1. Determine if you have the “gift” of marriage or singleness.
Dr. Friesen explains it like this:
The decision to marry or remain single lies within the area of freedom. The apostle [Paul] had a definite preference for [singleness] that he “wished” all others could choose. But he knew he could not give his desire the force of a command. For not everyone “has the gift.” God graces each believer differently. It is likely that Paul’s meaning is that some are “gifted” to enjoy singleness while others are “gifted” to enjoy marriage with its extra responsibilities (1 Cor. 7:7).
The first issue for you to work out is whether it’s best for you to be married or single. Surprisingly, “there is no command from Scripture one way or the other.” That means you don’t need to spend hours trying to discern God’s “still, small voice.” You don’t need to determine whether God is calling you to marriage or singleness.
Since both marriage and singleness are gifts from God, and since you are free to serve God as a single girl and once you’re married, both are good options. (You can read 1 Corinthians 7 for the pros and cons of both marriage and singleness.)
Now is a good time to think through this, even if there’s no guy knocking at your door yet. It will be less for you to figure out when a guy does come knocking.
2. Determine if your prospect is a believer.
Now—assuming you desire to be married, and there’s a guy pursuing you—you first need to ask if Scripture says anything about choosing a spouse. (And it does!) Scripture is clear: A believer in Christ may only marry another believer in Christ. This is vitally important. As Dr. Friesen explains:
The point is that not only are the believers’ values, goals, standards, motivations, and means of enablement for living incompatible with those of an unbeliever; they are diametrically opposed! They are serving two different lords that are archenemies of one another.
God has given you a whole lot of freedom beyond this one command. Don’t disobey Him here. Look first and foremost for a godly, Jesus-loving guy.
3. Seek wise counsel.
What do your parents think of this guy?
What does your pastor say?
Once you’re engaged, get some premarital counseling, and listen well to what your counselor thinks of you two.
Those around you will be a lot more clearheaded than you will with romance clouding your brain. Heed their counsel.
4. Use common sense.
Do you two share the same values? Here are just a few things Friesen encourages you to note: age, finances, employment, education, personal goals, personality traits, birth control, principles of child rearing, hobbies, family background, socioeconomic background, and possessions.
I didn’t always understand the freedom God has given in wisely choosing a spouse. I used to try to figure out if it was God’s will for me to marry a guy by praying and then watching for “signs” from God. And it was confusing! Here’s an example from an old journal entry:
I was talking on the phone with Dad tonight when Jim texted. Actually, at that particular moment, Dad was praying that my future husband would find me, when I heard the text come in. Coincidence, or God at work? I don’t know . . .
Jim was also confused, because after months of sending me confusing signals, he told me that as he’d prayed about pursuing me, he “sensed a yellow light.” He didn’t have a “red light” from God, but he also didn’t have a “green light.” He also told me that as he asked God whether now was the time to pursue marriage or not, God had been “annoyingly silent.” I think that’s because God had already given him the freedom to decide himself.
Needless to say, I ended up telling Jim goodbye (you can read how that went down in chapter 15 of my book). And oh, I’m so glad I did.
Because a few years later, God plopped Trevor Marsteller in my lap. Well, in my Twitter feed, to be exact. As I began to date Trevor (he was a believer, so he was fair game), I kept my eyes wide open and used the wisdom God has given me through His Word and community.
Make a wise decision based on the Word of God, wise counsel, and common sense.
It’s not that there were zero concerns. But as I brought those to God, to Trevor, and to wise counselors, in the end they weren’t game changers. Although Trevor wasn’t perfect (no guy but Jesus is!), I could see that he was “perfect” for me in so many ways. These three main things gave me the confidence to continue moving forward to marriage. And if you’re wondering, six months into marriage I am so grateful I chose him!
Back to you now, though.
Bottom line: Stop looking for handwriting in the sky telling you that this guy is “the one.” Make a wise decision based on the Word of God, wise counsel, and common sense. God has given you a ton of freedom. Choose wisely, and as you do, be blessed!
I’d love to hear from you. Does this sound surprisingly . . . simple? What questions do you have after reading this post?
When should you start to date (or court)? Here are three tell-tale signs (among others) that you’re ready:
1. Your authority figures give you the green light.
I heard from a girl recently who wrote:
I like this dude, and he happens to like me back. One day after school, we talked, and he told me that he likes me, and so I told him I like him, too. I have heard from many people that he is going to ask me to be his girlfriend . . . and that’s where things get crazy.
My parent will NOT let me date. And if they find out that I am dating . . . let’s just say that I will die. LITERALLY.
I am not dating him right now, but I just have a feeling that he will ask me . . . and I don’t know what to do. I really like him, and he likes me. This is very rare!!! When ur crush likes u back . . . Rare. My friends are like, “Just say yes, and just don’t tell your parents,” but I am like, “They will find out!!!”
I can relate. I told her:
We have a lot in common. My parents had the same rules . . . plus some. Growing up I thought they were totally unreasonable, and I dated behind their backs (and was always discovered).
Now, looking back, I can see that God was protecting me from myself through my parents. It sure wasn’t fun in junior high and high school, but now I am SO grateful I wasn’t allowed to get my way. I actually ended up dedicating my book to my parents. Here’s a little taste:
“[Thank you] for keeping such close tabs on me during those tumultuous teen years! At the time I thought you were just plain ol’ mean, but now I can’t thank you enough for sparing me a harvest of regret.”
You’ll end up being grateful, too, for those strict parents. Even though you feel anything but gratitude now, know this:
God promises to bless those who honor and obey their parents (Eph. 6:1–3). And He always keeps His promises! It’s not just
a suggestion; He commands it. If you disobey your parents, you’re ultimately disobeying God.
If this guy really, really likes you, he will wait for as long as it takes. And if he is the kind of guy you want to end up with long-term, he will
NOT encourage you to disobey your parents.
God promises to bless those who honor and obey their parents. And He always keeps His promises!
Please, please trust me. Going behind your parents’ backs will only end in regret. And if you already have, it’s not too late to get out.
(Psst . . . If you’re struggling with your parents’ rules, here are some posts I’ve written in the past that may help.)
Let me add that just because an authority figure says you can date whenever you want doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Maybe this authority figure isn’t currently making the wisest decisions. In this case, ask yourself if you’re ready for marriage. That’s right. Marriage.
2. You’re ready for marriage.
That’s the point of dating, after all. Ben Stuart explains it like this: “Dating is not a status. It’s a process (of evaluating a person for marriage).”
That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily feel completely ready for marriage, as in, “Oh, yeah, I got this covered, no sweat.” But you’re actually at a point in life where you’re old—and mature—enough to get married. You don’t have something else you have to complete first, like a big chunk of schooling.
The practical advice I give the singles at our church is, if you cannot happily see yourself as a married woman in less than one year, then you are not ready to date.
But what if I met someone super special, you ask? And they actually like me? Shouldn’t I do something about that?!
Why would you, if marriage isn’t even a possibility?
I’ve gotta side with Scott and with the writer of the Song of Solomon on this one. Over and over throughout the book the warning is given, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires,” or until the appropriate time (2:7; 3:5; 8:4).
Song of Solomon 8:7 explains why: “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” And as the verse before says, “It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.”
God knows that if we don’t wait to experience true love in the safe context of a God-blessed marriage, we will get severely burned.
Can you imagine a blazing forest fire that several rivers worth of water cannot extinguish? That would be one intense firestorm. God knows that if we don’t wait to experience true love in the safe context of a God-blessed marriage, we will get severely burned.
Better to build healthy ways of relating with all guys and to pursue your relationship with Christ at this stage in life. You will not regret it. Promise.
Another way to know if you’re ready to date is . . .
3. You have pursued and served God wholeheartedly as a single, and now a godly guy is pursuing you that you think you could be even more effective in serving Christ with as a team.
In the biggest section of Scripture on singleness and marriage, Paul writes,
In whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God (1 Cor. 7:24).
Make it the goal of your life not to change your status, but to serve God as effectively and energetically as possible in whatever state you are. The contemporary poster says it well: “Bloom where you are planted now!”
In declaring this principle Paul was not forbidding marriage for single people or freedom for slaves. If the opportunity comes along and it is expedient to take it, do so (7:21). His point was that people tend to concentrate on the wrong things. They pour their energies into changing their condition for their own sake rather than into changing the world for Christ’s sake (p. 293).
I’d love to hear from you. Do you think you’re ready to date (or court)? Why or why not?