February 21, 2017

Singles: Make Your Mantra “Worthy and Fit”

Gary Thomas — 

Singles seeking to marry well can learn so much from a man who got married four hundred years ago. He made a supremely wise choice for all the right reasons and benefitted immensely because of it.

Don’t be freaked out that he was a Puritan.

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) lived half his life as a single man because he believed a zealous clergyman was “married to his congregation” and didn’t have time for a wife. When his church fired him and he was forced to make his living as a writer (he became the most popular writer of his day, sort of a Max Lucado and Tim Keller rolled into one person), he thought having a wife would be a very good thing indeed, and he soon entered into a very happy and fulfilling marriage to a young woman named Margaret.

They had an incredible marriage.

In making his choice, Richard was already a wise man who, as a pastor, had seen the folly so many others had fallen into to. Thus he was determined to “avoid the foolish passion which the world calls love.”

He didn’t eschew love, but sought a higher love: “I know you must have love for those [you marry],” he wrote, but he was insistent that it be a “rational” love that discerns “worth and fitness” in the loved, not “blind…lust or fancy.”[i]

Richard had seen how “blind lust and fancy” (sex appeal and romantic infatuation) could make seemingly wise people curiously blind to a person’s poor worth and low character so he determined early on that he would not be guided by those things.

Instead, he was determined to find a “worthy” spouse, and a “fit” spouse.

If you find yourself crazy with infatuation, and your highest desperate desire is to hear that they feel the same way about you, force yourself to ask two rational questions: “Is this a worthy person? Are they fit for marriage?”

Let’s look at each in turn.

First, are they worthy of you having such interest in them? Force yourself to look at them objectively. If you didn’t have such strong feelings for them, would you still like them, admire them, and respect them? If you can’t answer “yes” to all three questions you’re falling prey to “blind fancy.”

If you’re at all embarrassed by them, or constantly finding yourself having to explain away and excuse the faults and character flaws that everyone else sees and points out to you, you’re in the midst of “blind fancy.” They’re not truly worthy of you; you shouldn’t be afraid that they don’t feel the same way about you; you should be afraid of why you’re feeling that way about them.

Next, ask yourself, “Are they fit?” That is, do they have the necessary relational, emotional, and spiritual skills to be a superlative spouse? Can they handle conflict? Are they humble and gentle and patient? Are they a giver or a taker? Is God the center of their life? Do they pray and do they seek to grow in righteousness? Would they be a good parent and a true friend? Can you trust them in every way?

If the answer is no, they’re not “fit” for marriage.

Feelings are loud and strong, and they come and go. Asking questions about “worthiness” and “fitness” will help you to be objective and make a wise choice.

Dr. J.I. Packer summarizes the best of Puritan thought on making a wise marital choice by stressing that Christians were urged not to look for someone one does love romantically but rather for one whom one can love “with steady affection on a permanent basis.”

Because marriage is all about the future and feelings are only about the present, it makes the most sense to choose someone you can love in the future because they are worthy of your love and fit for marriage. Those things usually last; feelings never do.

Among the most stupid things said on a stupid reality television program is when the Bachelor or the Bachelorette keep saying, “I’ve just got to explore my feelings; I don’t know if I feel the right way about him/her.”

No, you don’t. That’s a stupid way to evaluate a relationship. It’s being guided by “blind lust or fancy” (and explains why that show has such a pathetic “success” rate for couples who get together).

Find out first if the person you are interested in is worthy and fit. Then ask yourself, “Is this someone I’d enjoy spending time with? Is this someone I’m attracted to physically enough so that I’d desire to be with them sexually?”

Sexual desire and “fancy” aren’t enemies—they can be delightful “spices” in life. If you make them the main course, however, you’ll end up relationally hungry, as they can’t satisfy on their own. I sprinkle cinnamon in my chai tea every morning, but I don’t take a spoonful as a substitute for breakfast. That’s what you’re trying to do when you let “blind lust and fancy” be the main factors in determining who to date and, ultimately, who to marry.

Worthy and fit.

That’s what you want to look for. That’s what you should evaluate.

[i] I’m taking these quotes from J.I. Packer’s A Grief Sanctified, pg. 25.


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19 responses to Singles: Make Your Mantra “Worthy and Fit”

  1. A weighty article offering some valuable insight for the married and unmarried alike. Gary has done it again. Thank you!

  2. thanks Gary. I know you’re married so you tend to write more about marriage topics. As a single woman, I enjoy your posts to us singles. please write more. Sheer Wisdom embedded, always. thanks

  3. Gary thanks so much for this. I’m a big believer in Steve Harvey’s teachings that you should make yourself healthy and fit (physically, spiritually, emotionally) for a relationship before entering one and it’s always soooooo important to ask that same question when choosing a partner. Great reminder.

  4. Gary, is there anything about Margaret or their relationship you can chronicle for us so we can learn more?

  5. As a single, I practice what I have heard from you and Ben; change me. Lord, am I developing the character and holiness daily in all I think and do that You are leading me to develop. Second am I fully trusting God and Jesus’ grace in my imperfections. I believe your book “Authentic Faith” speaks to this living. I enjoy your message and encouragement in growing us to be people who seek to draw closer to God and then to help others! I continue to pray I will find a partner, friend, and lover that lives out this same walk in their life:) Thank you Gary for continuing to be His instrument:))

  6. Great article. The only thing it falls short in is the question – is this person God’s choice for me? I do realise that this is also subjective (especially when we are ‘in love’) but nevertheless is the most important thing. Someone could be totally worthy, fit, attractive etc & still not be God’s highest for you. Because ultimately, as has been said by others, marriage isn’t primarily to most us happy – but rather – holy. My advice is for people to get their own heart healed & choose someone who also is willing to be healed.

  7. Thank you for this mature Christian perspective. If I may venture a suggestion, the idea that I find someone’s behaviour embarrassing is not necessarily a reflection on *their* worthiness. A Christian not so far along the path of sanctification might not yet have learned to value certain godly characteristics that seem very radical in today’s world.

    One of the things I love so much about my husband is that he will not do anything he believes to be wrong, even if everyone else is doing it, and even if they are offended that he won’t join them. It took me a while to overcome my embarrassment at this trait, but I’ve since learned to admire it as a desire to be holy, and as a healthy disregard for the opinion of the world.

    • Thanks, Jennifer. I think you use the word “embarrassment” differently than I intended it. Your usage is totally fair and understandable, but it wasn’t what I had in my mind. I should have found a more precise word. But I think people can still get the picture.

  8. Stephanie Christianson February 21, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Great article!

  9. Thank you! As a divorced woman in her 60’s, it’s refreshing to have some solid wisdom about relationships. Having done it from “blind trust” most of my life, I’m now learning where I went wrong and how to make the adjustments. Not for the purpose of remarrying but for the goal of being “fit” for the King and the Wedding He has planned!!!! If He decides I should enjoy more than that, I’ll be ready and fit for His Will, His Way.
    Please continue to speak to us singles. We desperately need the understanding that Wisdom provides in relationships…both human and Divine.

  10. Excellent points, Gary! I loved this quip, “Because marriage is all about the future and feelings are only about the present…” Perspective is hard to grasp in the throes of infatuation. That’s why it is so good to come to understand the desired qualities of your future before you are immersed in the juicy tingle of first love. Honestly, I was blind and blessed. God gave me a gem in spite of being madly in love. That doesn’t mean we haven’t had our issues, there were some douzies. However, because of the core foundation you are speaking of here, we navigated the stormy waters without giving up.

  11. Thanks for this educative blog, most singles don’t know this so they act on fantasy in their choice of a spouse.

    • Thanks, Lynda. It’s a passion for me to keep pushing this issue. Whenever I’m asked to do a weekend seminar on marriage, I’ll ask to come in a day early to speak on the Sacred Search for free. A wise marriage choice can be such a blessing, and a foolish one can result in so much pain…

  12. “sort of a Max Lucado, Tim Keller AND Gary Thomas rolled into one person.” 🙂

  13. Very insightful…