Last year, I dated a guy who I thought was the one. Then about six months in, he started showing some really selfish behavior. It reminded me of the way my dad treated my mom before their divorce.
Anyway, I broke up with him because of it (I'm giving you the really short version). He came back and repented of his selfishness and asked me if we could date again. I said yes. He has great godly character, treats me differently than before in a good way, has a great reputation with others, including the elders at our church.
We are now talking about marriage, but I am really scared. I can't stop thinking that bad things will happen in my marriage and life, and it's making me really fearful. Does that mean I shouldn't be with this guy, or do I just need to get over it?
Thanks for writing and for this really good question. Based on what you wrote, it seems like it might be helpful to think about this at a couple of levels.
First, the Bible has plenty to say about fearfulness and worry in general. Let me offer a general truth that sounds simple but is really difficult (as I know from personal experience): The life of a believer in Jesus should not be lived in fear. God's Word tells us that rather than live in fear, we are to take our fears to the Lord and then trust in Him: "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7). Notice that the Lord doesn't just command us, "don't be fearful" and leave us on our own to figure it out. If we seek Him and trust Him with our fears, He will give us peace by His Spirit in Christ.
Scripture also teaches that a life lived in fear is also futile as a practical matter. Jesus himself asked "which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" (Matthew 6:27). A friend I respect once said in a sermon that when we live a life of fear, we give Satan two shots at discouraging us — one when we worry and a second if any of our fears come to pass. Tweet This If the Lord in His goodness and wisdom has a trial for us, why suffer through it twice?
Does the Bible tell us not to worry because there is never anything to worry about? Nope, that's not it. We live in a fallen world, and the Bible tells us to expect suffering both because of that fact and because we follow Jesus. But we can face both the possibility of suffering and present suffering without fear because of what we know about the God we serve, His character and our ultimate destiny in Christ. He is loving and good. He is sovereign. He knows what we need. He delights in His people. He uses all trials and suffering for our good and His glory, and His Son ensured that any suffering is temporary — a brief stop before an eternity spent praising God face to face in heaven.
Because of all that, we can say with the prophet Habakkuk:
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
But your question wasn't just about fear; it was about fear at the possibility of marriage to a fallen, sinful man. Let me take some of the suspense out of it: The man you marry, whether it's this guy or someone else, will sometimes do and say things that are hurtful to you. Just like you will do and say things that will be hurtful to him. Many such sins will be small; some might be big. That is what happens every time two sinners decide to marry each other (see Genesis 3:16-19). Still, marriage is totally worth it! And God is still God. Everything I wrote earlier applies to the marriage context as well.
And God even makes specific provisions to fight (particularly wives') fear in marriage. He commands husbands to "love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church" (Ephesians 5:25-29).
God actually calls husbands literally to imitate Christ in the way they love their wives, sacrificing themselves for the good of their wives. The Bible also commands husbands to be tender with their wives and "live with [them] in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman" (1 Peter 3:7).
Clearly, every husband is going to fail at his calling sometimes. But despite that fact, Scripture instructs wives, specifically in the context of marriage, to do good, to live faithfully, and to "not fear anything that is frightening" (1 Peter 3:6). Again, why? Not because your husband is perfect and therefore nothing is frightening (see verse 6), but because as a wife you are not ultimately putting your trust in your husband but in the perfectly loving Savior who stands behind him (see Ephesians 5:22 — "as to the Lord").
Now, having said all of this, I don't know enough specifics to tell you whether you should marry this guy or not. That's a question for you and wise believers who know you (and him) well to think through. I will say, just taking your question at face value, it's a really good sign that you and others (especially elders!) think he has godly character, and it shows real maturity that whatever his "selfish" behavior was, he was willing to repent and make real changes that you can see and feel.
I will pray for the Lord to give you a zest for life rather than a fear of it. God is good and sovereign, and He is worthy of your trust. I will also pray for you, your advisers and your potential husband to have godly wisdom. May the Lord bless you in all this.
For His glory,
Copyright 2014 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.