What qualities should single Christians look for in a godly spouse—and where should they go to find someone who meets these characteristics? Today, Burk Parsons provides biblical counsel for Christians desiring to marry.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: This week I’m joined by Ligonier Teaching Fellow, Dr. Burk Parsons. Dr. Parsons, how does a Christian go about finding a godly spouse?
DR. BURK PARSONS: Well, that is a question that many have answered over the years, and I want to be very careful to give some helpful suggestions as to how Christians can find a godly spouse. I think many go about it many wrong ways, especially in our day. And I think that we simply need wisdom and principles that are biblically rooted to help guide us and guide men and women in finding a godly spouse.
I think one of the concerns I have among many men and women, both younger and older, is that they worry about it too much. They become anxious about finding a spouse. And I think that they need to take their anxieties and turn to the Lord. I think they need to take their concerns and worries—Will they get married? Will they ever get married? Will God ever provide someone for them?—and they need to take those burdens and those anxieties and cast them upon the Lord.
And the language that Peter uses there in taking our anxieties and casting them upon the Lord really means that we are leaving them with the Lord: that we are casting them upon Him and putting it to God to answer according to His own will and His own timing. And so, that means that we need to trust Him. We need to trust Him with our future. And if a man or a woman is seeking a spouse, that they would really trust God and His sovereignty and His care for them, and His timing in providing a godly spouse.
But it also means that in going to the Lord, that we can continue to pray to God. If a man or a woman believes and feels—and I use the word feeling intentionally—feels called to be married, then they ought to pray about it. They ought to go to the Lord, and they ought to keep praying and keep asking and keep seeking and keep knocking. It’s the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man or woman that avails much. And the Lord wants us to come to Him. And if you desire to be married, then go to the Lord and ask Him for a godly spouse.
And also, as we look to the Lord and look to His Word, He tells us to seek godly counselors—not just one person, but a multitude of counselors. And that doesn’t just mean a multitude of people or a multitude of friends. It means counselors, those who are experienced, those who are wise, those who’ve gone before us. And that typically means older men and women that we know: going to them, listening to them, learning from them, watching their way of life, looking at their own lives, whether they’re single or married. Looking to those men and women that we know in our communities and our churches, in our families, that are humble, that are godly, that have had good marriages. Not just that they’ve remained married, but that their marriages have really reflected grace and love and joy. And one of the best ways to see that is if you can look at the woman, the wife in that marriage, and see if she’s genuinely happy. Not just acting happy, but truly, genuinely content because her husband loves her, takes care of her, and treats her well.
And so, too many men and women, both young and older, I think, look too often to Hollywood and the examples of Hollywood. And what we see both in movies, in shows, and even in many books that give us this unrealistic, romanticized view of how people fall in love. And everyone is sort of looking for that Hollywood moment when they meet someone. Now, while that can certainly happen from time to time—we hear stories of Christians meeting one another in a dramatic way, in a tremendous story. But we ought not look to that as our example. We need to look to the Word of God and the examples of good marriages in our churches.
We also need to really seek the counsel of our own mother and father, especially if they’re Christians. We may not always agree, or I should say we may not always think we agree at first, but we really need to seek their counsel. Most often times, unless a father is being completely pharisaical and unbiblically legalistic in his criteria for a husband or a wife for his son or daughter, men and women would do very well to heed their father’s instruction and wisdom.
And I’ve found that generally speaking, nine times out of ten, that if a father or a mother is concerned about a potential spouse, you should have reason to be concerned as well. And we really need to seek the approval of our father, and even the father of the bride, or even the father of the groom in some cases, to really seek approval. And even if that means we need to wait, even if that means we need to give them more time and we need to be more patient, then so be it. And there’s a great deal of accountability and headship that we need to understand that God has put in place in seeking a spouse.
One of the things I have commended to young men and women in particular over the years is that in looking for a spouse, they should maybe begin by making a list. It sounds kind of silly perhaps, but making a list of qualities they’re looking for in a spouse. Make it as long as they want. And then after they’ve made that long list of the qualities that they’re looking for in a potential spouse, then go to Scripture, search the Scriptures, pertinent passages that teach us about marriage in a godly man or a godly woman. And then pare down that list, narrow that list, according to biblical principles.
And what most people find is that list goes from being very long to being actually quite short. And when we use the biblical principles, the biblical criteria, for what we are to be looking for in a spouse, I’ve found that people really do find a spouse much more easily. And if they’re praying to God and they’re asking God to conform them to the type of person they should be for their future spouse, then God will change their hearts, God will change their minds, and God will conform them to the type of spouse that God has in store for them.
And a lot of people aren’t willing to do that. They look at themselves like, “Well, I’m great. I’m perfect. I’m just the man or woman I need to be.” When often, something needs to change in us. And I’ve found that oftentimes that the sort of criteria that people think they are looking for in a future spouse is sometimes the opposite of what they should be looking for. And we’re looking for qualities such as humility and true godliness. We’re looking for someone who is not all about themselves but about others. We’re looking for a loving person. We’re looking for a giving person, a gracious person, a person who loves the Lord and loves His church. I think that we’ll find that there are a lot many more people that we could, in fact, marry—that God would have for us that young men and young women could marry—than they perhaps think.
And then the question, of course, is just where do we find a godly spouse? Well, we find them in the church. We find godly men and women who are a part of the church. Not just visiting the church but participating in the life of the church. They’re in worship regularly. They’re part of the community of the church. That doesn’t mean they’re at everything every time the doors are open, but they’re a part of the family of the church. They’re committed members of that church. They’re not just hopping from one church to another, looking for a singles small group. They are really committed to the whole family of the church. Also, among our family and friends, I think it’s important that we let that... I think it’s important that young men and women let their friends and family know that they’re hoping for a spouse, and they’re praying for a spouse.
Also, I have to say, Nathan, that I really do believe that God has blessed the church in many ways with the connections that can be made online. And I am not against, in any way, people meeting others and even their potential future spouse online through various services. I’m not commending one over the other, but I do think it’s important that Christians are very careful, very discerning, and they also do not go to meet people alone—that they meet with friends, they meet in groups, they meet with others in their community, so to help them be accountable and to give them wisdom and discernment. We need each other. We need a community. We need our friends, our family, our fathers, our mothers, our grandparents, in helping to give us wisdom. And that’s how I think a young man or an older man or woman would do well in going about finding a godly spouse.
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