I saw it again this morning on social media. A “Christian celebrity” spinning their divorce announcement as a loving deed inspired by altruistic motivation for their “dear friend.”
I don’t buy it. Divorce is not altruistic (“unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of [your spouse]).” This loving facade is nothing less than a lie straight from the pit of hell.
It is never “healthier and more respectful for us to choose this as the end of our journey as a married couple.” It is not “with sincere love for one another and understanding of our unique story as a couple that we are moving forward with this decision.”
How can I be so sure? And who am I to judge? I only qualify to speak into their decision as a fellow follower of Jesus. As such, I recognize a major discrepancy between an “altruistic” social media announcement of this nature and God’s revelation of His design for marriage.
Divorce Is Not Unselfish; It Is Self-Centered
Marriage is not a commodity. It’s not like an outfit you try on, parade in front of the mirror, and then say: “This one makes me look good; I’ll take him.” It’s not something you discard when it’s no longer “your style.”
Marriage is about so much more than your self-expression. It doesn’t exist to spotlight you (“Oh, she likes jocks; she must be sporty too”); marriage was designed to spotlight another relationship entirely.
Your marriage is a “miniature” designed by God to showcase to the world what His relationship with His church is like,
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31—32, emphasis added).
What does a positive announcement about divorce say about Christ? God would never leave us out of His great love for us. We tell a lie about Him when we claim to do just that.
I understand that this is hard for us to stomach in our materialistic, individualistic society. Our culture is one in which we choose a house, a career, a car because of how it allows us to express ourselves. “This yellow Volkswagon Beetle fits my personality,” so I purchase it as a means of self-expression. Several years later, I trade it in for another when I become more of a Hyundai Tucson type.
Marriage isn’t like that. Marriage isn’t just another way we express ourselves, like choosing an outfit or buying a car that “fits” us.
Divorce Is Not Altruistic . . . And Marriage Is Not Yours To Break
When Jesus walked this earth, the religious leaders of His day asked Him if He thought the law allowed a man to divorce his wife for any reason. Jesus responded with a question of His own, pointing them back to God’s inauguration of marriage in Genesis 2:24,
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
“So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:3-6, emphasis added).
Marriage is an irreversible act. At least, that’s how God intended it from the beginning (Matt. 19:8). It is God’s doing, not ours. It is His creation and design. And as such, it is a union that is not ours to break, as John Piper points out in this interview.
Marriage is an indissoluble union intended only to be severed upon death (Rom. 7:2). As Genesis 2:24 clearly spells out, it is a call to a new:
Priority and family (“leave father and mother”)
Love (“hold fast”)
Identity (“become one flesh”).
This mirrors Christ’s relationship with the church, as He calls us to a lasting:
Priority and family (the family of God)
Love (cherished by and cherishing Jesus)
Identity (“in Christ”).
Divorce Is Not Loving; It Is Tragic
Upon entering the marriage covenant, a man and a woman become “one.” That doesn’t mean she now likes heavy metal music and he now loves the beach. Both individuals maintain their personhood. But a fundamental change takes place in God’s eyes. They are no longer two, but one flesh. There is a “shared wholeness” (Jay Adams).
When he hurts, she hurts, and when she succeeds, he succeeds. They complement and complete one another. God has joined them together and created “one flesh” where there used to be two. That doesn’t mean the process of working out this “one-flesh” relationship in everyday life won’t be hard. It doesn’t mean there won’t be need for counseling and possibly even separation for a time.
But to divorce one’s spouse is not to love them; it is to tear one’s own flesh in pieces. It is barbaric and utterly opposed to the relationship between Christ and the church that it is designed to reflect.
Divorce is to be mourned, not celebrated. It is to be repented of, not boasted of as a deed of honor. Divorce is for the hardhearted, not the follower of Christ (Matt. 19:8).
So maybe, Christian celebrity, rather than spinning your divorce as an altruistic act, you can call it what it really is: tragic. I mourn for you, for your husband, for your children, and for your many followers who believe you when you imply that this act is altruism at its finest. My husband and I are praying that you will soon see this too and be reunited with your husband—something that would be a truly selfless act.
Do You Think Divorce Can Be Altruistic?
Have you, too, noticed this trend of people claiming their divorce is an altruistic act? Do you think divorce can be loving? Why or why not? Please feel free to push back if you disagree with me; I want to hear your perspective.
PS: To be sure you don’t miss my followup post on divorce, type your email in the box to the right under “Don’t Miss a Post!” and you’ll receive my blog posts in your inbox. (If you’re reading this on your phone, click on the menu button at the top and choose “Subscribe by Email.”) You can unsubscribe at any time.
My husband, Trevor, and I have a bad track record when it comes to our weekly date night. Often we return home unhappier than when we left.
A couple years ago, I surprised him with tickets to Cirque du Soleil. A friend told me she and her hubby loved the show, so I assumed we would too.
Ticket prices were steep, so I had to get creative with our budget. I depleted our date night category . . . discretionary category . . . garden category . . . and charged the rest to my personal spending category. (How did I think this was a good idea, being married to an accountant?!)
The evening began, lighthearted and fun, with Trevor guessing what we were doing and not getting even close. When we pulled up to the stadium, he was convinced it was a hockey game. It wasn’t until after we’d walked through security that he saw a sign advertising Cirque du Soleil.
Another Date Night Goes South . . . Again
We began our ascent up, up, up. My friend had told me there wasn’t a bad seat in the house, but apparently she hadn’t ventured this far up. Our seats were in the very last row at the tip-top of the stadium, and an arch was obstructing our view. And that’s when the whole tone changed. Trevor grew silent and sullen.
When the lights went down thirty minutes later, I moved to a better seat, Trevor trailing behind me. (He wasn’t thrilled with moving seats, as he’s more of a rule follower than I am.)
I didn’t feel I could enjoy the show, knowing that Trevor wasn’t thrilled. Even if he had been upbeat, though, the performers were speaking some gibberish language, and there didn’t seem to be a coherent storyline to follow.
To his credit, Trevor thanked me a couple times at the end, but it seemed forced. When we went to bed that night, he wasn’t looking me in the eyes. So much for my epic date night.
Many times I’ve just wanted to give up and say, If they’re gonna hurt this bad, let’s just forget date nights. Have you had a similar experience?
I always knew that wasn’t the answer, though. Here are a few problems we’ve bumped into on our date nights, as well as a few solutions we’ve found:
Date Night Problems . . . And Solutions
Problem #1: You don’t have a plan beforehand.
Solution: When we realized that coming up with a plan “on the fly” wasn’t working for us, we tried surprising each other by planning a date night for the other (as I did with Cirque du Soleil). However, it didn’t take long for us to realize that was not a good idea for us.
So we compiled a Google document of date night ideas that we’d both enjoy. Give it a shot, and consider adding categories like:
Cheap (ahem, Paula!)
In-home (for when you have kids)
Save yourself some heartache and don’t try to figure out what you’re doing as you’re climbing into the car. Be intentional in planning ahead.
Read the other four problems—and solutions—over at TrueWoman.com.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you resonate with this struggle? Do you go on date nights? If you do, what has worked well for you?
If you do feel like you’re one of the only married couples who doesn’t have wonderful weekly date nights, know that you’re not alone. At the very least, the Marstellers are with you! We hope and pray that our struggles and attempted solutions help you to pursue deeper intimacy and enjoyment of one another.
Have you taken a more passive role in your relationship with God since marrying? How so?
If you’re still single, what are your expectations for what it will mean for your husband to be your spiritual leader?
Taking a Back Seat in My Relationship with God
You may have heard—or believe—that your husband is your spiritual leader. But I wonder what that means to you.
Based on this belief, when I entered marriage, I subconsciously unbuckled my seatbelt, got out of the driver’s seat in my relationship with God, and moved to the back. I looked to the front seat where my new husband, Trevor, sat and waited for him to lead us in daily time in God’s Word and prayer. . . .
Somehow, my complementarian ideals had led me to live as if I was in pre-Reformation days when only an elite few had access to God’s Word. I looked to my husband to lead me to God, rather than enjoying the direct access Christ purchased for me. But 1 Timothy 2:5 is clear. There is only one mediator between God and humanity, and it is not my husband. It is Jesus.
What Are Your Expectations of Having a Spiritual Leader?
What are your expectations of your husband being your “spiritual leader”? When you’re together, do you:
Leave all the praying up to him, or do you pray too?
Invite him to read and pray with you, or do you believe he is the only one who can initiate that?
Stay home with him because he doesn’t want to go to church, or are you faithfully frequenting its doors whether he comes with you or not (Heb. 10:19–25)?
Are you afraid:
To confront your husband in love about unrepentant sin in his life (Heb. 3:12–15)?
That you can’t pursue intimacy with God too fervently, because you might intimidate your husband and keep him from stepping up?
If you have children, do you teach them God’s Word, even if your husband doesn’t (Deut. 6:5–8)?
Dear Christian wife, I hope you aren’t tempted to “quit” your relationship with God in order to be a good, “submissive” wife. These two things are not mutually exclusive!
Yes, God has given your husband the role of “head” in your relationship. But rather than this limiting you, this should propel and empower you. Think about it. Do truly great leaders do all the work themselves, or do they empower those under their care to thrive, initiate, and lead? . . .
Some men don’t care if their home is clean or messy. Not my hubby. He grew up with a mom who could challenge anyone to the Heavyweight Cleaning Champion of the World title. Trevor is used to a spotless home (and I really do mean spotless). Mess stresses him out. But his high expectations for a clean house stress me out. Sounds like a killer combination, huh? Yes, I’ve shot lots of heated words his way over this volatile subject.
The Clean Freak I Married
You know from my first book how for thirty plus years I ached for a pair of strong arms to hold me close. In God’s extravagant kindness, He granted that gift. However, in all those years of pining, I never gave a thought to what might accompany such a gift.
Turns out, marriage involves more than being adored by a man. With a husband come kids, and that husband and those kids must live in a house, and that house must be cleaned, and those hubby and those kids must be fed and clothed with freshly laundered clothes . . . again and again and again.
I was not prepared for that kind of service. In one childish-sounding journal entry I spewed,
“Cleaning is stupid. As soon as you finish, it’s messy again. It’s futile . . . It’s not creative . . . I hate it.”
Truth be told, I thought myself above such dull tasks as dusting and mopping and window washing. After serving in women’s ministry for well over a decade, these sorts of tasks felt like the demotion of the century.
My Cleaning Conundrum
Now, lest you think him a chauvinist pig, let me clear the record. Trevor does pitch in and help me clean. If it weren’t for him, our fridge, oven, and floors would never get a deep cleaning. But we’ve worked out a deal of sorts.
See, he’s handy, and I’m not. We have been—and still are—in the middle of a home renovation. So anytime there is something I can do, I try to do it myself rather than asking him for help, in order to free him up for the tasks that only he can accomplish.
In Search of Answers on Why a Clean Home Matters
There was simply no way around it. I needed to clean, and I didn’t want to hate every minute of it for the rest of my life. I desperately needed some big questions answered. Is there any redeeming value to cleaning? In light of eternity, why does cleaning matter?
First, she showed me how housework is connected to the two greatest commandments of loving God and loving neighbor. My closest neighbors are my husband and kids, and work in the house is for them. This was an “a-ha!” for me:
“Laundry is for people to wear. Food is for people to be nourished. Clean floors are for people to crawl around on. Dishes are for people to eat off. The people and the physical work of the home are not in competition. They are two sides of the same coin. . . . The physical work of the home exists for the physical people in the home.”
I was wrecked (in the best kind of way).
Another paradigm shift I experienced from reading her book is that work is not about my personal fulfillment; it is for the good of my neighbor. How have I missed that for all these years?! I wondered. Courtney quoted Martin Luther more than once in this regard:
“If you find yourself in a work by which you accomplish something good for God, or the holy, or yourself, but not for your neighbor alone, then you should know that that work is not a good work.”
Keep the Whole Law with a Clean Home
Ever since I read these truths, things have been changing in my house and my heart. As long as I keep the big picture in view, I don’t resent the poop stains I have to magically remove from my son’s shorts. I don’t mutter about the smooshed grapes I have to clean off the floor. I don’t cry over the onions I have to chop for supper (well, actually I do, but for a different reason!).
Life is too short not to love my closest neighbors with a clean house, clean clothes, and food on the table. Do I do it perfectly? Not even close. But I keep working hard at it, because in this small, ordinary way, I can actually fulfill the whole law (Galatians 5:14).
Thanks to Crossway’s generosity, I’m giving away five copies of Courtney’s book, Glory in the Ordinary. If you think you or someone you know could benefit from reading it, enter here.
One of my greatest highlights from the last couple of years was successfully matchmaking two couples—at one dinner party, nonetheless! The dinner party setup and subsequent party one week later allowed Jordan and Ethan to get to know Amanda and Gabby—at least enough to know the pursuit was on! They took it from there, and this summer, Trevor and I attended both of their weddings, just two weeks apart. Only God!
I believe you, too, can experience the joy of being used by God to help a Christian man and woman find and get to know each other. In fact, I believe you are needed.
Finding a suitable spouse to marry today seems . . . impossible. Where can you meet him or her if not in a bar or on an online app? Where and how can you possibly get to know them in a safe, casual, comfortable environment? That’s where you come in. But first, one very important disclaimer.
Beware of Unwelcome Matchmaking
Please, only offer your matchmaking services to those you know want to be married and who would love some help getting there. If you’re not sure if they want your help, ask them. One single guy told me,
“I went through a period of time in my early 20s where I had resolved myself not to date as I was too busy and working on sins and struggles in my life. But every other week people from church would pull me aside and suggest I date someone they knew. There were lots of uncomfortable conversations.”
Similarly, a mom of a single young woman told me,
“My daughter’s biggest frustration is the need to fix her up with the one other single in her congregation.”
Let me be clear. Singleness isn’t a disease; it’s a gift.
At the same time, marriage is a gift as well. If it’s a gift your single friend longs for, here’s how you can help.
Tips for Matchmaking Well
Care for Christian singles. Don’t try your hand at matchmaking ’cause you could use a little romance in your own life, or ’cause you hope to have a good story some day. Matchmake because you care deeply about your single friends. Extend yourself out of love for them. At the same time, matchmake not for their ultimate happiness (marriage isn’t about that!), but for God’s glory. Matchmake so that one more couple can show those around them the beauty of the gospel (Eph. 5:22-33).
Listen well. You are not looking for someone you like; you are looking for someone your friend will like. Do you know what your friend wants in a spouse? Don’t blindly set them up with someone just ’cause they’re the only other Christian you know in twenty miles. Get to know your single friend. Ask lots of questions. What does he or she desire in a spouse? What does he or she need to complement them?
Pray for wisdom. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Ask God for wisdom. Pray that He will establish your steps. Ask Him for success.
Brainstorm together. Talk through the people you both know—even married people—to identify the sorts of characteristics they are looking for. Make sure you’re on the same page. Then begin to brainstorm singles you know who are similar. Let your single friend give input on whether they’re interested in getting to know this person better or not.
Open your home. Invite the person your friend is interested in getting to know better over to your house. Don’t be awkward about it. In our case, we invited Amanda and Gaby over a Facebook message, simply telling them we were “having a couple other friends over.”
Open your home again. Continue to open your home so your single friends have other opportunities to hang out and get to know each other. We followed the dinner party up with another party one week later. And that wasn’t the end for us. Currently, my husband and I are seeking to create opportunities for one single male friend to slowly get to know a specific Christian woman in the context of an informal, group setting.
Those are just a few ways I believe you can matchmake well. Do you have anything to add? Have you tried your hand at matchmaking? What do you think contributed to your success or failure in that area?
PPS: This photo was taken a few months ago, when a group of us got together to celebrate Ethan and Gabby’s engagement. You can see the two new couples here. From left to right: me, Trevor, Amanda and Jordan, Ethan and Gabby.
I’m the writer who married the accountant, or so they say. But I’ll let you in on a secret: Trevor is the real writer in this family.
Words are as familiar to him as numbers are. (Numbers and I, on the other hand, just don’t jive. In a recent game of Wits and Wagers, I guessed that the longest highway in the U.S. was 800,000 miles long–or was it 800,000,000 miles long? I have a habit of liberally throwing in zeros as if they’re chocolate chips going into cookie batter–the more the merrier.)
This man, though . . . he can not only crunch numbers, he can whip up poems and hymns lickety-split.
Trevor often texts me a short poem to start our day. Here’s a stanza he wrote recently based on this sermon we’d listened to the night before:
Lord we confess that deep within Desires blur and mix with sin Wholly incline our hearts today To seek your kingdom this we pray
And then there’s this hymn he wrote based on Romans 5 that needs to published and sung, in my humble-but-proud-wifey opinion:
In the beginning, God made man,
Adam lived with God in peace.
But through that man came sin and death;
Adam died and so shall we.
The seed of death, the stain of guilt,
Deep in Adam’s progeny,
But Second Adam surely brings
Death to sin, how can this be?
The Second Adam came to us,
Grace to end sin’s tyranny,
He to conquer death by death,
As You died, Lord, so shall we.
United to the risen Lord,
Bound to Him eternally,
The king of old is now dethroned.
As You live, Lord, so shall we.
Now Lord we give ourselves to You,
Christ, our Life, who set us free.
To sin we died, for You we live;
Slaves of God now shall we be.
There’s more though. He doesn’t just write hymns to express spiritual truth. This month I’ll share three poems he wrote and used to get:
“Do thoughts about other boys/crushes disappear when you are married?” More than one boy-crazy girl has asked me this question. In other words, “Will marriage cure my boy-craziness?”
Since I’ve been asked similar versions of this question more than once now, I thought I’d share my answer publicly.
Marriage Is Not a Magic Pill That Cures Boy-Craziness
I will say there is a difference. Now that I’m married, my antennae don’t go up every single time a new guy walks into the room. I’m not constantly surveying the landscape to see who’s available, because I’m loved. Claimed. Taken.
Marriage isn’t a magic pill. Marriage isn’t your Savior. It cannot fix you.
But marriage doesn’t change your heart. Only God is powerful enough to do that. Marriage isn’t a magic pill. Marriage isn’t your Savior. It cannot fix you. Please, please, please . . . do not enter marriage counting on it to cure you of your boy-craziness, your porn addiction, your loneliness, or any other idol in your life.
Marriage is simply a covenant commitment for life to a man—to another sinner. And you know as well as I do that another “fallen” human being cannot possibly save you from your heart idolatry. Only God can.
Instead of hoping marriage will cure you someday, pursue God with everything in you now. This will not only provide the satisfaction your heart longs for during your single years; it will also prepare you to bless your husband if you do get married someday. (You’re a lot less likely to suck the life out of your husband and tear down your marriage if you’re not expecting your husband to be and do what only God can be and do for you.)
Instead of hoping marriage will cure you someday, pursue God with everything in you now.
Even now that I’m married, I still regularly ask God to satisfy me with His love each morning (Ps. 90:14), and then I pursue Him through His Word and prayer. When I’m out in public, I still ask Him to help my eyes look straight ahead (Prov. 4:25). (These are habits I developed when I was single.)
Because yes, once you’re married, you will likely still notice if a guy is cute or nice or smart or strong or [fill in the blank].
Is It Wrong to Be Attracted to Other People After I Marry?
If God is your first love and your husband is your second love, attraction will be little more than that—something you notice and then quickly forget about. You’ll choose not to dwell on that thought. You’ll choose not to look twice. (At least that’s what you should choose!)
Nowhere in Scripture is attraction condemned. Noticing that someone is good-looking isn’t sinful unless it results in lustful thoughts.
Another way of saying this is that there’s a difference between temptation and sin. For example, we know that Jesus was tempted, but He didn’t sin. Hebrews 4:15 says:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
And 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
We shouldn’t feel guilt when we’re tempted; temptation is not the same as giving in to sin.
Does that help you know a bit more what to expect in marriage? Basically, you can expect to continue to face your current struggles and temptations and sins—unless you repent and flee to Christ today and allow Him to begin to transform you before you enter marriage. Either way, He promises to complete the good work of sanctification that He began in you (Phil. 1:6)!
I’d love to hear from you. What are your expectations for attraction to others after marriage? What game plan can you begin to implement now so you’re not taken off guard then?
Hey, girls! Since it’s the day after Valentine’s Day and love is still in the air (or at least on our minds), I thought I’d share this interview with you from GospelMag.com. I hope my responses will help you as you think about someday possibly moving from singleness to marriage. Enjoy!
Q. Since you wrote Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, you got married. Congratulations!
A. Thank you. God gives great gifts. I was starting to think I’d be single for the rest of my life; I’m still amazed I’m married . . . and to a wonderful man!
Q. What changed in your life when you met the man who would become your husband?
A. At first not a whole lot, other than that I spent a lot more time on Skype. As I look back over the past two-and-a-half-years since I’ve known him, though, I can see that I’ve changed a lot. Trevor has challenged and changed the way I think about a host of issues. He has pushed me (in good ways) in areas where I felt fearful and inept. He has been a tangible picture of God’s steadfast love for me, even when all that is ugly is stripped bare and out in the open.
Q. How did you meet him?
A. Seven months after publishing Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom, I inadvertently started following a guy named Trevor Marsteller on Twitter. At the time, I was reaching out to bloggers asking for honest reviews of my book in exchange for a free copy. When I followed him on Twitter, I saw he had over 1,000 followers and had also done book reviews on his blog. I asked if he’d like to review Confessions, he said yes, and we kept talking from there. (You can read all the juicy details here.)
Q. Did things change right away, or has your relationship gradually become special?
A. I’m not the only one who has changed. Trevor has become more and more kind and affectionate since we first met. In fact, he puts me to shame with the way he loves me! I’d say our relationship has become more special over time, through tears, hard conversations, forgiveness, kindness, and love.
Q. Did God show you in one way or another that Trevor was the man you should marry?
A. I believe God communicates to us through His Word. In the Bible, He has made it clear that believers are not to marry unbelievers. But other than that one stipulation, He has given us freedom to make our choice based on wisdom.
God didn’t “speak” to me and tell me to marry Trevor. But as I got to know Trevor, as I asked others who knew him well questions, as I saw how he loved me and how I could just be myself around him without needing to impress him, it became obvious. This man loved God, loved me, and was pursuing me. It was a no-brainer.
Q. What would you say to girls who want to marry and don’t know on which basis to make their decision?
Stop looking for handwriting in the sky telling you that this guy is “the one.”
A. Stop looking for handwriting in the sky telling you that this guy is “the one.” Is he a believer? One who is serious in his pursuit of God? Is he pursuing you? Are you comfy with him? Do you communicate well? Do your family and friends think he’s great?
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!
Q. We often tell people who aren’t yet married that they need to date, meet more people, and subscribe to dating websites. In this, we lead them to understand that they have to do more to make it happen. What do you think?
He is the One who gives us every good gift. Pursue Him. Serve Him. Trust Him.
A. I was given the same advice over the years, but I think it falls short. Ultimately, most of us underestimate God’s sovereignty. He is the One who gives us every good gift. Pursue Him. Serve Him. Trust Him. This area of life is not ultimately something you control; it is all under His wise, good, sovereign control.
Q. We often say to girls that they will find someone when they least expect it. What do you think?
A. I think it’s very unhelpful advice. People probably mean to be encouraging when they say it, but as a single I always felt this enormous pressure to somehow trick my emotions out of longing for marriage. It sounded like if I could succeed in that, then marriage would somehow just fall in my lap. But there’s no such prerequisite in God’s Word. He gives us undeserved gifts freely; we do not earn them.
Q. How did you find your smile (joy) back when you went through moments of discouragement regarding romance?
A. It took a long time, but as I got to know God’s character through His Word and by sitting under solid sermons Sunday after Sunday, I grew in my knowledge of God. And as my knowledge of God grew, so did my trust in Him and my enjoyment of Him.
Whenever I sign my books, I include Psalm 16:11: “In your presence is fullness of joy.” True joy is not found in our circumstances but in spending time enjoying God, which we can do anytime, anywhere.
I’d love to hear from you. Did you learn anything new through this interview? Anything you disagree with? As you think about marriage, are there any questions you want to add?
I wonder what you’ve been led to believe about life after marriage.
The message I heard before becoming a bride is that it’s all downhill after you exchange wedding vows.
Oh, no one ever said those words to me exactly. What they did say was, “Enjoy this [dating] season, Paula. Your boyfriend will never treat you better than he does now.” Doesn’t that sound a whole lot like “It’s all downhill after marriage” to you?
While Trevor and I were dating, I often shared this belief/fear with him, and he always told me he didn’t believe it; things would only get better. Oh, how I wanted to believe him, but I was skeptical. Could he really be right?
Well, nine months into marriage, I can joyfully say he was.
Wait for a humble, servant-hearted man who is on board with God’s beautiful design for marriage.
I love and enjoy my husband so much more than I did while I was dating him, and he loves me so much better than he did when he was dating me. Don’t get me wrong; wedded bliss doesn’t magically increase without the occasional tear-streaked faces, pained hearts, difficult conversations, and hard work. We had our fair share of these this past week. But we also had a wonderful date, punctuated by sweet, heartfelt conversation.
We blew our entire dating budget for the month at a Brazilian steakhouse, and then went shopping (yes, I managed to get him to shop with me!). But the delicious meal we consumed and the clothes we returned home with weren’t what made our date so wonderful.
It was the discussion my husband initiated. “I was listening to a rap song called ‘Date Night’ today,” he began, “and the lyrics said, ‘How am I doing good? How should I repent?’ What do you think?”
And so we sat at our table holding hands, building each other up, and then sharing how we can be even more helpful to each other. It was the kind of meaningful conversation nearly every wife longs for.
Why do I tell you this? To make you feel bad because you’re still single and I’m not? No way! I tell you this because you need to know that it is not all downhill after marriage.
Well, to be perfectly clear, that depends entirely on whom you marry. Since marriage, my burden has only increased that you choose and marry well. It matters, big time.
Wait for a humble, servant-hearted man who is on board with God’s beautiful design for marriage found in Ephesians 5:22–33. He won’t be a perfect man. But he–and your relationship–will only grow sweeter with time.
This is what I long for you. This is God’s desire for marriage: a tangible display of Christ-centered, Christ-like love that shows how awesome His
sacrificial love is for His Bride.
I wonder, what have you been believing about life after marriage?
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?