Knowing that I am not interested in any women in my church, should I pursue one of them for marriage and hope that things will all work out in time? Or should I continue searching for one I am attracted to? I am aware of various biblical passages that make it clear I should be seeking a wife (e.g., Proverbs 18:22) but I wonder if I would be ill-advised to pursue a woman out of obligation, rather than genuine desire.
I have heard women in my church complain both overtly and covertly about the lack of men who approach them. I feel compassion toward my sisters in Christ and don’t think it is nice if the only men in their church who are serious about marriage are overweight and balding men in their 40s. Should I pursue a woman out of compassion and my sense of obligation and hope things will come out in the wash (thereby saving me from having to admit I was never attracted to her)?
Thank you, sir, for writing. This is a good question: Should you pursue a woman out of genuine desire, rather than obligation? I believe you should. Obligation isn’t enough to live up to all that’s required of being a biblical husband. The job description set forth in Ephesians 5 — to lay your life down for your wife, to wash her in the Word, to selflessly lead her in love — is nothing less than impossible without the Spirit of God working in you. And yet, when a man loves a woman and is committed to her good, he can, by God’s grace, want to love her this way. And that want-to is a big help to obedience.
No matter how much wash you do, if you marry a woman only because you feel you should, not because, at some level, you want to, you’ll never remove the sense of obligation or manufacture attraction.
However, I also believe you must pay close attention to the desire you’re genuinely committed to. You can desire many things when thinking about the ideal woman to marry. Many men think first of physical attraction. A close second seems to be some variation of chemistry, which I think has a lot to do with compatible personalities, or the feeling that you get each other and really like to be together. Near to this is friendship. And then there are factors like shared faith commitment, family background, interests, hobbies and more. All of these things play into whom you’re attracted to, and attraction does matter. But I’d like to take you back to that verse you quoted: Proverbs 18:22. It says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” It is a blessing to find a wife, but not just any woman who agrees to marry you. It’s equally important to look to Scripture’s definition of what a wife is and what makes her a good wife, if you hope to receive the Lord’s favor in your selection.
It goes on to say in Proverbs 19:14 that a certain kind of wife is from the Lord. Care to guess what that is? (Hint: It has nothing to do with how she looks or even how she makes you feel.) “A prudent wife is from the Lord.” Why is a prudent wife a good gift from God? Because she is the sort who is committed to growing in grace and godliness, in making the noble traits set out in Proverbs 31 her aim. She is a woman who is willing to obey God’s design for marriage rather than seek her own selfish ends.
Proverbs 31:10-12 reminds us that the goal is a wife of noble character. Her worth, the Bible says, “is far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”
So what if the prudent women you know aren’t attractive to you? What then? I do believe it’s possible to cultivate your taste in women, in a similar way you can train your appetite for good literature instead of pulp fiction and your taste buds to crave rich, dark chocolate, instead of cheap candy. How do you define what’s attractive to you? Where are you looking for cues about who is attractive and who makes a good wife? I know I’ve said this before, but it’s still true: If you only look to pop culture to learn what’s attractive, you may be missing out on understanding what’s truly worthy of desire.
Rather than dismiss the sisters God has put in your life through your church membership and instead of asking one out tomorrow because you think you should, I suggest that you ask God to shape your desires and conform your longings to His Word and His will for your life. Ask Him to root out wrong thinking and to give you good models of Christ-honoring marriages in your life. Ask the older married men in your life about what attracts them to their wives now, and ask them what they think you should be looking for in a wife. Also, you might consider taking a break from TV, movies and the internet (anything that offers a warped view of men and women and love and sex and marriage). Instead, consume a good-for-your-soul diet of edifying and challenging entertainment: biographies about faithful men and women, husbands and wives, as well as writings by them.
I’d suggest the following as a good place to start:
- My Heart in His Hands by Sharon James (the story of Ann Judson, wife of Adoniram Judson)
- Joni: An Unforgettable Story by Joni Eareckson Tada
- Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot
- This Momentary Marriage by John Piper
Cultivate your taste in women by asking God for wisdom and the ability to appreciate in your sisters the very qualities that God himself values: prudence, a gentle and quiet spirit, noble character. All of these are of great worth in God’s sight. May they be so in yours as well.
Copyright 2012 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.