January 5, 2015

God Didn’t (and Won’t) Tell You to Marry Your Spouse

Gary Thomas — 

God Didn't Tell You Who to Marry

“It’s been miserable, Gary,” the woman confessed. “We’ve only been married for three years but it has been the worst three years of my life. My husband has just been awful. And what frustrates me so much is that God confirmed that I was supposed to marry him, ten times over.”

You could have served the bitterness in her voice to a thousand people.

In another conversation, another woman, married not just years, but decades, to a man who proved to be pathological, slipped in the same sigh and words, “But God told me to marry him.”

To these and many others who said, “God told me to marry him/her,” I want to cry out, “No, He didn’t.”

How can I say that?

My response is simple: How can you say the opposite? There is nothing in Scripture that suggests there is just one person we’re ‘supposed’ to marry. Proverbs 31 urges young men to be guided by a woman’s faith and character in making their choice—there is no mention of second guessing some divine destiny. In 1 Corinthians 7, the apostle Paul tells women (widows, in particular) to seriously consider singleness, but assures them the choice of whether to get married is up to them, and then specifically says women can marry “whomever they wish” as long as their potential husband is ‘in the Lord.’ (v. 39) If the Bible explicitly says, ‘it’s your call whether or not to get married’ (a sentiment Jesus echoes when he says some “choose” to become eunuchs—celibate—in Matthew 19:12, with emphasis on the word “choose”) and it’s entirely your choice as to who to marry, why should your subjective feelings and reasoning override living by the truth of Scripture?

There is, quite frankly, nothing in Scripture that ever tells us it is our sworn duty to marry one particular person. Whether we marry, and who we marry, are spoken of in Scripture as part of God’s “permissive will,” something He allows us to choose.

Is it possible God has told a couple to get married? Look, I’m not going to put God in a box. I can’t say “He can do this but He can never do that” (and thus I’m admitting the title of this blogpost is a bit provocative to make a point). All I can say is that the clearest scriptural teaching makes marriage our choice—both as to whether we get married and to whom we marry. Presuming that some mystical leaning you’ve received overrides a clear biblical teaching is always risky and often foolish (regardless of how many times God seems to subjectively “confirm” this call; after all, God objectively said something very different in Scripture).

Why does this matter?

To move forward, we have to own up to our choices—why we made them and how to be responsible in the face of them. To a woman who was abused by her dad and then married an abusive husband, I’d say, with a pastoral heart, “You were deeply sinned against and hurt. The kind of man you felt ‘comfortable’ with, because of your upbringing, wasn’t good for you, so you chose a man who continued your father’s practices. Psychologically, that’s perfectly explainable, but let’s discuss how the grace of Christ can redeem your situation, help you evaluate what the right thing to do now is, and help you make better choices in the future.” I would never tell a woman who had been abused by her dad that God’s “perfect will” was for her to also marry a violent husband. There is nothing about the biblical doctrine of God’s providence that demands that application, unless you slip all the way over to determinism.

Far healthier, spiritually, than to sit in resentment against God, is to say to yourself, “I chose this man/woman. It might or might not help to explore why. But since I made the choice of my own free will, I bear certain responsibilities for the commitment I have made.” Then God becomes your ally, not your enemy, in helping you face the future. Instead of, “God, why did you lead me into this mess,” you’ll pray, “God, help lead me out of the mess I’ve made.”

That’s a huge difference, spiritually speaking.

On another level, the virtues of kindness, faithfulness and goodness demand that if I convinced someone to marry me, or agreed to marry someone, knowing it was a lifetime commitment, knowing it would be beyond complicated to dissolve the union, I need to step up to face the lifetime consequences. That means not just staying married but staying engaged in the marriage, working to make it the best for this person that I can.

If you’re a single person reading this, I implore you to avoid trying to “second guess” God’s will as to who you “should” marry and instead look for the character qualities in a spouse the Bible exalts. What I’m saying may not sound very romantic, but please realize that the consequences to living by a sentimental romanticism are real—and in the case of marriage, can be long-lasting. I just received an email last week, saying, “Sadly, I was one of those people who believed with all my heart that God has only one person for me to marry. I also believed that God would do the choosing.  I believed it was God’s will for me to marry my husband. This has had disastrous consequences. Based on all the things you outlined in The Sacred Search, my husband and I should not have gotten married.”

Here’s what I’m going to insist on: Just because you think God wants you to marry one particular person, doesn’t mean He does. And just because God doesn’t “stop” you from marrying someone doesn’t mean He agrees with you that it’s a wise decision (he didn’t “stop” a lot of people from robbing banks who are even now serving time in prison). He will never forsake you. He will be with you every second of that marriage, giving you the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to live by your decision, but He has stated in His word that it is your decision, so it is risky to assume otherwise.

Rise up to your regal calling in Christ and own your decision. Of course, seek God’s blessing, but just as much, seek His wisdom in Scripture. While the Bible is silent on how you can definitively know who you’re “supposed” to marry, it does talk about the process of making wise decisions—applying biblical principles, seeking wise counsel, being deliberate and wise in your choice, considering the future, and basing your decision on the right priorities.

As the sad e-mailer suggests, I hit this hard in my book The Sacred Search and I’d suggest if this is still not clear to you, that you check out that resource.  http://www.garythomas.com/books/sacred-search/

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394 responses to God Didn’t (and Won’t) Tell You to Marry Your Spouse

  1. Nice post. I learn something more challenging on distinct blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content off their writers and practice a little something from their store. I choose to use some with all the content in my small weblog whether you do not mind. Natually Il provide a link on your own internet weblog. Many thanks sharing.

  2. Not true:

    “House and Wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”
    – Proverbs 19:14

  3. Brother,

    I urge you to spend quiet time with the Lord and truly hear Him speak to you. Your post limits the power and ways of the Holy Spirit. Please, write with a discerning spirit and with guidance from our Father in Heaven first.

    Fellow believers, don’t be dismayed if you believe that the Lord has revealed who your spouse is. Do not be discouraged by this post if you know that the Lord has spoken to you in regards to your spouse.

    Our Father is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow and through scripture we know that He has revealed the spouses of many great men and women of God.

    Allow the Word of God to confirm what the Holy Spirit says to you. Our Father in Heaven truly does speak through His Word…after all, the Word is God.

    Brother Gary, be very careful that you do not confuse your opinions with the Truth of the Word. This post is not of the Spirit rather of your flesh, and for that I pray you find understanding and that the Lord reveals the salt of this post to you.

    Indulge in the Word of God and diligently seek after Him.

    Blessings

  4. “the kind of man you felt ‘comfortable’ with, because of your upbringing, wasn’t good for you, so you chose a man who continued your father’s practices. Psychologically, that’s perfectly explainable, but let’s discuss how the grace of Christ can redeem your situation, help you evaluate what the right thing to do now is, and help you make better choices in the future.”

    please, please tell me you’ve never said this to anyone. please repent of believing a woman. enjoys being abused and feels comfortable with abuse. she needs to make better choices? !?

    in my experience ministering to the abused, what you sometimes see is a person who was abused as a child and longs for affection. abusers don’t advertise themselves as such–they do a bait and switch. they come on very strong and very intense, you’re the only one for me, let’s get married tomorrow, hearts and candy and flowers all the way. for them, it’s a lure, not an expression of true love. for a woman who was abused instead of loved as child, it’s like her ship has come in! she falls for it, and may miss the warning signs women who had healthy parents may be more attuned to. women who are abused are heartbroken, not masochistics.

    please do what you can to alleviate your ignorance. volunteer at your local women’s shelter. check out a cry for justice. org. and please, please, apologize for what you said. it is grievous, and dangerous and condemning. you have no business blaming the abused or saying they’re drawn to abusers or comfortable with abuse. please repent.

  5. Although your article is very interestING I will say this. The scriptures tell us to lean not unto thy own understanding so this article in my opinion is your understanding and i just cant completly buy into ALL of it. Im sure that some of us ate lead the bible clearly gives us this example in Hosea 1:2 where Hosea was lead to marry a prostitute. Selfishness sets in for some of us and some are led by selfishness clearly that is a mistake no matter what that selfish decision is tied to…just food for thought…..

  6. Oh yeah Hosea and Gomer…GOD TOLD HIM TO MARRY HER AND SHE WAS A WHORE BUT GOD WAS PROVING A POINT TO US ABOUT HIM, GOD BEING MARRIED TO THE BACKSLIDER. GO READ THE ENTIRE CHAPTERS OF HOSEA STARTING ESPECIALLY CHAPTERS 1:2
    OH AND GOD WILL ALLOW DIVORCE. JEREMIAH CHAPTER 8 VERSE 10 GOD TOLD HIS HARD HEADED PRIEST BECAUSE THEY WERE DISOBEDIENT TO HIM….GOD NOT MAN BUT GOD GAVE THEIR FAMILIES, THEIR WIVES TO OTHER MEN. GO READ IT JEREMIAH CHAPTER 8:10
    OH PEOPLE PLEASE READ AND GET A REAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. NOW IF YOU SAY GOD SAID MARRY AND ALL HELL HAS BROKE LOOSE…THAT’S PROBABLY WHY, SATAN WILL FIGHT THE WILL OF GOD TO MAKE YOU THINK IT’S NOT GOD. IF YOU WANT TO DISCUSS, NOT DEBATE THIS SUBJECT THEN IF THIS SITE ALLOWS IT YOU CAN REACH ME AT
    TRUTH5763@YAHOO.COM…Pastor G.

    Blessings.

  7. Wow! Sorry but I totally disagree with you. God told me and my now hubby at separate times, before meeting, that HE GOD WAS CONNECTING US. I stopped reading your article halfway just to say…What about the Scripture, What God has joined togethet. Sorry but every body married, many God had nothing to do with. What about when God told Jeremiah that he Jeremiah would never marry because God had need of him. Wow! You need to be careful when you are speaking for God. Normally people that thinks this way never knew you could ask God’s PERFECT WILL in our lives period. Um, see if I didn’t KNOW GOD IN A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM, OR IF I DIDN’T KNOW GODS WORD, YOU WOULD HAVE ME HEMMED UP. People, please pray and seek God on everything pertaining to your life. Yes Paul made some comments about marriage but he was telling you what to expect if you marry, but also he was saying for those who had a sexual challenge needing it, burning in their flesh, rather than fornication he said it’s better to marry. The Old Testament is an example but look back at the marriages that took place because God was saught in prayer. Those like myself, IF YOU KNOW THAT YOU KNOW AND GOD HAS USED NOT FOOLISH WAYS OR PEOPLE BUT WAYS OR FOLK THAT YOU NEVER SAID ANYTHING TO. ..JUST LIKE GIDEON FLEECED GOD, WE TO CAN ASK OUR FATHER AND HE WILL ANSWER YOU AND SAVE YOU A LOT OF HEARTACHE MARRYING SOMEONE WHO MESSED YOUR LIFE UP. Those of you who KNOW LIKE SOME of you here, you KNOW GOD ANSWER YOU…YOU HEED GODS VOICE AND NOT THE VOICE OF MAN. I’M going back to finish this article why, not to pick by no means but to show how easily it can be to MISS THE PERFECT WILL OF GOD. IF YOU DON’T HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, THEN GET ONE, THEN GET INTO HIS WORD, NOT MANS, AND AS HE PROMISED IN ST.JOHN CHAPTERS 14-17…HE WILL ANSWER YOU. BLESSINGS…
    PASTOR G.

  8. The Bible is our guide, no doubt, but God values our personal relationship with Him – in which case He can and will direct our path and decisions. Through faith and the Holy Spirit, He tell us what decisions to make that fit into His will. The Old Testament thrives on following a set of rules. The New Testament encourages us to have a personal, living, real-time relationship with the one, true living Father God in Heaven.

  9. On this “write up” i mean

  10. Thanks Gary.GOD Bless you and give you more insight into his Will and Purpose..it took me hours reading through all the comments on this right up..and i have learned from everyone but i still the bible as the final say on every issues.so i would want everyone to study more on the scriptural backings and trust the holyspirit to guide us into all TRUTH…GOD bless you once again gary and every1 that commented

  11. Hi Gary,

    What if you acknowledge that your marriage your decision but that decision seems to be a mistake now and you have a child. Would God support divorce in this case? Are there scriptures to support this? I was reading in James that God never gives bad things and I have interpreted this to mean he wants us to be happy.

    I unfortunately believed that God indicated that my husband was the one for me. After reading several resources I realised my husband is everything that a person should not marry. I ignored all that in preference to a prophet’s prophecy. I acknowledge my foolishness and want to leave.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    Fadzai

    • In general, I believe that we have to live by our commitments. Unless there has been unfaithfulness on the part of our spouse, or we’ve been abandoned by our spouse–and, I think you could add, there has been domestic violence so it is not safe for you to remain–then I believe the Christian response is to work to make the marriage the best it can be (even if you think you made a mistake in choosing who to marry). These are issues best discussed with a counselor and/or pastor than deliberated in a comments section, however. You deserve to talk this over with someone, not just have opinions typed in without the person doing the typing knowing all the facts.

  12. Gary,

    Thank you for this post, I actually came across it today as I am trying to figure out my current situation. Your suggestion or interpretation would be greatly appreciated.

    I met a man a year and a half ago and became a couple a few months later. After being in a relationship over a year I just can’t seem to understand why he doesn’t want to move forward in marriage with me. He just keeps saying, “I’m staying still until God tells me to move.” I have no idea what that means since he is very capable of making other decisions in his life.

    I’ve been saved for 16 years and he nearly 3. We both have successful careers, childless, love God and are active in church, just to name a few things. He says that I have greatly qualities but there are some things that are “unconfirmed” and needs to figure things out.

    After over a year and a half, I can’t possibly imagine what is the hold up and why he won’t make a decision. Also, we are both in our 30’s.

    How long is too long to wait on someone to decide to marry you?

    Your thoughts?

    • I’m not Gary…

      Anyway….You both are childless, that means you were previously married, at least one of you.

      How llong should you wait? AS long as it takes. I know a couple in their 30s who try to figure out for 4 yearsl it is a long time but there is no recipe to universal happiness.

      In many cases, time is a good ally. Impatience only leads to ….

  13. Yeah, Paul said it is better to be single altogether for a lifetime than to marry at all! Are you following this advice? Careful, if you don’t, you may not be biblical ….as Elisabeth Elliot may not be biblical because she married 3 times after being a widow.

    • As I said, you seem more in a tale than understanding exegesis of biblical texts and real life for Christians.

      Is it sin now to remarry? Or to marry at all? Or to not believe in “the One”?

  14. “There are better theologians to explain free will and the sovereignty of God and His omniscience.”

    Could you write about some of them? Or link it? Im open-minded, just can’t figure out the matter of the free will.

    “Not a man is unique for you, as the half soul of yours; the plan of God for you is unique and it may include 3 husbands in a lifetime.”

    This is not what Im trying to say, definitely 🙂 I never wrote that a man could be the half of my soul, let’s be more realistic 😉 I was just wondering if it’s possible that God really “puts into the plan” concrete, particular person which can be your husband – that it’s God’s will.

    “She was widowed twice and had 3 husbands in her life of 88 years – she died on Monday 15 june 2015. Who would you say was “”the one”””????”

    Each of them – in a particular moment of the plan. That’s my point – in the right time, the right person.
    I do not know the story of Elisabeth Elliotshe. She had 3 husbands, is it really bibilical? Im just wondering. I mean – Paul said that a widow can have another husband (the christian one) but it’s better for her to stay alone. So where is the true Truth? 🙂

    • No I can’t link them here – this is a limited space for limited discussion. do your own research on theology – it takes time and effort and study, even for smart open minded persons.

      If there is no man unique for you, then there is no “the one”.

      Is it biblical? Do you judge a person’s decisions as biblical based on how many times she remarried after being widowed?
      Yeah, Paul it is better to be single altogether than to marry at all? Are you following this advice? CAreful, if you don’t, you may not be biblial as Elisabeth Elliot may not be biblical because she married 3 times.

      Read her story, her books and her sayings online and in bookstores. Her funeral was 2 days ago.
      This way maybe you will understand what is the real Christian life, obedience, devotion, God’s will. You sound more like a tale than real Christian life.

  15. “The Bible is clear about not being yoked with non-Christians!”
    Of course it is, it was just an example. And I didnt say that anyone gets married in this case. What Im trying to say is whether it possible that God could give us a person that we dont think could be the right for us, but He arranges the “spare timing” in which we change and then – you met the person again, she and you are different, you get well together and you find out He was right. That it was just a matter of time?

    “So after all God is not omniscient, man has the power to make the truth be truth of his decisions.”
    No, He knows EVERYTHING – He knows what happens when we choose for ex. 1st, 2nd, 3rd but we put the steps Its my understanding. If he knows exactly what we are going to do (only 1scneario for our life) how for example coulde there be more than the One given person? It would mean that he planned our life from A to Z, we have no choice to do anything that is not planned, right? I dont think that it could be called free will.

    • Roxana Ileana June 19, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      There are better theologians to explain free will and the sovereignty of God and His omniscience.

      There is no such thing as the one person for you. There is “”the one plan for your life”” only which may include 3 husbands as in the case of Elisabeth Elliot, which I greatly appreciate. She was widowed twice and had 3 husbands in her life of 88 years – she died on Monday 15 june 2015. Who would you say was “”the one”””????

      Not a man is unique for you, as the half soul of yours; the plan of God for you is unique and it may include 3 husbands in a lifetime.

  16. I’ve read the whole article and most of the comments. Now it’s time for my conclusion 🙂

    I do belive that there are ‘the ones’ for us. What do I mean by it? Let’s imagine our life is like a tree – we have a root, a trunk and branches. Till some moment of our lives – we have only one way to choose (“the trunk” – as for example when we are children we do not have a great impact on our lives – our parents do). Then we start to make our own choices – we choose one branch, then this branch has its smaller branches – again we choose one of this smaller branches. Then the smaller branch has its own smaller branches -we choose one, and so on and so on. Everytime we choose the next branch – we choose just one of the possibilites – one branch and then the other smaller branch (one choice, then the other choice – but everytime we make a choice -we choose from a few, ‘alternative” possiblities). I belive that God sees the whole tree – all the branches, all the possiblites that can come in our lives. But He dosent know which particular choice (the branch) are we going to make – that is, in my opinion, our free will. God knows everything – we just choose some parts of this everything. Like He knows every single scenario for our lives but it depends on us in which one we are going be.

    Now it comes to ‘the ones’. I belive that on every branch (whichever choice we make) there is The One for us. So God knows every person that we could spend a lifetime with but everytime we make our decision – there is only one person for us (one person on each path, one person on each smaller branch). It depends on our choices which of theese the ones is going to be our The One:)
    So in some points I agree with you, but in others – I don’t.

    Still I have some doubts. You wrote about situations in which people say “I thought he/ she was The One for me, I’m sure God TOLD me this”. Let’s turn things round now. Imagine that there is one person who constatnly appears in your life. You think it CAN’T be the one, the person God has chosen for you, or what’s more – the person you want to choose, because for ex. he/she is not a Christian, you dont like some of the characters of this person etc…. but – you hear God saying “he/ she is the one for you, let me show it to you, let me show you the results, just be patient”. You keep asking “God, is it the person for me? Can we build a good mariage? I Don’t think so”. Then you still hear “give me some time, I keep working on this, I will bring this person to you in an appropriate time, let me take care of it”. Then you still keep praying “God I still dont see it, show me your words, please, I want to choose someone else”. And again – you get the appropriate words in the Bible, like “with God everything is possible” “be obedient” , extracts about marriage etc.etc. You are put in extraordinary situations connected with this person et. etc. What would you do then? Would you think that you are going insane or what? 🙂

    • PS. I’m very sorry for the misspelled words.

    • Yes, I would think I am insane.

      The Bible is clear about not being yoked with non-Christians! So whatever messages like be obedient, and I am working on this, cannot be related to me being married to an nonChristian. Period.

      Your analogy with the tree is quite a pagan one.
      “I belive that God sees the whole tree – all the branches, all the possiblites that can come in our lives. But He dosent know which particular choice (the branch) are we going to make – that is, in my opinion, our free will. God knows everything – we just choose some parts of this everything. Like He knows every single scenario for our lives but it depends on us in which one we are going be. ”

      Really? It depends on us which one it would be? So after all God is not omniscient, man has the power to make the truth be truth of his decisions.
      Not the God the Bible describes, sorry.

  17. And you are not single by choice because of gay women and nasty women.

    Blame the universe for it.

  18. Well with so many Gay women that are out there nowadays, how can many of us good men meet a good woman today to have a relationship with. It is very sad today that many women are certainly Not nice at all like the other man said which i certainly do agree as well. Most women today are Nothing like the good old fashioned women like we had in the past, so finding a good wife to get married and have a family for us straight men is very difficult these days. And many of us are Not single by choice.

  19. According to the Bible, God does stop his children from making( or warn against) the wrong decision.

    • Where does the Bible say that?

      If it were, true, no one would ever sin because sin is a wrong decision and God would prevent/warn against it.

  20. Hello, This comment is a little late considering the fact that this article was posted in January, but I’d like to seek advice on an issue really Important to me….
    I’m 20, I’ve been dating my “wife” for A year and a half now… It’s been beautiful, we started off well being best buddies and a potential couple in God but we derailed and we decided to pick things up all over…
    She met my family and they’re really happy we’re serious about us and they join us in praying things go well. However, her parents don’t like the idea and they are citing our tribal differences as their biggest problem. I already assured her that it wouldn’t be a problem especially since my family isn’t deeply rooted in our culture, as a matter of fact, I grew up in hers and even have a name…
    What I feel for her is boundless and she feels the same way too BUT someone has been preaching that God would handpick a spouse for her and that I am not the right choice till I’m handpicked….
    I know the dangers of that(I already read a few experiences in this thread) and I strongly believe that what I feel for her, the love is God-given. It’s selfless. Everybody can see it. My mum is confused. I just think that God speaks to our heart and we somehow choose someone he approves of. I think Love for me is everything. Once you know it’s genuine on both ends, go for it. that’s God aiding your choice, he won’t handpick for you. The same way God won’t guide you to Rob a Bank cos it’s not his nature, only the Devil can. It’s the same way the devil in incapable of loving.. Only God can fill our hearts with Love as described in 1 Cor 13.

    Pls I need opinions and I really want won’t mind talking to somebody via email or something. Thanks