How can I prepare for marriage now?

Foundational decisions to strengthen a future marriage

10 min

We’ve all heard the storybook tales of the prince and the maiden who married and lived “happily ever after.” When we look around our world today, it would be easy to become cynical about the possibility of a “happily ever after” marriage. Is it really possible, or are those stories just for children’s books, romance movies, and young girls’ dreams? Of course, the circumstances of all of our lives vary greatly, but if the proper foundation has been laid and God is the builder, you can have a marriage, not only of your dreams, but better still—of God’s dreams for you! (See Psalm 127:1.) 

In Scripture, whenever two individuals wanted to establish a permanent relationship for the benefit of both, they entered into a covenant. Marriage is such a covenant. Marriage was designed to be a lifelong agreement before God between two individuals to love, encourage, and cherish each other while seeking to please and serve Christ together. In order to prepare for marriage, a wise young man or young lady will consider establishing several foundational commitments long before the possibility of marriage arises. Having commitments based on God’s Word, His will, and His ways will help you to stand firmly when temptations come. 

A practical goal of these commitments is to help you seek the Lord first of all, and then to guard your heart so that you can honor Him with your life. As you make Him central in your affections and include Him in your decisions, He will guide you in the best ways to guard those affections until you are able to one day give them freely and wholly to your future spouse. 

The following are some basic areas to contemplate if you are seeking to lay the groundwork for a successful marriage. Ask yourself: 

Do I have a personal relationship with the Lord?

The only hope for a successful, contented marriage is Jesus Christ. A couple must have a growing relationship with God as their very foundation. Marriage was created solely by God, and He has provided His Word which leads to answers for every doubt, question, and challenge. Even the best of marriages will have struggles. A happy marriage is not the absence of difficulty but the presence of a Faithful Guide to lead you through difficulties when they come. Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Have you made Him Lord of every area of your life?

Do I have a life purpose bigger than marriage?

Marriage is a natural desire. In fact, God designed us with needs which He often fulfills through marriage. However, ultimately all believers have a common purpose, whether married or not: to live for Christ. “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (II Corinthians 5:15). 

When we live for Christ, we make Him our first love. We will have other interests as well, but each of these become lesser desires compared to the Lord Jesus Christ becoming the delight of our lives. “Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:4–5). Have you committed to love Christ and live for Him above all else? Have you discerned His purpose for you in His Kingdom work?

Am I under the protection of God-given authority?

During our single years, we can learn valuable principles that will contribute to a strong foundation for our own future families. The Apostle Paul describes one of these key foundational principles: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with a promise; That it may be will with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1–3). As we learn as children to submit to our earthly authorities and then, as young adults, to honor them, we discover that God uses authorities in our lives to give protection, provision, and direction. 

God’s Word places requirements upon those in authority over us: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). 

An understanding of the principle of authority is vital for counsel, proper boundaries, and guidance along the pathway toward marriage. Have you made a commitment to God to consider carefully any cautions, suggestions, or concerns of your authorities, especially as they relate to a possible marriage partner?

Have I committed to be a “one-woman man” or a “one-man woman”?

Being devoted to one person—either as a “one-woman man” or a “one-man woman”—signifies accepting God’s design for marriage as a lifelong commitment. The writer of Proverbs Chapter 31 proclaims the wisdom of the wife who does her husband good all the days of his life (including before marriage). (See Proverbs 31:12.)

This particular commitment involves a decision to remain morally pure in your thoughts and actions, not only in obedience to God’s will, but also in preparation for your future spouse. By consciously choosing to safeguard your emotional and physical expressions of love for that one person, you minimize the temptation to prematurely form attachments to someone whom you are unsure God wants you to marry. This resolve to remain morally pure will also protect others from being defrauded or confused by your intentions.

Instead of “dating around,” searching and hoping to find “the one” who can make you happy, consider the path of courtship. A courtship mindset involves seeking the Lord and patiently trusting Him to bring your future spouse into your life in His time and way. You can wait peacefully, because you know that the Lord will fulfill His plans for you, including His plan for the right life partner. (See Philippians 1:6.). God’s will has been defined as “exactly what we would choose if we knew all the facts.” Choosing courtship will free you to devote your energies to deepening your relationship with God and serving Him, as He builds into your life a strong foundation for marriage. (See Matthew 6:33–34 and Psalm 37:4–5.)

After you are married, the decision to be a one-woman man or a one-man woman involves not considering intimacy or marriage with anyone other than your spouse. You and your spouse commit to work together to allow nothing to damage the oneness of your marriage. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). 

Do you have the same view of marriage that God intended marriage to be: One man and one woman for life? Are you devoted to remaining pure for your future marriage partner and to remain true to your spouse after marriage? Do you encourage others to not give up on their marriages? 

In my friendships, do I avoid all appearance of evil?

According to I Thessalonians 5:22, believers are told to “abstain from all appearance of evil.” You can apply this verse both to your personal life and to your relationships with others, including any friendship which may lead to marriage. As an ambassador for Christ, your every word and deed should be above reproach. The Holy Spirit can empower you to choose behaviors that honor Him. He can give you the power to resist temptation and pursue purity. The Lord will give wisdom in setting up wise and proper boundaries to help you fulfill this commitment. As followers of Christ, we are called to treat one another with honor and preference, showing respect and deference in all our interactions. (See Romans 12:10.)

Whether you are in a deepening friendship, courtship, or engagement, be careful to wisely choose those activities, places, and behaviors that honor the Lord and each other. “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (II Timothy 2:22, emphasis added). Do you endeavor to treat your friendships equally and respectfully until the time the Holy Spirit makes clear the one you are to prayerfully consider as a future spouse? 

Am I preparing for marriage responsibilities?

For a man and a woman to assume the care of a new family is both an exciting and awesome task. Scripture speaks of the importance of reaching financial freedom and preparing for the responsibilities of a family before marriage. “Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house” (Proverbs 24:27).

Before starting a courtship, it’s beneficial for a young man to acquire a range of foundational skills. Practical abilities like carpentry, computer skills, vehicle maintenance, and emergency medical care can open up various employment opportunities. These basic skills are also invaluable for meeting the needs of his family and providing support to others in need.

Additionally, both young men and young women should develop skills in caring for children and in other essential areas that contribute to five aspects of a thriving home (worship center, learning center, hospitality center, health center, craft center). Even when our understanding of a certain area is limited, you will be wise to learn at least enough to make a knowledgeable decision. In what areas would your parents or mentors say you are already excelling? In what areas would they say you need to improve to become more well-rounded in your knowledge and skills?

Have I learned how to effectively deal with infatuations?

It is not wrong to think about another person, but if we allow our minds to dwell on that one alone, that person can become an “idol” between us and the Lord. Idolatry is expecting from others what only God can give, such as security, fulfillment, and happiness. 

The imagination is very powerful and persuasive, and we can easily allow our hearts and minds to drift away, dreaming about a relationship with someone whom we admire or find attractive. If we are not careful, our time, thoughts, and energy can quickly become consumed with something that is not real. The Lord wants you to utilize this same time, thoughts, and energy for what is real: the work of His Kingdom, which involves serving others. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). 

Rather than trying to push these thoughts out of our minds or dwelling on them in wishful thinking, we can learn to view them as reminders, or “springboards,” to pray. When these normal thoughts, desires, or feelings come, are you able to turn them into springboards to prayer by (1) thanking God for your normal desires, (2) reaffirming to God that you are trusting Him, (3) reminding yourself that God knows your real needs, and (4) purposing to dedicate your single years to God’s service. How can you channel your energies in practical ministry to others?

Am I allowing fellowship with the Lord to replace loneliness?

As we wait on the Lord for marriage, we may experience times of loneliness. It is important that we understand why this happens and how we can rightly respond during these times. We experience feelings of loneliness as a result of a deepening desire for companionship. However, even when those around us fail to meet our needs for fellowship, Christ has promised, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

Therefore, when we experience loneliness, this feeling often indicates to us that we are allowing the longings of our souls to dominate our lives rather than enjoying the ever-present fellowship of God. David recognized the importance of making a conscious decision to submit his soul to the rule of God’s Spirit when he wrote, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him” (Psalm 62:5).

As the Lord brings us through difficult times and we begin to feel lonely, we may consider that at the very same moment, He is experiencing the same anguish toward us and wants us to make Him our delight. “For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee” (Isaiah 62:5). 

One of the quickest and surest ways to turn our minds off of ourselves is to turn them toward others in need. When we serve others, we not only benefit by filling our minds with productive and helpful ideas, but we also reap the rewards that come when we give of ourselves. As the Apostle Paul affirmed: “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Who do you know that has a need you could meet? Is there someone who appears lonely and may be longing for a new friend? Are you allowing the Lord to meet your deepest needs for companionship?

Can I find joy and contentment in singleness? 

A common misconception about contentment is that it is synonymous with happiness. Contentment, however, is a choice of the will based on one’s abiding trust in God, no matter what circumstances come into one’s life. Contentment can demonstrate joy in present circumstances and prepares us for future life situations.

The challenge of contentment is not as much about changing your outlook on today as it is on trusting God for tomorrow. Contentment is realizing that God has provided everything we need for our present happiness. In I Timothy 6:8, Paul exhorts, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” Although the Lord may bless us with additional resources, contentment is training ourselves to be happy with the minimum of physical provisions so we are free to focus on Christ. (See Philippians 4:11–13.)

The challenge of contentment is not as much about changing your outlook on today as it is on trusting God for tomorrow.

Just as marriage is a calling from the Lord, so singleness is a special calling from God which we all must fulfill. God has designed us to focus our energies on advancing the Kingdom of God during singleness, and unless we are content with the Lord in singleness, we will not be content with another person in marriage. “He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord; But he that is married careth for the things that are of this world, how he may please his wife” (I Corinthians 7:32–33).

An important aspect of contentment in the area of courtship and marriage is to live one day at a time. This concept is emphasized by the analogy David used to describe God’s Word in Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”’ The lamp referred to in the Hebrew is a foot lamp which is designed to provide light for only the next step. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another . . .” (I John 1:7).

The Lord promises to provide for our every need as we make His Kingdom and righteousness the focus of our lives. (See Matthew 6:33–34.) It is the Lord Who leads us to the right life partner. (See Proverbs 19:14.) Until that time, we can look to Him to meet our needs for companionship. (See Hebrews 13:5–6.) A single young man or woman should keep this in mind and daily ask the following questions:

  • Can I live the rest of today singly for the Lord?
  • Am I willing to trust the Lord for tomorrow?
  • Am I committed to focus only on pleasing the Lord today?

God designed us to live at least the first part of our lives singly for Him. He gives additional grace for some people to invest their entire lives in singleness for His service. Whether serving God singly for life or serving Him singly while waiting for Him to bring a future spouse (and ministry partner), each person has a calling from God to fulfill. A dynamic power exists in the ministry of a person who harnesses physical and emotional energy for spiritual application. This is achieved by focusing single-mindedly on pleasing the Lord until He brings along the life partner.

Whether serving God singly for life or serving Him singly while waiting for Him to bring a future spouse (and ministry partner), each person has a calling from God to fulfill.

Keep your heart with God’s truth, humbling yourself under His mighty hand, and understanding that He wants you to have His best! By God’s grace, commit to following His plan for your life, knowing that the Lord knows what is best. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). God will give you the grace to guard your heart and wait for His best for you. 

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