I'm in my late 20s, I'm educated, and I have several years of work experience. But due to the recession, I now find myself unemployed, living with my parents and indefinitely job-searching — like most of my generation.
What's more, I want to get married. In fact, I want to get married to a specific woman I've been pursuing. And I'm certain I would be married if not for my current situation.
Part of me feels like I can't move forward until I actually have something to offer her. Circumstances are currently beyond our control, and I should simply have patience and faith that God will provide in His timing. A man who does not provide for his family has denied the faith, and I can't even provide for myself at the moment.
But another part of me feels like God is pointing me toward her, and I should take that seriously. Throughout history, people have married and begun families in the midst of hardships, and they may have never done so if they had waited for things to improve. Is it right to let circumstances put my whole life on hold? Shouldn't I believe that God is bigger than my circumstances and that He will provide for me and my future spouse?
I feel like wisdom and faith are at odds. What do you think is the appropriate move for me to make?
You are right that countless couples have married under financial circumstances that we would all agree were not ideal. My wife's grandparents, like many young couples during the time, married against very difficult financial odds.
Jake Shoemaker, my wife's grandfather, was a man of fierce determination, steady faith, and sincere commitment to his wife and children and their well-being, no matter the circumstances. Like so many others of that generation, Jake had a "whatever it takes" mentality, especially regarding his approach to providing for his family.
He embodied the old sentiment, "Pray like it's up to God; work like it's up to you."
The world was different in his young years and so were the types of jobs available, but two primary principles marked Jake (and so many men and women of that generation).
First, no job was below him. He never looked at work that way. He took advantage of even the smallest of work opportunities and was grateful for them. As a result, he always worked, often for very little pay. And sometimes he worked for no pay at all, just a hope that he might impress a boss and that it would eventually lead to a wage.
Second, their definitions of "need" and "want" were properly ordered. This kept their appetite for things under control. Not that they had much choice about it, but the struggle for food, shelter and clothing kept them focused. This led them to be grateful for what they had rather than disappointed about what they didn't.
I don't want to romanticize life in those days, as we tend to do about the past. Even Jake would say it was very hard and he much preferred his later years of steady work and income over the earlier years, but the principles that guided him were the same and continued to guide him throughout his life.
Now to you specifically. I don't think there's anything wrong with continuing to move a relationship forward under less-than-perfect financial and/or employment circumstances. You might not have the whole plan figured out, but you don't need to. You could even go as far as discussing engagement pending more stable income.
In the meantime, you need to ask yourself some important questions about your perspective of work and lifestyle, especially in these early years.
I know that searching for a job that will lead to a career can take an enormous amount of time and can be a full-time job itself, but you can still be productive in the meantime. Are you bypassing all employment opportunities under a certain wage or that which you think is below someone of your experience and education?
During my engagement, there were a few weeks when I was looking for a new job. I spent plenty of time setting up interviews and interviewing, but I also took advantage of every opportunity for work. I did childcare for family members, pulled a few shifts here and there at various jobs, mowed some lawns, etc.
I was in my late 20s and, like you, had a degree and several years of work experience. Babysitting my niece was a humbling experience, but I was determined to do what I could as God provided, no matter how big or small the opportunity seemed in my own eyes.
My point is this: Anything is better than nothing, not so much because of the income, but because of the principle of the work ethic and showing God we are willing and grateful for everything. And one never knows what could come from what seems like a small, meaningless task. One of my interviewers seemed as impressed by my willingness to do childcare as he was with my more professional skills. He became my boss and later said that willingness to do whatever it takes was the kind of ethic he was looking for in his team.
Finally, evaluate the kind of lifestyle you think you need. Be content with small beginnings despite the temptation to have it all right now. I see so many young couples leverage themselves to the hilt in an effort to have everything and keep up with each other. Meanwhile, the pressures of the credit and demand for more create such stress on a young marriage, they often crash and burn.
It takes a ton of determination to live within your means; it's counter-cultural in many ways, but it will bear much fruit in your marriage. It's OK not to have it all right now.
Show God that you will gratefully receive every opportunity He provides as a gift from Him, and set yourself to live within His provision. Pray like it's up to Him; work like it's up to you. You never have to worry about His doing His part. It's what He loves to do.
Copyright 2012 John Thomas. All rights reserved.