You’ve been dating widely—but how do you take it to the next level? And what do you do when you think one relationship might have the potential for becoming something more serious? How do you know if this is the right one?
You could compare your history of dating to a diamond shape. It starts at the top with your first (probably slightly awkward) date with one individual, then gradually widens as you grow in experience and date many different people. As you mature in your dating and life in general, a point comes when the diamond begins to narrow: You enter a more “serious” phase in preparation for marriage. You narrow the prospects down to a few and you finally choose the one.
This decision is huge. Whom you spend the rest of your life with will have a profound effect on your success, your physical and mental health, your wellbeing, your lifestyle, your personal happiness and even your personality. This individual will become your closest companion. He or she will even affect your eternal life! And who you cleave to in marriage will have an incalculable impact on the lives of your potential children.
This is one of the biggest decisions of your life. You need to get it right. But how? It is one that many otherwise intelligent, capable, successful people absolutely botch!
Many factors are working against you. Mistakes are easy to make. Your perspective is limited. Your judgment is imperfect. You are unable to judge people’s hearts. You can easily be attracted to someone who is very wrong for you. You can easily write someone off who would be a terrific spouse for you. And to be honest, you don’t necessarily know yourself as well as you might think, and accurately recognize what qualities you need in a mate.
With all these shortcomings, how can you really know this is the person to spend your life with?
The encouraging, beautiful thing is, you don’t have to make this decision alone. The best adviser, relationship counselor and friend of all time is ready to help.
God wants to help you. He wants to work with you. He wants to give you insight. He wants to be heavily involved in choosing your mate. Sometimes He will even simply, miraculously just make the choice Himself! He wants to be involved in your courtship. He wants to time everything in your life for your benefit and blessing. And He is the world’s best wedding planner!
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). How valuable this advice is—particularly in matters of the heart! It is so easy to kid yourself into thinking you know what is right for you. It is so important to trust God with all your heart so He will direct you.
“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones” (verses 7-8). In choosing a mate, a lot of people have made the mistake of thinking, No one else understands how I feel. Maybe someone counsels them that the man or woman they are attracted to will be a bad match for them, but they won’t listen. That is actually being wise in your own eyes. That is fearing something else more than fearing God—loneliness, or rejection from another person, or getting too old.
Fear God—put your life in His hands—and you will end up happier and healthier. You won’t find yourself in a relationship that stunts you. You won’t struggle with wishing you could get out of it. You won’t spend years regretting your decision. God wants you in His eternal Family—and He knows what you need in order to prepare you.
So, in order to get this right, submit yourself to God’s will on whether to marry, whom to marry and when to marry. Trust Him, not yourself.
But how do you really put the situation into His hands? As you are well aware, God doesn’t put a name in an envelope and hand it to you.
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18). “God wants us to learn to reason with Him, to include Him in our deliberation and decision-making—to let His thoughts rule our thoughts!” Gerald Flurry has said of this verse. He said that learning how to reason with God is the goal of true education.
“He’s saying, Use your minds! Use the human spirit—and the Holy Spirit—and reason with Me!” Gerald Flurry explained at the 2004 Herbert W. Armstrong College orientation. “The way man reasons is bringing us to catastrophe! Something must be done—and here is the solution!”
God’s way really does work! If you reason with God, you will receive the best of everything! (verses 19-20). Think about reasoning with God in everything you do.
In selecting a spouse, God actually wants to work with you. He is interested in your thoughts and desires, and He wants to shape those. He wants you to exercise your mind, your discernment, your judgment. He wants you to refine your decision-making, and learn how to exercise that capacity in concert with Him. He wants you to seek Him out and draw closer to Him. He wants to see how you handle yourself through this process. Most of all, He wants to strengthen your character. There is a lot He can teach you in selecting a mate that you wouldn’t learn if He explicitly turned the clouds over his or her head into a huge arrow and said, This is the one!
And the fact is, there isn’t necessarily just one in every case. God may consider several people to be wonderful potential spouses for you; there are positives and negatives with everybody. He may have a sense of who would be best, but He isn’t going to force that on you. He wants to lead you and to be involved—very involved—in this process.
In order to keep God involved, you must be “[c]asting down imaginations [or reasonings ], and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). You must work to overcome all reasoning that exalts itself against God.
If you are truly bringing every single thought into obedience to God, that is reasoning with God! But you have to be honest with yourself, whether you are really doing that. Don’t play mind-games with yourself. Don’t allow your emotions to take over.
Maybe you have a list of qualities you would like in a mate. What does God think of your list? Talk to Him about it! Are you putting value on something that isn’t important to God? Are you overlooking qualities that are very important to God? God doesn’t judge people the way we tend to (1 Samuel 16:7).
God has a list of qualities you need in a mate! Have you ever asked yourself what’s on His list? Take another look at your list and ask God to help you align it more with His!
Before you eliminate someone from consideration, ask God about it. Does He want you to write that person off? Are you reasoning with Him about it? Do you really see that person the way God sees him or her?
Here are a few questions you might keep in mind as you evaluate potential mates.
What is it that interests you about this person? Be honest about what you find attractive. Are these things that matter to God?
What evidence do you see that this person is putting God first? It’s not that he or she has to be a spiritual giant—we are all at different levels. Sometimes people hold other singles to too high of a standard, expecting a single man to act with the leadership and maturity of a minister who has been married 20 years. But is the person putting God first? Is God’s Work truly important to him or her?
Look past this individual’s personality—how smart, funny or attractive. How would you describe his or her character? Is he kind, caring, giving, serving? Is she honest, trustworthy, responsible? How does he treat older people? How does she act around children? How does he treat people who tend to be overlooked and don’t appear to have much to give back?
How do you feel when you’re around this person? Do you feel comfortable, relaxed, natural? Or do you feel like you have to work hard to be charming or interesting?
Men, when you’re around her, do you feel like more of a leader—more of a man? Do you feel like a better version of yourself? Does she like the way you lead?
Women: When you’re with him, do you feel free to be feminine? Do you feel like more of a godly woman? Do you feel comfortable letting him lead—or does following him make you nervous or irritated? Do you sense that he really has your best interests and well-being in mind? Do you feel protected—or do you feel like you have to be careful and keep your guard up?
What evidence do you see that this individual loves his or her God-given role? That he or she embraces it and really wants to be excellent at it?
Is this person growing spiritually? Is he or she really working to improve himself or herself, according to God’s will and with God’s help?
Will this person help you become a better, godlier person?
These are deep questions to answer. But then again, marrying someone is a momentous decision. If you are really reasoning with God, you will be able to keep these kinds of questions in mind. And as you get to know someone, you’ll begin to be able to answer them honestly. And God is going to help you find accurate answers!
Having a clear-headed, God-centered approach to such considerations will go a long way in avoiding mistakes, and truly keeping God in the driver’s seat. It will help you tremendously in being able to answer whether this person is “the one”!
Once you are married, you don’t want to be second-guessing about whether you made the wrong choice and are now stuck in a bad relationship. There is tremendous security in knowing that God helped you choose your mate!