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Understanding True Love series
Five specific things that will greatly improve your chances of having a successful marriage.
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Lesson 16: Choosing Wisely
Next to your decision to take Jesus Christ as your Savior, the most important decision you can make is the choice of a life partner.
Some people prefer not to marry. That is certainly an acceptable choice, but most people choose to marry.
Getting married is easy. Having a happy and successful marriage is not easy. You do not just “luck” into it. There are some definite things you can do that will greatly improve your chances of having a successful marriage. Here are five things:
- Understand Biblical marriage.
- Become the “right” person.
- Look to God to give you the right mate.
- Choose wisely.
- Seek God’s blessing on your engagement.
Understand Biblical Marriage
Marriage is one of the most important events in any person’s life. It marks the entrance into a whole new way of life as two people blend their lives into one.
Biblical marriage is a lifetime commitment. It is a serious thing for a man and woman to solemnly vow before God and families and friends that they will love and cherish each other until death parts them.
God takes vows seriously. God says: “When you make a vow, you must keep it.” God has no pleasure in those who make vows and break them. In His word, God says, “I hate divorce...” (Malachi 2:16).
You will take a big step toward a successful marriage if both of you agree that marriage is for life and that divorce is not an option for you. Jesus said,
“…What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).
There will be problems in any marriage, but there is a big advantage when both husband and wife know that they are committed to each other for life. It provides a security and freedom in which they can work out their problems without the threat of divorce. The word “divorce” should NEVER be used as a weapon in an argument.
Become the "right" person
Most young people spend a lot of time wondering if they will ever find the right person to marry. This is important, but it takes two “right” people to make a happy marriage.
It is just as important for you to become the right person as it is for you to find the right person. Here are some things that you can do to prepare yourself for marriage:
- Establish a personal relationship with God.
If you are not a Christian, the most important thing you can do to prepare yourself for marriage is to establish a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. When you become a Christian, God’s Holy Spirit comes to live in you. The Bible says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the qualities that make a home a little bit of heaven on earth.
You may be a Christian, but do you have a daily personal relationship with Christ? Do you read God’s Word each day? Are you growing in the Lord? Are you faithful in your local church?
If you truly love the Lord and delight yourself in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart. The Bible says,
“Delight yourself also in the Lord; and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
- Learn unselfish love.
A big part of “becoming marriageable” is learning unselfish love. As we have said, God has given us our home as the best place in which to learn this kind of love. You may think that those in your family are hard to get along with, but this is the very place for you to learn the unselfish, sacrificial love that is so necessary to a happy home. So begin now to thank the Lord for putting you where you are.
- Learn to be happy as a single person.
It is natural and normal for a young person to long for a mate, but you need to learn to be content as a single person. Every young person needs to know that marriage is NOT the answer to a single person’s loneliness. If you do not learn to be content as a single person, you will not be content as a married person.
Millions of people who are married are still lonely and unsatisfied. They sought love and fulfillment from another person and were disappointed.
God wants you to learn to be content as a single person. To rush into marriage with the wrong person because you are panicking at the thought of being single the rest of your life is one of the most tragic mistakes that you can ever make.
The secret of being content is knowing God’s love. His love can fully satisfy you. Set your affections on Him. Love Him with all your heart. Read Psalm 91, especially the last three verses, and see what God promises to do for the person who sets his love on Him.
Look to God to give you the right mate
If you are a Christian, God is far more concerned about whom you marry than you are. In His Word, God says that the very hairs of your head are numbered! If God cares enough about you to keep up with the exact number of hairs you have on your head, you can be sure that He is concerned about whom you will marry.
Marriage is serious business—it is a lifetime commitment. God knows how important marriage is. He knows that marrying the wrong person can ruin your life.
If it is God’s will for you to be married, God has the right person for you. But God does not automatically cause you to marry the right person.
A Christian may become infatuated with the wrong person just like anybody else. Often, because the Christian wants to marry this person, he or she can see all kinds of wonderful “signs” that God is leading them to marry. He forgets that Satan is a great matchmaker! Satan loves to arrange circumstances that cause a believer to marry the wrong person.
Dr. James Dobson, noted Christian counselor, says, “Anyone who believes that God guarantees a successful marriage to every Christian is in for a shock.” Dr. Dobson relates the following story:
“A young man whom I was counseling once told me that he awoke in the middle of the night with the strong impression that God wanted him to marry a young lady whom he had dated only a few times.
“The next morning he called her and relayed the message which God had supposedly sent him during the night. The girl figured that she should not argue with God, and she accepted the proposal. They have now been married for seven years and have struggled for survival since their wedding day!”
Remember, God is vitally interested in your choice of a mate. He wants to guide you in this all-important decision.
You are to look to God to guide you in the choice of a mate, and you are to use the good sense and wisdom He has given you. Here are some things that will help you make the right choice:
- Know what you are looking for.
Some people think they can be happy only with the person who is the best looking, most intelligent, and most charming person in the world. Let’s face it, your chances of finding a perfect person are zero. But you can find the one who is just right for you. True love is found in the one who “completes” you—the one you feel belongs to you.
If you want your marriage to be the thrilling and happy experience that God intends it to be, make sure that you are a Christian and the one you marry is also a Christian. Many people do not understand what it means to be a Christian. They think that anyone who goes to church, says he or she is a Christian, and tries to live a decent life is a Christian. This is not so.
According to the Bible, a Christian is one who has seen that he is a sinner and has taken Jesus Christ as his Savior. There is no middle ground—either a person has received Christ or he has not. The Bible says,
“He that has the Son has life; and he that does not have the Son of God has not life” (1 John 5:12).
It is never God’s will for a Christian to marry a non-Christian. Any Christian who deliberately disobeys the Lord’s plain command and dates and marries a non-Christian can expect serious consequences.
- “But what if I don’t know if he is a Christian?”
If he is someone that you know well and you are not sure he is a Christian, he is probably not a Christian. At least he is not the kind you would want to consider as a mate.
It is not enough just to look for a Christian. You need to look for one who has truly committed his life to Jesus Christ—one who has made Christ the center of his life.
Both husband and wife need to see the importance of giving Christ His rightful place in their lives and in their home. The Bible says,
“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it…” (Psalm 127:1).
- Beware of physical intimacy.
Physical intimacy, or “petting,” stirs up sexual passions which “blind” those involved. This has caused many couples to make a lifetime mistake. They married, thinking that they had real love but then discovered too late that all they had was sexual attraction. Do not make this mistake.
Satan offers short-term thrills that leave you with long-term regrets. When we obey God, He gives us long-term happiness with no regrets.
- Be sure you really know each other.
We can all be great actors—especially when we are trying to impress someone. Strange as it may seem, it is possible to date a person for several years, get married, and then find out that you did not really know the person you married.
Dr. Ray Short says,
“For years I have made a bold suggestion to students: No couple should marry until they’ve spent at least one weekend camping together—properly chaperoned, of course. You may learn more from one camp-out than you can from a dozen dates where each of you is on your best behavior. Find out how he or she reacts to a tough problem.”
To avoid the mistake of marrying someone you do not really know, spend quality time with each other in different situations.
Play games together. You may discover a streak of selfishness in a person while playing games—something you did not know was there. Is he a poor loser? Does she pout and smolder when things don’t go her way? Does he tease her unmercifully and then get angry when the teasing is directed toward him?
Work together. See how that person reacts under various conditions. Does he stay at a job and complete it or give up when he runs into problems? Is he cheerful under difficult circumstances? Is he considerate of others?
Think together. Get into some deep discussions to find out what each of you thinks about important matters. What priorities does this person have in life? Does he handle money wisely? What are his goals in life?
Worship together. You should be able to see the qualities of a sincere lover of God in this person. Is his faith the real thing or just “put on” to impress people?
A young wife mourned because her husband could not conduct family worship. She confided her disappointment to her pastor. “Did you pray together during your courtship?” the pastor asked. She admitted they had not. “I guess I knew, down deep, that Art was not a strong Christian. I mentally endowed him with qualities he did not have.”
The strongest and most lasting relationship between two people is one in which both are Christians, both are growing spiritually, and both are intent on following God and doing His will. As you and your beloved draw closer to God, you draw closer to each other. This is love at its very best!
- Esteem one another.
There is one all-important quality which your relationship must have: You must esteem each other. To esteem a person means to highly respect that person—to place a high value upon that person.
In a happy marriage, there is mutual esteem between husband and wife. Each respects and values the other highly.
- Do not choose too soon.
Again we want to emphasize the fact that time is your best friend in determining if you are really meant for each other. Do not rush into marriage. According to statistics, the best time for men to marry is between the ages of 27 and 31; for women, the best age is around 25.
Take all the time you need to be sure you choose the right person, but do not become engaged until you are prepared to marry in the near future. A long courtship and a short engagement is better than the other way around. If you have to wait longer than a year to get married, then wait to become engaged.
Seek God's blessing on your engagement
It is a thrilling time when you find the right person and you are engaged. But this is also a dangerous time in that you face special temptations.
Many couples who have avoided sex while dating often begin having sex when they are engaged. “After all,” they reason, “we plan to get married. If we take care not to be discovered and avoid pregnancy, why should we wait?”
This is wrong reasoning. An engagement is NOT marriage. Engagements are often broken. You may or may not marry the person you are engaged to.
If you break up, having had sex will make it all the more painful. And how will you feel when you meet your “one and only” later on? How will you tell him or her? What if he or she finds out about it from someone else? One thing is sure—you will be sorry you did not keep yourself for the one with whom you are to spend the rest of your life.
Suppose you do get married. Your honeymoon is supposed to be the most thrilling time of your life. But it will not be for you. Sex before marriage has destroyed the beauty and the wonder of the marriage bed.
If you engage in sex before marriage, you will discover that it causes problems and detracts from your full enjoyment of the sexual relationship with your mate after you are married.
Just as a computer is programmed by the things you put into it, we are “programmed” by the feelings that are associated with the things we do. First impressions are especially powerful and long remembered. The feelings you have when you do something for the first time are indelibly impressed on your mind.
When you engage in sex before marriage, there will be feelings of guilt, fear and loss of self-esteem. This is true for both partners, but especially true for women. They feel guilty because they know they are doing something wrong. There is loss of self-esteem because they are not living up to their high ideals. And there is fear because of the possibility of two things: (1) becoming pregnant or (2) getting caught in the act of sex.
Whether you are engaged or not, each time you have sex, you will feel some degree of guilt, fear and loss of self-esteem. Whether you realize it or not, you are being “programmed” to associate sex with these bad feelings.
Now suppose you get married. Once you are married, the relationship is legal. Now there is no reason to have those bad feelings when you have sex. So on your honeymoon you can forget all about guilt, fear and shame and begin to freely enjoy perfect, uninhibited sex…right???
WRONG!!! You will discover that those feelings of guilt, fear and shame are still there when you have sex. You have been “programmed” to associate those bad feelings with sex, and every time you have sex, those feelings of fear, guilt and shame will come back to haunt you.
Even after many years of marriage, you will still be unable to give yourself fully and freely to your mate. This is a terrible price to pay for a few moments of premarital sex.
If you want God’s blessing on your marriage, do not become involved sexually before you are actually married.
God's way is beautiful
“Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
A satisfying marriage with someone you love deeply is one of the richest gifts God can ever give you. If you think you have found your life partner, guard the sacredness of your relationship as you would guard a priceless treasure, because that is exactly what it is.
Purity before marriage prepares you for a beautiful wedding. As you stand before a holy God and commit yourself to your life partner, you will realize as never before that your virginity is the most priceless gift you could offer to your beloved. This is true for both guys and girls. If you have kept yourself pure, you will be so glad that you saved this priceless gift for the one with whom you will spend the rest of your life.
When the time comes for you to give yourselves to each other in sexual love, there will be a complete and total self-giving without any guilt, fear or shame. You will understand as never before that God’s will and your highest good are indeed one and the same thing. God always desires what is best for us.
As the two of you become one flesh, you will be aware of God’s approval. You are fulfilling that which He planned for marriage and God will take pleasure in it. Two of His children are experiencing total love in all the beauty, fervor and purity that God intended for them.
Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone...to have a deep, intimate relationship with someone...to be loved thoroughly and exclusively. Imagine God saying to you:
“You must first be satisfied, fulfilled, and content with being loved by Me alone. Only by having an intensely personal and unique relationship with Me alone, will you be capable of having the perfect human relationship that I have planned for you.
“I want you to have the best. Please allow Me to bring it to you. You just keep trusting Me, expecting the greatest things…keep experiencing the satisfaction that I am.
“Do not worry. Do not look around at the things others have gotten or that I have given them. Do not look at the things you think you want. Just keep looking to Me, or you will miss what I want to show you.
“Then, when you are ready, I will surprise you with a love far more wonderful than you would dream of. I am working even at this moment to have you and the one I have for you ready at the same time.
“Until you are both satisfied exclusively with Me, and the life I have prepared for you, you will not be able to experience the love that exemplifies your relationship with Me.
“Dear one, I want you to have this most wonderful love…I want you to see in the flesh a picture of your relationship with Me, and to enjoy materially and concretely the everlasting union of beauty, perfection, and love that I offer you with Myself.
"Know that I love you perfectly and completely."
I AM GOD.
Building a relationship to last a lifetime is no easy task.
I have experienced two kinds of dating relationships—one which I approached in a way typical of our generation’s mentality, and one built on the firm foundation of God’s principles...
My first love was a guy I’ll call Sam. Sam had been a Christian from childhood, and he and his family were responsible for my conversion. Beyond that, only two things were right about our relationship: We were both Christians, and he was a guy and I was a girl.
Because our relationship was based on the cornerstone of physical attraction we went through five years of the typical ups and downs, marked by jealousy and selfishness. Had we not been so emotionally involved, we would have broken up much sooner. We were miserable without each other. I had known Sam for so long that facing the reality of no future relationship with him was like adjusting to divorce or his death...
Without searching for a new relationship, I found myself one summer in a car pool 40 minutes a day with a guy named Stacy. I tried to make normal conversation, but after about two weeks I decided that I was very boring or Stacy was a recluse.
One day, though, I mentioned raquetball, and he began to talk nonstop. I was so amazed that when he began to ask questions about the length of my racquet and which shots I preferred, I completely made up my answers. I had never seen a racquetball in my life!
As soon as I got out of the car, I was stabbed with the realization that I had actually lied and would be faced with the humble admission of the truth the next day. Somehow, though that confession broke the ice, and we spent a delightful summer getting to know each other in our daily 40–minute car ride.
From that point on, we spent hours talking together in person and then over long distance. Because our relationship was marked by the lack of physical involvement (not lack of physical attraction!), we got to know each other’s goals, dreams and background. In fact, I felt I knew Stacy better than I had ever known any other guy before—Christian or non-Christian because I knew more about his total personality. My overwhelming emotion at that point was one of respect which eventually melted into genuine love...
When we married a year later we were both convinced that God had given us that time together and that our relationship was His doing. Only after marriage could I fully appreciate the significance of it.