This article is part of the Questions and Answers series.
Q: What qualities should I look for in a potential spouse?
A: Here are a few questions to guide you:
- Are you evenly yoked?
- Are you both Christians—not just saying so for the sake of getting married?
- Do you make good companions? Do you have some things you like to do together? Are you close enough in age to enjoy the rest of your lives together?
- Do you serve the Lord better together than you do apart?
- Are you both growing in Christ because of your relationship?
- Do mature Christians in your life consider this relationship worth pursuing, or do they see red flags?
- Are you attracted to each other physically?
- Do you share basic convictions about how to raise a family?
If you can check these boxes, be encouraged! Don’t get caught up in finding “the one”—a paralyzing thought! There can be many who meet the conditions God has revealed in his word, and God wants you to choose from among them. By choosing your spouse, you honor your spouse. Your spouse will know that you are married not because “God made you get married,” as if marriage is an act of raw obedience, but because you wanted to marry this person in particular. How romantic!
Q: If I hope to be married someday, what qualities should I cultivate now to prepare myself to be a godly spouse?
A: Whether married or single, growth in all areas is the best preparation for the Christian life. Pursue humility, wisdom, prayerfulness, the fear of the Lord, and the fruit of the Spirit without holding back. If you make growth in Christ your aim in life, you will surely be a godly spouse.
If you are looking for a particular focus for your growth, consider the qualities the Bible mentions when addressing husbands and wives.
The Bible calls wives in particular to inner beauty, helpfulness, and respect for their husbands. God’s word mentions Sarah’s outer beauty, but it praises her for her inner beauty, namely, her gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet. 3:3–6). Women, consider what this spirit looks like for you. Hint: it does not mean silence! It is more about the wisdom of knowing when and how to speak. After all, God designed each wife to be a helper to her husband (Gen. 2:18). Usually this involves some speaking, sometimes even a word of respectful challenge. So, practice speaking to your current authority figures with respect and you will be better prepared to speak to your husband with respect too. In preparation to be a helper to your future husband, consider which skills you would like to cultivate now. Whether your gifts be in accounting, child development, law, design, or you name it, steward your gifts well now and you will be better positioned to bless your future husband and family later, should the Lord give them to you.
With regard to men, the Bible calls husbands especially to be servant-leaders. Single men can prepare themselves by finding such men to copy—men who don’t lord their authority over those they lead (Matt. 20:25, 1 Pet. 5:3) but lead primarily by example and encouragement (1 Tim. 4:12, 1 Pet. 5:3, Heb. 13:7). This is how you will be called to lead a wife someday should you get married. And if the Lord should have you remain single, you will still be called to these qualities, so nothing is lost in the practice.
For men, one way you can make it easier for a wife to follow you is by gaining a deep understanding of theology before you are married. This understanding will guide you in the wide variety of important and difficult decisions a husband needs to make, ideally with his wife’s help: Where should we go to church? How should we spend our money? How will we train our children? As you grow in your theological understanding, you will grow in your ability to lead your family in God’s will, bearing fruit to his glory.
To be clear, studying theology is helpful for women too! It is easier for a wife to submit to her husband if she agrees with him theologically. A deep understanding of theology before marriage helps a woman choose a husband with whom she expects to agree.
One final tip for both men and women hoping to be married is to get good at forgiveness—both asking for it and granting it (Col. 3:13). This is basic to the Christian life and essential for marriage between two sinners, and that is what we are. If you are quick and thorough in forgiving your friends, family, and enemies now, you will be better prepared to forgive your spouse through many years of marriage.
Whether married or single, growth in all areas is the best preparation for the Christian life.
Q: How can I pray for my married friends?
A: Pray for their growth in Christ, knowing this will support them in their marriage. To be specific, pray that they wouldn’t use God’s commands to husbands and wives to nag each other: “Wife, you need to respect me!” or “Husband, you need to love me!” Pray that they would instead use these commands to wisely serve each other. Pray that a wife, understanding that her husband is commanded to love her, would make it her aim to be easy to love. And pray that a husband, understanding that his wife is commanded to respect him, would make it his aim to be easy to respect. In making their spouse’s job easier, they graciously serve one another.
Your friends might ask you to pray for their “communication problem.” Poor communication is a common marriage problem, but not the most important one. The content of communication, not the quality, matters most. While we assume the best of our friends, we still know that they are sinners, which makes loving one another difficult. Pray that in the midst of their sin God would so fill your friends with loving thoughts towards one another—forgiving thoughts, gracious thoughts, and encouraging thoughts—that their mouths would overflow with loving communication. “Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). So, pray for their hearts. If they have loving hearts toward one another, you can trust that loving communication will follow. If they don’t have loving hearts toward each other, it might be better that their “communication problem” remain!
Q: How can I support my friends’ marriage without feeling like a third wheel?
A: Be a friend! Married couples need friends outside marriage too. Spend time as you would with any friend, trusting they will tell you if they need more space. Consider teaming up with them to show hospitality. You can set the table or welcome guests while your friends flip burgers or put a baby down for a nap. Ask your friends how you can help. It’s great to be part of their team!
It’s also great to give them time as a “team.” Perhaps offer to babysit so they can get a night out themselves. Couples can feel like roommates and forget romance. Months can go by without a date. If babysitting doesn’t work for you, consider another way you can encourage them to get out as a couple.
Q: If I never get married, am I missing out?
A: Yes and no.
Yes, in that God said “It’s not good for man to be alone.” A single life can be lonely. As singles, we can feel that something is missing, and we are right. A good marriage provides a real solution to the problem of loneliness. God designed marriage as a blessing and it is good to desire it. Seeing others with the various blessings reserved for marriage and not being married yourself can be difficult. It is good to seek a godly marriage as a means to its blessings.
But in another sense, no. In remaining single you are not missing out. Singleness may remain a trial, but James 1:2–4 explains that trials are an opportunity to grow in Christ. The person who is really missing out is the one who doesn’t mature from trials. God uses trials to make us complete, not lacking anything. So, we rejoice in singleness as we would rejoice in any other trial God ordains for us, knowing it is for our good.
What’s more, Paul also points to the unique blessing of singleness. Unlike those who are married, single people can serve and focus on the Lord unencumbered by the care for a spouse (1 Cor. 7:32–35).
Finally, single people are not missing out on the big marriage: the only perfect marriage, the one between Christ and his bride, the church. When all earthly marriages end, this marriage will last forever. For all believers, the best marriage is yet to come, and none of us will miss out on that!
Emily Van Dixhoorn is coauthor with Chad Van Dixhoorn of Gospel-Shaped Marriage: Grace for Sinners to Love Like Saints.
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