Guarding Your Heart for a Godly Marriage (Part 3: Wisdom)
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Prov 4:23, ESV)
Because marriage is intended to be a lifelong relationship, the choice of a spouse is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Admittedly, choosing a spouse is not like choosing a car – a car doesn’t have to choose you back! But your choice is obviously significant in who you marry, and that choice will have lasting reverberations.
Sadly, many young adults are choosing spouses based on superficial factors. Men tend to be drawn to beautiful and fun-loving women, regardless of their character, faith, and life skills (or lack thereof). Women tend to be drawn to men who are confident, charming, sharp dressers, funny, or wealthy, regardless of their character, faith, and leadership ability (or lack thereof).
The further you age into your adult life, factors for choosing a spouse tend to have less to do with superficiality and more to do with “settling.” You realize you may not find your idealized partner (which is good!), but the pendulum may swing too far the other way: settling for basically anyone who is willing to do life with you. Christian women in particular bemoan the plethora of slow-to-mature men who are stuck in their parents’ basement, valuing video games and pornography over adult responsibilities. Desperate to avoid a lifetime of loneliness, some Christians compromise their convictions and marry an immature believer or even an unbeliever.
Friends, marriage is a lifelong covenant. Once you make the commitment, you are “stuck” with your partner for life! It is better to remain unmarried than to be married to the wrong person.
What, then, are the right criteria to evaluate a potential spouse? In one word, you should look for someone who is wise. That is, someone who is characterized by the Biblical description of wisdom: the skill of godly living. Let’s examine some Biblical descriptions of wisdom, primarily from the book of Proverbs.
1. A wise believer fears the Lord and knows His love.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 9:10). No matter how much a potential spouse may know, he is not wise unless he reverences the Lord. True wisdom comes from Him alone (Prov 2:6). Your future spouse should have a heart to submit to the Lord and to His Word. If she disagrees with the Scriptures on any issue, she does not fear the Lord and lacks wisdom.
To know the Lord truly is to know his love. “Whoever is wise…let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord” (Psalm 107:43). A wise person embraces the gospel of Jesus: admitting his sin and trusting in His finished work on the cross. A wise person lives his life in accordance with God’s love. You shouldn’t have to drag your potential spouse to church, or nag him to read the Bible, or wonder if she will exercise her spiritual gifts. Ladies must be confident that their potential husband will demonstrate initiative in spiritual matters. Men must be confident that their potential wife is willing to follow spiritual leadership.
2. A wise believer is teachable and surrounds himself with wise companions.
Biblical wisdom does not come from ourselves. We are explicitly instructed to “be not wise in your own eyes” (Prov 3:7). Rather, “a wise man listens to advice” (Prov 12:15). You will know a fool by his unwillingness to be corrected by anyone; you will know a wise man by his eagerness to receive constructive criticism (Prov 9:8). If your potential spouse is a know-it-all, who has everything figured out at age 21, you may want to re-think that relationship!
Because a wise young adult seeks wisdom from others, she will seek wise companions (Prov 13:20). You can know a lot about your potential spouse by observing the friends she chooses to spend time with.
3. A wise believer maintains a good relationship with his family.
It is sadly common for young adults to have turbulent, tense relationships with their parents. As you reach adulthood, you are developing your own opinions, perspectives, and convictions. This may lead to heated debates with your parents. However, “a wise son hears his father’s instruction” (Prov 13:1). How is your potential spouse’s relationship with his parents? “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother” (Prov 10:1). The inevitable truth is: a young woman who disrespects her father is likely to disrespect her husband, and a young man who mistreats his mother is likely to mistreat his wife.
4. A wise believer is hard working.
“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Prov 6:6). What can humans learn from ants? Good work ethic. A wise person is one who learns the value of hard work, the integrity of quality work, and the satisfaction of a completed task. Does your potential spouse have to be persuaded to get a summer job? If so, he has some growing up to do before starting a family. Does your potential spouse shudder at the prospect of changing 15 diapers in one day? If so, she has some growing up to do before becoming a wife and mother.
5. A wise believer is humble.
One of the clear distinctives between wordly wisdom and biblical wisdom is humility. “With the humble is wisdom” (Prov 11:2). We are nothing without God’s grace, and the most effective conduit for God’s grace to flow into one’s life is humility (1 Pet 5:5).
Notably, one of the evidences of humility given in 1 Peter 5:5 is the willingness for a young person to “be subject to the elders.” Though this is a specific reference to local church leaders, this instruction draws from a broader principle to reverence elders and learn from their wisdom. Does your potential spouse have a respectful relationship with older individuals: grandparents, pastors, elderly neighbors, ministry leaders? What about you? How often do you seek wisdom from an older saint? If you’re wondering about a potential spouse, you can’t go wrong by asking an elder for help with your evaluation.
6. A wise believer has right priorities
Worldly wisdom entices you to experience “the good life” while you’re young. But “one who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil” (Prov 14:16). Worldly wisdom entices you to prioritize the pursuit of financial gain. But “how much better to get wisdom than gold” (Prov 16:16). Worldly wisdom entices you to party hard on the weekends. But “wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov 20:1). When considering a potential spouse, note whether their priorities look more like God’s priorities or the world’s priorities.
Don’t be deceived by superficial charm. Don’t be desperate and lower your standards for a spouse. Wait on the Lord and seek relationships with wise believers. However, don’t set your standards impossibly high! In a sense, everyone “settles” because no one is perfect. Show the same grace and understanding that you would want to have shown to yourself.
Perhaps you have been frustratedly waiting for the right person to come along. Or you have attempted relationships but have been unsuccessful. Ask yourself: “Would I want to date me? If not, why not?” Take a long, honest look at your own life.
- Do these six characteristics of godly wisdom describe you?
- Are you an interesting person to be around?
- Are you kind and considerate of others?
- Are you secure in your identity in Christ?
- Do your life and your appearance exude responsibility?
Rather than complaining about the lack of “fish in the sea,” work on becoming a “good catch”!
If you are discouraged at the realization that your life has largely consisted of foolishness rather than biblical wisdom, don’t despair! There is grace in Jesus Christ for forgiveness, cleansing, renewal, and a fresh start.
For further growth:
Read every verse in Proverbs containing the words “wise” and wisdom.”
Write out three ways that you need to grow in Biblical wisdom. Set up a plan and accountability to focus on these areas.