Jennifer was a disgruntled, single woman at my church. She was thirty-six years old and complained that her life was slipping away. Six years had passed since her last boyfriend, and her dating life remained in limbo. Jennifer wondered whether her heart still had the capacity to love. Beneath her jaded disposition festered an undercurrent of resentment toward God.
After attending church regularly for over two years, she suddenly disappeared. Three months later, I bumped into her at a restaurant and asked her whether she had moved to another church. She replied, “No, I’ve quit church altogether. I just can’t bring myself to worship a God who would leave me in such loneliness.” Jennifer concluded that if she was ever going to let God back into her life, He’d better bring her a husband — and fast.
Does God promise us a spouse? The Bible says “yes” by describing Christians as the spiritual bride of Christ. Our true spouse is Jesus. Yet, many of us say, “I’m glad to be spiritually married to Christ, but I can’t feel Him. Wouldn’t it be better if I could enjoy God’s love with someone else? I want Jesus with skin on.” So, we pray for God to bring us an earthly mate.
The Gripe for Love
My search for a spouse turned into a cycle of frustration as I encountered numerous relational struggles and a wife who abandoned me six months into our marriage. I started to wonder if God actually cared about my romantic relationships. Whenever I felt particularly upset about being single, I would sit in my den recliner and gripe to God about the injustice of my social life. Knowing He possessed omnipotent power made it seem logical to expect a wife from Him.
Whenever I demanded that God rush me a spouse, however, He seemed to whisper this question in my heart, “Rob, is the love of Jesus Christ enough for you? Have you allowed My complete forgiveness and unconditional acceptance to satisfy your heart?”
In tears of resignation, I conceded, “I appreciate Your love, Lord, but all I really want is a wife.” I still believed that my heart needed the affection of a person in order to feel complete. In essence, I valued human love more than God’s love.
One day, I began to look back over my life and the numerous dead-end relationships from my past. In each situation, romance had started out with a bang but fizzled under the weight of performance-based love. No matter who I met, either I was too demanding or she couldn’t accept me for who I was.
Suddenly, something clicked within my mind. I thought, “Why am I chasing marriage when it cannot provide the unconditional love that my heart craves? Only Christ offers everything I need.” With this new perspective, I relinquished to God my demand to get married. I still wanted to find a spouse someday, but I no longer considered marriage necessary to complete my life. If I remained single for the rest of my life, that was okay — God promised to fulfill my heart.
When we demand that God bring us a mate, we block His love from enhancing our social life. The anger that we harbor builds a wall between us and Him. If we are honest with ourselves, we realize that our demand for marriage is a refusal of God’s love because we want our selfish desires met. God will never stop loving us, but we ignore Him when we desperately seek a human being to make us happy. Furthermore, whatever we depend upon for our happiness will wind up controlling us. If we believe that we need a human spouse to be satisfied, then people, rather than God, will dictate our lives.
God is in control of everything, but He does not intervene just to make our lives easy. He had no intention of making a woman magically appear and fall in love with me. Instead, God wanted to use His power to mature me into someone who would initiate sacrificial love towards other people. I wanted to get love, while God was teaching me to give love.
The Freedom to Love
Likewise, God is working in your life to help you meet and love other people. However, you make the final choice as to whom you accept and whom you reject. When you interact with another person, you have the freedom to decide which direction your relationship will take. You can choose to become romantic, just be friends, or end your time together and separate. In addition, the other person has a decision in the matter, which means he can influence the outcome. Consequently, a relationship will not develop unless both of you decide to love each other. On the other hand, if you or the other person make selfish decisions, your relationship may crumble.
The desire for marriage is a fair request, but the consequences of living in a fallen world can prevent people from reaching that goal. For instance, you can pursue someone romantically, but that individual may choose to ignore you, a crisis or illness could hinder you, or that person may decide to leave you. The sins of humanity create numerous barriers to good relationships.
Yet, why is life so hard sometimes? Why doesn’t God use His power to protect us from pain? Actually, God is at work, but in a different way than some of us realize.
God uses His sovereign power to encourage people to love each other, but He also allows us to make selfish choices that can tear us apart. God permits calamity so that we can experience His greatest gift ? a free will. Without free will, you and I would be robots or lifeless, stuffed animals. Fortunately, God limits His power to let us make our own choices in life. Does your free will nullify God’s omnipotence? No, as Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord.” God is so powerful that He can allow you to choose and still work the outcome for His glory.
Why is free will so important? God wants you to enjoy true love, and true love cannot exist without a choice. If you were forced to love God or another person, then love would disappear, and you would be under manipulation. Free will is the key ingredient to true love.
I recognized the importance of this truth when I couldn’t get a date for my junior high school prom. I had asked several girls, but they all turned me down. Four days before the big dance, however, a friend told me about a girl, named Tiffany, who needed a date. Frankly, I wasn’t attracted to her, but I asked her anyway, because she was my only option.
During the prom, Tiffany and I attempted to be cordial, but it became obvious that neither of us had an interest in each other. We didn’t talk during dinner, we didn’t want to dance as the band played, and we didn’t smile as our pictures were taken. Most of the evening, we sat in silence and stared dreamily at the students whom we really liked. Through that ordeal, I learned that love cannot exist unless both parties freely choose to be together.
Therefore, finding an earthly spouse will not occur through demanding God to miraculously bring someone to your doorstep. Marriage is not a predetermined process that happens mysteriously. You will get frustrated if you believe that God mystically pairs people together. If God predetermines marriage, then why doesn’t He stop divorce? Instead, God lets us make the decision to love or the decision to leave.
The Choice to Love
God brings people across your path and encourages you to love them, but He lets you manage your relational responses. Thus, marriage revolves around deliberately making choices to love another person. You can improve your opportunities for romance by getting out and choosing to sacrificially love people. Or, you can opt for selfish or reclusive behavior and diminish your relational prospects. The quality of your social life hinges on the choices you make.
Does God promise you a spouse? Yes, as the bride of Jesus Christ. Does God promise you an earthly spouse? No, because finding a husband is a process, in which two people decide to sacrifice themselves for each other’s benefit. So, don’t let the goal of earthly marriage control your life. Otherwise, you will become miserable, because you cannot control the future or free will of other people.
God wants your spiritual marriage to be your heart’s primary source of love and acceptance. Earthly relationships are the avenues to express His love to others. The more you love other people, the more you increase opportunities for an intimate relationship to develop. God may not orchestrate a passionate romance on earth, but He promises a life of passion to enjoy with Him.
Use the following questions to consider if your desire for marriage has become a demand:
- Am I dating to find someone who can make me feel better about myself?
- Can I feel content and thankful to God in my singleness?
- Am I cynical about relationships with the opposite sex?
- Am I afraid of the possibility of never getting married?
- Is the love of Jesus Christ enough for me?
If your desire for marriage has turned into a demand, find encouragement by meditating on these verses: Philippians 4:6-13; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
Copyright © 2005 Rob Eagar, Used by Permission.
Rob Eagar is the author of “Dating with Pure Passion” and speaks full-time to over 10,000 singles and young adults each year. His message has been featured nationally on the CBS Early Show, CNN Radio, and The Los Angeles Times. Rob resides with his wife, Ashley, in Atlanta, GA, where they encourage single adults at North Point Community Church. For more details, visit www.RobEagar.com.[schemaapprating]