Who shall I marry?
My worst subject at school was chemistry, but when I first met my wife I began to experience and enjoy the ‘chemistry’ that grew between us!
Some Christian couples reach their golden wedding anniversary and love each other more than they ever did! Other married couples endure each other, as relationships deteriorate and finally end in separation or divorce. So how does a Christian choose the right marriage partner?
Some negative factors can be highlighted. First, some Christians judge mainly by outward appearances, like physical beauty, bodily strength or a healthy physique. But beauty is only skin deep and doesn’t always last. Nor, sadly, does bodily strength or a healthy physique.
Of course appearance is important. We need to be reasonably proud of our partner’s appearance, hairstyle and clothes sense, etc. Who wants to wake up to a dowdy partner, or appear in public with one? But it should not be the major factor in choosing a spouse for life.
Remember the lesson that the prophet Samuel was given? He thought the tall, fine man in front of him would make a splendid king, but God told him, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7).
Second, some Christians give undue importance to wealth, a job and security. Of course, these things are important, but they should not be the strongest reason in selecting a life partner.
We cannot live without money, but wealth can come and go and brings its own snares and temptations. As Paul reminds us: ‘The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil’ (1 Timothy 6:10). Just earlier, he had written that ‘godliness with contentment is great gain’.
No big bank balance or lottery win can compare with true godliness in a person. As the Lord Jesus said, ‘What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?’ (Mark 8.36).
Third, some men take too seriously the old warning to look at their future mother-in-law as a picture of how their fiancée might be in 25 years time!
There may be truth in this warning as regards appearance and character, but not necessarily so. Each of us is unique, and it is not always fair or sensible to think: ‘Like father, like son’ or ‘Like mother, like daughter’.
Yes, marriage is a most serious business, undertaking and adventure!
Positively, true Christians should marry true Christians. ‘Do not be yoked together with unbelievers’ was Paul’s command in 2 Corinthians 6:14. Marriage affects other people, as well as possibly people yet unborn.
Here’s a suggested check list for choosing your future husband or wife (but keep it secret!). How does he or she treat you, his or her family and friends, strangers, babies, children, old people, your family and friends, beggars or drunks, and even ‘yobs’ you meet in the street?
How does he or she cope with such big problems as illness, bereavement, failure, unemployment and injustice? What about an ability to handle success, pray (and in what spirit), tackle temptations, worship and serve God?
How does he or she get guidance, relate to evangelism, study the Bible, react to justified criticism, rate priorities, define a true Christian and define a true church congregation?
What self-view does he or she have? Remember too that it might be God’s wise will for you to find deep satisfaction in marrying someone who is disabled or disadvantaged.
A good pass score might be 60 per cent. Please don’t look for perfection, unless you yourself are perfect. Be grateful to find someone with a good, reliable character in an attractive package! So, what should you do as a Christian seeking a husband or wife?
First, pray that, if it is God’s will for you to marry, he will lead you in his way and time to the right person. When I was 16, our Bible class leader told us boys to start praying for our possible future wife.
But pray believingly, patiently and persistently, for prayer changes circumstances. ‘More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of’, wrote Lord Tennyson.
Second, when you meet people, in church or anywhere, keep your eyes and ears open, as you quietly trust in God your Father, who wants the very best for you.
Third, learn the history of the person to whom you feel drawn, discover their family background and upbringing, and present circumstances.
Fourth, discover his or her short- and long-term hopes and plans for life, motives, hobbies and interests, network of relationships — what makes them tick, in fact.
Fifth, sum up their character, its weak and strong points. We judge character mainly by what a person says and does (and has done), and by what others say about him or her. Ask God to give you a discerning spirit and grace to realise that you also have flaws in your character!
The ABCD of courtship perhaps is Attraction, Behaviour, Character and Decision — you sense an attraction, you study behaviour, you assess character, and, under God,you make a decision to marry.
But when you meet Mr Right or Miss Right, don’t let your feelings block out your reason completely. Continue to pray honestly, humbly and trustingly.