As mentioned above, marriage is not a cure-all to life's problems. In fact, marriage increases the responsibilities of life. In spite of this, most young people have a desire to get married. This is right in God's eyes, for this is His purpose.
When we begin to think about marriage, the tendency is to concentrate on looking for the right person. We begin to worry if we do not see that person in view yet. May I suggest that this is not the place to begin? The place to begin is to prepare yourself and believe that God is working to prepare your future mate. If you do this, it will focus your attention on the correct things and cause you to be active in God. It will also keep you occupied with the right things in the event that you do not marry.
The first place we must prepare ourselves is in our relationship with God. This covers every area of life. If we are not exercised in a relationship with God and learning what it means to move in union with God before we are married, why do we think we will suddenly begin on the day we are married? Marriage brings in a whole new realm of responsibilities.
As married men, we will suddenly be responsible for nourishing and cherishing another person in a way we never have before. We will need God's love, God's grace, and God's wisdom. We will be responsible for guiding the household and making careful decisions before the Lord. Have we already been doing that while single? Are we under the authority of our head, Christ? How will we exercise our headship properly unless we are moving under our Head? As single women, are we experiencing what it means to submit to Christ in all things? If not, how will we work out submission to Christ in this new relationship? None of us will be exercised and ready for the increased responsibilities of a marriage relationship unless we let Christ discipline our lives now, moving under His authority in every relationship as single men and women.
If we are abiding in Christ and letting His word abide in us, the fruit of that relationship is the character of God taking expression in us. There are two passages in scripture that summarize what will take place as we respond to Christ. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22,23). "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:5-8).
We do not wait until we are married to see these things take root in our lives. They need to be working in every area of life before we enter into marriage. Someone has said that if we are not able to live harmoniously with the members of our immediate family, how can we expect to be able to do so with a wife or husband? The relationship is even more intimate and demanding, and the responsibilities far greater. The family relationships in which we find ourselves at present are God's training ground for a future family of our own.
An area that deserves special attention is purity. When you marry, you will want your mate to be pure. You cannot keep your future mate pure, but you can keep yourself pure. If you allow yourself to be defiled through disobedience, it will affect your relationship with your future wife or husband. Repentance and God's grace can bring you back to a right standing with God and with your future mate, but the effects of sin can be very damaging. One of the greatest things we as young people can do is keep ourselves undefiled by this world. This is true for both men and women, but it is particularly applicable to young men.
In this godless age, the world throws its filth at us in a thousand ways. Literature, the media, and music all are used to pull our minds into the gutter and get us to focus on the flesh and its desires. There is only one way to deal with these things and that is to turn away and run. Paul told Timothy to "flee youthful lusts." Sometimes young men think that marriage will solve their problem with lust, but that is not true. Married men lust and it leads them into adultery. On the other hand, women need to allow God to work real modesty into their character and appearance so they may be a glory to God and not an avenue of temptation to men. If we want to enter into marriage on a right foundation, ready to experience all of its blessings, we need to give all diligence to these areas in our relationship with God.
Another area of preparation is to ask God for our own revelation of His plan for the family. Vague ideas are not enough. We need to take on the mind of God. What has God designed the family to be? What are the roles of husband and wife? How are they different? How do two function together as one? How are children to be raised? Are we considering these and other questions?
We may think it is too soon to be thinking about such things, but young people should be looking to God for an expanding revelation of God's design for marriage and family. There should be a good foundation in all of these things on the beginning day. Many people don't start to think about the principles of child training until they have a child. That is probably too late. Many have woken up to find that they had very different ideas from their mate and were not able to move in oneness while working with the children. The result has often been very bitter, and the children are the greatest losers. Now is not too soon to be thinking of these things.
Of course, an area that is more obvious is allowing God to give us a clear vision of what we are looking for in a mate. Our own ideas may not stand before God. We may be looking for the "beauty queen" or "tall, dark and handsome" that will sweep us off our feet. Even if we know that is wrong, have we really let God deal with our hearts? If we do not let God deal with false concepts sooner rather than later, we may waste years of our life looking for someone that does not exist.
Are we thinking about another person as the father or mother of our children? We have already mentioned character traits that will be seen developing in one who is responding to God. These character traits define a person, and these are most important when considering a future mate. How is a young man handling responsibility? What is a young woman giving her time to? How does he or she handle money? What choices are they making now? These are all indicators of the direction a person is going. If one that we are considering is not moving in the right direction now, we have no assurance that they will change after the wedding day.
Perhaps you have the concept that there is only one special person in the whole world that is suited to you. Consider that concept very carefully before God. I believe you will see that is not true, and I think it is important to realize it. We are considering marriage in light of God's grace and Christ indwelling both members by the Holy Spirit. Based on that foundation, God's love working in our hearts will give us all the ability we need to love any man or woman God leads us to marry.
In most cases today, we have a choice, and we can believe that God will lead us in that choice. The basic question a Christian must settle is whether they are willing to accept God's choice. He knows best. Do we believe that He knows best--that He knows better than we do what will lead to our greatest joy and fulfillment in marriage? A good God gives good gifts to His children. Are we willing to trust God to lead us to His choice? Do we know how to be led by the Spirit? These are foundational questions.
The choice of a life partner is truly one of life's major decisions. We must have God's mind. But we should not concentrate on God's leading only in this area. We must move in faith in all areas of our life. If we are looking for and experiencing God's leading in all areas of our life, the leading of the Spirit in this area will not be so foreign to us.
Choosing the right mate is of vital importance, but it is only the beginning. We cannot live in the wedding day. As wonderful as it may have been, the next day there will be new things to believe God for. We must be led by the Spirit in those things also. Some have concentrated so much on the wedding day that they missed God and found themselves in the divorce court a few months later. Lest we be among them, we must develop a relationship with God that is real and touches every area of our life. This and this alone is our primary preparation for our future mate and the responsibilities and joys of marriage.