When I was a child, I probably had an overly inflated sense of fairness. Not only did I scrutinize the fairness with which my parents treated my siblings and me, I also used to contemplate great mysteries and try to find God’s fairness in them. Unfortunately, many of my conclusions showed my rudimentary mental powers. I remember I once concluded that God was fair to men and women in marriage because the boys had to ask the girls to marry them and the girls had to go through the pain of childbirth. Boy, was I wrong! It’s much harder for the guys.
All joking aside, perhaps one of the most anxiety-laden moments in a young man’s life is asking a father’s permission to marry his daughter. In that moment, everything is on the table. He could ask about anything. He could find this man lacking and stop his plan of marriage right in its tracks. Winning the heart of a woman always includes winning the approval of her father.
But long before this timorous conversation, a man must earn the approval of another. Not only does he need the approval of the woman he would marry and her earthly father, but he also needs the approval of her heavenly Father. Too often, men forget that young Christian women have a Father in heaven who knows all and sees all. And just as her earthly father may put a man to the test to ensure he is worthy of so precious a prize, so too, her heavenly Father has been carefully watching his life. I believe the God who knows a man’s character can and does at times veto plans for marriage.
It was Jesus who first taught us to think of God the way we think of a good father. In Luke, Jesus taught that God gives His children good gifts, using the example of a fish instead of a serpent and an egg instead of a scorpion (11:11-12). I don’t pretend to know how God acts in each and every situation, but it is clear that God is involved in our lives and acts as a giver of good gifts.
However, God does allow sinful people to marry. In fact, every marriage is a commitment between two sinful people. But while God doesn’t expect us to be perfect before marriage, I do believe there are times when God sovereignly leads couples away from marriage when one or the other are not a good gift to the other.
I write this to warn those who think they can haphazardly coast into marriage and expect marriage to fix their poor character and sinful habits. The time before marriage is ideal for growing toward maturity in Christ. It’s not a time to enjoy freedom and revel in sin because a wife hasn’t yet begun to expect more. Men who live like this ought not be surprised when they find their relationships falling apart, because it could be that her heavenly Father is working to protect her from marrying a metaphorical scorpion.
We must remember marriage is not a right, but a gift from God. As secret immorality rises in our culture and many young people wait longer and longer to marry, I wonder if it’s possible that in some cases God is sparing His children from suitors who look honorable on the outside, but on the inside are far from the good gift He prefers to give.
Thankfully, God is patient and gracious toward His children, even though He may at times withhold marriage from those who would bring nothing but selfishness and pain into it. God never gives up on us, but instead graciously waits for deeper maturity.
Long before you pursue your future spouse and talk to her father, it is wise to come before God, repent of your sins and ask Him to make you a man He would be pleased to give to one of His precious daughters. Because if God says no, it doesn’t matter who’d say yes.