For a large number of people in our society, finding someone to share their lives with is becoming increasingly difficult. Communication technology has enabled us to stay in touch with more of our friends and colleagues but that same digital connection has also isolated us to the point that the development of interpersonal relationships built on physical presence and interaction has become the exception and not the rule. People today share all kinds of personal details about their lives online to a thousand viewers, but that kind of transparency is rarely parlayed into actually building an intimate relationship with one person, a person that might become a suitable marriage partner in the future.
Another obstacle to finding a mate is the fast pace of life in today's American society. Many young adults are pursuing careers while upgrading their skills with part-time school or training. This leaves little opportunity for the time consuming task of cultivating a meaningful relationship that may lead to the commitment of marriage. In addition to this there is the false expectation of how one "ought" to be living by a certain age (i.e. young couples mistakenly think that they should have a standard of living equal to their parents while they are in their twenties not realizing that their parents have probably struggled for many years in order to live as they do now). This false expectation has forced young couples to delay marriage until after college is completed or careers are in gear, and families are begun when women are in their late twenties, thirties and beyond.
We no longer live in closely-knit families surrounded by familiar communities where friendships, dating and marriage are a natural part of the lifestyle. For example, your cousin would introduce you to a friend or you dated your brother's buddy. Today, people are increasingly insulated in their personal cocoons. They are emotionally self-sufficient, connected to the world by their digital devices and see family only at Thanksgiving. As I mentioned before, young men and women do not have the natural network of family and neighbors that once facilitated the meeting of eligible and known partners (i.e. someone in your family or neighborhood circle knew your new boyfriend's family, background and reputation). Today, contacts are manufactured in singles' bars, singles' weekends or singles' groups at church. It is often difficult to meet someone in a natural, non-threatening way. Add all of this to the general misunderstanding that both men and women have concerning their defined roles in marriage (i.e. you don't know what to look for in a spouse if you don't understand what the role of a man or woman should be in marriage). What you end up with is a generation of single people desperate in their search for someone, but never quite sure where to look or what that someone should be like.
As Christians we are blessed because God provides His word to guide not only the married but the unmarried in their search for happiness. With this in mind, let's review some helpful guidelines that single people and unmarrieds (divorced or widowed) can follow in their successful search for a spouse.
1. Don't be Desperate
One of the most anxious times in our lives is when we want to be married but we are not. She wants to settle down and start a family. He is lonely and wants to share his life with someone. She sees her friends getting married and feels that she is being left behind. He is having trouble dealing with his sexual desires. She has a mother who is always dropping hints as to why she can't find a good man. For those seeking a mate all these little things seem to say, "Everybody in the whole world is married except me!"
Desperation leads people to do some pretty foolish things. For example:
- You will make the decision that marriage must not be for you, and in order to save yourself the disappointment you will stop being available and consequently be tempted to let yourself go emotionally and physically.
- You will compromise your morals in order to move a relationship forward. Some use sex, others abandon core beliefs or make promises they do not intend to keep, just to become part of the "married ones."
- You will marry someone you do not really love, but out of desperation to be settled, commit to a lifetime of marriage anyways.
The dictionary defines the word desperate as, "a state of recklessness caused by despair." In other words, we do foolish things because we have no hope. I can understand a person, who is not a Christian, putting their hope for happiness in a marriage partner, but as Christians we need to realize that our hope lies with Jesus Christ, not the institution of marriage.
5For You are my hope;
O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth.
6By You I have been sustained from my birth;
You are He who took me from my mother's womb;
My praise is continually of You.
- Psalms 71:5-6
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope,
- I Timothy 1:1
We become desperate when we put our hope for satisfaction, joy or peace in anything other than Christ. Marriage fulfills basic human needs, but the things we absolutely need for happiness (joy, peace of mind, confidence before death, wisdom, self-control), these things are provided through Christ, not marriage.
Paul talks about this kind of stress (desperation) in I Corinthians 7:32-33:
32But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife,
Notice that the concern is experienced by those who marry, not those who remain single. Being single is not easy, but being married is not somehow easier. If you are desperate to get married it is usually a sign that marriage is not what you need at that moment.
2. Know What You are Looking For
The problem with desperation is that it blinds us. We do not see clearly what is real, we only see what we want to see. If you are going to find someone, it helps to know what you are looking for. Knowing this usually saves time and energy by eliminating people and situations that do not meet your requirements. In choosing a partner, it is good to know what the parameters are. Some things are negotiable and differ from person to person, but in order to have the best opportunity to succeed in marriage here are a few things that should be non-negotiable for a single Christian person seeking a mate:
A - Do Not Marry a Unbeliever
Do not be bound together with unbelievers...
- II Corinthians 6:14a
In this passage Paul is warning the Corinthians not to abandon Christ's teachings for pagan ones. Do not be (tied to) yoked with unbelievers in their teachings and practices. The passage does not talk about marriage directly, but it can be applied to the marriage relationship nevertheless.
In my experience I have seen that when Christians marry non-Christians, in most cases (not all), they either lose their faith or become ineffective spiritually and their marriage suffers as a consequence. This is because a Christian's goal is to please God and serve others in Christ's name. This creates conflict if their partner's goals are not the same. Christian singles need to make the effort to network with other Christians because if you never associate with other believers, chances are you will not find one to marry either.
B - Marry for Love, Not Lust
3For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;
- I Thessalonians 4:3-5
Today, most movies present the normal dating scenario in the following way: boy meets girl, they have sex, they begin to discuss marriage. Non-Christians are led by their passions and not by God. Disciples of Jesus Christ do not become involved with someone based on lust. They should choose someone that loves and respects them, and who they can love and respect in return. When choosing for love, examine the kind of love your partner has, not just the kind of body they possess:
1. Do they love God?
Someone who loves God will know how to love you. You know that they love God if they are not ashamed of Jesus and strive to obey Him.
2. Do you love what you know about this person?
A worthy partner is one who possesses certain characteristics that you learn about with time, things like honesty, humor, gentleness, generosity, mercy, etc. You do not have to have sex with someone to find these things out. If these are the things that attract you then this love is real and can last a lifetime.
3. Does the other person love you?
The root cause of most divorce is selfishness, not adultery. The major cause of most arguments is, "whose needs are going to be met first?" It is easy to see if your partner really loves you, just examine carefully if he or she is more interested in satisfying your needs or their own.
A Woman's Answer to a Man's Question by Lena Lathrop
Do you know you have asked for the costliest thing
Ever made by the hand above?
A woman's heart, and a woman's life—
And a woman's wonderful love.
Do you know you have asked for this priceless thing
As a child might ask for a toy?
Demanding what others have died to win,
With the reckless dash of a boy.
You have written my lesson of duty out,
Manlike, you have questioned me
Now stand at the bars of my woman's soul
Until I shall question thee.
You require your mutton shall always be hot,
Your socks and your shirt be whole;
I require your heart to be true as God's stars
And as pure as His heaven your soul.
You require a cook for your mutton and beef,
I require a far greater thing;
A seamstress you're wanting for socks and shirts—
I look for a man and a king.
A king for the beautiful realm called Home,
And a man that the Maker, God,
Shall look upon as He did the first
And say, "It is very good."
I am fair and young, but the rose will fade
From my soft, young cheek one day,
Will you love me then 'mid the falling leaves,
As you did 'mid the blossoms of May?
Is your heart an ocean so strong and true,
I may launch my all on its tide?
A loving woman finds heaven or hell
On the day she is made a bride.
I require all things that are grand and true,
All things that a man should be;
If you give all this, I would stake my life
To be all you demand of me.
If you cannot do this, a laundress and cook
You can hire and little to pay;
But a woman's heart and a woman's life
Are not to be won that way.
Marry for love because it is the only thing that taxes and old age cannot take away from you.
Marriage offers security, comfort, pleasure, family, challenge for growth, opportunity for service and lifetime friendship. It is a worthy life and I sympathize with those who desire it and have not yet realized this goal. But in your searching remember:
- Keep your hope for happiness firmly fixed on Jesus and you will be satisfied whether you marry or not.
- Do not commit your life to someone who is not committed to Christ first and you second (if you are not second to God you will not have a first rate marriage).
- Remember that you are on God's timetable, not your own. Don't make the mistake of trying to rush Him.
Finally, singles need to realize that the first step to finding the right partner is to become the right kind of partner yourself. T=