Is God sovereign over whom I marry?
I often read that when we’re dating and determining if someone is “right” for us to marry, there is no one person that God has predetermined for us to marry, and we need to make our decision based on the Word, prayer and consideration of other practical matters. However, as a 30-something single woman, who has incredible difficulty even meeting any Christian men who are interested in me, I feel like it’s not wrong for me to expect that any man whom I eventually marry is someone who God brought into my life, because my normal course of life is not teeming with Christian male suitors such that I’m struggling to determine which one is “right” for me and which one God “intends” for me to marry.
What I’m trying to say is, I feel like unless God intends to bring a husband into my life, I wouldn’t otherwise be able to get married, and if that is the case, is it not natural and right to believe God does bring a specific person into my life for me to marry? If so, then God does have only one right person for me, because without His intervention, there wouldn’t be any marriage in the first place.
Thank you for writing and for asking about God’s role in whom we marry. You’re right that we’ve made it a point in many Boundless articles to urge people to stop looking for “the one,” to think biblically about whom they choose to marry, and to stop asking, “Is he right (for me)?” All of these exhortations grow out of our concern with the trend to search endlessly for the perfect match, as if doing all that work before marriage will ensure smooth sailing after the wedding. There are many dangers to thinking this way, not least of which is concluding — once the bumps in the road appear, and they always do (1 Corinthians 7:28) — that you married the wrong one.
As I’ve written before, once you’re married, that is the right one. Biblical marriage is permanent (Matthew 19:6).
This doesn’t mean, however, that God doesn’t know in advance who we will marry. Should you marry, God will have been the one who brought your husband to you. Even our wedding vows affirm this: “What God has joined together, let man not separate.” He is Sovereign over all that He has made. But it is also true that we are free to choose whom we will marry. God made us stewards of all that He has made and has given us the opportunity to think and choose free from coercion. We are responsible (2 Corinthians 5:10, Ezekiel 18:20, Galatians 6:8). Though these ideas seem in tension, they are not mutually exclusive. And that tension — God’s sovereignty and our responsibility — runs throughout Scripture.
The most obvious example of this mystery is the fact that it was God’s will and intent to crush His Son on the cross, and the wicked men who crucified Jesus will be judged for their sin on the last day (Isaiah 53:10, Acts 2:23, 4:27-28). In another well-cited example, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he would not let the Israelites go, even as Pharaoh hardened his heart to God and will be punished for his rebellion. God is sovereign over everything in all of creation, including what we do. But we are not puppets. “We do what we most want to do,” explains Bruce Ware in his book God’s Greater Glory. And we will be held responsible for it. That’s a helpful way to understand our culpability for our actions coexisting with God’s sovereign control. What does this mean for choosing a husband?
It means you should pray for wisdom to choose wisely. It means you should read the Bible and give yourself to understanding it and meditating on it and memorizing it so that your ideas about marriage will be shaped by God’s revelation of what He designed marriage to be (John 15:7). When our prayers for a husband are shaped by God’s words, we can pray confidently, knowing we are praying according to God’s will. It means you can ask God for the ability to discern the relationships He sovereignly brings into your life. God is sovereign over everyone we meet. But that doesn’t mean if you meet a man, he is necessarily the one you are supposed to marry. Even if you don’t meet many men, you are still responsible to date biblically, to only seek to marry a believer, and to use wisdom.
It also means that should you remain unmarried, you can rest in God’s unchanging character. He is still good, sovereign, loving and gracious when His answer to our prayers is no. Gazing upon His attributes is cause for worship. If at any point our understanding of God’s sovereignty — or any other of His immeasurable attributes — leaves us anxious or fretful, we can know we have not rightly understood them. We should strive to know as much of God as He has revealed to us in Scripture. A.W. Tozer’s little book The Knowledge of the Holy is a great place to start.
God knows the number of hairs on your head, the number of days in your life, and any children that will be born to you (Luke 12:7, Psalm 139:16). You are right to believe God knows if, when and whom you will marry. That said, you are responsible for your decisions, and you have freedom in Christ to choose whom you will marry. He is sovereign over marriage as over everything, and we are responsible for our actions and decisions that lead to it.
I pray you will choose wisely, in the power of the Spirit and the wisdom that comes from God.
By Grace Alone,
Copyright 2014 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Candice Watters is a wife, mom, and Bible teacher. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, co-founder with her husband, Steve, of Boundless.org and co-author of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. They have four children and blog at FamilyMaking.com.