Are you ready for marriage?
It’s that time of year again. People seem to be marrying off like rabbits (at least from my news feed). Facebook has been lighting up with pictures of brides and bridal parties, and it is fun to see all the smiles and happy celebrations. Occasionally, an engagement announcement will pop up, and my first thought is, I wonder if they’re ready? I don’t mean it in a judgmental or even critical way. I just wonder what makes a couple ready for marriage.
Certainly, no one enters marriage with complete confidence that they are ready for all that awaits. There are all sorts of unknown variables that even the most calculating person couldn’t possibly anticipate. One of the great mysteries of marriage is that it’s a commitment made in trust. You must trust yourself, your new spouse, and God — the giver of marriage. But are we left to only trust and take the leap? Or is there a way of knowing if we are really ready for marriage?
I believe there is a huge test we should keep before us on the road to marriage. It’s a test we should regularly take and retake, working daily to improve. In fact, Jesus himself assessed those who came to Him by this same test. Of course, I’m talking about the state of the heart. On the road to marriage, it is extremely important to have an accurate understanding of your own heart and the heart of your future spouse. To misjudge the heart is not only foolish, it is downright dangerous.
The struggle with determining what is in the heart stems from the universal capacity to cover and hide what is really there. Jesus pointed this out when He said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Think of the surprised looks when He said this. Jesus knew what was in their hearts and saw when they were faking it. They were putting on a show and duping many, but Jesus wasn’t interested in how things appeared. He drilled right down to what was in their hearts.
As we prepare for marriage and look for someone to marry, we ignore the heart issue to our own hurt. We must protect and nurture our hearts consistently and expect the same of those who we commit ourselves to. I’m not looking for a perfect heart, but a growing heart. I want to find someone who knows the weaknesses in their own heart and is fighting daily to grow in the Lord. Too many work to mask their heart, instead of working to purify it.
On your road to marriage, here are a few heart questions to contemplate about yourself and the one whom you’d marry.
1. Do you habitually soak your heart in God’s Word?
Having a regular, organized time in God’s Word is essential for purity. Jesus made a habit of reading the Scriptures and asked God to sanctify His people in the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17). Paul wrote to the Ephesians that Christ makes His church holy by, “cleansing her by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26). God’s Word is compared to both food and cleansing because these are things we must do frequently. Your heart — much like your body — needs regular care and maintenance. In the same way you wouldn’t go days and weeks without food or a shower, don’t go long without feeding and washing your heart in God’s Word.
2. Do you habitually commune with God?
We must also recognize that heart work is ultimately the work of God in us. As Job wrote, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one” (Job 14:4). We cannot purify our own hearts, but we can plead with God to purify us. Ultimately, we need God to do a heart work in us. Those who would be pure must pray with David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Spending regular time alone with God, asking Him to purify our hearts, is a sure way to grow a clean heart.
3. How do you respond to stress, pressure and exhaustion?
The heart often shows its true colors at points of stress and difficulty. If you want to know the state of your heart, pay attention to how you respond when your life seems to fall apart. The sinful attitudes, words and actions that flow from our hearts in these moments may reveal we’ve been neglecting our hearts or need to refocus our efforts.
4. Are you aware of the sin in your heart, and do you quickly repent of it?
One of the key indicators of our heart’s position before God is how we respond when we sin. Those further along in their sanctification will be quick to identify sins, confess them and turn from them. This process of intentionally abandoning sin is called repentance, and Jesus regularly used it to call people to himself. As Peter taught, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). Be wary of heart tendencies to hide, negate, rationalize or explain away sin. Pure hearts turn from sin quickly, thoroughly and often.
5. Do you prefer the company of the pure in heart?
Lastly, the pure in heart will draw close to others who are pure in heart as well. In the same way “bad company corrupts good character” good company promotes good character. Look at a person’s closest friends, and it will tell you something about the state of their heart. Many have found growing in Christ has meant finding new friends. Those who are growing close to God will naturally surround themselves with others growing in the same.
It’s important to regularly consider the state of your own heart. Much like the cultivation of most things of great value, it requires intentionality and diligence. Those who are heading toward marriage should look closely at their own heart and the heart of the one whom they would marry. Our culture tends to overemphasize what we can see with our own eyes, but the unseen quality of the heart is much more significant. No one will ever perfectly reflect the heart of Christ in this life, but let us be attracted to those who are constantly growing toward it.