In a previous post, Does God Have A Spouse Chosen For Me?, I explored why it’s unbiblical to believe God has chosen a particular person that it’s His will for us to marry. In light of that, we ended with the question of whether God will match you with a good spouse out of those singles available, especially if you ask Him. If I decide I want to marry and ask God to unite me with a person He knows would match well with me, will He do so? In short, does God play matchmaker? And what does the answer to that question mean for how we should pursue marriage? What is God’s role? What is our role?
I think the reason we find ourselves asking these questions is because this issue finds itself at the convergence of a number of biblical principles we have to consider.
- God hasn’t chosen and destined us for a particular person.
This creates space for uncertainty. If we choose whether we marry and whom we marry, does that mean we’re solely responsible for the decision process concerning who to marry?
- God often calls individuals to particular ways to serve Him.
God often gives people particular work He wants them to accomplish in furthering His kingdom. Since marriage so greatly affects one’s life, God’s particular call often directly bears on who would be a wise choice of spouse.
- God gives wisdom and guidance to His children.
God gives wisdom and direction to us concerning many practical things such as what form of ministry or work to pursue, what education to seek, how to engage others, and many more. If God directs us toward what’s best in many aspects of life, couldn’t one’s spouse be included?
- God invites us to bring our requests to Him.
God is our Heavenly Father. And like any good father He welcomes and encourages our requests. He doesn’t always give us what we want in the way we want it, but He always hears us and responds in love. Through so much of history and even the modern world, children have gone to their earthly fathers saying they want to marry and asking for help in finding a spouse. In every typical case the fathers respond by helping as much as they can with the process. If earthly fathers do this, how much more can’t our Heavenly Father?
- God is sovereign.
We know that God is sovereign over the universe. So if He wants two people to meet then He’s able to pull the cosmological strings and make it happen. It’s kind of like when your scheming matchmaker friend invites you and the person you’re being set up with to the same event and makes sure the two of you meet. If we humans do this with our power, how much more is God capable?!
- There is no biblical promise that God will give us a wonderful spouse if we ask for one.
The reality remains, however, that God has nowhere in the Bible expressed that He will always lead us to a “happily ever after” spouse if we ask Him for one. Thus, we must not try to box God in by thinking that He’s somehow obligated to meet this expectation.
So how do we reconcile these biblical principles that seem to run in opposing directions? Well, I think it’s time for a story! Grab your Bible and read Genesis chapter 24. Genesis chapter 24 tells the story of Isaac receiving Rebecca to be his wife. I believe this story is a wonderful illustration of how to apply both the human responsibility to take initiative in seeking a spouse and God’s willingness to aid us with His guidance in the process. I see several wise principles being followed in the story that I want to point out.
The story begins with Isaac’s father Abraham knowing Isaac needs to marry. The first action he takes is incredibly practical. He calls his most trusted servant and commands the servant to go seek a wife for Isaac in the place Abraham expects the most suitable bride will be found.
Principle #1: When marriage is determined to be proper, practical human initiative should be applied to seek an appropriate spouse.
Note that Abraham didn’t even stop to pray about it! He simply knew that it was right for his son to marry so he took initiative to set things in motion that made for the best chance of finding the desired spouse. Abraham makes the servant swear that he won’t seek a bride from among the people of Canaan but from Abraham’s relatives in the land of Abraham’s birth. This is because Abraham knows God has called Isaac to inherit the land of Canaan. Abraham wants Isaac and his descendants not to have an inner conflict when they inherit the land and displace those already in it. Marrying a Canaanite woman might cause a conflict if they feel like they’re displacing family.
Principle #2: Obedience to God’s calling for your life is superior to marrying a particular person. Obedience must come before desire for a spouse.
But the servant raises an issue. What if the young woman doesn’t want to leave her family to live in a foreign land?
Principle #3: Contingency is to be expected. An attempt to find a spouse, even in keeping with God’s calling, may not succeed at first.
Abraham gives the servant a contingency plan. If the woman won’t come then the servant can choose a spouse from the daughters of Canaan. But under no circumstance may the servant take Isaac away from Canaan. Abraham realized that it was better for Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman than leave the area entirely. (That’s another reflection of principle #2.) So the servant makes the journey to Abraham’s birthplace. Once he arrives, he asks God to give him success and reveal which particular woman is right for Isaac.
Principle #4: It’s good and right to ask for God’s wisdom and guidance in choosing a spouse.
Immediately after he finishes praying, Rebecca appears and exhibits the behavior the servant prayed for, revealing her as bearing God’s blessing to be Isaac’s wife. Later, when the servant relayed the story to Rebecca’s father and brother, they agreed that God was pleased for Rebecca to be Isaac’s wife.
Principle #5: God can confirm whether a particular choice of spouse pleases or displeases Him.
Lastly, in verse 57, Rebecca’s family asks her if she wants to leave with the servant immediately or if she wants to remain with them for several more days before saying goodbye. Now this wasn’t a question of whether she would go and marry Isaac, only a question of departure. But I think it’s nicely reflective of a principle that I’ve already supported elsewhere in scripture.
Principle #6: God gives us freedom to freely choose whether or not to commit to marry a person.
God can certainly bless a marriage, showing that it’s a wise match and in keeping with His calling. But God doesn’t obligate us to marry. As I expressed in the last post, serving God with a life of singleness is something He gladly accepts.
“Okay, Justin, but I’m still having a hard time understanding how to live these principles in my own life. Some of them seem to say I have to seek my spouse. And some seem to say that God helps me find the match. What’s the answer to the question?”
Okay, that’s fair. If you really press me for a hard answer to the question, this is the best I can offer from all that I know of God and scripture:
Q: Will God match me with a good spouse if I ask Him?
I truly don’t mean that as a cop-out! It’s the only answer I think is biblical. See, we see in scripture that we should take practical initiative in seeking a spouse. It’s not right to pray for a spouse but then sit in your home all day, attend a small church where there are no prospects, and never get into a place where you meet eligible bachelors or bachelorettes. I don’t think God often says to an eligible bachelor, “Hey, Jimmy, go over to 344 Sycamore and knock on the door. Ask the young woman who answers out on a date.” Even if Jimmy works up the courage, he still has to persuade the young woman that he’s a wonderful, godly prospect rather than a creepy weirdo. And saying, “God told me to ask you out,” doesn’t help! So if you pray for God to bring you a spouse but use the freedom He gave you to cut off all your options, what do you want Him to do? But if we’re taking human initiative to find a spouse, there’s nothing wrong with asking God to lend his help to the search. Considering God’s sovereign power, I think He certainly CAN play cosmic matchmaker. However, there’s no promise in scripture that He ALWAYS WILL.
So what does that mean for how we look for a spouse? I think the adage to apply, and the one I’ve applied in my own life, is “pray as if everything depended on God, work as if everything depended on you.” In my own life, I’ve not a few times asked God to cause me to cross paths with someone with whom He knows I would match well. But I’ve also taken initiative to go on dates with different people, get involved with online dating, and go to new churches.
One reality remains, though. I’m still without a girlfriend, much less a wife. You can pray, date, Court, or whatever and still face the contingency of not finding the match you’re looking for. If that happens it’s not a fate worse than death. Yes, even if you’re approaching age forty! That’s because our identity, security, and purpose don’t come from being married but from belonging to Christ. So let’s take initiative to do what we can in finding the person we desire. And let’s also ask God to give us His help. Maybe He’ll pull some strings and help us cross paths with Mr. or Mrs. Right. Maybe He won’t. If we remain single we must accept it patiently. We must never choose to marry someone against wisdom or God’s calling. Choosing to marry beyond what God would bless as a wise choice is incredibly foolish. It’s better to dedicate ourselves to God in singleness than make a poor marital choice because we were tired of being single. It’s right that we ask God for our desired spouse, but we have no guarantee of what we’ll find. Regardless of what comes, be it marriage or singleness, let’s remain at peace in the security we have in Christ.
What do you think? Do you think it’s right to take initiative in seeking a spouse and also ask God for help? Let me know what you think in the comments section!
And if you liked this post please share it with your friends!