had a vision that God wants us to get married.Ē
I went on to share with her what I believed the Lord had told
me, nervous, but confident her response would be one of elation.
After all, since she was a serious Christian wanting Godís will,
how could she react otherwise?
It had been nearly a year before, while praying in a
beautiful mountain setting, that my thoughts turned to this
young woman in our college fellowship. As I prayed, I suddenly
found myself overcome with a warm feeling that God intended us
to be married. A picture of her as my wife came into my mind; it
seemed startlingly real. After that, I simply assumed Iíd had a
revelation from God.
Later that year, a friendship with her started to develop,
and we began dating. Several extraordinary coincidences occurred
which left me even more convinced God was leading us to marry.
Now, on our fourth date, the time finally seemed right to
unveil my vision to her. I was so hopeful that now our
relationship would become defined, and we would reach a mutual
conviction about Godís will.
The relationship did indeed become defined at that point. The
next day she told me she didnít believe that God wanted us
Death of a Vision
For days I was reeling with disappointment and wounded pride.
I felt rejected both by her and God. I simply could not
understand how this could have happened. Did she misunderstand
Godís will? Was she blatantly disobeying it? Or was God for some
reason punishing me and allowing me to miss his perfect plan?
Or--heaven forbid--was it even possible I had misread what God
had said to me in the first place?
Countless Christians have shared with me a similar experience
of disappointment with Godís guidance in a relationship. Time
and again the story goes: One person in a relationship is
certain theyíve received a revelation from God about its future,
yet the other is quite unconvinced. Itís not only the one who
believes God wants them to marry who is confused. Often the
other feels just as confused--and angry, for being told Godís
will so forthrightly, and that their feelings about the
relationship arenít being respected.
What causes this predicament?
Fooled by a Feeling
In my own case, I realize now that I was too quick to take my
feelings as Godís guidance. In the romantic area especially,
where emotions run very strong, this is so easy to do. I simply
assumed that feelings as strong as mine must be a revelation
from God. In fact, I was giving in to wishful thinking.
I also carried a common misconception about how God guides.
It was quite possible, I believed, that God would reveal to me a
major detail about my personal future--like who I was to
marry--without my having to go through the harder process of
discovering it step by step.
When I finally began studying Godís guidance in Scripture, I
realized how presumptuous I had been to think this way. Again
and again, Scripture shows that God rarely, if ever, tips his
hand to us about our personal future; he merely gives us enough
guidance to take the next step in faith.
Even a man as remarkably mature spiritually as St. Paul
seldom knew Godís precise intention for his own future. When he
writes to the Corinthians of his desire to visit them, for
instance, he states, ďFor I intend to pass through
Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even
spend the winter, so that you may speed me on my journey,
wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now
just in passing; I hope to spend some time with you,
if the Lord permitsĒ (1 Cor 16:5-7 RSV, italics mine). In
many ways, Paul indicates that his notion of where God was
leading him was tentative at best.
Paul was strongly convinced about what God wanted him to do
presently--which was to stay and minister in Ephesus. ďI
will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for
effective work has opened to me,Ē he explains (v 8). Beyond
this, though, he was cautious in declaring what God intended for
him; he expressed his hopes and desires for the future, but left
its ultimate outcome to God.
When I thought I had received a revelation about marrying
that young woman, then, I was claiming a level of certainty
about Godís will for my future that even a saint like Paul
rarely experienced about details in his own life.
My advice to Christians in dating situations now is this: If
you believe that God has revealed to you whom you will marry,
resist the temptation to tell that person so--at least until you
are sure the other is just as convinced. Believe that if God has
indeed shown you his will, he will make it every bit as clear to
the other person as he has to you, without the need for unusual
persuasion on your part.
At the same time, share your feelings honestly and
openly with the other person. Let her or him know of your
affection and your desire to marry, if it seems appropriate to
do so. But stop short of any ultimate statement about Godís will
which might make the other feel boxed in. That really amounts to
spiritualizing your feelings, and is bound to make further
When I began dating Evie Kirkland--the one
God actually intended me to marry--there wasnít much I could
have done to have kept the relationship from working out. There
was something very natural about the way we both concluded that
God wanted us together. It was as obvious to her as it was to
Everyoneís experience is different. You may
have to work through more issues than I did in deciding to marry
someone, and the courtship process may be more challenging in
certain ways. Still, you wonít have to convince that
person to marry you; convicting is Godís responsibility.
Scripture tells us that, after God created
Eve for Adam, he ďbrought her to the manĒ (Gen 2:22). Iíve joked
in writing before that Adam didnít have to beat Eve over the
head with ďthus saith the Lord!Ē Of course, their situation was
unique; neither had a lot of other choices! Still, the fact that
the Bible, in its first description of two people marrying,
stresses Godís initiative in bringing them together, gives us
comfort. We can go about the process of looking for someone to
marry in a relaxed spirit--knowing that God will convict us both
if and when itís right to marry.
If I had understood this principle as a
young Christian, it would have spared me some real agony. And it
certainly would have made life easier for the young woman who
had to suffer through my ďvision.Ē
For relationships, the lesson boils down to
this: donít play God. Take things a step at a time, and donít
presume to know Godís future plan for yourself or the other
person. Allow the other the freedom, either to come to the
conviction of Godís will that you have, or to see things
differently. This kind of sensitive and patient approach to the
marriage decision will also pave the way for a more mature
seeking of Godís will together within marriage itself.