Sometimes finding a spouse can feel a bit like the Dr. Seuss book, Are You My Mother? In the classic tale a little birdie walks around meeting all sorts of different animals, trying to find similarities that reveal who his mysterious mother is. In the dating world, singles go around meeting all kinds of people (who sometimes seem to be from the jungle), deducing facts to inadvertently determine Are you my spouse?
"Should I marry him because he wants kids and I do too?"
"I wonder if she is the right one for me – she's willing to go fishing with me!"
The options for potential mates are endless. You can meet all personality types, builds and backgrounds online, at church, through an app, at a club, through the list of people your mother wants you to meet and so many more places.
While some people believe there is that one person out there somewhere that is destined to be their partner, others can't choose between hundreds of potential mates-- and both ideas can be paralyzing at times.
We all want to pick that perfect person and we are terrified at the prospect of choosing a train wreck. As a result many singles are not marrying at all because they are afraid of missing God's will and therefore his ideal for them. It all seems like such a huge risk. So we ask ourselves,
"Do I gamble, make a selection and just hope I am one of the lucky ones who work out?" or "Even though I know it is not God's desire, should I just live with someone because it might be a little easier to get out of if things don't work out?" Or they determine to settle for a life of singleness and quit trying.
Before you give up and throw in the relational towel, let me offer some words of hope, encouragement, and even strategy.
We find, as recorded in Genesis 2:18 that God determined it was not good for man to be alone.
As a result, he created Eve. Now you may be thinking, "Well, that would be perfect – if God would just create a custom designed partner and plop them down in front of me. I could handle that because I would know that it was who God selected for me."
While I suppose that would be easy, think of the fun you would miss out on in the discovery process. Certainly there are some individuals who are called to be single, but for the majority of us, it is "not good" for us to be alone. We were designed for companionship. But, if that's the case, how in the world can we safely dip our feet in the dating waters? I want to suggest eight steps that you may find helpful as you strive to discover God's best for you.
1) Become the right person. We often worry about finding the right person, while overlooking God's desire for us to first focus on becomingthe right person. This is foundational because if we don't have valuable qualities to bring to the potential relationship, we have just decreased its chances of success.
2) Go to Scripture. Ask yourself, what characteristics jump off the pages of scripture, that you hope to find in a potential mate? It can be easy to look for superficial things in a dating partner, like height and build and whether or not they like spicy Cheetos. But refocus on what really matters for eternity, like character and integrity.
3) Seek counsel and input from individuals who are older and more seasoned than you and who know you well. Do they see any unhealthy patterns in your dating life or the types of people you pursue?
4) Pray for your desires. Take into account your heartfelt desires of what you are looking for in a mate. Remember, when we delight ourselves with God's purposes, He has said that He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4).
5) Keep your feelings in check. Carefully sort through impressions and emotions. It is essential that you realize your feelings can come from a multitude of sources: God, Satan, past experiences, stress, insomnia, indigestion, and a host of other things. Learn to recognize and sort out different emotions. When your emotions confirm what the rest of your decision making process has told you, you can move forward with greater confidence. When your rational thoughts and your feelings are in conflict, step ever so carefully. It is critical that you remember that just because you feel something strongly doesn't necessarily make it true.
6) Listen carefully to the nudging of the Holy Spirit. He sees everything you don't see, and he knows what is true and right.
7) Don't be Dumb. Use your God given common sense and sound judgment. Have boundaries and don't cross them.
8) Be Patient. Rather than be in a hurry, wait for God's peace. Colossians 3:15 reads, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts."
While I believe there are many people with whom you might be able to build a successful marriage, I also know some choices are better than others. The more you exercise care and wisdom in your steps, the greater the likelihood of achieving marital happiness and satisfaction.
Who should you marry? Entrust your desires and your intentional and thoughtful steps to the One who loves you beyond your wildest imagination. Then brace yourself – for the unimaginable journey He has in store for you!
Dr. Barry Ham is an author, marriage and family therapist, and college professor in Colorado Springs. He received a BS and BA in ministry and music from Dallas Christian College, has a MS in psychology from Abilene Christian University and MS in marriage and family counseling from California State University, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Southern California University. His most recent book Living on Purpose: Knowing God's Design for Your Life can be found here: http://www.ifitherapy.com/store/