21 Feb Choosing a Life Partner
Raghu, born in a Hindu home, was very religious as a young boy. He was regular at pujas and was familiar with Hindu rites and rituals. One of his friends Amit persuaded Raghu to join him for a Vacation Bible School. He heard about Jesus and was fascinated. He also started reading Bible stories. He discovered Jesus to be very nice and decided to have him as his guru. Thus began a journey with Jesus.
By the time he began his career he was a leader with the church youth group. He heard people talk about finding the will of God with regard to a life partner. He set about praying and hoped that he would have some kind of revelation from God. There were so many pleasant girls he knew but he was paralysed because he was seeking some vision from God; and he was not getting any! He reflected that as a Hindu he would not have struggled on this decision. It would be decided by tangible factors outside of him – his horoscope and that of his prospective bride’s. After his family’s confirmation, his contribution to the process would be very minimal. Many make this decision purely on materialistic considerations. Take the quip from Lana Turner ‘A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man. ’ In either case the decision seems easier. Why do believers in Christ have such difficulty in the most crucial decision in life? Many young people are in the place of Raghu – struggling to find ‘the’ spouse.
The Will of God
Paul writes to the Colossians his prayer that they should be filled with the knowledge of His will. This would be through the work of His Spirit who gives wisdom and understanding. The result would be that they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and please Him in all respects. This evidenced by bearing fruit in good work and also increasing in the knowledge of God. To the Ephesians he writes that they should be careful how they walk, not as unwise but as wise. They should not be foolish, rather understand what the will of the Lord is.
God desires us to know His will. Nevertheless, it’s very clear that God’s will is about how we order our life and not just dealing with specific situations. When we reduce the discussion on God’s will to only significant decisions in our life we end up being confused and causing confusion. God desires that we make life choices on a daily and continuous basis so that His life would be seen in us.
What does this include? If we love him we will obey Him. Are we obeying his commands? Are we in fellowship with other believers on a regular basis? Are we making disciples? Does His word richly dwell within us? Are we teaching, admonishing and edifying one another? Are we putting to death the deeds of our flesh? Are we caring for the poor, needy, downtrodden and outcasts? There’s so much clarity on God’s will as we explore scripture.
Is there some lack of clarity about God’s will over here? Not at all! So a good place to begin would be to start looking at areas where there is so much clarity. If we are living in disregard to areas that have clarity why should we expect Him to give clarity in specifics?
Fences and Freedom
Though we are dealing here specifically with the aspect of marriage, we need to get some general concepts right. God has made us free beings with the ability and responsibility of making choices. An impression exists that we have to yearn, crave and sometimes even grovel to discover the will of God. This comes from a poor understanding of the nature of God. His nature is love and so He delights in revealing what we need to know. This is why He has spoken to us since the time of Adam, earlier through prophets and now through His Word. Love is by nature self-disclosing.
In His Word He has given us clear boundary conditions on all aspects of life, including marriage. This means that one cannot marry a person who is not His disciple and is not growing in relative maturity (not unequally yoked). There is no purpose to be served in asking the Lord on this matter since He has revealed His will. If we have already made up our mind about a person who is not a disciple, and are in some sort of relationship, we have already disregarded His will. We are already yoked, even if in a mild manner. We can make it appear spiritual by saying that we are praying for his/her salvation. But are we not praying from a position of disobedience?
This is not the only condition – we cannot consider marriage with someone who is already married. Susan (not her real name) was a model disciple – diligent about her relationship with God. She was getting on in years but was not getting married, much to the discomfort of her parents and leaders of the youth group. She refused every proposal. Finally, one of the youth leaders was able to break through her and discovered that she knew God’s will on who her life partner should be. He was a married person! Happily married! She was surely wrong in this matter, no matter that she brought God and His will into the picture. Now, this may seem odd, but even sincere folk can be wrong – sincerely wrong!
The next question that comes up is whether there is one specific person for each of us? If that is the case, it is imperative that we find the ‘right person’ since we cannot afford to go wrong. The Bible nowhere gives us an indication that this is the case. Some use Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis 24 as the pattern. We need to distinguish between descriptive and prescriptive passages. This portion of scripture only tells us how things happened, but does not prescribe it as the given pattern. Anyway Isaac’s marriage is far from a model marriage. They did not confide in one-another, played favourites with their sons and even schemed. Paul’s description of a healthy marriage in Ephesians 5 is hardly mirrored here. It is honoured more in the breach. Scripture is not hesitant to tell us what actually happened in the lives of the heroes of the faith – the good, the bad and the suspect. So, we cannot and should not make templates out of the descriptive passages in the Scriptures.
From the broader perspective of the scriptures we can see that God has created us with real freedom. This means that when we make choices they reflect the freedom He has bestowed on us we honor Him. When we make choices that consciously regard His boundary condition we are living in obedience to Him. And when we use our freedom to obey we know and show that we love him. We see this in the Garden of Eden. He permitted Adam and Eve to eat fruit from any tree in the garden. Yes, any tree! There was only one tree, eating from which, would cause them to be disobedient. If they were to eat from any other tree, they would still be living in complete obedience. The boundary condition and the freedom of choice!
Heading towards A Decision
Sometimes there is also the confusion between desiring to please God by walking as he commands us to and the yearning to know the future. It is not good for us to wish to know the future except what he has plainly revealed to us, especially in His Word. It is sufficient for us to put our complete trust in the One who knows our future.
Having said that let us get back to the basic question. How do we decide whom to marry? Well if there is no right person where do I begin? Let’s begin by asking a primary question: Am I already obedient to what I know pleases God? – obeying authorities, praying for rulers, honouring parents, loving enemies, serving, living in faith and putting to death the desires of the flesh?
Consider if there is any biblical principle that clearly relates to the issue on which you need guidance. The Bible is very clear that we should not be unequally yoked in marriage. It is advisable to also seek further counsel from a mature believer on this matter. This will ensure that we are not deliberately ignoring portions of Scripture that militate against our wishes.
Then we need to adopt the attitude of surrender. Our marriage is not for selfishness but to glorify God. Come to God trusting that everything He does is good and in your highest interest. Spend time in prayer, placing before Him the matter on which you are seeking clarity and guidance. Do not confuse yourself here – you are not in a quest to find the ‘right person’, but you are bringing the one(s) under consideration before the Lord in an act of submission. There may be aspects to a personality that may not be obvious on the surface but may be difficult to live with. God may reveal it to you directly, but more often through events or circumstances. This will guide, as you make your decision. Of course, we will discover things we did not know about our spouse after marriage. God will use the same to delight us or shape our character. God will also make grace available to build the relationship with any of these as a hindrance. Sometimes, what you thought was an irritant may be what you cherish in the other person.
Honour Your Parents. What form this takes will be determined by individual situations and circumstances. Remember, they usually desire the best for you. Don’t reject their view unless there is a violation of some explicit teaching from the Bible. This is especially tricky for people like Raghu – their parents have a different perspective and value system from those who have believing parents. Nevertheless, the command holds!
And finally and as importantly – examine mutual compatibility. There are various factors involved in a relationship – language, cultural background, lifestyles, educational qualifications, career aspirations, tastes and preferences in various matters. Similitude is not what is being proposed but compatibility. Each aspect is to be considered carefully. What are our differences and will we be able to live with others who have the same set of differences? Will we be able to live without competition in the areas of similarity? This is a very large topic and a general analysis cannot be made, but is nevertheless not to be ignored. Some of these aspects, which we deliberately ignore, can surface after marriage and lead to personal complexes. God has given us the capacity to see, evaluate and reason. Beyond this, remember the Colossians promise – His Spirit will give us the wisdom and understanding we need when there is haziness. We should reason, nevertheless finally laying the reasoning at Jesus’ feet.
Marriage though an individual commitment nevertheless affects everyone including family, church, mission and friends. The decision we make here is once-for-all and will impact every area of our life and should be examined three dimensionally. So, consider the corporate impact of your individual decision. How will this affect my immediate family, church, work and every area of my current involvement? The way I allot my time will change based on my spouse’s interests. Am I prepared for that too?
Finally, and most importantly am I enjoying the peace of God as I decide? This is God’s way of standing with us in the decision that has been made. If we have deliberately deceived ourselves or others in the process we will find that we are lacking this assurance. It’s then time to re-examine ourselves and go through all aspects of our decision again.
Taking a holistic view of marriage is very important. Apart from the decision for the Lordship of Christ in one’s life, this is next in significance. This can enhance our influence and involvement in God’s kingdom or diminish it. When we get married remember that it is an act of the will. It is all about being the right person to whom we have made a commitment for life – to hold and to cherish.
- Are there area(s) I am living outside the express will of God? Living in disobedience?
- Am I asking God to give clarity when my mind is already made up?
- How will God gain glory from my decision?
- What are the areas of incompatibility between us? How will it affect our relationship? Would we grow in togetherness or drift apart?
- What about the areas of compatibility? Will it lead to competition or complacency?
- How will the decision affect my family, my calling, my church and my friends?
- Have I consulted with other mature believers?
After a career in the corporate world, he moved into pastoral work. He now serves as the Chief Training Officer of RZIM Life Focus Society.