To what extent should we nurture the desire to marry?

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To what extent should we nurture the desire to marry?

Feb 07, 2011 |Candice Watters
Question

I am a 25-year-old Christian. I would like to have a family, and I always thought I would have met my future husband by now. Not surprisingly (as our timing is not always God's), I haven't. The possibility of meeting a man at all is very scarce. My church, which I love and am invested in, is very small. The young-adult scene is dominated by women, and only two of the six or so men are beyond age 20.

At first, I was praying pretty intensely for a husband, keeping a journal for him (at my friend's suggestion), and (separately) writing to God about the characteristics I wanted my future husband to have. I did enjoy keeping the journal; I thought of it as a way to share the parts of my life I’d live before meeting him. I was doing this for several months when it hit me that my future husband may not come for another 10 years, and there are a lot of other things I could be doing and praying for in the meantime. It began to seem silly to me to pray for a husband when I have unsaved friends and family members.

So I guess my question is this: To what extent should we nurture the desire to marry? Since God knows when, where and at what time I will meet my future husband, is it necessary to be praying about it now? I also feel nurturing the desire distracts me from just living in the present. Any new man walks in the church, and I wonder "Is that him?" On the other hand, I feel that putting the desire on the back burner (as I've done) is being untrue to myself and neglecting what I want. I appreciate any thoughts you have.

Answer

I’m glad you wrote and am encouraged by your willingness to rethink how you’re waiting for a husband. I understand the sentiment of keeping a journal written to your future husband. It can make him seem real even before you’ve met him. But there is a danger in that, one you’re starting to understand. The desire to chronicle your life for him so you’ll have a record to share in the future is a thoughtful idea. Trouble is, it can quickly morph into a fantasy of sorts, one that takes you too much out of the here and now.

Fantasy and hope don’t mix well: We hope for what we don’t yet have; we fantasize in order to feel as though we already have it. Do risk hope. Do look forward to marriage. But don’t spend your days living in the future in your mind. Because, as you’ve noticed, this has the ability to keep you from living in the present.

Still, while filling a journal with letters to him carries risks, it’s never silly to pray for a husband. The two aren’t the same. And I do think you should pray for a husband. I wrote a whole article about that called “How to Pray for a Husband.”

I think the heart of your question is, “Can you want marriage too much?” And the answer is yes and no. I don’t think it’s possible, or likely, to desire marriage too much when it’s understood as the self-sacrificial relationship reflecting Christ and His church. (See Ephesians 5.) I do, however, think it’s possible to be preoccupied with thoughts about the romantic, emotional and physical benefits of being married, especially if your ideal for marriage is drawn from the latest chic flick or hit TV series. God made marriage for companionship and sex, but He made it for a lot more than that. And the giddy, emotional high that’s proof of a new romance isn’t sustainable over the life of a marriage. (I’ve talked about that in “How Important is Physical Attraction?”) That’s why it’s so important to cultivate a desire for marriage as God designed it.

If you’d told me that you were turned off to the idea of becoming a wife and mother, if you were focused exclusively on your career, if you found the Scriptures about marriage offensive, then yes, I’d say you should nurture the desire for marriage. Though some women may need to nurture their desire, it sounds as though your desire for marriage is intact.

Psalm 37:3–5 (ESV) says, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.”

As you’re discovering, simply wanting something doesn’t mean you’ll get it or get it when you want it. Even when our desires are placed in the context of delighting in the Lord, often we have to wait. One of the benefits of the waiting — if we spend that time studying God’s Word and praying for God’s will — is that He conforms our desires to His. That’s good news because often our desires are shaped more by conversations with our friends than the God we serve. We get so many of our ideas about what marriage is, and how it’s to be lived out, from popular entertainment that we often don’t realize how far off from the original we are.

The more you do now to understand God’s purposes for this one-flesh union, the more fruitful your marriage can be. Pouring your heart out to God in prayer, asking Him to transform your desires and align your thoughts and will to Him; capturing your thoughts in writing, especially when those thoughts center around your meditations on passages of Scripture, all of these activities have the potential to mature your faith. They also can transform your desire and strip away longings that aren’t from God.

You may be wondering, What will all this prayer and journaling get me if I never marry? It’s a great question. I’m intrigued by the men in Scripture who most supported and encouraged marriage — John the Baptist, Paul and Jesus. All of them were unmarried, but they all honored marriage (Hebrews 13:4) with their words and actions.

Rather than letting your longing for marriage distract you from the present, God can use your hope for it to speak truth to our culture, speak into the lives of your girlfriends, encourage your married friends and more.

And even though you attend a small church with apparently few prospects for marriage, if it’s a biblical church, you have reason to hope that marriage possibilities can grow from relationships with older believers. I’ve talked about this before in “Plenty of Men to Go Around.”

I pray you’ll hear God’s promptings, primarily through study of His Word, and obey Him. As He shapes your desires to conform with His will, you’ll witness His faithfulness in abundance.

Blessings,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2011 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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