Many of us men grew up with a limited picture that being an adult meant independence — being able to live where we wanted, come and go as we pleased, make some money, and see the friends we wanted to see.
Those aspects are certainly part of an adult life, but a key ingredient is missing. I’m not referring to community, accountability or being involved in a good church. All those things are good, but in and of themselves they just can’t function to produce all the blessings that God designs for us. I want to talk very candidly about why a godly wife, for most of us men, will bring blessings that nothing else can.
Perhaps what I’ve said sounds selfish: finding a wife to “produce blessings” for me. But we all naturally pursue what we think is in our best interest. That’s how God has wired us. Sin arises when we seek happiness outside of God or when we do not prize Him as being greater than any wife could ever be. That kind of attitude can lead to our pursuing good things (like a girlfriend or wife) in ungodly ways (like among non-Christian women or through sexual experimentation).
But I’ve found that an opposite problem is common today among men — particularly Christian men from good churches: not trying to find a wife at all.
I had that problem myself for a number of years.
The Lord got a hold of my life in some unusual ways when I was in my early 20s. I had plenty of friends through church, and life seemed great. I had lots of free time, plenty of money to eat out, travel and give, and could do what I wanted whenever I wanted. I lived a pretty lax spiritual life in college, not getting into too much trouble but not going hard after God either.
At 23, that changed and I wanted more of God than I had ever had before. I wanted to read theology books, be in as many Bible studies as possible, and know everything about God and His ways that I possibly could.
But the desire for a wife came slowly, and seemed in some ways unnatural. I hadn’t been hearing that I needed a wife — after all, wasn’t God enough? Didn’t Paul say that it was good to remain single, as he was (1 Corinthians 7:8)? And that each one should remain in the condition in which he was called (1 Corinthians 7:20)? I told myself I could marry if God called me to, but that unless He made that unmistakably clear, I would — and should — stay my bachelor course.
I’ve known many single guys who think this way. The logic goes like this: “I’m a Christian. I love God. I currently don’t have a wife. If God wants me to marry someone, He’ll make that explicitly clear. For me to get proactive in the process is to imply that I don’t trust God to make it happen. And seeking a wife seems less spiritual than taking on another ministry responsibility. After all, I’m single. I really should commit all my time to God and not be distracted with thinking about girls.”
The problem with this line of thinking is that not every man who has the status of singleness is gifted for singleness. God requires all singles to be celibate until marriage (to abstain from sexual expression in thought and deed), but because most singles aren’t gifted for lifelong celibacy, most should seek to marry.
Other writers on Boundless have ably addressed the gift of celibacy and how to discern whether you have it. Briefly, I agree with what they have said in noting that it is a rare gift that is accompanied by a Spirit-endowed ability to cheerfully and without bitterness or rancor abstain from sexual intimacy and the deep emotional companionship that only comes with marriage and having children. In many cases, I believe this is accompanied with a particular life calling that greatly profits from the status of singleness (e.g., missions, a life-threatening vocation, excessive traveling, etc.).
The Scriptures say, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). So the man is said to “find” a wife, and that a wife is a good thing. The favor from the Lord part shows that, yes, God is the One who ultimately gives the wife, but it is still our job as men to be proactive in the finding process.
In Matthew 19, Jesus gives some very tough teaching on the permanence of marriage. The Pharisees taught that a man could write up a divorce notice to his wife for any reason at all. They chose to put Jesus to the test on the issue. Jesus replies that even though Moses permitted (not commanded) divorce, it was only as an allowance in light of the reality of sin (“… but from the beginning it was not so,” Matthew 19:8). Instead, Jesus floors them by saying that “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Not only are the Pharisees stunned, the disciples are, too. How do we know? Their response is basically. “If that’s the way it is, Jesus, we should all just stay single!” And, interestingly, Jesus does not dispute their astute observation. Rather, he qualifies it: Yes, singleness has undeniable advantages, but “not everyone can receive this [concept], but only those to whom it is given…. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
As a single man in my early 20s, I could not “receive” this. By God’s grace, I was not fooling around or hooked on pornography, but I found sexual thoughts and attractive women to be a recurring distraction from my walk with God. Every few months it seemed that a platonic or professional relationship with an attractive non-Christian woman would develop alluring sexual potential. You don’t have to date a woman nowadays to get into compromising situations. A single man with strong sexual interests (and that’s most of us men) and available sexual encounters (and that’s most of us) is in frequent danger.
I’ve found that protection against sexual sin and the opportunity and the pleasure associated with monogamous sexual intimacy with the woman I love to be a very real benefit of marriage. But there are others.
Marriage enhances my walk with God. Living with my wife forces me to deal with sin issues that were more easily overlooked in my bachelor days. A wife is not very much like a guy roommate — the emotional synergy she will look for from you is far more encompassing. And just because we overlook (or are not forced to deal with) certain sin patterns as singles doesn’t mean they aren’t there. In fact, one of the dangers of staying single too long is that the quirks we get away with as bachelors can turn into habits that our wives will not appreciate and that we will find hard to break.
It’s significant that an elder should be one who manages his own family well (1 Timothy 3:4). Paul apparently saw this as a litmus test of how a man will lead in God’s church. By trying to love my wife as Christ loves me (sacrificially, intentionally, perseveringly), I am blessed by reaping the good fruit that comes from a joyful partner and friend. Likewise, my failures are amplified because both she and I suffer. Marriage makes me more fully recognize the principles of stewardship.
Finally, marriage calls me to be a provider and protector. I need to be wiser with money, because I’m looking out not just for myself but for my wife and children. That demands a degree of maturity in me that I don’t think I could have mustered any other way.
There’s nothing unspiritual about wanting marriage. Marriage is an important, normal, sanctifying, biblical aspect of adulthood. It provides protection from sexual sin, companionship, and the privilege to procreate and give back the gift of life.
Just as it’s not necessarily sinful to be discontent and take action if you’re unemployed or hungry, God has wired most of us with a longing for the sexual and emotional intimacy of marriage.
Yes, our ultimate and primary satisfaction must be in God, and His purposes can shine forth in our lives regardless of our marital state. Nevertheless, if you’re not gifted for singleness, go ahead and seek a wife.
Marriage won’t solve all your problems. But your life will generally reflect a deeper maturity and winsomeness that will open doors for relationships and ministry. Know that God’s grace will be with you as you step out in faith. Men, what are you waiting for?
Copyright 2006 Alex Chediak. All rights reserved.