“It’s been miserable, guys,” one lady writes to us. “We’ve only been married for three years but it has been the worst three years of my life. What frustrates me so much is that God confirmed that I was supposed to marry him, so many times over.” You could have served the bitterness in her correspondence to a thousand people.
This is one of the most commonly raised issue in this column in a variety of ways. In another correspondence, another woman, married for 16 years to a man who proved to be pathological, slipped in the same sigh and words, “But God confirmed that we belonged together in marriage.”
To these and many others who say, “God told me to marry him or her” we want to scream, “No, He didn’t.”
How can we say that?
Well, how can you say the opposite?
We frequently find that the idea of God having “someone special for just me” has an adverse effect on those that believe in it. Some who are married feel an unhealthy sense of superiority over single friends, for having been hand-picked by God for the estate of marriage. Others are too quick to blame God for problems that come up in their relationships. While others will even endure abusive and destructive behaviour from their partners as they believe it’s the “will of God” that they be together.
Quite unfortunate though, is the paralysing effect this notion sometimes has on unmarried people who want to be married. Some conclude that any personal effort to find a partner is outside the bounds of their choice as “faith”, in their view, demands that they sit still and wait for God to bring the right person to their doorstep.
The belief that God has one ideal choice also leads some to be too idealistic about whom they would consider marrying. Since God is perfect, it is felt that you must not settle for anyone who less than fully measures up to your image of the ideal mate. Such persons are quick to bail out of a relationship at the first sign of another’s imperfections, while others wait endlessly for that perfect relationship that never comes along.
But think with us for a moment.
If God told you to marry so-and-so, then God has violated both your free will and the other person’s. By telling you that you are to marry so-and-so, God has not only violated your will to choose, He has violated the other person’s right to refuse.
But let’s hypothetically suppose this myth is true, then God will have to be held responsible and therefore take full blame for the failure of that relationship should things collapse, isn’t it? Waiting for God to smack you on the head and tell you whom to date and eventually marry isn’t faith. It’s fear and the inability to make sound choices that will compel you to take the full responsibilities that come with those voluntary choices.
Just as He made salvation possible for you, but still gave you the freedom to either choose or reject it, we believe God often presents people in your life, and it is your choice whether or not to commit.
There is, quite frankly, nothing in Scripture that ever tells us it is our sworn duty to marry one particular person. Whether we marry, and who we marry, are spoken of in Scripture as part of God’s “permissive will,” something He allows us to choose.
Is it possible God has told a couple to get married? Look, we’re not going to put God in a box. We can’t say “He can do this but can’t ever do that”. And thus we’re admitting the title of this column is a bit provocative in order to make a point. All we can say is that the clearest Scriptural teaching makes marriage our choice, both as to whether we get married and to whom we marry. Presuming that some mystical leaning you’ve received overrides a clear biblical teaching is always risky and often foolish. We have to own up to our choices, both in why we made them and how to be responsible in the face of them.
Here’s what we’re going to insist on, just because you believe God wants you to marry one particular person, doesn’t mean He does. And just because God doesn’t stop you from marrying someone doesn’t mean He agrees with you. God didn’t “stop” a lot of people from robbing banks who are even now serving time in prison.
The virtues of kindness, faithfulness and goodness demand that if I convinced someone to marry me, or agreed to marry someone, knowing it was a lifetime commitment, knowing it would be beyond complicated to dissolve the union, I need to step up to face the lifetime consequences. That means not just staying married but staying engaged in the marriage, working to make it the best for this person that I can.
Own your decision. Of course, seek God’s blessing, but just as much, seek His wisdom in Scripture. While the Bible is silent on how you can definitively know who you’re “supposed” to marry, it does talk about the process of making wise decisions like applying biblical principles, seeking wise counsel, being deliberate and wise in your choice, considering the future, and basing your decision on the right priorities.
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