I’ve noticed an emerging question that has arisen in relation to how Christian singles should expect God to move in providing a spouse. The question at the center of it is this – is one person who is uniquely designed for us or are there multiple possibilities? A compatible question is how do we encounter potential mates either way. Do we sit around and wait for God to show us “the one” or do we acknowledge that there is no such thing as “the one” but rather are a numerous amount of possibilities? On the surface, this sounds like a legitimate question because it will determine who we should expect God to move.
On one hand, if you believe that there is one person who is uniquely designed for you, the tendency will be to sit around and wait for God to bring that person to you. No need to engage in any seeking activity because God will “tell” you when you encounter that person. Therefore, you will not necessarily be involved in a active pursuit of a mate.
On the other hand, believing that there is no such thing as “the one” will place a stronger burden on engaging in activity to meet potential mates. You will be open to a number of possibilities that suit your values and criteria. The sides have seemed to be polarized as if it has to be one or the other.
I’m going to suggest that this creates an unnecessary dichotomy about how singles who desire marriage find a mate. If you are single and desiring marriage, the first criteria is understanding what marriage is from a biblical perspective. Paul’s description in Eph. 5:21-33 provides a good measuring stick, that Christian marriage should reflect something of Christ and his bride. That means a certain gospel-centeredness should exist, with Christ as the foundation. If you meet someone and can’t agree on the very essential point of who Christ is and who we are in relation to him, that’s not a good foundation. If that person does not see him or herself in need of a Savior who cleanses us with his work and word, that’s pretty much very shaky ground. This also should provoke us to check our motives when thinking about marriage. I thought this piece from Desiring God was helpful.
So when considering marriage, its first understanding what marriage is from God’s perspective. But I think it helps to know that the desire for marriage is not without warrant. If God said “it is not good for man to be alone” prior to the Fall, how much more is it true post-fall. It never ceases to amaze me when Christians disdain the idea that we actually might “need” others. I think God designed it that way and its really ok.
But getting to the question of if there is one or more than one, I think it helps to consider how God orchestrates his universe. I have a pretty high view of God’s sovereignty, so its no surprise that I appreciate this quote from G.I. Williamson’s commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith 5:1;
The ways of God are mysterious to us, and far above us, no doubt. Yet we are much aided if we keep such Scripture teachings as these firm in mind: (1) God made everything. How then can it be a marvel if he is able to exercise absolute control over that which he made? (2) God has perfect foreknowledge (Acts 15:18; 1 Peter 1:2). It is not difficult to see how this contributes immeasurably to an effective control of things! (3) God is omnipotent. He is able to do what he will at any place and at any time. He is free to ‘inject’ into the world supernatural power drastically ‘changing’ existing conditions. (Thus his miracles!). (4) God is free. He is not prevented from doing all his holy will. Such considerations as these do not give us the knowledge of how God controls all things, but they do evidence the fact that he is able to do so.
We will never fully resolve the tension that exists between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. But I think it helps to know that he is omnipotent and omniscient. He can intervene in any situation and bring about results according to his will, that we have also prayed for. But here’s the kicker, he does that as we go about our life, make choices and engage in the business of living our life. It’s not an either/or situation, but a both/and.
If we have before us a good foundation for what marriage should be and we set appropriate standards and boundaries accordingly, then that creates the criteria for which we should consider a potential mate. Whether there is one person who can fit that role or twenty doesn’t really matter. The fact is you have to meet someone and that can happen in a variety of ways.
If we trust God with our salvation, it seems to me that we should trust him with our choice for a mate should that possibility arise. Avoiding extremes helps. The person who expects God to “tell” them who is the one is probably just as extreme as the one who thinks that God completely leaves that choice up to us and we can just pick and choose.
Ultimately, we should trust the Lord for what is best for us. His best could just be one possibility or many possibilities and also be the kind of person we would have never considered. Since he is omniscient, he does know us better than we know ourselves. I think its ok if we trust him to intervene and work how he wants. Wouldn’t we do that with other areas in our lives? If we seeking a career job, we would have certain criteria in mind. While there may be a number of possibilities, I think its safe to trust the Lord for the best job that will maximize our talents and contributions. And so why would we not have the same attitude in thinking about marriage, regardless of how many possibilities might exist?
But when we create these either/or categories, the tendency is to think that the ones who wait will never marry or the ones who proactively pursue will turn up a mate. There is no guarantee that the single who goes on dating sites or multiple dates will turn up a mate. Nor does waiting for God to bring someone preclude that God moves that way.
What we fail to realize by creating this dichotomy is that God can move in a number of different ways that are uniquely designed for each situation. I have met those who have met their mates just going about the course of their life, and in some cases, not really looking. They just “happened” to be in the same place at the same time. Others have met their mate through some type of proactive search. There really is no formula.
So wait. Go on dating sites. Don’t go on dating sites. Place yourself in situations where there’s greater exposure and possibility of meeting people. Leave it alone until it happens. There may be one person just right for you or there may be many. In all of it, ask God for wisdom and trust in his providence and plans. Because the question that really matters is if it could be a union that honors Christ.