God Did Not Tell You To Marry Your Spouse

In Advice and Encouragement, Dating, Marriage by Debra Fileta20 Comments

A note from Debra: I’ve been getting a lot of emails from people mad at God – mad at him because He told them to marry someone, and they ended up in a relationship that caused heartbreak, pain, and even betrayal. 

Add to that, this morning as I was scrolling through my Facebook Feed, I saw an article written by a woman from the exact same perspective – blaming God for the fact that she married someone she shouldn’t have.

I have to confess, I really struggle with hearing statements like this, because I think they put blame where blame is not deserved. God isn’t at fault when our marriages don’t work out the way we thought they would. God isn’t to blame. God gives us the wisdom, knowledge and discernment to make a good marital choice…and sometimes, we ignore the red and yellow flags and follow our feelings instead.

Just as I was about to tackle this topic in an article this morning, I remembered my friend Gary Thomas, best-selling author and pastor, wrote an article addressing this very subject. With his permission, I wanted to share that article with you here today. My prayer is for those of you who are in the process of choosing a spouse, that these words and stories would really sink in. There are so many resources out there, including my book, True Love Dates, and Gary’s book, The Sacred Search, that will help you understand what to look for BEFORE marriage. There are so many heart-wrenching stories out there of marriage gone-wrong, and this article is NOT meant to make light of the tragedy – but to remember: God is not to blame.

May He give us ALL the wisdom we need to make healthy choices along the way.  — Debra

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“It’s been miserable, Gary,” the woman confessed. “We’ve only been married for three years but it has been the worst three years of my life. My husband has just been awful. And what frustrates me so much is that God confirmed that I was supposed to marry him, ten times over.”

You could have served the bitterness in her voice to a thousand people.

In another conversation, another woman, married not just years, but decades, to a man who proved to be pathological, slipped in the same sigh and words, “But God told me to marry him.”

To these and many others who said, “God told me to marry him/her,” I want to cry out, “No, He didn’t.”

How can I say that?

My response is simple: How can you say the opposite? There is nothing in Scripture that suggests there is just one person we’re ‘supposed’ to marry. Proverbs 31 urges young men to be guided by a woman’s faith and character in making their choice—there is no mention of second guessing some divine destiny. In 1 Corinthians 7, the apostle Paul tells women (widows, in particular) to seriously consider singleness, but assures them the choice of whether to get married is up to them, and then specifically says women can marry “whomever they wish” as long as their potential husband is ‘in the Lord.’ (v. 39) If the Bible explicitly says, ‘it’s your call whether or not to get married’ (a sentiment Jesus echoes when he says some “choose” to become eunuchs—celibate—in Matthew 19:12, with emphasis on the word “choose”) and it’s entirely your choice as to who to marry, why should your subjective feelings and reasoning override living by the truth of Scripture?

There is, quite frankly, nothing in Scripture that ever tells us it is our sworn duty to marry one particular person. Whether we marry, and who we marry, are spoken of in Scripture as part of God’s “permissive will,” something He allows us to choose.

Is it possible God has told a couple to get married? Look, I’m not going to put God in a box. I can’t say “He can do this but He can never do that” (and thus I’m admitting the title of this blogpost is a bit provocative to make a point). All I can say is that the clearest scriptural teaching makes marriage our choice—both as to whether we get married and to whom we marry. Presuming that some mystical leaning you’ve received overrides a clear biblical teaching is always risky and often foolish (regardless of how many times God seems to subjectively “confirm” this call; after all, God objectively said something very different in Scripture).

Why does this matter?

To move forward, we have to own up to our choices—why we made them and how to be responsible in the face of them. To a woman who was abused by her dad and then married an abusive husband, I’d say, with a pastoral heart, “You were deeply sinned against and hurt. The kind of man you felt ‘comfortable’ with, because of your upbringing, wasn’t good for you, so you chose a man who continued your father’s practices. Psychologically, that’s perfectly explainable, but let’s discuss how the grace of Christ can redeem your situation, help you evaluate what the right thing to do now is, and help you make better choices in the future.” I would never tell a woman who had been abused by her dad that God’s “perfect will” was for her to also marry a violent husband. There is nothing about the biblical doctrine of God’s providence that demands that application, unless you slip all the way over to determinism.

Far healthier, spiritually, than to sit in resentment against God, is to say to yourself, “I chose this man/woman. It might or might not help to explore why. But since I made the choice of my own free will, I bear certain responsibilities for the commitment I have made.” Then God becomes your ally, not your enemy, in helping you face the future.

Instead of, “God, why did you lead me into this mess,” you’ll pray, “God, help lead me out of the mess I’ve made.”

That’s a huge difference, spiritually speaking.

On another level, the virtues of kindness, faithfulness and goodness demand that if I convinced someone to marry me, or agreed to marry someone, knowing it was a lifetime commitment, knowing it would be beyond complicated to dissolve the union, I need to step up to face the lifetime consequences. That means not just staying married but staying engaged in the marriage, working to make it the best for this person that I can to the very best of my ability. 

If you’re a single person reading this, I implore you to avoid trying to “second guess” God’s will as to who you “should” marry and instead look for the character qualities in a spouse the Bible exalts. What I’m saying may not sound very romantic, but please realize that the consequences to living by a sentimental romanticism are real—and in the case of marriage, can be long-lasting. I just received an email last week, saying, “Sadly, I was one of those people who believed with all my heart that God has only one person for me to marry. I also believed that God would do the choosing.  I believed it was God’s will for me to marry my husband. This has had disastrous consequences. Based on all the things you outlined in The Sacred Search, my husband and I should not have gotten married.”

Here’s what I’m going to insist on: Just because you think God wants you to marry one particular person, doesn’t mean He does. And just because God doesn’t “stop” you from marrying someone doesn’t mean He agrees with you that it’s a wise decision (he didn’t “stop” a lot of people from robbing banks who are even now serving time in prison). He will never forsake you. He will be with you every second of that marriage, giving you the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to live by your decision, but He has stated in His word that it is your decision, so it is risky to assume otherwise.

Rise up to your regal calling in Christ and own your decision. Of course, seek God’s blessing, but just as much, seek His wisdom in Scripture. While the Bible is silent on how you can definitively know who you’re “supposed” to marry, it does talk about the process of making wise decisions—applying biblical principles, seeking wise counsel, being deliberate and wise in your choice, considering the future, and basing your decision on the right priorities.

As the sad e-mailer suggests, I hit this hard in my book The Sacred Search and I’d suggest if this is still not clear to you, that you check out that resource.  http://www.garythomas.com/books/sacred-search

Gary Thomas is a bestselling author and international speaker whose ministry brings people closer to Christ and closer to others. He unites the study of Scripture, church history, and the Christian classics to foster spiritual growth and deeper relationships. Gary’s unique message will help you:

* Embrace the unique way that you interact with God.
* Partner in the spiritual growth and character formation of your spouse.
* Build a closer, grace-based family.
* Enjoy God with a new sense of freedom and delight.

Find out more at: www.GaryThomas.com

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Comments

  1. I think that you and Gary Thomas may not truly understand abuse and how it creeps in over time. Did I make a bad decision after a lifetime of abuse as a child? Yes. Did I blame God? No. Did I then choose to leave? Yes. Did I do everything I could to save my family and keep it together? I believe so. My husband, who was a church goer and professor or Christ was not a possessor. I do believe you both understand that part.

    We are told by the Church that we are to humble ourselves more, submit more…..basically be a doormat. This life is short…..wives and their children are to stay with an abuser no matter what. No matter if our sons are taking on their father’s traits. No matter if our daughters marry the first man that comes along to escape the abuse at home. I would recommend that you spend some time reading the Cryout for Justice blog and the books that are recommended. I do know that we have to discern for ourselves, but the church makes that very hard and we are indoctrinated to a very false doctrine on marriage. At the same time, I will read your books. After a lifetime of abuse and now 60, I would rather live in a cardboard box with Christ alone than be married again and have this happen again. The ink is not yet dry on the marriage license and Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde.

    1. Author

      Brenda, I’m so sorry for what you’ve experienced and I hope you do not misunderstand Gary’s post – he and I both believe in the tragedy of abuse and in taking steps to get to a better place. This post isn’t downplaying that in any way, shape, or form – it is simply saying, God is not to blame in those cases, and that we should never say “well, God told me to marry this person so it’s not my responsibility” – which believe it or not is so common in the Church. I also, speaking for the Church at large, I think we have a LOT of work to do regarding education about making a good marriage choice – which is why I am so passionate about this blog and ministry in general. I know I speak for Gary as well when I say that. There are so many yellow flags pre-marriage that people have no clue how to even identify or recognize….that grow into red flags along the way (sometimes they might even start as red flags but people don’t have the resources to see those or even choose to ignore them).

      This post is not about closing our eyes to abuse, it’s about clinging to God and taking responsibility for our marriage choices. If nothing else, I pray that this post will make singles think through their marriage choices and see them in a more serious and significant way.

    2. Brenda,

      A blog post can only effectively address one issue and it would break my heart if anyone read this post about “owning” your marital choice as cover to stay in an abusive marriage. In books and blogposts, I’ve said the exact opposite. Sacred influence has a large section begging women not to “spiritualize” abuse and to get help. My book “A Lifelong Love” has an entire appendix entitled “God Hates Domestic Violence.” In “The Sacred Search” I plead with single women to stay away from violent men, even suggesting “one strike and he’s out.” And my most-often shared blog post to date is “Enough is Enough” http://www.garythomas.com/enough-enough/ Enough is Enough challenges the church to stop siding with the abuser and to recognize that it’s a poor choice to ostensibly “save” a marriage that is destroying a woman. I am totally with you, as is Debra, that this is an issue the church needs to confront. In fact, I’ll be preaching about it this very Sunday. THANK YOU for raising the issue so that this could be clarified. You’ve done a good thing by bringing this into the light.

  2. Loved this article!! Thank you sooo much, I think is helpful even BEFORE choosing someone to marry. Many Christians (especially young adults and teenagers) get mistaken too and make poor choices in regards to dating or courting under the same pretext: “God told me to date/court so and so” and then when they breakup they blame God and ALL the responsibility is on Him. When clearly we are the ones to blame for insisting and ignoring the signs that the relationship wouldn’t work out even though both sides are Christians. I can speak out of my personal experience as I really thought God wanted me to court a guy, it was long-distance (he lives in USA and I live in Spain). I praise the Lord for He opened my eyes and allowed me to grow, mature and strengthen my faith & trust in Him despite the pain and heartbreak. God bless you both Debra & Gary and your ministries also! ;))

    1. Author

      Yes!! Thank you, Hannah…..appreciate your input as well and for sharing your story with us.

  3. Hi Debra.

    I have a few qs. But before I ask just wanted to say I love your page and ministry and it has helped me and my friends, also Your Book. I loved it soo much.

    Now my qs.
    In this post you mentioned that God does not have someone in mind for us and we have to choose. OK. Not what we have been taught in our charismatic churches or even mainline for that matter. But then what biblical proof is there to back it up, because we are taught that God does have someone as he has provided in the Bible, like Isaac, Joseph, Ruth, and you book True Love Dates talks about how you found John and God brought the two of you together. Then why a post of why God hasn’t got someone in mind for us? I agree with how we shouldn’t hold offences against God. Cz it’s not his fault. But then what when God has approved of a marriage before it began?

    1. Author

      Thank you, Justin!!!! I’m happy you’ve been encouraged through True Love Dates!!!

      I write about this in True Love Dates in the FAQ section in the back of the book http://amzn.to/2ns5Bk0 but what it comes down to is that some people have been taught that there is “just one person”. At the end of the day, I don’t think it really matters if you believe in the theory of one person or not – but the idea is to choose that “one person” based on their character and spiritual/emotional health rather than on some mystical feeling that they are “the one”. We see those stories in the bible from hindsight….but in that day and age, people were also free to marry whomever they chose (the men were free, in particular). I think the stories of Isaac and Rebekah and Boaz and Ruth confirm the principle of choosing someone for their character than it is about anything else. Love your feedback, though!

  4. I think that this title is purposefully provocative, but even so, I found it upsetting. It sounds as if the authors are denying that God can directly speak into someone’s life regarding marriage, and that we must go it alone with the Bible as our only guide. However, the Bible describes an active, caring God, one to whom we can go with questions, one who answers, and one who is always with us. I don’t believe that deflecting responsibility for my choices or blaming God for my problems is healthy, either, but I think this article sounds very absolute and misses out on a key truth about God’s nature.

    1. Author

      I do get what you’re saying here, Elizabeth. As with all aspects of life, God speaks to us through His word, His followers, and His Holy Spirit by giving us wisdom and discerment. And those three things usually all work together to help us move forward in the decision making process. So yes, of course God doesn’t leave us alone when it comes to choices. I think the problem I see, and why I wanted to share this specific post from Gary, is that many over-spiritualize the process of finding a spouse, and end up moving forward in a relationship that God may have never intended them to be in.

      Once after a speaking engagement someone asked me, “When did you receive confirmation from God that you were supposed to marry John?” As if confirmation from God is this mystical experience or writing in the sky. God “confirmed” to me that John was a good marriage partner by giving me wisdom to see John’s character, integrity, history, commitment to God and to people, among so many other qualities I saw in him. This is how God “confirms” to us….not through some mystical voice or magical signals. Too many people base it on feeling that God is speaking to them, even when all the other signs are saying “no” – and then God get’s blamed in the end for leading them into the wrong relationship. We’re trying to bring awareness here, because taking responsibility for our actions is so important in becoming healthier people along the way and having healthier relationships.

  5. So many people, men and women, are looking for love today that they ignore red flags or they simply think it’s not a big deal at that moment because they’re in love. The trouble is, it does not get better after the I do’s, in most cases it gets worse. I believe the RED FLAGS we chose to ignore are God’s way of telling you, this is not what I have for you. If you chose to continue a relationship or even end up marring that person, it is on you! God gives us wisdom….all you have to do is ask and believe He will show you and He will. The way God speaks to us, is through His word and if you ignore the Bible then you will not hear from Him. You can also chose wise counseling, but before you listen to someone else’s advice about your life, make sure they are living wisely. You cannot, should not, take advice from someone who cannot make wise decisions themselves. God will guide you, but ultimately, it’s up to you.

    Psalms 32 8-9: I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you.

  6. Nice post Debra.
    God can certainly lead a couple to come together in marriage. Each person has the way they hear from God. And Yes, some people can actually hear voices or get a very specific leading like a dream or an open vision.

    But like you said, regardless of what leading or conviction a person has to choose a partner, there must be a testing of all spirits. Every suitable partner MUST manifest the fruit of the character of the Holy Ghost. Because the blessings of God maketh rich and addeth no sorrow.

    Also, the Bible says my people perish without knowledge. The fact that God gave you a wife/husband does not mean you do not have the responsibility of gaining knowledge about how to treat and leave peacefully with them.
    One must read books, attend seminars, go for counseling etc and put in the required work to make a marriage successful. God will not love and pamper your spouse for you, that’s your job and responsibility.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Wow, this article spoke such truth to me! When my 24-year marriage finally failed, I blamed God for “calling me” into that marriage. I will never forget the day when I saw him across the sanctuary and I heard a little voice in my head say, “That is the man you are supposed to marry.” It must have been God!
    It never occurred to me that it was the voice of my brokenness. After all, the man I married was NOTHING like my alcoholic, sexually abusive father. The man I married didn’t cuss, drink, hang out with the wrong crowd and he respected my boundaries while dating – AND he went to Bible College! Heaven sent, right? But narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can hide in people with even the best intentions.
    When the lying and betrayal started not long after the wedding day, I went to counseling; not both of us, just me, because he “didn’t need it.” When that didn’t help, I fasted and prayed thinking it would change him.
    It didn’t.
    It changed me.
    It gave me the grace and strength to carry through on the covenant promise I made. It lifted me up when I gave birth to our children and acted as a single parent because ministry took his time and energy. My husband wouldn’t allow me to share the betrayals and pain with other pastoral resources as it would harm his job.
    The Word was my only counsel and fasting my only voice. It granted me the grace to persevere, but eventually, the NPD broke me too many times. Between doctor visits, illnesses, and the mental and emotional breakdowns, I lay in a heap at the foot of the cross and blamed God for “causing me to marry him.”
    When my “victim voice” quieted and my body healed, I heard His still small voice, “Though you have seen troubles many and bitter, I will restore your life again,” (Ps 71:20). This scripture was my banner when I entered therapy. Three years later I lay at the foot of the cross healed and thanked God for every experience. It wasn’t by His hand that I married my husband, it was my woundedness.
    Brokenness has a voice in our head and it is often mistaken for the Holy Spirit. This is a hard lesson, but a worthy one. I hope to marry again someday and this time brokenness has no voice.

  8. It’s true God doesn’t tell people to marry a specific person, but I don’t think its correct to state either that the decision for who to marry is entirely up to an individual, with no input from God, especially if that individual is Christian. God answers all prayer in accordance to His word, and I can give several scriptures that demonstrate that God can actually help someone find a spouse. So my take is that if you are Christian and you invite God into this area of your life by asking God to lead you to your spouse, God will answer such a prayer, the same way He answers prayer in all other aspects of life. We have free will yes, and God doesn’t violate that, but when someone puts their personal desires aside and asks God to take the lead in finding them a Godly spouse it will be so, because God knows who is best suited for us and how to get us together. That is not to say this is a specific person. The failure or success of that marriage will however depend on the people in that marriage. If they do things God’s way they are likely to have more success than those who follow their own way. At the end of the day we can either invite God to help us find a spouse or we can do it ourselves, but I disagree with your assertion that this matter has nothing to do with God and is purely a person’s choice.

  9. Often when I read an article stating that God doesn’t choose your spouse, there are comments saying exactly the opposite happened in their lives and I also know people who believe God brought them together. God bringing them together doesn’t mean there only has to be ONE person out there, but maybe that person was the best person in the moment – the closest, most available person at the time. I don’t think we have to go to extremes either saying that there is only one way for two people to meet, connect and marry. People have different, but valid experiences. I kind of wish married people would take that into consideration when they are offering (usually unsolicited) advice to singles – your experience may not be my experience and someone else’s experience doesn’t negate yours or vice versa. And there are reasons we have different experiences – different backgrounds and personalities, different spiritual gifts. Some people are just more gifted at hearing God’s voice in general and maybe God communicates to each of us in a unique way so that we can understand Him.

    Even when God brings a couple together, the marriage could go bad simply because the couple neglected to nurture it. Maybe they assumed that because God brought them together, it couldn’t fail. I think there are a lot of situations that could happen without people necessarily misinterpreting God’s message to them.

    1. Right on the money T.you took the words right of my mouth.for instance,I know a lot of people who,when looking for a spouse,took time to pray (like,really pray and not those half rushed prayers),fast,…for a lot of days (9 days for catholics,what they call novenas) and on a specific day during that time,they would meeet their spouse out of nowhere.seriously!I think that is 100% God’s intervention.oh well…

  10. I don’t get it. If God is truly the author of our lives and knows us from head to toe,and asks us to trust Him with our whole lives (including relationships),why wouldn’t He lead u to your future spouse?that is if you truly seek Him and wait on His timing

    1. Author

      Good question, Aline. To sum it up I think it’s less about “does God lead us” because YES he definitely does — and more about HOW he leads.

      Does he lead by speaking to us through an in-audible voice or sign from heaven, or is it more by giving us wisdom, discernment, and the ability to see healthy relationships vs. unhealthy relationships? I think this article, as well as my opinion, would believe the latter. God speaks to us by giving us wisdom. Many people base their choices on a feeling (that may or may NOT be God as one person commented above- it was actually her woundedness speaking to here) rather than on the health of their situation/relationships.

  11. Reminds me of a sermon I heard from this brilliant pastor who just took the words out of my mouth. He said something like this: “We’ll live together before we’re married and our entire relationship falls about and we say, ‘Why God?’ and God’s going to say, ‘You put your hand in a blender.'”

  12. Thank you for this article Debra, this is so true. I just had a guy break my heart this week after a year of friendship and building a solid foundation for a relationship. He told me he was going to date someone else. He told me I had great qualities like having a servant heart, kind and selfless and he said I made him want to be a better person, but he based not wanting to be with me on God told him to date the other girl and his feelings for her. This is not what the Bible teaches. It is sad when people treat you unkind in God’s name. This just happened this week, so I’m still shock. More our friendship was deeply affected.
    Thanks again for the article,
    I am blessed to know there are people out there who are trying to point people to Jesus.

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