin 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.

One joke 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, “Chapter 11.”


So using 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 Corinthians 6:14-16.

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.

The most 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 relationship.

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.”


Yes, 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.


You are 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 and desires.

·         Have had a small tragedy and someone else has had a large tragedy but all that you talk about is yours.

·         Consistently and easily grow bored when other people are talking about themselves.

·         Are planning 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 like it.

·         Rarely ask how someone else is doing and just jump right in with your life.

·         Only call people when you need something.

·         Spend your extra money only on yourself.

·         Are irritated by someone else's success or attention.

·         Often interrupt other people.

·         Do not work hard because you do not feel that you are paid what you are worth.

·         Steal other people's thunder by leaking out secrets and information before the source person can announce the news.

·         Refuse to cooperate simply because you do not want to.

·         Get angry when your personal expectations are not met.

·         Feel that everyone must accept you the way that you are or that is just too bad.

·         Cannot support, aid, or be involved in someone else's work if you are not going to get a big share of the credit.

·         Complain incessantly when you are inconvenienced.

·         Shrug off 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.

·         Wish that other people would fail just so that you can look better.

·         Are 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.

·         Embarrass or humiliate someone in public because they did something to you that you did not like.

·         Go to church wondering what you can get from others rather than what you can give to others.

·         Consider anything that you are not interested in to be boring or unimportant.



        This 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.

        It 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.

        Another 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.

        The 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.”

        It 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 guidance?”

        Let 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.

        So 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.

        Ultimately 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.


Proverbs 11:14, “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 own.

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.


        So 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 person.

        When 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 the tide.

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.”

Besides jealousy 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.


        But 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:

·         Talk or complain frequently about the problem itself.

·         Use the 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.

·         Add this problem to your growing list of unresolved problems.

·         Involve a lot of other people in your problem but not to seek answers.

·         Frequently use your problems as an excuse for not doing what you should.

·         See a problem and immediately start thinking why it is overwhelming.

·         Problems put you into inertia rather than into action.

·         Consistently see your problems as making you a lesser person.

·         Find your problems being a burden and discouragement to others.

·         See a problem as a hedge.


Hearing the Holy Spirit or other supernatural means of guidance

In determining 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 matter.”

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 or emotions?

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 on.


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.[36] 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 gown?

In my opinion, I would put very little, if any, weight on a dream for guidance in making such an important decision as marriage.


        This 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.

        Should 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.

        First, 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.

        Second, 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.

        Third, 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?

        Fourth, 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?

        But 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.

Other people’s prophecy or revelations

        Sometimes 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.

        Second, 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.

        Third, 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 with Paul.

        However, 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 mislead someone.

        Fourth, 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.

        None 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.


        A 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.

        One 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 car?

        Another 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.

        A 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.

        Also, 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.

        Oftentimes 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.

        However, 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.”

        When 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.”[37]

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:

·         Right away start thinking of ways to solve the problem.

·         Talk to others about the problem so that they can give their advice.

·         See problems 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.

·         Find your 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.


Circumstances and open/closed doors

        Circumstances 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 little charge.

        But 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.

        Or 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 favorable.

        Or 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.

        But 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.

        I 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 thing.

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.

Peace of God

        When 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.

        A 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.[38] 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.

        I 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.

        Of 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.

        This 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.


        This 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 citizenship.


        If 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.

        If 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.


        Time 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.

Interesting, 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:

·         Lack sympathy for others.

·         Enjoy dominating others.

·         Find enjoyment in seeing others hurt or in pain.

·         Are overly aggressive.

·         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 fights.

·         Act more physically than communicatively.

·         Find someone weaker than yourself and want to intimidate him or her.

·         Feel good if you have hurt someone.

·         Forcefully take from others and rarely give anything in return.

·         Believe that physical power is the best way to succeed.


Miscellaneous Considerations

        The 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?

        The 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.

        Just 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.[39]

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 different places:

Matthew 5:31-32, “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.”


Matthew 19:3-12 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.’”


Luke 16:18, “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.

This view 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 sought.

After spending 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 nanny.


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 particular illness.


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 do.

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.


        Marriage 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.

        Two 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.

The second 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.

        But 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.




[1] Ed. Frank S. Mead, 12,000 Religious Quotations (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989), p. 156


How to Have Great Relationships

[2] Ed. Dr. Tim Dowley, Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), p 87

[3] Ed. Frank S. Mead, 12,000 Religious Quotations, op. cit., p. 155.

[4] Ed. Frank S. Mead, 12,000 Religious Quotations, op. cit., p. 157.

[5] H. Norman Wright, relationships that work [and those that don’t] (Ventura, Regal Books, 1998), p. 48.

[6] Paul D. Meier, M.D., Frank B. Minirth, M.D., and Frank Wichern, Ph.D, Introduction to Psychology & Counseling (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1982), p. 91.

[7] Bob La Forge, “Nick and Stella” Paisley Moon, Fall 1992/Winter 1993, p.26.

[8] Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive & Forget – Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve (San Francisco, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1984), p. 27.

[9] Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace? (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1997), p. 99.

[10] Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament (Peabody, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1986), p. 239.


Love and Pain—Relationships That Hurt

[11] Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament, op. cit., p 429.

[12] Derek Kidner, Genesis – An Introduction & Commentary, Ed. D. J. Wiseman (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 1967), p 165.

    John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary—New Testament(Colorado Springs, Victor Books, 1985), p 78.

[13] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament Concise Edition, Ed. James A. Swanson (Holman Bible Publishers, 2000), p. 307.

    Ralp Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament, op. cit., p. 111.

[14] Heinrich Seesemann, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol. 5, Ed. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1967),  p 857.

[15]  William Wilson, Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies (Peabody, Hendrickson Publishers), p. 14.

[16]  William Wilson, Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, op. cit., p. 280.

[17] C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves. The Inspirational Writings of C. S. Lewis (New York, Inspirational Press, 1994), pp. 278-279.



[18] Ed. Frank S. Mead, 12,000 Religious Quotations, op. cit., p. 363.

[19] G. L. Archer, Jr., “Covenant” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 276-278.

[20] William Wilson, Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, op. cit., pp. 99-100.

[21] Ed. Charles G. Ward, The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook (Minneapolis, World Wide Publications, 1984), p. 215.

[22] Ravi Zacharias, Deliver Us From Evil (Dallas, Word Publishing, 1996), p. 156.

[23] William Wilson, Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, op. cit., p. 395.

[24] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, The Book of Proverbs. Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), p. 170.

[25]  John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary—Old Testament (Colorado Springs, Victor Books, 1985), p. 1009.


What Does the Bible Say About Dating, Courtship, Betrothal, and Divine Manipulation?

[26] Kevin Offner, “Dating vs. Courtship” Life Matters, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Spring 1997), pp. 5-6.

[27] Cited by Rob Marcus, “Kissing Nonsense Goodbye” (June 11, 2001).

[28] H. W. Perkin, “Marriage, Marriage Customs in Bible Times” The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, op. cit., pp. 690-693.

[29] Jonathan Lindvall, “Youthful Romance: Scriptural Patterns” (1997).

[30] Jonathan Lindvall, “The Dangers of Dating: Scriptural Romance—Part 1” (1996).

[31] Jonathan Lindvall, “Comparisons of Dating, Courtship, & Scriptural Betrothal” (1997).

[32] Kevin Offner, Ibid.

[33] Rob Marcus, Ibid.

[34] Jonathan Lindvall, “Dating? Courtship? Betrothal? Scriptural Romance—Part 2” (1996).

[35] Jonathan Lindvall, “Youthful Romance: Scriptural Patterns”, op. cit.


How to Know the Will of God in Marriage

[36] These are what I could find.

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 Jacob.

Genesis 37:5, Joseph had the dream about himself becoming a ruler.

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 his enemies.

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 to Macedonia.

Acts 18:9, God tells Paul in a vision not to be afraid because He is with him.

[37] M. Blaine Smith, Knowing God’s Will (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 1991), p. 139.

[38] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary—New Testament, op. cit., p. 682.

[39] Some recommended books are:

Ed. H. Wayne House, Divorce and Remarriage Four Christian Views (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 1990).

Larry Richards, Remarriage A Healing Gift From God (Dallas, Word Publishing, 1990).

Jay E. Adams, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1986).

Spiros Zodhiates, May I Divorce & Remarry? (Chattanooga, AMG Publishers, 1984).

Spiros Zodhiates, What About Divorce? (Chattanooga, AMG Publishers, 1984).

Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: