If you’re single, how do you know if that person is your forever love? I have no idea! I’m heading into my upper thirties and still single (but happily accepting applications). I have married friends who had the emotional fireworks of love at first sight and knew instantly, and others found their future spouse repulsive when they first met but over time realized they couldn’t live without them. Both couples have equally happy marriages. I’ve read the books, heard the sermons, but haven’t been able to crack the code. Not to ring my own bell, but I have been told that I’m incredibly handsome (my mom wouldn’t lie), yet still the pieces haven’t fallen together. Truth is, there is no magic formula, and the Bible doesn’t speak a whole lot about the courting process, or how to determine if someone is meant to be your lifelong significant other. However, we have the Holy Spirit, and God’s Word offers many principles that apply to your journey toward marriage. Whether you’re a single adult or an overeager young person, I trust the following tips will be an encouragement.
Remember the chief end of your life isn’t to have a spouse, it’s to glorify God. Your existence is not about you, it’s not about your mate, it’s about worship of our Heavenly Father. Everything we do in life should be to honor and glorify God (Isaiah 43:7). If you think a spouse is merely about companionship or happiness, you’ll find yourself left of center. Those are blessings that come with the bundle, but don’t get so wrapped up in the gift that you overlook the Giver. Should a relationship not end up leading to marriage, both people should have found themselves closer to Christ as a result of the shared encouragement and edification that came from the time spent together. In Christian circles, every relationship should end with joy and worship. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
“If you’re not happy single, you won’t be happy married. If marriage created happiness, half of all marriages wouldn’t end in divorce, but tragically they do.”
Getting a steady won’t make you happy. If you need a person to “complete you,” you aren’t ready for a relationship. You need to be complete and content first; otherwise you’re just dragging your old luggage into a new room.
Paul shares the secret to being happy and at peace:
I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13)
The secret to happiness for a grape is to be plugged into the vine; so it is with us. We need to dwell in Christ to have the life of Christ in us. If you’re not happy single, you won’t be happy married. If marriage created happiness, half of all marriages wouldn’t end in divorce, but tragically they do. The problem isn’t flowing out of your singleness; being unhappy may be a symptom of a deeper struggle in your walk with God. Your sense of contentment and self-worth should come from a relationship with God today, not from another human in the future. Contentment is a state of mind and not the state of the situation.
If you want a Prince Charming, act like a princess; if you want a 10, become a 10 (spiritually). You’ll typically attract what you are. If you’re a 7, you’ll get 7s; if you’re a 5, you’ll get 5s. If you’re a 6 (mediocre, lukewarm in your passion for God, stumbling through life with no vision), don’t think you’ll attract that dreamy provider and protector. If he’s a 10, he will long for someone on his level that will be a reflection of his own heart—a heart after God, someone who can challenge him.
“If you have a history of dating losers, the problem may be with you. Focus on growing yourself and you’ll find that you’ll attract a higher caliber of God-fearing suitors.”
This may sting, but…if you have a history of dating losers, the problem may be with you. Focus on growing yourself and you’ll find that you’ll attract a higher caliber of God-fearing suitors. It’s also worth saying, if you find yourself lukewarm in your love for God, dating is the least of your concerns. Your main focus should be on getting on fire for God.
You date personality, but marry character. Greg Laurie said, “Probably 85 percent of the counseling at our church is marital counseling. Of that 85 percent at least half are about problems that came about because the couple rushed into the marriage commitment and made a bond between them without building the proper foundation. They weren’t willing to wait for God’s perfect person or His perfect timing.” 1
“Romance doesn’t change character, it merely masks it. Be sure you like that person as a person before you pursue them.”
Love is intoxicating. The dating/courting process can be euphoric and totally blinding. It’s why people often date for a year and then break up: it takes time to get to know the real person. While dating, people show you only what they want you to see. That’s why it’s wise to get to know someone first as a friend before dating. Once you fall in love you tend to see everything through rose-colored glasses, so while you’re still objective, get to know the person’s character (their walk with the Lord, how they respond to tough situations, etc.) before you begin dating. After your fairytale year of dating or early into your marriage, you’ll notice the emotions calm down and that person resorts to being the same person you knew before you dated them. For those pursuing online dating (ChristianMingle.com, etc.), you need to be extra vigilant and cautious and discover as much as you can about a person quickly. Romance doesn’t change character, it merely masks it. Be sure you like that person as a person before you pursue them.
Proverbs 27:15 tells us that a contentious wife (or husband) is like a constant dripping on a rainy day—pretty annoying. Once you’re married, it’s for life. Do you really want to wake up one day and realize you’re joined to a whiny, constantly cranky complainer for the rest of your days? Marriage takes a lot of hard work—don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise—but right now while you’re single you get to decide how hard it’s going to be. Proverbs 25:24 says: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.”
Can you see yourself happily married to the person in twenty years? This simple question can save you a tremendous amount of grief. After you get to know someone a bit and can see how they handle life, ask yourself the twenty-year question. Can you see this person parenting your children? Can you picture the two of you with white hair sitting on a porch together, sharing a pair of dentures? If you can’t say yes, you know this isn’t “the one” (regardless of the emotions and attraction you may feel).
Don’t date just anyone who’s “Christian.” Faithfully attending a fellowship is good, but keep in mind that going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than walking into a pet shop makes you a dog. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21–23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Charity and religious deeds aren’t enough; make sure the person doesn’t practice lawlessness, because without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Second Corinthians 6:14—“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers”—doesn’t just apply to self-proclaimed atheists, it also applies to those who live like there’s no God but claim that they love Him.
“A woman’s heart should be so close to God, that a guy must seek Him to find her.”
Don’t be shallower than a kiddy pool. Focus on the internal instead of the external: “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature,…for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” It’s been wonderfully said, “A woman’s heart should be so close to God, that a guy must seek Him to find her.”
In total contrast to what the world teaches, 1 Peter 3:3–5 says:
Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.
“The important issue is not to merely find the right person, but to be the right person.”
God wants you to be more concerned about inner beauty than outward. Now, no one wants a slob (so take care of yourself or you’ll be just “ewww”), but focus on the spiritual. First Timothy 2:10 says, “Women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do” (NLT). Same is true of men, by the way. When the opposite sex thinks of you, what do they think of? Examine your attire. What are you advertising: your body or your heart? Remember, ladies, if you’re wanting to get a prince, don’t market to wolves. Do you spend as much time in prayer as you do in front of the mirror? The important issue is not to merely find the right person, but to be the right person.
Do quality recon. Before military leaders risk lives engaging the enemy, they do reconnaissance. They study their opponent—they learn the weapons they use, the size of their fighting force, etc., and make sure they can defeat them. In a similar way, you should do your homework on any potential spouse. You’re not going to war so there is no need to become a stalker, but it is invaluable to spend time looking at their public life online. You’d be amazed at what you can learn about someone by reading their social media posts from the last year. The Bible says, “Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). If you want to see what a person is really about, just take a step back and listen: the treasures of the heart always overflow through the lips. How many posts contain a Bible verse that touched their heart or a meaningful quote about Christ? How many are complaints about something they didn’t like? Do you see the “fruit of the Spirit” (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc.) evident in their lives/posts? What kind of movies and music and celebrities do they “like”?
Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5). You may see a lot of impressive leaves, but someone who is not attached to the vine will be lacking in the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of repentance, the fruit of gratitude to God, the fruit of loving your neighbor as yourself, and the fruit of hatred of evil. You can learn more about someone in a few minutes online than you could in hours of daydreaming about the person.
“Your greatest need is not a spouse. Your greatest need is to be delivered from the wrath of God—and that has already been accomplished for you through the death and resurrection of Christ. So why doubt that God will provide a much, much lesser need?”
Do you secretly lack faith that God will provide you with a wonderful spouse? C. J. Mahaney once said to a group of singles, “Your greatest need is not a spouse. Your greatest need is to be delivered from the wrath of God—and that has already been accomplished for you through the death and resurrection of Christ. So why doubt that God will provide a much, much lesser need? Trust in His sovereignty, trust in His wisdom, trust His love.” 2
Proverbs 16 offers breathtaking encouragements from God: “The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord” (16:1), “Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established” (16:3), and “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (16:9). You have the guarantee of the Master of the Universe that as you stay zealously focused on Him, your feet will land just where they need to be, which certainly includes your future spouse. You couldn’t be in better hands.