“I cannot find a mate within the congregation, and I am afraid of growing old alone.”
“Some men in the world are kind, lovable, and thoughtful. They are not opposed to my religion, and they seem to be more interesting than some brothers.”
Some servants of God have made such comments about finding a marriage mate. Still, they are well-aware of the apostle Paul’s advice to marry “only in the Lord”—counsel that should govern the conduct of all Christians. (1 Cor. 7:39) Why, then, do they make these comments?
WHY SOME HAVE DOUBTS
Those who make such comments may feel that there is an imbalance in the number of eligible brothers and sisters. In many countries, that is indeed the case. Consider two examples: In Korea, on average, out of 100 single Witnesses, 57 are sisters and 43 are brothers. Colombia reports that 66 percent of the Witnesses are sisters and 34 percent are brothers.
In some lands, a complicating factor is that unbelieving parents may demand an elaborate dowry, making it difficult for brothers of modest means to get married. Considering such obstacles, a sister may feel that the possibility of finding a mate “in the Lord” is slim. So she might ask, “Is it realistic to think that I can find a suitable mate among fellow Christians?”*
CONFIDENCE IN JEHOVAH ESSENTIAL
If you have ever entertained such thoughts, rest assured that Jehovah is aware of your situation. Indeed, he knows how you feel about the matter.—2 Chron. 6:29, 30.
Still, Jehovah has set out in his Word the direction to marry only in the Lord. Why? Because he knows what is good for his people. Not only does he want to safeguard his servants from the pain resulting from pursuing an unwise course but he also wants them to be happy. In Nehemiah’s day when many Jews were marrying foreigners who did not worship Jehovah, Nehemiah referred to the bad example of Solomon. Although Solomon “was loved by his God, . . . the foreign wives caused even him to sin.” (Neh. 13:23-26) So for the good of his servants, God has directed us to marry only true worshippers. (Ps. 19:7-10; Isa. 48:17, 18) True Christians are grateful for God’s loving care and rely on his direction. By thus submitting themselves to him as Ruler, they recognize him as the Universal Sovereign.—Prov. 1:5.
You surely want to avoid becoming “unevenly yoked” with someone who could take you away from God. (2 Cor. 6:14) Many Christians today have obeyed God’s time-proven protective directive and have come to realize that they have taken the wise course. But some have chosen to do otherwise.
Maggy,* a sister in Australia, explains what happened when she began dating an unbeliever: “I missed a lot of meetings just to be with him. My spirituality dropped drastically.” Ratana in India became romantically involved with a classmate who started to study the Bible. However, in time he showed that his motive was to start a romance with her. She ended up leaving the truth and converting to another religion in order to get married.
Another example is that of Ndenguè in Cameroon. She was 19 years old when she got married. Her fiancé promised her that she would be free to practice her religion. But two weeks after their wedding, her husband forbade her to attend Christian meetings. She says: “I found myself lonely and weeping. I realized that I had lost control of my life. I felt constant remorse.”
Of course, not all unbelieving mates turn out to be cruel and unreasonable. Yet, even if you did not suffer those consequences for marrying an unbeliever, how would your relationship with your loving heavenly Father be affected? How would you feel knowing that you had not listened to the counsel that he provided for your good? And most important of all, how would he feel about your decision?—Prov. 1:33.
Brothers and sisters around the world can testify to the fact that marrying “only in the Lord” is the best policy. Those who are single are determined to make God’s heart rejoice, being willing to marry only a suitable mate from among his worshippers. Michiko in Japan is a single sister whose relatives tried to convince her to marry an unbeliever. In addition to resisting the pressure, she saw some of her friends and acquaintances find mates within the congregation. She says: “I kept telling myself that since Jehovah is a ‘happy God,’ our happiness does not depend on whether we are married or not. I also believe that he grants us the desires of our heart. So if we cannot find a mate even though we want to marry, it is best for us to stay single for the time being.” (1 Tim. 1:11) Eventually, Michiko married a fine brother, and she is happy that she waited.
Some brothers have likewise waited to find an appropriate mate. Bill from Australia is one such brother. He admits that he at times felt attracted to women outside the congregation. However, he strictly avoided getting too friendly with them. Why? He did not want to take the first step toward becoming “unevenly yoked” with an unbeliever. Over the years, he was interested in a few sisters, but the interest was not mutual. Bill waited for 30 years before he met a sister with whom he was compatible. Bill says: “I have no regrets.” He explains: “I feel blessed because we go out in the ministry together, study together, and worship together. I am happy to meet and associate with my wife’s friends because they are all fellow worshippers of Jehovah. We work on our marriage using Bible principles.”
WHILE WAITING ON JEHOVAH
What can you do while you leave things in Jehovah’s caring hands? One thing is to think about why you are not married. If you feel that the main reason is based on the Bible directive to marry “only in the Lord,” you are to be commended for respecting that divine command. Be assured that Jehovah is pleased with your firm resolve to obey his Word. (1 Sam. 15:22; Prov. 27:11) You can continue to ‘pour out your heart’ to God in prayer. (Ps. 62:8) Your prayers can become even more meaningful as you petition him earnestly and incessantly. Your relationship with God will be strengthened day by day as you stand firm despite the internal and external pressures you face. Rest assured that the Most High takes an interest in all his faithful servants and that you are precious in his eyes. He cares about your needs and your yearnings. He does not promise anyone a mate. Yet, if you really need a marriage mate, God knows the best way to satisfy your legitimate desires.—Ps. 145:16; Matt. 6:32.
Sometimes you may feel like the psalmist David, who said: “Do answer me quickly, O Jehovah; my strength has come to an end. Do not hide your face from me.” (Ps. 143:5-7, 10) At such times, give your heavenly Father time to show you what his will is for you. You can do that by taking time to read his Word and to ponder over what you are reading. You will know what his commandments are and will see how he acted in behalf of his people in the past. By listening to him, you will have renewed confidence in the wisdom of obeying him.
What else can make your single years happy and productive? You can use your singleness to cultivate spiritual discernment, generosity, industriousness, pleasantness, godly devotion, and a good reputation—invaluable for a happy family life. (Gen. 24:16-21; Ruth 1:16, 17; 2:6, 7, 11; Prov. 31:10-27) Seek first the Kingdom by having a full share in the preaching work and other Christian activities; your doing so will be a protection. Bill, mentioned earlier, says about the years when he wanted to marry: “They passed so quickly! I used the time in Jehovah’s service as a pioneer.”
Yes, marrying “only in the Lord” is still realistic. Obeying that direction can help you to honor Jehovah and reap lasting satisfaction. The Bible says: “Happy is the man who fears Jehovah, who takes great pleasure in his commandments. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness continues forever.” (Ps. 112:1, 3) So be determined to stick to the divine commandment to marry “only in the Lord.”
In this article, we are considering the matter from a sister’s viewpoint, although the same principles apply to a brother.
Some names have been changed.