Now to my single sisters let me offer a few points of biblical advice. A quick aside: Please know that this series on marriage is deeply personal for me. I have four beautiful daughters and a church full of my sisters whom I want to get married. As a father and a pastor, I carry a heavy burden, wondering if my brothers will do the right thing and marry them. And I wonder sometimes if my sisters will wisely help them. Also, to me this is a deep burden because I am convinced that how the urban church responds to the crisis of “marriagelessness” will as clearly as any single issue determine its future health. I’m not panicking though, because Jesus said He would build His church, and I am one black preacher who believes God brings revivals when His people heed His Word. So here is my fatherly advice to sisters waiting for Mr. Right.
1. Trust the Lord, all good gifts come from Him, including husbands.
God is omnipotent, which means He can do anything, so trust Him. God is omniscient, which means He knows how to do everything, so trust Him. And God is also omni-beneficent, which means that no child of God has to twist His arm — as if we could — for God to bless His own. The quintessence of being a Christian is being unimaginably, wonderfully, undeservedly blessed by God. We’re blessed, sisters. Let me then ask you what God asked Abraham when he wavered in his faith, “Is there anything too difficult for the Lord?” Learn to trust Him in this way — that He is always being good to you and that He delights in blessing you. Make your daily meditation the following promises:
Psa. 84:11 | “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
Rom. 8:32 | “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
So if no one is showing special interest in you, resist the temptation of your flesh and Satan to pull you down with the lie “no one cares for you.” God does and does so infinitely. Rather tell yourself:
Psa. 73:25 | “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.”
Psa. 73:26 | “My flesh and my heart may fail, (can I add your dreams of a mate) but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psa. 73:28 | “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge.”
2. Listen to your fathers. They really do know best.
Men really do know men better. It’s more than a cliché that good girls end up with bad guys. Your fathers (or spiritual fathers, if you don’t have one) will be an invaluable source of wisdom in helping you discern if he really is Mr. Right or Mr. Totally-Wrong.
I remember a time when all the ladies in our church (including the church mothers) picked a guy for one of the single ladies in the church. When I caught wind of it, I was stunned. That dude was a snake. I had just been moving towards suggesting that the church discipline him, but he left the church. Sisters, this happens a lot. All the spiritual fathers in the church can tell who the bad dudes are. There is good biblical reason why pastors officiating weddings ask the father, “who gives this woman to be married to this man?” to which the father answers, “I do.” 1 Cor 7:36-38 lays the duty of giving a young woman in marriage on the bride’s father.
People are best known by their relationship to their communities. My church, Community of Faith Bible Church is a Bible-centered community of faith striving to please God and live for His glory. We have men and women within our community who are thriving in it, who are submissive to it, and therefore growing in it. But we also have men and women in our community who are indifferent to it and who are rebellious to it. A casual outside observer of our community couldn’t know who was who. But the fathers of the various communities should, and they should be sought out by singles to get confirmation. For example, one of the favorite sons of our sister church married one of the favorite daughters of our church. As pastors, we had talked to each other to make sure our favorite son and daughter were getting a good woman and a good man from our communities. We had confirmed that they were, and they listened to us and are now building a strong godly marriage as missionaries in Haiti.
3. Shorten your list to the essentials. Thinking realistically is better than thinking romantically.
Notice, I didn’t say compromise your convictions, but I am appealing that you replace preferences on your list with biblical requirements. Does he love the Lord? Will he love and lead you? I’m struggling to add anything else to the list as absolutely essential. And I intentionally didn’t say anything about looks, because the Bible says in 1 Sam. 16:7 when the Lord sent Samuel to find a king for His people, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Brothers, before you say “Amen,” the same advice applies to you.
Looking for the wrong things, and worse, making them a priority, will obscure your vision from seeing Mr. Right and lead you right into the arms of Mr. Wrong. Without the right perspective, you might let Mr. Right ride right past you because he doesn’t come riding in on a white horse and doesn’t look like Prince Charming.
Listen to how unromantic my proposal was to my wife, who previously was attending UCLA Medical School and had dated another Bruin who was heading to law school. I said something like, “The Lord has called me to the hard part of the city. I will not pursue making a lot of money. I may never be able to buy you a new car and much less a house”—pause—then on bended knee I asked her, “Will you marry me?” (To be clear: I did say a few romantic things like “I want to be your best friend” and “I love you.”) She said, “Yes” and at the time, my salary was 20 something K a year. She even willingly submitted to my request to become a homemaker to take on the busy role of being a pastor’s wife. She wisely didn’t expect me to be where I am today. She was willing to start with humble means and help me get to where I am (and where we are) today.
In terms of available men, these are lean times, sisters. Satan’s schemes have been all too effective against our brothers. But a wise sister will learn to be content with a shorter list and learn through a godly courtship how to be a godly helper. Both contentment and being a good helper have to be learned, and the Bible, not the world, is the only source for that. Which leads to my next point:
4. Be ready to be a helper, not leader.
A well-known preacher once said, “Anything with two heads is a monster.” Sisters, getting married means becoming a helper. With that being the case, it’s important to start learning how to do that while single. Life is directional. If you are carving out an unalterable path of exclusive leadership, then how will you be a perfect fit for Mr. Right since God calls the man to be the head of marriage (Eph 5:23)?
Marriage has to be important enough for you to be willing to alter your priorities if the opportunity for marriage presents itself. That means you need to be willing to put off or say no to a career, traveling with the girls, or even more education.
Here’s a test you can take now to see if you are spiritually growing in the right direction.
How helpful, supportive, respectful and submissive are you to your father (figure) and pastors now? I can think of no clearer indicator that you are ready for marriage than the status of your relationship to the male authorities in your life now.
More important than putting yourself out there so you’ll be noticed, is putting on the humility of Christ so that He will honor you. Singleness has purposes—the main one is to learn how to live with a single devotion to Christ (1 Cor 7:32, 35). God will use your godly character and not worldliness to attract your Mr. Right.
One more point, if a brother seems to be showing an interest in you, you have every right to know if he’s just being a brother or if he thinks the Lord might be leading him to pursue a more serious relationship with you. If he says he wants to lead you in a relationship to see if the Lord is moving you towards marriage, and if your father (figure) affirms his character, the community confirms his relationship to the Lord, then find a “Naomi” to help you learn how to help him lead your relationship. It’s not only okay if you help him, you should. Your Boaz will need you to be his helping Ruth. You just have to make sure through godly counsel and accountability you are doing so wisely and in a godly way. Now having said that, make him lead. Don’t show him all your cards and spell out all of your feelings. Affirm his leadership but make sure he is the one who is out front and not you. And finally, don’t confuse every act of brotherly service as a sign of romantic interest. He may have sat near you at church on Sunday because he saw an open seat. Remember the brothers should be interacting with you as platonic brothers, as implied in 1 Tim 5:2.
5. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, not a husband.
Make Christ the pursuit of your life and not getting a man. If a brother does show interest in you, never feel so pressed to have him that you let go of God to get him. Honestly keep evaluating your relationship with the question, “Is God giving me to him and is He confirming that by showing that this relationship is a good thing?” An obvious way to discern if God is giving you to your supposed Boaz, is to deal with integrity with the yellow or red lights God shows you. If God shows you a yellow light, then slow down (don’t speed up!) and work through the problem. Learning to work through your yellow lights (problems) is a key to having a future God-glorifying marriage. If when you slow down, you still can’t work through your problems in a healthy way, then that yellow light turns into a red light. And red lights mean stop! Psalm 23 is real. It promises that with the Lord as our Shepherd He leads us to greener pastures and calmer waters. He doesn’t lead us to run through red lights into disastrous crashes.
What is an example of a red light? Here’s one: He has more arms than an octopus and can’t control himself and honor your purity. That’s a big red light, sisters. The Word of God states, “This is the will of God, your sanctification, that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality,” 1 Thess 4:3. How can you possibly believe that your relationship is in the will of God and you are fornicating, which by definition means that you are out of the will of God?
You have influence to help. If he is stuck and can’t get past courtship, then pull out of the relationship and don’t go back until he is ready. Don’t ignore yellow lights or red lights. If you are open and transparent with your relationship to godly, wise counsel, God will make His will clear. Don’t compromise and settle for less; instead seek God first and know that He will add everything to your life that’s good and right. Singleness with the Lord is better than any relationship with a professing unsaved religious so-called brother.
As I close, let me give a quick word of thanks to my mid-week fellowship group who helped me think through this final post. Now may God, who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent ignite a passion for Christ-glorifying marriages within His church and motivate urban men to take the lead in pursuing the hands in marriage of godly women who know how to help Mr. Right know that he is Mr. Right.
Thank you for reading.
Pastor Bobby Scott