I’ve put a time limit on when I will stop looking for a suitable mate, but is this the wrong idea when the Bible says that there is a season for everything? Please advise.
Thanks for your question – I have great sympathy for your situation and the feelings of frustration and rejection raised by it. As with any trial, it can be difficult to remain faithful and press on, but let me offer some thoughts (and Scriptures) that I hope will help you do that.
First of all, you can take heart in the fact that a lot of godly men and women have been in the position you find yourself in and have still found a godly spouse and been happily married. Your question doesn’t elaborate on your statement that you’ve “failed miserably” at the dating scene, but whether the failure is made up of unbiblical conduct on your part, unbiblical treatment of you by others, or both, there is grace and forgiveness in the Gospel of Christ, and there is certainly still time for you to find a godly wife.
The Bible does not mandate (or even suggest) that you set an arbitrary “time limit” on your search for a wife, and I would encourage you not to. You’re right: The Bible does tell us that there is a season for every activity under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). As an exegetical matter, however, that passage in Ecclesiastes is a descriptive statement about how the world works in general, not a prescription or command to put a defined clock on every decision in our lives. It’s also clear from Scripture that, beyond knowing that God does all things for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28), we will not always understand God’s purposes – or His timing – in the various providences that He in His perfect wisdom and love brings into our lives. As we go through trials (or simply have to wait on things that the Bible tells us are good), we are to trust primarily not in our own insight about why some particular circumstance has befallen us, but in God’s goodness and sovereignty (see Proverbs 3:5-6; Matthew 7:9-11; Luke 12:25-31).
Proverbs 18:22 tells us that “he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” Your desire to find a godly wife, however frustrated thus far, is a good and godly desire. I would encourage you to continue to pursue it. Scripture warns us against making anything an idol in our lives – that is, placing something above God in our affections or priorities – but a long-lasting desire for something that Scripture calls good does not necessarily mean that thing is an idol. You said in your question that you do not believe you are called to singleness/celibacy, so keep pursuing, in a godly and humble way, that to which you do believe you are called – marriage. As a godly man who desires a wife, be watchful for opportunities and keep initiating.
How do you do that well? I’m not sure how you’ve gone about it thus far, but if you’ve been reading this column for very long, my advice will not come as a surprise. First, pray. Pray that God will give you wisdom as you watch for opportunities. Pray that you would become a godly man (or more of one) who is prepared to lead a godly wife well. And pray for a wife! Second, look for and prioritize biblical characteristics in the women you pursue (see Titus 2, Proverbs 31, 1 Peter 3). Physical attraction, “chemistry” or a laundry list of secondary preferences you might have in mind for the woman you will marry should not drive the ship. Prioritize what God prioritizes, and you will be more likely to find a godly wife who will also be looking for godliness and biblical priorities in you. Third, seek counsel. Elders in your church or other godly people you trust will help keep you accountable, help you proceed with wisdom, and can even be a source of suggestions of godly single women you may not have considered right in your own church.
In the meantime, I have one other piece of advice. Don’t waste your singleness! You may not be called to long-term singleness, but this is what God has for you right now. To focus inward and sit around lamenting God’s current grace to you is a wasted opportunity, and we are called to do just the opposite – to “mak[e] the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). Singleness can and should be an incredibly useful time. If you’re not a member of a biblically sound church, join one. And serve! You will never again have as much flexibility with your time as you do when you’re single. Disciple younger guys. Be discipled yourself. Make yourself available to the church for whatever the needs are. Practice hospitality in your home. If you serve faithfully, you cannot help but grow yourself – and that will prepare you even more to be a godly husband when the time comes.
I will pray that the Lord will give you patience, faith and perseverance in this.
Copyright 2013 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.