How can I tell the difference between God’s will and my desire?
A few months back, I happened to meet this girl who came to my church. She started coming to church because she has a broken family, and she wanted God to intervene in her life and help her. After a few months of coming to church, she surrendered her life to Christ and accepted Him as her personal Savior.
During these times, she and I used to talk a lot on the phone, and eventually we became really close and started liking each other. Right now I am very much in love with her and want to marry her. But I want to know whether this is God’s will in my life or whether I am acting out of my earthly desire.
I want only the will of God to be established in my life. Can you please give me a piece of advice which would be helpful in making a decision?
Thanks for your question. I certainly appreciate your desire to seek God’s will and your willingness to set aside your own desires if they conflict with God’s will and glory. Having said that, it sounds to me (at least based on what you’ve written in your question) that you are probably free to marry this woman.
I have only one word of caution: Be wise in assessing whether she is a believer. That may sound a little harsh, and I don’t mean to raise doubt about her salvation lightly or unnecessarily — I know you said in your question that she has become a believer. But because she is such a new believer, and because your question makes it sound as if you may have become emotionally intimate with her and developed strong feelings for her even before she professed Christ, I just want to encourage you to test whether you are being wise and thinking clearly.
I have heard from and talked to a lot of folks over the years who married someone in the context of “missionary dating” or in the context of dating a person who was a very new believer, only to have the person later renounce Christ or be disciplined from the church with devastating consequences for the marriage and the spiritual and emotional wellbeing of the believing spouse. Interestingly — and sadly — many (though not all) of the believing spouses I’ve spoken to told me in retrospect that had they not been blinded by their feelings, and had they sought counsel from others and thought through the situation clearly, the signs of their spouse’s true spiritual state were there at the beginning.
Obviously, we as finite humans cannot ever see perfectly into another person’s heart, so how can you assess where your potential spouse is spiritually? First, what does your church — and its leadership — have to say? If your church has membership, has she joined? Was she interviewed by an elder or church staff member prior to her joining and/or being baptized? Have you sought counsel from others whom you trust in the church regarding your potential relationship? What are their thoughts?
Second, since you have spoken with her and been with her at church extensively both before and after she professed Christ, what have you observed? What is her attitude toward her own sin? Toward her family? Toward your church? Is she clear on the Gospel? Have her priorities changed? Have you seen fruit in her life over time since she professed Christ? Again, there’s no perfect combo of questions to think through and no way to make this assessment perfectly. But if you lovingly and soberly seek wisdom for yourself and counsel from other believers who know both of you, you will be much more likely to make a decision that honors God and is for your spiritual good and hers.
OK, now let’s assume that my last several paragraphs were totally unnecessary. She’s clearly a believer, and you want to marry her. What you call your “earthly desire” may very well line up with Scripture. God is a good God who delights to give us good gifts for our good and His glory. God instituted marriage as a good part of the creation order (Genesis 2), and godly marriages bring God glory by modeling the wonderful way that Christ has loved the church and that the church responds to His loving leadership (Ephesians 5:22-33). The Bible appears to treat marriage as a normal part of manhood and womanhood for most people, and to imply that most people are called to marriage rather than permanent singleness/celibacy (see Genesis 1:28, 2:18-24; Matthew 24:38; 1 Corinthians 7:1-2).
You said in your question that you wanted God’s will for your life. In almost every situation we face, the normal way to discern God’s will is to look not for a “sign” that makes things supernaturally clear, but to look to His Word, seek wisdom and counsel, and then to act. Kevin DeYoung’s book Just Do Something is a great read on this topic. I would encourage you to pray about the decision to marry this woman and seek counsel from the elders in your church or other godly people you trust. Bottom line, Scripture is clear that believers are only to marry other believers (see 1 Corinthians 7:39), and it prohibits us from making marriage or anything else an idol. Beyond that, marriage is a good gift ordained by God, and it is natural and right that you desire it.
I will pray that the Lord gives you wisdom as you think through all this.
Copyright 2013 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Scott Croft served for several years as chairman of the elders at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., where he wrote and taught the Friendship, Courtship & Marriage and Biblical Manhood & Womanhood CORE Seminars. Scott now lives in the Louisville, Ky., area with his wife, Rachel, and son, William, where he works as an attorney and serves as an elder of Third Avenue Baptist Church.