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.
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?"
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
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
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?
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
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?
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.
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
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 Gods
guidance with faith, in order to understand who is the right one for us to
marry. It takes faith to follow Gods will to begin or continue with a
relationship even though we initially feel reluctant. "Do not put out
the Spirits 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 Gods
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.
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.
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.
& 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.