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 (Manna 32: Knowing God's Will)
Finding Your Other Half
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I sometimes catch the light dancing off the golden circlet around my ring finger. As I pause to look at the wedding band, I remember once again just how God, out of His love for us, brought my other half and me to each other. Our journey to matrimony was filled with a deep sense of wonder and joy from seeing God's guidance.

But certainly, there were times when I felt unsure. At the early stages of getting to know each other, I questioned if my other-half-to-be was the right one. In the years before our paths had even crossed, when I was single, I wondered, "Has God really prepared a partner for me?" Or when I felt infatuated with someone from time to time, I struggled with my confusion: "Could this person be the one?"

"How do you know who is the one?" Many people who are in the process of finding their other half ask this all-too-familiar question. Let me pass onto you what I have learned from my own journey and from others who have graciously shared their wisdom with me along the way.

Turning to God As the First Step

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the advice over the years, "Seek God's will in finding your spouse," and dismissed it as irrelevant. For many years, I saw myself as the owner of my destiny, particularly when it came to love, dating, and choosing the right person to marry. At first it seemed absurd to me to consider God in the process. I thought, "If I do not need God to choose my friends, why do I need Him to choose whom I like, date, or eventually marry? I have enough good sense to know who is right for me." I knew what I was looking for in a man. So finding my other half seemed only a matter of waiting for the one who met my criteria and going with my gut feeling.

But it was not that simple. No matter how much a guy appeared to be a good catch, something always seemed to be missing. For reasons I did not know initially, I could never feel completely sure about someone. Of course, I could be swept off my feet by someone's intelligence, good looks, athletic ability, high morals, or charming personality. I could even envision a wonderful life to come based on what I knew and saw. But I could never be sure of what tomorrow might bring or how someone might change in several years. Would his endearing qualities become intolerable with familiarity and routine? Would unexpected life-stress somehow poison the way we see each other? Would he really remain true and devoted for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, in an age when divorce or separation is becoming the rule, not the exception?

Over time, I realized that my criteria for today could not guarantee happiness for a lifetime. I could not see into the future to know whether I was making a foolproof decision at the start. It became clear that the reason I could not feel certain about someone was because God was missing from the equation. Only God can see and know the future. Without divine guidance and approval of my steps, it was no wonder I could not be sure if someone was truly right for me today, tomorrow, and beyond. After many years, I finally understood why it is so important to turn to God for guidance as the first step in finding the right person.

Putting God's Teachings First

Knowing the importance of seeking God's will first does not automatically translate into knowing God's will. Just because I asked God for guidance did not mean that I suddenly received enlightenment from above. God was out of my reach, and first I had to learn to draw myself closer to God before I could detect His will. The Scripture states plainly, "Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 1:9, NIV). Apostle Paul also wrote, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom 12:2).

Clearly, whether or not we can have God's abidance and guidance in the process of finding our other half has everything to do with our obedience to His teachings. Think about the seriousness of these verses-we do not have God if we do not live by His teachings! We would be walking in total darkness and have no chance of seeing His guiding light. How important it is, then, to follow the desires and standards of God, not those of this world, so that we may be within reach of His will!

It took me a long time to recognize that I was using a secular mindset in searching for a spouse, which was not biblical. I thought that what I was looking for was completely good and natural. After all, everyone around me lived by these standards. Who wouldn't judge beauty by outward appearance, define love by feelings of attraction, or determine compatibility based mostly on personality factors? Who would think it so sinful to "broaden our options" by looking for a match outside the church?

But God's standards are different. "For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Sam 16:7). God sees purity, reverence, and "the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" in wives as more valuable than beauty from any outward adornment (1 Pet 3:2-4). In addition, the scriptures remind us that love is more than just a feeling we have; it is part of the spiritual fruit we cultivate with the help of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). We are able to love in a complete sense only when God abides fully with us. God repeatedly instructs His believers to keep holy and be separate from unbelievers. He considers it detestable if we indiscriminately intermarry with unbelievers out of our passion alone.

In order to draw myself closer to God, then, I needed to examine for the first time the attitudes and values that I had grown accustomed to. It meant learning humility so I could let go of my preferences and let in God's teachings. It also meant learning more about God's teachings so I could know what the correct way is. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10). Finding the right person became finding the person with whom mutual giving of spiritual support and encouragement "to do good works" is possible; it was no longer about fulfilling my wish for romance and a good worldly future.

It was not until I was willing to look for a spouse in a manner that pleases God that I could begin to sense God's abidance and guidance. Make no mistake about it: putting God's teachings above our own desires in our search for a spouse may be one of the most painful and challenging experiences in our lives. But we know that we will not undergo it in vain because when we resist the devil, submit ourselves to God, and come near to Him, He will come near to us (Jas 4:7-8).

The Importance of Prayer

Throughout the Bible, we see repeatedly how God guides His people with His Spirit. It seems clear, then, that prayer should be our key to understanding God's will. Indeed, in their ministry to preach the gospel to all people, the apostles always received clear guidance from the Holy Spirit, which led them to do certain things but stopped them from doing others. But this kind of guidance seems magical, almost unreal, in light of how frequently we are confused about God's will today, especially in our search for our other half. It is puzzling that the Spirit of God that dwells within us today is the same one that guided the apostles two thousand years ago with such power and conviction. What happened to the power and conviction? Why do we often pray and yet not understand God's will?

Consistency. It does not take much effort to see how our life of prayer differs from that of Jesus and the apostles. Jesus fasted for forty days and nights in order to attain power from above and closeness with God. From day to day, He lived a consistent life of prayer. Likewise, the apostles prayed frequently, fervently, and often in one accord. We, by contrast, only manage occasionally to have even one fervent prayer. Most of the time, our prayers consist of a few words of hurried thanksgiving before meals and a short, tired monologue before we drift off to sleep for the night. No wonder we get no answer when we pray. How can we receive anything from God if our line of communication to Him has been severed due to our laziness and spiritual stupor? Therefore, reestablishing and strengthening our lifeline to God should be our highest priority, even before we begin the process of looking for a spouse. Without that strong, direct channel of communication with God, we cannot know His will for our match.

A Clear Mind. It is not enough simply to spend a certain amount of time in prayer each day. When it comes to matters of the heart, praying with a clear mind can be a tough and necessary challenge to overcome. "Should I call him or wait for him to call?" "She looked at me in a certain way, so does that mean something?" "I have never felt so much in love before. Is this a sign of approval from God?" On and on, the questions may surface in our mind. Our prayer ceases to be a dialogue with God, but instead becomes a confusing, emotion-filled self-babble. The Bible exhorts, "Be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray" (1 Pet 4:7, NIV). Sometimes, we may need to pray first for strength to control our minds and to keep our feelings in check so that our prayers can be fruitful.

Faith. To receive anything from God, we also need to pray with unwavering faith. The Bible speaks about the importance of having faith when we pray: "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord" (Jas 1:6-7, NIV). It may be difficult to maintain our faith in God's providence if we have waited for a long time without seeing any hints of something promising. It may also be challenging to await God's answer with unwavering faith when we don't know what His response will look like. His answer may come in a vision, a dream, or a direct revelation through an extraordinary event. But it may also be less concrete, as in a conviction we sense in our heart. How, then, can we know God's will?

Interestingly, Jesus did not teach His disciples the different secrets to understanding God's will. He simply instructed them to pray for the Holy Spirit and that when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide them into all truth (Jn 16:13). Filled with the Holy Spirit, the apostles did know God's will very clearly throughout their ministry. Therefore, rather than concerning ourselves with how God will reveal His answer to us, we need to believe fully that the Holy Spirit is our Counselor and will guide us into the truth concerning God's will for our marriage. With this faith, we ought to pray for complete indwelling of the Spirit and prepare ourselves for instructions from the Counselor.

As much as we need to pray and approach God with faith, we also need to respond to God’s guidance with faith, in order to understand who is the right one for us to marry. It takes faith to follow God’s will to begin or continue with a relationship even though we initially feel reluctant. "Do not put out the Spirit’s fire" (1 Thess 5:19, NIV), the Scripture warns. We may need to follow the will of God against our preferences by learning to trust fully in the Lord and to wait patiently for the goodness of His plan to unfold over time. Maybe that very quality that we dislike so much in a potential match will actually help us, in time, to recognize our own shortcomings and intolerance. We would not find out unless we follow God’s lead in faith.

Be the Right Person

Most of us approach marriage by asking if someone is right for us. We prefer to find someone who meets our criteria and can make us happy. Interestingly, nowhere in the Bible does God instruct men to look for a spouse with particular traits, or women to seek a certain kind of marriage partner. The focus instead is always on ourselves, not our other half. The Bible teaches husbands to love their wives as their own body, and to sacrifice themselves for their wives as Christ did for the church. This teaching is given as a standard that husbands should require of themselves. Likewise, wives are to submit to and respect their husbands as the head of the family. This is an attitude that wives should cultivate within themselves, not one that they impose on their husbands.

This focus serves as a sobering reminder for us all. As much as we should seek God's will in leading us to the right marriage partner, we should also place the critical eye on ourselves, not our potential match. We should ask if we have those qualities that we seek in our other half. Do we possess gentleness? Patience? Do we place spiritual qualifications before earthly ones? Do we forgive easily? Do we make it our life's goal to glorify God in everything we do? It is no coincidence that God does not teach us to demand that our spouse treat us in a certain way. No one could ever be the right person for us if all we did was demand and criticize, but not give. It is by giving first that we can inspire our spouse to respond by giving. It is by giving first that we can begin the loving cycle of unselfish caring, and experience profound intimacy, joy, and wonder with our other half. It is by giving first that we can continue to be the right one for our mate and experience him or her as the right one for us.

How do you know who is the one when you look for your other half? Some people rely on their gut feeling. Others go with their rational sense. And there are those who are never quite sure and forever wonder, "Is this the one?" or "Have I married the right one?" Struggling to find my own answer, I saw no clarity to this enigma until I realized that knowing who is the one has everything to do with knowing God. It was that simple and that complicated at the same time. A simple notion, yes. But it took me a lot of time and effort to learn that to truly know God means knowing what it takes to get close to Him. It means knowing what we need to do to understand His will and guidance in our marriage. It also means putting into practice all that we know and believe with unwavering faith so that we will recognize the right person as our other half.

Adam needed no special explanation from God to know immediately that Eve was "the bone of his bones, the flesh of his flesh." We, too, will respond with the same certainty, joy, and wonder when we at last recognize God's guidance in leading us to our other half.

"Love & Marriage" seeks to address and provide biblical advice on a wide range of questions and issues related to dating, singlehood, and marriage. If you have any comments or suggestions for this column, please write to love.marriage@tjc.org.

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Publisher: True Jesus Church