In thinking about this paper I struggled with what topic to choose, so I began to just dig into different marriage materials, and naturally found myself researching the different stages before marriage. This paper is a broad overview, beginning with a single person and the proper view of marriage, then what one should look for in a partner in marriage, leading to questions to ask before engagement, to things to consider before marriage, to a man and wife’s role once in marriage, giving more emphasis to the woman in all of these different elements.
Today, the status of marriage is a negative one. This attitude is revealed by a young woman who said, “When I got married I was looking for an ideal, but I married an ordeal and now I want a new deal!” But the problem is not the institution of marriage. The problem lies with the individuals within that structure and their attitudes towards it.# I hope this paper may help with this sad status.
Why should one consider premarital counseling? Because it impresses upon the couple the seriousness of marriage. Pre-marital counseling is a means by which one can “reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God consider His gift of marriage.#
We see in Genesis 2:22 that God first appeared on the scene of human history in the role of a matchmaker. It reads, “Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man”.
The Genesis account reveals four vitally important truths about marriage. First, that the concept of marriage originated entirely with God. Secondly, that it was God who formed Eve for Adam. He alone knew the kind of mate Adam needed. Thirdly, that it was God who presented Eve to Adam. Adam did not have to go in search for her. Then fourthly, it was God who determined the way in which Adam and Eve were to relate to each other. That the end purpose of their relationship was perfect unity as it says in Genesis 2:24, “they will become one flesh”.#
So, to begin with the stages leading from a single person to a married person and the biblical process in between. To begin with, if one is single they should be familiar with Isaiah 54:5, “For your Maker is your husband- the LORD Almighty is his name- the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the is called the God of all the earth”. As a single ask the question,
“Have you spent as much time thinking about Him as you have thinking about “eligible” men?” Or “have you and the Lord been on your honeymoon“? Do you remember meeting someone new and being consumed with thoughts and daydreams about him? This is how you need to enjoy that kind of relationship with the Lord. For the Lord wants to be our First Love. He can’t be our first love if we focus all our emotional energy on another human. If you are struggling with contentment use “counter cards”, simply put verses that you can meditate with on 3X5 cards to counteract any negative thinking. For yes it is true that, God will give us the desires of our hearts, but we are first required to delight ourselves in Him!#
A single who has been given the desire by God to be married, should then look for what in a marriage partner?? Look for “PROVENESS”!! Proveness: is fruit over time. Time being the key word. What is the direction of their life? Have they faithfully, passionately followed Christ over the long haul? We know that we can know one by their fruit from Matthew 7:16-20 which says, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them”. Consider that they must not just demonstrate this on a missions trip, but proveness must be demonstrated in life. Are they seeking first His kingdom, NOW?! Are they amazed at the cross, NOW?! For whatever they are now is what they will be that later. The ideal marriage is marrying someone who loves Christ more than you! So, look for that now.#
In this process one who is single must trust in God’s timing and enjoy this time, for when you are ready, God will bring the perfect person into your life and join you together. How can you trust God in this time? By fully enjoying this time as a single! Drink this up. Be in awe over the cross. Be blown away every single day, hungry to learn and to really live. Enjoy it! So, in summary: Be proven, Look for the proven, Follow God’s Word, Trust in God, and Enjoy this time because you will never get it back!#
Then if you move from being single into a serious relationship, there are five questions created by Dr. Powilson that would be good to consider before engagement. For a successful marriage does not begin with the wedding ceremony. Its foundation is laid much earlier, first, in the careful preparation of character, and then in the matching of a man and woman whom God has appointed for one another.#
The first question for a counselee to ask is very basic, but should not go unnoticed, and that is “Are you both Christians?” If yes, then you may continue, and that is to rid yourself of false priorities of marriage, for yes, Marriage is a wonderful gift from God, but it cannot take God’s place. Ask yourself if you think marriage will be your source of joy and happiness? Sadly, people often come to marriage with such unrealistic expectations. And are you ready to give, because that is that is what it will take when the disappoints come in order to withhold the vows…“For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part”.
Secondly, Do you have a track record of solving problems biblically? It is inevitable that problems will come, but if you learn to face them according to Scripture, then He promises you will stand, as in Matthew 7:24-27, in building his house on rock. Be honest and consider, do you do what the Bible says? Do you manipulate? Do you blame shift? Do you strive to forgive? Do you pray together? Where do you need to change and grow to become a wiser person? This must be evaluated because to enjoy the blessings in marriage, you need skills in solving problems and building honesty and trust. More specifically ask serious questions before their engagement, such as: Are there patterns of sin in your lives?
Are you tempting each other sexually? Do you spend money impulsively? The idea here is not perfection, because then no one could ever get married, but rather it is to be moving in the right direction with progress.
Thirdly, ask if you are heading in the same direction in life? For as we are called to leave and cleave, we see that cleaving means you choose to move in the same direction of your spouse. In regards to leaving, consider whether or not you are willing to break with your friends and your single life?
Fourthly, it is wise to consider what those who know you well think of your relationship? For as the Proverbs tells us, we often do not see ourselves as well as others see us. Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice”.
Never be too proud to ask for help.
Lastly, simply ask yourselves, whether or not you really want to marry this person? And are you willing to accept each other just as you are? The bible tells us that the decision to marry is a choice we make. Getting married is your choice, for according to, I Corinthians 7:36..”He should do as he wants. He is not sinning”, God expects you to make the decision!
And the time to decide whether or not you want to marry, is during this stage, before your engagement. So, honestly ask yourselves all the questions and search your heart and pray to the Lord, to cleanse your motives, putting Him first.#
Then if one decides to marry they should make sure they have a correct biblical understanding of marriage including a biblical grasp of love, the roles of men and women, communication, finances.
First of all, today, the world marries for the wrong reasons. People generally decide to marry someone off of these three principle characteristics: 1) personal and sexual attraction to a person’s qualities, 2) emotional attachment, and 3) friendship, but this is incomplete. It is not grounded on sacrificing for another, and sense it is not, love will only lasts as long as the other remains satisfied by his lover. Hence all the divorces we have in today’s society.#
There are excerpts who have studied this phenomenon and stated the following: “No matter whom we fall in love with, we sooner or later fall out of love if the relationship continues long enough…the ecstatic lovingness that characterizes the experiences of falling in love always passes. The honeymoon always ends. The bloom of romance always fades”.#
Let us look at the true meaning of love. In one’s thinking of love in marriage, there are many unrealistic expectations. For example, this is a fairly this is a fairly typical response to the question, What do you expect from marriage?
“I expect my husband to be loving and understanding. I want him to encourage my talents. I want to have someone to talk to after a long day, someone who has a listening ear. And let’s not forget- he’s got to be sexy!”
Whereas the latter is seldom heard, “I expect to make my husband the object of my love and affection. I yearn to be there with a listening ear when he comes home from work. I want to serve him unselfishly, and I plan to surrender my body sexually even when, initially, I don’t have the desire.” And as strange as it sounds, the second set is what reflects God’s intentions for marriage.#
We learn that your marriage will benefit greatly if you learn to give of yourself now in the relationship you have with those around you. Abe Lincoln once said, “The success of a marriage depends not only on having the right partner, but on being the right partner”. So, let us dig deeper on how we may sacrificially love our partner. First, what kind of love is the Bible talking about. It is referring to “agape” love. Agape love is volitional, not emotional. It is an attitude, not a feeling. It is discerning, not sentimental. It is unselfish.#
So, how can we know this foundation for love? The only way to know unconditional love, is by knowing God. We see this in I John 4:7-8 which states, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”. So, with this in mind, one must only make the decision to marry when they are prepared to love as Christ loved. Also, do not deceive yourself that it begins when you have found the right person, but rather when you commit to being that “righteous” person of the Lord. Sacrificially loving is a great part of what marriage is created to be. It is one of God’s ways to enable us to experience Him and to find ourselves in Him. For as John 15:9-14 says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.#
One should always, always love Jesus Christ more than their wife or husband, and then you will learn how to love your spouse with something of his intensity and depth. Christ’s love for His church is so intense, that in comparison your love for your spouse looks like hate. See
Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple”. In loving your spouse never ever make them an idol. For if you love and want your spouse more than anything, you will end up selfish, fearful, bitter or disillusioned. But if you love Jesus more than anything else, you will really love and enjoy you spouse. It is then you will be someone worth marring! And that after all, is the biggest question of all. Will you be a source of gladness to another? With Jesus’ help, YES!#
So, any Christian contemplating marriage should read and reread, Ephesians 5:25-32
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church– for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church”.# What a standard this is for the husband, to love is wife as Christ loved the church!! “From heaven He came and sought her, To be His holy bride; With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died”.#
You must know what true love is, to know if you are loving or being loved.# Study I Corinthians 13:4-8, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away”.
True giving is the offering of a gift. A gift is something that expresses love not out of want, but out of understanding and service. It is knowing what another is in need of and being there to meet that need. If one truly tries to love in this way, it is quickly discovered that to provide such a gift is a never ending challenge. One must seek to always persevere.# You see that love involves helping other people, but you probably won’t help unless you know where they need help. But don’t sit around and wait for your partner to tell you. YOU have to be aggressive. Look for and plan ways to serve one another!#
Now let us consider the role relationship between men and women specifically in the institution of marriage. The role of the husband is to be the head of the woman, and his family. This is seen in I Corinthians 11:3, “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God”. A man’s success as head of their family will depend on their relationship to Jesus. Make Him the source of your words and actions. Rely on His strength and wisdom within you, not on your own. Let Him live out His life through you.# The husband must not neglect his role for what the head is to the body, the husband is to the wife. And what the body is without a head, a wife is without a true husband. This headship implies three things: union, authority, and responsibility. So, as head, the husband will be in vital union with her, he will possess authority over her and will be responsible to the Lord for the direction, welfare, and growth of his wife and family. He is responsible for its welfare: socially, spiritually, educationally, financially, physically, etc.#
Let us continue by looking at the role of a Christian wife in her marriage. God has called every Christian wife to His excellence, and He is tremendously honored (glorified) if you respond biblically. God’s will for every Christian wife is that her most important ministry be to her husband (Gen. 2:18) For just as Christ glorified the Father by doing the Father’s “work” the wife is to glorify her husband by doing the husband’s “work”. A wife’s role is to glorify her husband. She was created for him.# God describes woman in Genesis 2:18, “I will make a HELPER suitable for (man)”.#
A woman has three main God-given basic responsibilities toward her husband: to love him, to respect him, and to submit to him. Having already discussed love I will focus in upon the wife’s role in respecting and submitting to her husband.#
The Greek word for respect is “phobeo” which means “to be in awe of, to revere, to reverence, or to treat as someone special”. Treating your husband with respect is not something that your husband must first earn, it is something that you choose to show him. So, think objectively, not subjectivity. Don’t think in a way that is self-focused such as “How could he do this to me?” rather think “How does God want me to respond to help my husband change?”#
The role of the wife is also to submit. And the motivation for your submission, is that you are to submit to your husband, rendering it as a service to your Lord. The wife’s obedience to her husband is part of her obedience to her husband is part of her obedience to her Lord.#
A wife can be motivated to be submissive in the “big things” by being faithful in the “little things”. Your true heart and character is shown with small, seemingly unimportant things that your as we see in Luke 16:10, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much”.
A wife will never be what the Lord wants her to be until she graciously and joyfully comes under the authority of her husband. A wife shows love to God by obeying Him whether she feels like it or not, by thinking true, right, and praiseworthy thoughts. And then joy results from trusting and obeying God‘s Word. I John 5:3 states this, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome“.#
Communication is one of the key areas for counseling in a successful marriage. No skill will help a wife more in conflict with her husband than the ability to communicate biblically. Resolve to do the right thing in the right way with the right motive whether you feel like it or not. Because an excellent wife must communicate rightly to her husband if she is going to love, respect, and submit to him as God desires. A wife’s wrong words begin with wrong thoughts and motives as seen in Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts…” . Matthew 12:36-37 tells us that a wife is accountable to God for every word she speaks, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
A woman must control her tongue and purify her speech, for “the tongue of the righteous is as choice silver..” (Proverbs 10:20).# ).# In speaking truthfully it is wise to avoid exaggerations, be careful to not use words like “never”, “always” they are sweeping generalizations and are seldom the truth. When communicating about a problem a couple must boldly and confidently say, “this problem can be solved by the power of the Spirit of God and the application of the Word of God”.# Four important rules for effective communication can be found in Ephesians 4:25-32: Be honest (vs. 25), Stay current (vs. 26-27), Attack the problem, not the person (vs. 29-30), Act, Don’t react (vs. 31-32).
In communicating husbands need to be learners. No husband can love or lead his wife in the way that God desires unless he is a good learner. This includes listening. Good listening involves listening with your whole person, it requires discipline/self control, it involves an eagerness or desire to hear, it involves humility, and it involves gaining understanding.#
In all of this communication in regard to emotions, the goal is not to make your partner conform to your own emotional make-up, rather the goal is to try to understand each other’s emotions, and then to help one another handle these feelings in godly, obedient ways.#
The reason that I chose this topic of more a transitional topic from single, to dating, to engagement, to marriage is that to pass from the single to the married state is one of the most important and challenging transitions that can take place in a person’s life. To attempt such at transition without adequate preparation is like jumping into deep water without first learning to swim. The results are usually disastrous. This is why I am seeing the value of pre-marital counseling and the necessity of it. I want to follow the pattern of Jesus, and aim for a marriage that will be like the one He is planning for His church!!#
Through this paper I have learned the vitality of the timeless triangle, and that my marriage will only be as strong as the weakest of the three points. The three points being, leaving, cleaving, and one flesh.#
But even before marriage I was challenged in the way I am living my life now. And that I should be developing a gentle and quiet spirit now, even in my single life. I was challenged by the question to “List the way you would like your Knight in Shining Armor to perceive you. In what areas do you need to grow?” This is a good question to start examining the heart with.# Also, to get a mentor. That is something that I do not really have. Titus 2:3, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good”. I want to study the trinity more, for the members of a triune Godhead are living examples to us of a perfect relationship. And as there is harmony in the God-head, there can be harmony in a marriage relationship, and that is what I desire if I am ever to be married.
Then I was also challenged by what to look for in a man. One who is proven and then learning that the exemplary husband is a type of shepherd-leader: A shepherd knows where he is going (Jn. 6:38), a shepherd knows how to lead lovingly (Ps. 23:1,6), a shepherd leads by example (Jn. 10:4a), a shepherd knows how to oversee (Ez. 34:1-4), a shepherd is involved (Jn. 10:14), a shepherd is diligent in his responsibility (I Pt. 5:2), a shepherd protects (Jn. 10:11-13), a shepherd provides (Ps. 23:1), a shepherd instructs (Ps. 23:1-3), a shepherd corrects (Ps. 23:1-4), a shepherd seeks to restore his sheep (Ps. 23:1,3). And that an exemplary husband is a servant leader. The greatest leader of all time was a servant-leader. These qualities have given me a biblical guideline in what to pray for, if God has someone for me, for I desire that he be a shepherd-leader.#
Doing this paper I learned a lot and am thankful for the opportunity to do so much biblical research. It was at times a difficult paper to write, because I had to check my heart as I was doing all this thinking about marriage, I felt my contentment in singleness withering, but memorizing pieces of II Corinthians 7:32-35 has helped, for it says, “I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is to be concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord...I say these things for you benefit, so that you may have undistracted devotion to the Lord. I pray that I will be continually joyful where the Lord has me, and that I will be fully concerned of the things of the Lord. Yet during this time I am challenged by Revelation 19:7 “…his bride has made herself ready”. That the same qualities that make a woman pleasing to the Lord will make her pleasing to her mate. I can be doing things now to prepare myself. I love what the bachelor George Whitefield, after visiting Jonathan Edwards, wrote about Mrs. Edwards in his diary being greatly impressed with her, “She is a woman adorned with a meek and quiet spirit and talked so feelingly and so solidly of the things of God, and seemed to be such a helpmeet to her husband, that she caused me to renew those prayers which for some months I have put up to God, that He would send a daughter of Abraham to be my wife”.
And if God does bless me with this gift of marriage, I pray with all my heart that I will be an excellent wife as in Proverbs 31:10, “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels”.