Perhaps the most daunting and anxiety-provoking aspect of marriage is the search for the “right person.” How do you know when you’ve found “the one”?
People say things like, “When you know, you know.” I have never found that helpful (or supported in Scripture). It makes it sound like you bump into this “right person” and it’s immediately obvious and you never waver. I have not found that to be true for most people, and the idea produces anxiety for so many. When you know, you know? What if I don’t know that I know? If I don’t know, does that mean this person is a no?
So, if you don’t “know when you know,” how can you know you found the one person you are supposed to marry?
Ready? You can’t.
You can’t know when you know that this is the person you are to marry, but you can know if you found someone worth considering for marriage.
Contrary to popular belief, the Bible doesn’t say to look for “the one” or even that there is such thing as “the one.” Instead, it says to look for “someone” who has specific biblical character qualities:
- faith and commitment to Jesus as his or her first love
- Christlike character
- support from your other Christian friends
- a biblical perspective of marriage as a covenant
- spiritual and emotional health
- desire to marry
If both you and the person you are dating have these qualities, you have a potential marriage candidate. If not, you don’t.
What if there is someone better out there?
You may wonder: What if I pick this “someone” but there is another someone out there who is even better for me? Fair question. In fact, this question is often the primary question responsible
for one or both people in the relationship having “cold feet,” dating with no end in sight, sleepless nights, and full-fledged freaking out.
So, is there someone out there more compatible, more complementary, and more like-minded for you?
My guess is that there is.
Or I would at least say there is a good chance there is.
After all, there are more than 7.5 billion people on the planet.
I’m no mathematician, but that is . . . a lot of people. There is probably some “someone” who shares your favorite hobbies, movie preferences, sports teams, taste in furniture and hummus, and so on. So maybe in some ways that someone would be a “better match” (whatever that means).
But contrary to the algorithms of dating websites, finding the “best match possible” is not the goal. The goal is to find someone who has what God says to look for in a spouse. In fact, finding the best match is not only unnecessary but also not possible. I mean, it’s literally not possible.
Why not? In order to know the best option, you have to know all the options. If I am grocery shopping and want to buy the best apple they have, how can I know I’ve found it? Only after I have looked at every apple can I know I found the best one.
The same is true with dating. To know you have found the best person for you would require examining every potential option available. That means you’d have to evaluate millions (or perhaps even billions) of people, which would require more time than you have left in life.
To speed date for only five minutes with every single adult who is of the opposite sex, who is between the ages of 18 and 34, who shares your Christian faith, and who lives in the United States would take you at least the next three decades of your life. (Perhaps I am a mathematician!)
Finding the best person for you is literally not possible — but finding someone with the qualities God says are best is.
Who you were made for
In my garage is a stack of work gloves, which includes left-handed and right-handed ones. When it’s time to do yard work, I grab one of each type of glove and head outside.
As long as the pair consists of a right and left glove, it doesn’t really matter which I choose. The gloves were not specifically made for the other, but they were made for a purpose: They were made to be worn as gloves, not as hats or socks. I know this because they were made in the image of a hand. Their purpose is woven into how they were made. Whether a single glove has a match or not doesn’t keep it from fulfilling its purpose.
Similarly, living out the purpose of your life doesn’t require you to find your “match.” Just as a glove was made in the image of a hand, you have been made in the image of God. Your purpose is found in living directly in relationship with Him and serving Him, whether or not you end up doing that with another person made in His image.
In the same way the left-handed gloves in that stack can match with right-handed gloves, you, too, can make it work with just about anyone of the opposite sex. As long as the person shares your commitment to Jesus as Lord and first love of his or her life, everything else is pretty much negotiable.
What if I never get married?
The question “What if I never get married?” is another source of tremendous anxiety for many people. Reading that last sentence may make you think of spending the rest of your life alone, without a spouse, surrounded by a dozen cats, which is enough to make you sick and want to go update your online dating profile. I get it.
Here is the truth: You may never get married. Statistically, though, the odds are in your favor. In America, 85 percent of people end up married by the age of 40 and 90 percent by age 50. So, while it is possible you won’t get married, it is highly unlikely.
Rather than living in fear, you can choose to trust God with the future He has for you and do something that will increase your chances of getting (and staying) married. What’s the secret, you ask?
Work on becoming the spouse the person you hope to marry is looking for. Or, as author and pastor Andy Stanley put it, become the person that the person you are looking for is looking for. Rather than unproductively worrying about if you will marry a godly person someday, you can focus on becoming a godly person today. After all, a godly person is going to be looking for a godly person to marry. Not a perfect person, but a godly person. Today, work on:
- becoming a man or woman of character
- growing in your faith and knowledge of the Bible
- pursuing sexual purity in your relationships and actions
- tackling your debt instead of adding to it
- healing from past hurts
- serving in a ministry or local church
Are you becoming the type of person the person you hope to marry is looking for? If not, start today. If you are becoming that person, keep going!
Adapted from “We’re All Freaking Out (and Why We Don’t Need To): Finding Freedom from Your Anxious Thoughts and Feelings”
© 2021 by David James Marvin.
Published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House
LLC, on October 5, 2021.