So You've Found Someone

1 Samuel 18:20‑21; Genesis 24:8  •  20 min. read  •  grade level: 7
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Who Are They?
It is almost certain that the person you marry will be a comparative stranger, as odd as that may seem. Their father, mother, brother, sister and grandparents will all know them better than you. You will probably not recognize them first thing in the morning, or know how they will behave before that first cup of coffee. How about when they’ve been deprived, night after night, of sleep because of a colicky baby? More practically, do they have a temper? Most of us get angry on occasion; but how does it look? “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32). We don’t like it when a person starts acting like a child, throwing a tantrum, or when they become violent or verbally abusive. On the other hand, anger and frustration can be handled in a mature way — even if it means taking a quiet walk in the woods. If you are the type that withers before an angry outburst (and there’s nothing wrong with that) then don’t marry a person prone to such outbursts. You might be able to handle it once or twice, perhaps even 50 times; but 50 years of it may prove to be more than you can humanly bear. How would you feel if your spouse talks to the children in this way?
You are marrying a person, not their looks, not their money, not their position. “Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant” (Song of Sol. 1:16). Many in this world are beautiful, but they don’t turn out to be so pleasant. You need to get to know the one you are marrying. You can only do this through communication — and I don’t just mean lovey-dovey notes, but talking together on real subjects. When things get serious between a couple, it is essential that they move beyond that stage where each is guessing what the other is thinking; where neither is willing to say too much as they are unsure of their own commitment. Books make much of this situation because it creates a tension and crisis in the story. While it may work well for a novel, it isn’t such fun in real life. If you can’t talk through key issues before marriage, what makes you think you will be able to do so afterwards?
The ability to communicate takes effort and much depends on how we go about it. Don’t begin a conversation with, We need to talk. That’s what parents say to children. Try expressing your feelings and where you are at — this comes across as less threatening. If it is the girl doing the talking, don’t be surprised if the guy says nothing in response! He will probably want to think about it. On the other hand, young man, don’t think you need to fix the girl! She’s probably not asking for a solution. She’s not a car that needs repair! Offer some words of encouragement — something that indicates that you’ve understood what you have just heard. By the way, in this scenario we could reverse the roles and the advice still stands, though the way I’ve stated it is the common pattern.
People come with connections, and, like it or not, you will be caught up in their world when you marry them. If you can’t abide their family, this is going to be difficult. You could choose to live far away, but what makes you think that the person you are marrying is completely devoid of the family traits that you find so objectionable? Oh, I know: He or she is different, nothing like the rest of the family. Of course! But, seriously? It won’t be quite as true as you hope; just be sure that you’re not blinded by your love. Laban was a dishonest and shrewd man and his daughter bore some of those same family characteristics. On a more positive note, Rachel was the mother of Joseph. Perhaps some of those attributes we admire in Joseph were learned from his mother, for he didn’t bear much resemblance to his father, Jacob.
One of the most common reasons given for divorce (where one must be provided) is irreconcilable differences. To put it simply, two people who are incompatible. Compatibility should be considered at many levels: faith, spiritually, intellectually, temperamentally, financially, recreationally, and so on. There will be items that are nonnegotiable, for example, faith, and there will be things that are less critical. It is important to decide what’s vital and what’s not. If you can’t live without it, then it’s probably vital!
To quote a literary reference:
“Let me advise you to think better of it. I know your disposition, Lizzy. I know that you could be neither happy nor respectable, unless you truly esteemed your husband; unless you looked up to him as a superior. Your lively talents would place you in the greatest danger in an unequal marriage. You could scarcely escape discredit and misery. My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life’’ (Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen).
Once again it strikes me just how far society has shifted from once accepted Christian standards. When Jane Austen wrote this piece of popular literature, it wasn’t to express radical views — her writings lean towards the satirical observation of her fellow human beings and not the overthrow of societal norms. These sentiments are now widely viewed as being entirely outdated and most certainly demeaning towards women. Nevertheless, Mr. Bennett’s advice to his daughter, Elizabeth, is generally sound. It would have been nice if Austen had focused on spiritual rather than intellectual qualities — after all, she was the daughter of an Anglican minister. It is critical that the woman choose a man whom she can truly esteem as her head; that she can happily look up to, honor and respect. Intellectual compatibility should not be ignored, but look beyond college degrees. Couples from widely divergent walks of life have made for happy marriage partners because they shared a common intellectual bond and curiosity despite great differences in education.
If we turn now to the man, I trust that he has been looking for a help meet. Is the one that he has chosen going to be a spiritual help or a dead weight? Or worse still, will his wife be a spiritual discouragement? Don’t marry your ministry; if your mission field is the lost sheep of this world, marry a shepherdess! “Michal Saul’s daughter loved David” (1 Sam. 18:20) and yet she was no spiritual help to him at all. In fact, Saul gave her to David, so “that she may be a snare to him” (1 Sam. 18:21). They were not at all spiritually compatible.
You will never discern these things unless you are willing to discuss spiritual matters together. If there is someone that you are presently seeing, have you ever prayed with them? Ever read the Bible together? Maybe it all seems so awkward, but really, why should there be awkwardness with someone we profess to love and who returns our affections? More than likely, our thoughts are far away; we are too busy planning what thing we are going to do next. It is important to have fun — a marriage is not going to hold together if we don’t enjoy each other’s company — but there are more fundamental things. There needs to be that bedrock upon which the marriage rests. When children come along things get messy very quickly, unless the question of compatibility in matters of faith is settled long before marriage.
Financial issues are the primary source of conflict in about 40% of marriages; for another 50%, it’s a secondary cause of difficulty. It is important for a couple to understand the type of money managers they are. Money is used in Scripture as an example of faithfulness in material things (Matt. 25:14-30). We are to be good stewards of the resources that God has given us, no matter how little or how much. Money isn’t simply about meeting one’s needs. To expect one’s needs always to be met is neither practical nor scriptural; to raise a child this way is disastrous. On the other hand, if we view our financial resources as belonging to the Lord, then it changes both the way we manage our money and how we spend it.
When Abraham spoke to his servant, he gave this instruction: “if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath” (Gen. 24:8). Though this is in connection with Isaac not returning to Mesopotamia, I believe that it has a wider application. If the wife is unwilling to follow her husband, then will she acknowledge his headship? Furthermore, if the man intends to provide for his wife — as he should — his employment may not permit him to move.
It is interesting to note that when Abraham’s servant introduced himself to Laban, he made it clear that Isaac was a man of means; one who could support a wife (Gen. 24:35-36). Now, a girl should not expect her husband to provide a situation as comfortable as that to which she has been accustomed. Nevertheless, if there is to be a significant change in circumstances, it should be openly discussed. I’m not suggesting that money be the touchstone for marriage, but since a couple is in this together, they should try doing a little budgeting together. Building a home is a joint responsibility. Many young couples have begun married life without ever having considered the cost of running a household. All this may seem embarrassingly prosaic, and terribly unromantic, and yet these are some of the chief reasons that people give for conflict in marriage. You can’t live on love alone!
There are many other areas of life where differences will appear: Are you a night owl or a morning person? Timely or a free spirit? Neat freak or messy? Spontaneous or a meticulous planner? Don’t just ignore these differences; you are going to have to decide whether you can live with them or not. Little things can quickly grow into festering sores unless one has the capacity and grace to overlook the other’s foibles. A person that is always punctual may view timeliness as a question of integrity — to give that up touches them very personally. One who is free-spirited may view agreed upon times as a goal but not a promise. Can you reconcile the difference? Is one willing to show a little forbearance when the other is running late? Is the other ready to give him or herself more time so they’re not habitually behind?
What about the things we enjoy doing in our free time? Perhaps one likes to be away from the crowds enjoying nature in the mountains, whereas the other would rather be at the mall with the hustle and bustle of people. Clearly these are things where a suitable give-and-take can create a workable relationship. Not every activity needs to be done together — even in marriage. Time alone is important. Nevertheless, if there are no commonalities, I would ask: What draws you together? A husband and wife should provide mutual comfort and support for one another. If there are no shared interests, it can lead to a very lonely marriage.
The Father or Mother of Your Children
Children and the family are one of the Biblical reasons for marriage. Since this is the case, surely we need to spend some time thinking about the makeup of the family unit. This begins with our choice of spouse. The one we choose to marry is going to be the father or mother of our children. I suppose that is rather obvious, but let’s take a minute to think about it.
Do you see your boyfriend acting as a father? He may be a fun guy now, nothing but a boy at heart really, but will he step up to the plate? Is he going to be the spiritual head that you desire? Or is he going to run off with his buddies when things get unpleasant, leaving you changing the dirty diapers? Suddenly his boyishness isn’t so captivating — you have a boy; you need a man. “As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place” (Prov. 27:8).
Perhaps I have unfairly directed my comments towards the prospective father. Although the maternal instinct may be strong for many women (Isa. 49:15), there are girls who marry without ever having considered the responsibilities of guiding the home (1 Tim. 5:14). After all, girls want to have fun too.
Raising children is not a part time occupation. Both parents have an important job to do. Initially the mother has a strong biological role about which she has little choice, but motherhood goes far beyond biology. The father, in addition to caring for and providing for mother and child, has a critical part to play in raising the life he has helped to conceive. Can you see the person you wish to marry as the father or mother of your children?
Though I have already addressed the matter of an unequal yoke, if there is still one contemplating such a union, think again! Not only is it self-willed disobedience, but the children, without exception, will suffer the most. How are you going to handle it when your spouse undermines everything you say concerning Christianity — and they will. I don’t suggest that this will be in a mean-spirited way; it might be, but more likely it will all be very rational. But that’s not going to make it any easier. Reason is not faith, and reason will never lead to faith. In the beginning of this booklet I addressed three fundamental questions. The first two related to faith and the assembly. These are key questions that we must settle in our individual lives; they must also be settled in the life of a couple well before they are married. Even if both are saved, are they agreed that the children need to be raised in the assembly? When this question has not been answered, there is a danger that the family will leave the assembly.
Have you ever considered the genetic makeup of your prospective children? Certainly, there are medical conditions that one may need to consider, but these are relatively uncommon. Our children are the product of our combined genes. This affects eye and skin color, height, hair type and all our other physical characteristics. It may also affect less tangible qualities as well. Experiences mold us, and, unquestionably, God’s work within us is transforming. However, we are vessels of clay, and we reflect the weaknesses of sinful humanity. Look for complementing strengths, and think twice about compounding negative traits. Both Jacob and Rachel were deceivers and, whether by nurture or nature, this tendency was clearly expressed in their children.
I’ll Change Them!
Two statements are frequently heard: I can change, and I can change them. Really? I’m not just talking about a brand of toothpaste. Actually, we can’t and you can’t. I am convinced that change is hard. Yes, we do change, but we don’t change ourselves. God alone brings about change — not our wife, not our husband. When we realize that the cost of not changing far exceeds the cost of change, it is only then that we are ready to let go. Often the pain involved in such circumstances is not something we would wish upon anyone. We have a loving God who does not inflict pain willingly, but He does and will allow pain to work out His plan in our lives (Lam. 3:32-33).
Have you ever stopped to think that pain is necessary? Lepers have no feeling; as a consequence they hurt themselves without noticing. The end result is a slow destruction of the body — they lose fingers and toes; they get burnt and wounds form, all because they don’t sense pain. We can thank God for pain; it is one way whereby we sense bad choices. Let’s pray that we never become insensible, like the leper, to God’s prodding. However, no one with any sense willingly inflicts pain upon him- or herself.
We all make choices. We can make things easy or hard. We can either seek to walk according to God’s will or our own. It seems that some have to go down the hard path. You can enter a hasty marriage, infatuated with the person who you believe will make you happy, and then endure the years of trial that go with it. Yes, if you repent and turn to God, you will learn from it; you will be a changed person, and wonderful blessing may yet result. But let’s not forget, there will be a cost; you are creating a circumstance that you cannot escape. Is this really the path that you want to take?
The Advice of Others
We live in a culture where the choice of one’s spouse is individual; no one else is going to make that selection for you. And yet, to ignore the advice of others would be foolish. We read of Rebekah: “the damsel ran, and told them of her mother’s house these things” (Gen. 24:28). There must have been a happy relationship between mother and daughter — she runs! Ruth clearly consulted and confided in Naomi, and, I might add, it was well worth it. It is normal Christian behavior for a child to talk with their parents and to seek their advice. “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Prov. 6:20). When parents have concerns, they should be weighed carefully before the Lord and not angrily dismissed as irrelevant. If this is how one behaves, then it bodes poorly for the marriage relationship. How much better when the parental response is: “The thing proceedeth from the Lord” (Gen. 24:50). Consider the advice of both sets of parents. It is easy to pick and choose who we want to hear. When there is a consensus, either one way or the other, then surely it is a strong indicator. The pain of a breakup is nothing compared to a lifetime of regrets and sorrow. It is too late when you “mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!” (Prov. 5:11-13). Even if only one set of parents is opposed to the relationship, this could represent a serious breach in the family. How are you going to handle it?
Have you ever spoken to the grandparents? Their wisdom coupled with their unique perspective could be invaluable. Incidentally, how does your boyfriend or girlfriend interact with his or her parents, siblings and grandparents? If the young man is not kind and gracious to his mother, then why would he treat his wife any differently? It is good, also, to observe how your boyfriend or girlfriend interacts with your family and specially your parents. Do they treat them with respect or are they dismissive? Of course, if you’ve bad-mouthed your parents, then your friend will probably also. If this is the case, you need to set things right at home before pursuing the relationship.
What about the advice of friends? A true friend may be counted upon for faithful counsel. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6). Beware, however, of one who casually wishes the best for you — that your dreams might come true. Caught up in the excitement of the moment, their advice will not be objective. If our friends are as wayward as we are, then their advice can be downright bad — as with Jonadab and Amnon.
Bad Reasons to Marry
The decision to marry is a serious one; one that cannot be annulled Scripturally when things don’t turn out as we expect. Marrying because we are lonely, or because there isn’t anyone else that will have us, is a very bad idea. The happiness that we so desire is unlikely to be found in such a union. Worse still, the misery that could result will far exceed the loneliness that we once felt. Marrying for pity, or because we think we can fix someone, are also recipes for disaster. A girl may be attracted to a bad boy because she believes that he just needs a little love — please, please don’t go there. How many hearts have been broken — not just of the young girl or man — but of parents and grandparents, because of such ill-considered unions. Marrying to escape home suggests deeper needs that must be addressed; these issues will simply be carried over into the marriage relationship.
This is the one place where I will encourage you to marry for love; true love on the part of both parties — unselfish love that desires the very best for the other person. Seek a relationship that will bring glory and honor to God; a union that He can truly bless.
Warning Signs
If you wake up in the morning thinking: Is she still angry with me? Will he speak to me today? Surely, these aren’t good signs! If your significant other isn’t someone that you can freely speak with, one with whom you can share your heart; if there aren’t common goals, and a desire to be together; if there isn’t a thrill when their number lights up your phone, then there is something missing from the relationship. If a person’s annoying traits outweigh their attractive ones, these are clear warning signs!
Think about the things you do: are they flowing from an affection that you have for your boyfriend or girlfriend, or is it to get a response. It’s amazing how people can change when they want to give a certain impression, but such deception doesn’t last long. If you go to the assembly meetings and Bible conferences simply to be with a certain person, then this doesn’t bode well for the relationship. This acting will begin to unravel in time. On the other hand, a strong relationship will be established if you’re at the meetings because you want to be there; because you want to learn and grow, and because you jointly value God’s Word. Such a relationship has its foundation on a rock; there’s a common objective of the highest character. Marriage requires effort, but it must start on the right footing. Surely no one wants the honeymoon to end after the first week.
Though there are undoubtedly many warning signs, especially behavior and actions contrary to that which I’ve written so far, I will touch upon just one other — jealousy. Jealousy is an interesting word. It has both a good side and a bad. God is jealous for His people, and it is certainly not inappropriate to have a jealous concern for the one you love. However, that being said, jealousy that takes the form of mistrustful envy is very destructive. “Jealousy is cruel as the grave” (Song of Sol. 8:6). “Who is able to stand before envy?” (Prov. 27:4). Jealousy is like a weed that grows until it chokes out all life. Relationships must be built on trust; if you cannot trust a person, then, quite frankly, there isn’t much of a relationship. I would add this one caveat: when we do profess to be in a relationship with another, then our behavior must change. A guy, who is seeing a particular girl, should not flirt with others who cross his path; things aren’t as they were before. If there is no special attachment, this should be made clear and it should be reflected in your conduct. Don’t keep a girl on a string while you explore other interests. Though I’ve used the example of a guy with a girl, the converse is equally true. If you profess to have an attachment to a certain young man, then act like it, or else clear up the confusion. Don’t deliberately leave a person wondering.