“There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not”, the fourth being “the way of a man with a maid”, Prov. 30. 18, 19. The inspired writer thus touches on a subject which is highly important in the lives of most of us. Briefly he lifts the subject to its true place, far above the sad misconceptions of a world away from God. Our life-long relationship with the partner of God’s choice is something wonderful, and it is something about which we cannot afford to make a mistake.
It will not come as a surprise to you to be told that most people get married. Indeed, this has been God’s intention from the beginning. Relatively few remain unmarried, and some of these only do so because they have deliberately denied themselves in order to serve the Lord more effectively. Most of us marry at an early age, which could well mean that over two-thirds of our lives will be lived in the married state. Again, from most marriages come children, upon whom their parents have a lasting influence for good or bad. In one sense the home from which we come stays with us through life. When setting up a home, therefore, we have a great responsibility to ensure that we know the Lord’s will about it. How, you may ask, can we know? The Lord never fails us. and even in this rather difficult sphere of life He will show us the way if we are prepared to trust Him.
The events which lead up to marriage usually follow a well established pattern. Acquaintanceship develops into friendship which in turn strengthens into love. This leads to a period of courtship and eventually to engagement and marriage. It is generally the early stages of this sequence which lead to problems. I was never happy to see or take part in passing flirtations. Frequently we find that a young couple will separate themselves from their group will become entangled for a few weeks, then will break up and go on to form different associations just as quickly. This is neither truly satisfying to the couple nor honouring to the Lord. I believe that the right way is to make many firm friendships within a group of young people and wait upon the Lord to develop and deepen a relationship within that context. But which group?, you may ask. The kind and character of the marriage you eventually make will be a d rect result of where you find your partner. My firm advice is that you associate with young people who have a spiritual devotion for the Lord and who, like yourself, are in happy assembly fellowship, attending all the assembly meetings and rallies. Samson went down to a place called Timnath, in the land of the Philistines, and there saw a woman he wanted as his wife. The flirtation was unsatisfactory from the start and his parents were very unhappy about it. Yet his reply was, “She pleaseth me well”, Judges 14. 1-3. It was the same selfish determination to have his own way despite all warning and entreaty which later cost him his testimony and ultimately his life. The likelihood of your forming a relationship honouring to the Lord will be far greater if you form your friendships among spiritually minded young people.
Should you feel that the Lord might be drawing you closer to one particular person in the group, how are you to know if this is the Lord’s will? I suggest that you ask yourself three simple questions.
Are you both interested in the same kind of things? Are you spiritually compatible? The influence of your partner in the marriage bond on spiritual choices and commitment can be very productive for God as you serve Him together. On the other hand, it can prove a disaster area if you are always pulling different ways.
Often the Lord confirms guidance through the words of others. Do not neglect the wise words of caring parents or spiritual elders, who only want to see you happy in the Lord Confide in them; their advice is worth careful consideration, Prov. 2. 1-5.
Well, what do you do when you are both satisfied that the Lord would have you commit yourselves to one another in a serious way? Let’s start with a very important “Don’t”. Don’t imitate the world around you: their moral standards fall far below what God expects of His children. Always remember that the believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, 1 Cor. 6. 19. The physical intimacies of love must be kept until after marriage. Never do anything with your boyfriend or girlfriend which you know you would regret if. in the event, you later came to marry somebody else. Affection is not for public display on street corners or in dark alleyways! In courtship, as in other matters, we are not to be conformed to the world but transformed in our minds. Rom. 12. 2.
The positive aspect of Christian life is neatly summed up in Proverbs 3. 5-9: “Trust in the Lord”, “Fear the Lord”, “Honour the Lord”. In courtship and in marriage it is essential to give the Lord His rightful place. Share every step of the way with Him; nobody else cares for us as much. My wife and I have kept a record over the years of many of the simple overrulings and provisions of the Lord for us. Those of our early married years are particularly precious to us. We saw the Lord in the everyday happenings of our lives. Be assured, He never denies the best to those who desire to please Him the most.
One final word. In courtship and marriage, regulate your lives around the activities of your local assembly. I cannot stress too much how rewarding this will be both for you and for the Lord’s people.