What is the most important quality that you want in a spouse? Of all the qualities, there is one transcending idea that must be at the top of your list. If your spouse has it, your chances for a great marriage are high.
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One of the questions I ask engaged couples is why do they want to be married. There have been all kinds of responses to my query. Here are a few of the more common ones that I’ve heard.
|I love him/her.||He loves me.|
|We’re in love.||We have a lot in common.|
|We’re so different from each other.||We are meant for each other.|
|He treats me nice.||It feels right.|
|People have said we’re the perfect match.||The Lord put us together.|
|She’s fun to be with.||I like his personality.|
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All of these qualities or desires have merit, and each one is worth considering when thinking about the person you want to marry. With that said, to base your reasons for marriage on any of those things could be anywhere from insufficient to dangerous, depending on the couple.
It is fair to say that every person who ever divorced had several of those things on their lists. Then when things became complicated, their marriages were not able to survive. The growing list of stuff they do not like about each other overshadows the things they did like about each other.
This marriage conundrum happens because of the effect of sin on our lives and relationships. Though the Bible is clear that every person is a sinner (Romans 3:23), rarely do people have an adequate plan to fight the encroachments of sin (1 John 3:8), and the longer they stay together, the more their sinfulness will seek to defile each other.
Sin can overpower, alter, and even obliterate the good qualities you previously enjoyed about your spouse. That is why there must be a transcending quality in the person you’re hoping to marry. A transcending quality is the only quality that will give you your best shot at persevering in a marriage covenant.
A Box of Chocolates
There is no way in the world for you to know what the person you want to marry will be like ten years from now, but there is one thing you can count on: the person you marry today will be different in a decade.
All of us will regress into more self-centeredness, or we will progress into greater Christlikeness. The problem is that when a new couple first meets, they do not know which direction the other person is heading.
- Is he increasing in spiritual leadership?
- Is he decreasing in spiritual leadership?
The couple typically meets when they don’t have much history. It’s like being introduced to a new stock on the Stock Market. You don’t know how it will trend. There is no history. Will this stock trend upward, and you reap the benefits, or will it tank?
The new couple begins building a new history together; this is the dating season. Unfortunately, the dating season is, partially, an artificial period where the hope-filled couple tries hard to be nice to each other.
If the dating season lasts more than twelve months, they will begin to see authentic evidence of who they are. Of course, the problem here is that love can blind, and when it comes to love, we tend to want to be blind. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.
The dating couple is often too easily pleased with the bird they have in their grasp, even to the point of overlooking character deficiencies. Forrest Gump’s analogy was correct:
Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.
Spousal assessment is an opportunity that needs your attention. Some of the most religiously minded people married each other only to end their relationship in a bitter divorce. Then others began their covenant from a less desirable circumstance, but experienced an incredible transformation by the grace of God.
Thousands of preachers have miserable marriages, and thousands of non-ministry people have God-exalting, grace-empowered, mutually satisfying marriages. You can never fully know what you’re going to get.
The initial criteria for assessing a person is too often inadequate, which is mystifying in light of what the Bible teaches us about the one transcending quality that will give you all you need to know to be married well.
The Main Thing
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31
Key Idea: If the person you want to marry does not have as their primary mission in life the glory of God, you need to give a long and sober consideration to the wisdom of marrying that person.
If the desire to glorify God is a person’s passion, there is a good chance you could be in a meaningful and satisfying relationship with that person for the rest of your lives. There is nothing that transcends this God-centered quality.
That means there is no sin, sinful desire, or sinful temptation that can overcome a person’s dogged and unflinching determination to glorify God. Whenever sin makes its advances, the desire to glorify God will eventually win the war against sin’s intent.
When Joseph was left alone in Potiphar’s home, his master’s wife began to put a move on the young slave. What she did not know was how the Lord had already captured the young man’s affections. From his perspective, there was no way he could sin against God.
Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God.” – Genesis 39:7-10
Joseph’s main intention in life was to spread the fame of God. He possessed a sober awareness of God’s glory. He revered the Lord. A desire to magnify God through his difficult slave life consumed him (Psalm 34:3).
If you are looking to make a covenant with a “Joseph-type person,” that is your best play. It will not keep you from future heartbreak, but there is not a piece of information out there that is more affirming than a person’s authentic and measurable desire to glorify God.
Paul said that no matter what you did, your primary goal must be to glorify God. This ambition releases any person to be free to live their life in any way they want to as long as their life exalts the majesty and greatness of God.
That firm parameter will keep you from transgressing the line of right and wrong, and it will keep evil from penetrating your desire-to-gorily-God force field.
Joseph fed the adulteress woman’s intentions through his “desire to glorify God filter,” and what came out was an absolute and final answer: “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”
What Does This Mean?
When the guardian of your heart is the glory of the Lord, you’re in a place to be a good friend, great lover, and beautiful spouse. This quality is the kind of person you want to marry.
There are some ways you can discern if you’re looking at a “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” kind of person. I want to share with you three of those qualities.
Passionate – We are all passionate about something. To be passionate about the Lord is not something just for old Christians to emulate. Anybody can have a passion for God. If you’re thinking about marrying someone, they should have a passion for God.
- Does he (or she) have a Godward orientation?
- Is the Lord what defines him?
At least one thing defines all of us. Nobody lacks passion. If you look long enough, you will find the thing that makes your dating partner emote. If it is not the Lord, buyer beware.
A desire to have a great job or to purchase a home or to build a future together are good and necessary things. But when it comes to the Lord, a preeminent longing for His glory should make all other loves look like hate by comparison (Luke 14:26-27).
Repentable – Nobody has been able to pull off perfection, but Jesus. This truth about fallenness means you will marry a sinner, who will hurt your feelings. Joseph said, “How can I sin against God.”
The truth is that your spouse will sin against both you and God. I speak from experience, as one who has sinned many times against my wife and my Lord.
Glorifying God does not imply perfection. Living a perfect life is contrary to the Bible—for all have sinned (Romans 3:23), and if any of us say we don’t sin, we’re liars (1 John 1:7-10). But do not fear.
A person whose primary goal is to glorify God has a great backup plan: he will be a repenting person. Though he will have lapses in judgment, as experienced by doing something unkind to you, he will respond quickly with a broken-hearted confession (Psalm 51:17), plus a request for forgiveness.
Why: Because his chief aim is to glorify God.
Community – A God-impassioned, repenting person will seek similar associations. Let me state it another way: regardless of who you are, you will find your kind. The question then becomes, “What kind of people are you seeking?”
The Lord wired us with a herd mentality. It is not okay for us to be alone (Genesis 2:18), which is why we pursue community. If you’re a loner, that community may be your video games or Internet surfing. You’re no different from me in that you want to surround yourself with what you like (1 Corinthians 15:33).
You can take the measure of a person by assessing their associations—the things they fill their lives with so they can enjoy life the way they want to. Nobody surrounds themselves with things they do not like. Even if they work a job they hate, they create hobbies to offset their disdain for their jobs.
We long for a community because God made us in the image of the original community (Genesis 1:26-27). How can the thing made be different from the person who made him?
There is one way. It is sin. The effect of sin is the only way we can have distorted desires for the wrong kind of community.
Presence, But Not Perfection
These three qualities will give you an indication of a person’s desire to make God’s name great in your relationship. But you want to be careful by making a distinction between the presence of these ideas and the perfection of them.
Nobody will be able to glorify God perfectly. We are in a continuous sanctifying process. What you want to discern is the presence of these qualities, even if they are in early forms.
- Passion for God
- Repenting lifestyle
- Desire for community
If you have found the evidence of these things in your dating partner, you’re at a great beginning. It is wise to ask other individuals who are familiar with both of you for their assessments of you. If you are unsure of the evidence you perceive in the person you want to marry, I appeal to you to not go forward (Romans 14:23).
There should be nothing more important to you than a person’s desire to glorify God. Do not let any other piece of information supplant that one, even if he assures you of his love for you. If you dismiss this advice, you will live to regret it.
Call to Action
- What is your number one passion: the Lord’s fame or something else?
- When there is nothing else for you two to talk about, what do you talk about: the Lord or something else?
- What does repentance look like in your relationship?
- How long does it take you both to confess your sins and forgive each other?
- Describe your community experience, the things that have a gravitational tug on your hearts.
- When you get to pick and choose what you want to do, what do you choose? Who are the people and what are the things that have become your primary companions?
Also published on Medium.