Singles Q&A: When Women Doubt Marriage
- 2006 30 Aug
QUESTION: I'm praying about a young lady I am dating/courting in order to find out where God would want our relationship to go. But she has many questions in her mind about whether a marriage can last. She is surrounded by many couples, both Christian and non, who are married but have been divorced. Additionally, her parents are not happily married. She also wonders if she should get a prenuptial agreement to protect her assets. How can I encourage her to know that marriage can work as God intended it to?
ANSWER: It’s interesting to me that I’ve recently received several variations of this question – and all from men. We women often fall prey to the assumption that the root reason for the current surplus of singles is that the men are not willing to commit. Yet, your letter reveals that this isn’t uniformly the case – unfortunately.
Because you are a man and thus you will benefit most from the discipleship of other men, I will address my thoughts to the women reading this column. But before I do, I’d like to offer you a few ideas to pray about and discuss with your pastor, accountability partner, or other mature man.
The first is that this is an opportunity to learn to trust God in your calling to lead a wife and family. If you are a servant-leader who emulates the patience and graciousness of your own Master, you won’t try to coerce her to agree. Additionally, you will show her that you trust God for her response to your input. This approach will no doubt go very far in building her trust toward you, too.
The second is that you have an opportunity to serve a sister in Christ – no matter whether she ends up as your wife – by praying for her, studying the Word with her, and helping her to understand that the faithlessness of others around her is no reason to withdraw her trust from the only Faithful One. The Bible does not show the stellar performance of any human being. It is a record of mankind’s flawed obedience and unbelief toward God and God’s justice, mercy, and patience toward us. The same is true today. God’s people are a trophy of His grace, not a trophy of impeccable performance. Perhaps you both may benefit from doing a study of God’s faithfulness to uphold His precepts and promises.
Now, to the women. If I were able to sit down with your girlfriend, I would ask her to tell me the history of your relationship and how she came to faith in Christ. Then I would ask a few questions and request that she consider some observations. But as I only know what you’ve presented, here in condensed form is some of what I might say to her:
Grace: You obviously see sin abounding in daily life. Is it possible, however, that you are not seeing things clearly or in the true perspective? Can you take a moment to reconsider these marriages to find any evidences of grace at work? Trying to be objective, how would you tally the good versus the bad? This may help you to better evaluate those marriages.
Beliefs: If you are having a hard time finding evidences of grace, would it be possible that your functional belief system is that sin triumphs over grace? In other words, do you really believe in the life-changing power of the gospel or are you secretly resting on the “security” you find in human performance? (If you derive more comfort from someone’s track record, you are slipping into legalism.)
Trust: Do you really trust a man-made legal document like a prenuptial agreement more than God’s Word?
Direction: How have you progressed to this point in your relationship with your boyfriend? Have you been praying along the way? If so, what guidance have you received in prayer? What has been the counsel of others? Is marriage the logical conclusion of this direction?
Cravings: When you see “unhappy” marriages, what you are really seeing is unresolved conflict and competing idols at work. This is what we learn in James 4:1-2. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” With this in mind, how have you and your boyfriend progressed in examining your own motivations and learning to resolve conflict biblically and humbly? That may be much more important to your future happiness than the track record of other people’s marriages.
Purity: This has not been directly mentioned, but it’s important to bring up. If you are not following God’s plan for the good gift of sex inside marriage, then you may already be setting the stage for divorce. By trying to partake of what God has clearly said is off-limits for unmarried people, you are clearly on the path of committing the same self-centered sin of adultery after marriage. I’m trying to be clear here, but not harsh. It’s important not to sugar-coat this point because the tug of our flesh is so powerful. If you have been sinning sexually, I would appeal to you to repent. I would also recommend that you confess this sin to a mature married couple and/or your pastor and his wife and asking what steps you need to take next for restoration. It may be that you need to establish new boundaries or you need to step back from this relationship altogether for a period. I don’t know, but those who are in your local church who know you better would.
Additionally, I would suggest you both could benefit from reading some Bible-centered books on marriage to make sure you are clearly understanding God’s purposes for marriage. One that comes to mind immediately is "Love That Lasts: When Grace Meets Marriage" by Gary & Betsy Ricucci (Crossway). I think you will find many encouraging perspectives about marriage in this book.
Finally, a last thought for you (and the other men reading this column): If this relationship ends, please don’t let your fears of future rejection or disappointment lure you into passivity. No doubt it is very hard, but please continue sowing to biblical manhood by trusting God and risking future rejection. It may seem like salt in the wounds, but my observation is that single men get back into the saddle, so to speak, much faster by hanging out with married men. I’m not privy to those conversations, but I’ve been told that the married men can be quite helpful in dusting off their single brothers and helping them get back in the game. If you desire to be married, don’t let yourself become sidelined by unbelief toward God’s goodness to you or by bitterness or cynicism toward single women. Neither are helpful for pursuing marriage, and more seriously, neither glorify God.
Carolyn McCulley works for Sovereign Grace Ministries in church and ministry relations. She is also an author ( "Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred") and blogger (solofemininity.blogs.com). Carolyn is also a member of Covenant Life Church where one of her favorite ministries is the single women's discipleship program. She highly recommends the resources for singles from the New Attitude conference and blog.
Your questions answered! Carolyn will periodically answer Crosswalk.com reader questions in her Singles Q&A columns. While we can't guarantee that each question will be answered, we do hope to hear from you! Please send your questions regarding singleness and related topics to Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.