Divine Guidance for Selecting a Marriage Mate
“I shall make you have insight and instruct you in the way you should go. I will give advice with my eye upon you.”—PSALM 32:8.
AN AERIALIST catapults from his swinging trapeze, doubles up, and deftly somersaults in the air. Snapping out of his spin, he extends his arms and is caught by an upside-down trapeze artist from the opposite side. An ice-skating couple glide smoothly together in a rink. Suddenly, the man lifts his partner and thrusts her into the air. She spins, lands gracefully on one skate, and continues circling with him on the ice. Both performances seem almost effortless. Yet, who would even attempt them without practice, a capable partner, and particularly the right kind of guidance or instruction. Similarly, a good marriage may seemingly just happen. However, it too depends on a good partner, on coordinated effort, and especially on wise counsel. Indeed, proper guidance is essential.
2 It is natural for a young unmarried man or woman to think about a marriage mate—a partner in life. Ever since it was instituted by Jehovah God, marriage of a man and a woman has been a normal way of life. But the first man, Adam, did not choose his wife. Jehovah lovingly provided her for him. (Genesis 2:18-24) The first couple were to multiply so that the earth would ultimately be filled with humans. After that first union, marriage arrangements were usually made by the parents of the bride and groom, sometimes after gaining the consent of those involved. (Genesis 21:21; 24:2-4, 58; 38:6; Joshua 15:16, 17) While arranged marriages are still common in some lands and cultures, many today select their own marriage mate.
3 How should a marriage mate be selected? Some are influenced by appearance—what they find pleasing and desirable to the eye. Others look for material benefits, for someone who will take good care of them and who will cater to their needs and wants. But will either of these approaches alone lead to a happy and satisfying relationship? “Charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain,” says Proverbs 31:30, “but the woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself.” And therein lies an important point: Take Jehovah into consideration when selecting a mate.
Loving Guidance From God
4 Our loving heavenly Father, Jehovah, has provided his written Word to guide us in all matters. He says: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk.” (Isaiah 48:17) It is not surprising, then, to find in the Bible time-tested guidelines for selecting a marriage mate. Jehovah wants our marriages to be lasting and happy. Therefore, he has provided help for us to understand and apply these guidelines. Is that not what we would expect of our loving Creator?—Psalm 19:8.
5 When Jehovah instituted the marital arrangement, he intended it to be a binding tie. (Mark 10:6-12; 1 Corinthians 7:10, 11) That is why “he has hated a divorcing,” allowing it only on the grounds of “fornication.” (Malachi 2:13-16; Matthew 19:9) Therefore, selecting a marriage mate is one of the most serious steps we can take and is not to be viewed lightly. Few decisions have as much potential for happiness or for sadness. While a good selection can enrich one’s life and make it satisfying, a poor choice can bring no end of sorrow. (Proverbs 21:19; 26:21) For happiness to continue, it is vital to choose wisely and be willing to make a lasting commitment, for God instituted marriage as a partnership that would thrive on harmony and cooperation.—Matthew 19:6.
6 Young men and women especially need to be careful that physical attraction and strong impulses do not distort their judgment when they select a mate. Indeed, a relationship founded solely on such factors can quickly erode into disdain or even hatred. (2 Samuel 13:15) On the other hand, enduring love can be cultivated as we get to know our mate and as we better understand ourselves as well. We also need to realize that what is best for us may not be what our heart initially desires. (Jeremiah 17:9) That is why the divine guidance found in the Bible is so important. It helps us to discern how we can make the wisest decisions in life. The psalmist represented Jehovah as saying: “I shall make you have insight and instruct you in the way you should go. I will give advice with my eye upon you.” (Psalm 32:8; Hebrews 4:12) While marriage can satisfy our inborn need for love and companionship, it also presents challenges requiring maturity and discernment.
7 It is the course of wisdom to heed what the Originator of marriage has to say on the matter of selecting a mate. Yet, we may balk when Bible-based counsel is received from parents or from Christian elders. We may feel that they do not fully understand us, and strong emotional desires may push us to follow the inclination of the heart. As reality sets in, however, we may regret that we did not heed the wise counsel offered for our good. (Proverbs 23:19; 28:26) We may find ourselves in a loveless marriage, with children we have difficulty caring for and perhaps even with an unbelieving mate. How sad it would be if an arrangement that could have brought us great happiness becomes a source of much distress!
Godly Devotion—A Key Factor
8 Admittedly, mutual attraction helps to solidify a marriage. But values held in common are even more important for a marital union to endure and to produce happiness. Mutual devotion to Jehovah God fashions a lasting bond and promotes unity in a way that no other factor does. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) When a Christian couple center their lives on the true worship of Jehovah, they are united spiritually, mentally, and morally. They study God’s Word together. They pray together, and that unifies their hearts. They accompany each other to Christian meetings and work together in the field ministry. All of this helps to forge a spiritual bond that draws them closer to each other. Even more important, it results in Jehovah’s blessing.
9 Because of his godly devotion, the faithful patriarch Abraham sought to please God when it came time to select a wife for his son Isaac. To his trusted household servant, Abraham said: “I must have you swear by Jehovah, the God of the heavens and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites in among whom I am dwelling, but you will go to my country and to my relatives, and you will certainly take a wife for my son, for Isaac. . . . [Jehovah] will send his angel ahead of you, and you will certainly take a wife for my son from there.” Rebekah proved to be an outstanding wife, whom Isaac dearly loved.—Genesis 24:3, 4, 7, 14-21, 67.
10 If we are unmarried Christians, godly devotion will help us to develop qualities that will enable us to meet the Scriptural requirements of marriage. Among the obligations of husbands and wives are these cited by the apostle Paul: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord . . . Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it . . . Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. . . . Let each one of you individually so love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.” (Ephesians 5:22-33) As we can see, Paul’s inspired words emphasize the need for love and respect. Complying with this counsel involves reverential fear of Jehovah. It requires a wholehearted commitment through both good times and bad. Christians who contemplate marriage should be able to assume this responsibility.
Deciding When to Marry
11 Knowing when we are ready to marry is vital. Since this varies from one individual to another, the Scriptures do not stipulate an age. They do show, however, that it is better to wait until we are “past the bloom of youth,” when strong sexual impulses can distort good judgment. (1 Corinthians 7:36) “When I saw my friends dating and marrying, many in their teen years, it was at times difficult to apply this counsel,” says Michelle. “But I realized that the counsel is from Jehovah, and he tells us only what is for our benefit. By waiting to marry, I was able to focus on my relationship with Jehovah and to gain some experience in life, which you cannot possibly have in your teenage years. Some years later, I was better prepared to handle the responsibilities as well as the problems that arise in marriage.”
12 Those who hasten to marry while still quite young often find that their needs and desires change as they mature. They then realize that the things they initially found desirable are no longer so important. One young Christian had her heart set on getting married when she was 16. Her grandmother got married at that age, as did her mother. When a young man she was interested in declined to marry her at that time, she chose someone else who was willing to do so. Later on in life, though, she greatly lamented her rash decision.
13 When contemplating marriage, it is important to have a mature understanding of all that is involved. Premature marriage can bring a host of problems that a youthful couple are likely ill-prepared to handle. They may lack the experience and maturity necessary to deal with the stresses of marriage and the rearing of children. Marriage should be undertaken only when we are physically, mentally, and spiritually ready to take on an enduring partnership.
14 Paul wrote that those who marry “will have tribulation in their flesh.” (1 Corinthians 7:28) Problems will arise because there are two distinct personalities, and viewpoints will vary. Because of human imperfection, it may be difficult to fulfill our Scriptural role in the marriage arrangement. (1 Corinthians 11:3; Colossians 3:18, 19; Titus 2:4, 5; 1 Peter 3:1, 2, 7) It takes maturity and spiritual stability to seek and follow divine guidance so as to settle stressful situations lovingly.
15 Parents can prepare their children for marriage by helping them to understand the importance of following divine guidance. By skillful use of the Scriptures and Christian publications, parents can help their offspring to determine whether they or their prospective mates are ready to make the commitment of marriage.* Eighteen-year-old Blossom thought that she was in love with a young man in her congregation. He was a full-time pioneer minister, and they wanted to get married. But her parents asked her to wait one year, feeling that she was still too young. Blossom later wrote: “I am so thankful that I listened to that wise advice. Within the year, I matured some and began to see that this young man did not have the qualities that would make for a good marriage mate. He eventually left the organization, and I escaped what would have been a disaster in my life. How wonderful to have wise parents whose judgment can be relied on!”
‘Marry Only in the Lord’
16 Jehovah’s direction for Christians is very clear: ‘Marry only in the Lord.’ (1 Corinthians 7:39) Christian parents and their children may be tested in this regard. How so? Young people may wish to get married, but available partners may be lacking within the congregation. At least that is how it seems. There may be fewer available men than women in a certain locality, or there may be no one deemed suitable in the area. A young man who is not a dedicated member of the congregation may show interest in a young Christian woman (or vice versa), and there is pressure to compromise on the standards that Jehovah has set. Under such circumstances, it would be good to reflect on the example of Abraham. One way that he maintained his fine relationship with God was by seeing to it that his son Isaac married a true worshiper of Jehovah. Isaac did the same in the case of his son Jacob. This took effort by all involved, but it pleased God and resulted in his blessing.—Genesis 28:1-4.
17 In a few cases, the unbeliever eventually became a Christian. However, marriages to unbelievers have often proved disastrous. Those unevenly yoked do not share the same beliefs, standards, or goals. (2 Corinthians 6:14) This can have a detrimental effect on communication and on marital happiness. For instance, one Christian woman greatly bemoaned the fact that after an upbuilding meeting, she could not go home and discuss spiritual things with her unbelieving mate. More important, of course, ‘marrying in the Lord’ is a matter of loyalty to Jehovah. When we comply with God’s Word, our hearts do not condemn us, for we are doing what is “pleasing in his eyes.”—1 John 3:21, 22.
18 When marriage is considered, the virtue and spirituality of the prospective mate should be of primary concern. A Christian personality, along with love for God and whole-souled devotion to him, is of far greater value than physical attractiveness. Divine approval is enjoyed by those who appreciate and fulfill their obligation to be spiritually strong marriage partners. And the greatest strength a couple can achieve comes from mutual devotion to the Creator and full acceptance of his guidance. In this way Jehovah is honored, and the marriage begins on a solid spiritual footing that will contribute to an enduring union.
See The Watchtower of February 15, 1999, pages 4-8.
How Would You Answer?
• Why is divine guidance needed to select a good marriage mate?
• How will godly devotion help strengthen the marriage bond?
• How can parents prepare their children for marriage?
• Why is it important to ‘marry only in the Lord’?
1. What factors are necessary for a good marriage?
2. (a) Who instituted the marital arrangement, and for what purpose? (b) How have some marriage arrangements been made?
3. How should a marriage mate be selected?
4. What help does God provide with regard to selecting a marriage mate?
5. What is vital for lasting happiness in marriage?
6. Why do young men and women especially need to be careful when choosing a mate, and how can they make the wisest decision?
7. Why do some not accept Bible-based counsel about selecting a mate, yet to what could this course lead?
8. How does godly devotion help a marriage to endure and to bring happiness?
9. What did Abraham do with regard to finding a wife for Isaac, and with what result?
10. What Scriptural obligations are placed upon husbands and wives?
11. (a) What counsel about when to marry is given in the Scriptures? (b) What example shows the wisdom of following the Bible’s counsel recorded at 1 Corinthians 7:36?
12. Why is it wise not to rush into marriage while young?
13. Those who marry prematurely are often lacking in what respect?
14. What is needed to handle stressful situations in marriage?
15. What role can parents play in preparing their children for marriage? Illustrate.
16. (a) How may Christians be tested as to ‘marrying in the Lord’? (b) When tempted to marry an unbeliever, on what should Christians reflect?
17. Why is marrying an unbeliever likely to be disastrous, and what is the most important reason to ‘marry only in the Lord’?
18. When contemplating marriage, to what important matters should attention be given, and why?
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Applying God’s counsel in selecting your mate can result in much happiness
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Rich blessings come from ‘marrying only in the Lord’