One of the biggest decisions many of us will make in life is deciding who to marry and when we are ready to get engaged. Many people will say you will just know when you know. For such a big life decision, there has to be a better option, right?
For us, this was true, but there are a few steps and thoughts to help you know that you know. As you start this journey of deciding if you are ready to get engaged, you should know that there are three potential outcomes. One, you decide you are ready for marriage and want to get married, two; you need more time of evaluation to decide, and three, you know you do not want to marry, which in this case, you should consider breaking up and taking time to reflect on what God wants to teach you from this past relationship.
Do Not Lean On Your Understanding
A key verse to learn on during this time of evaluation is Proverbs 3:5–6, which says:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
This applies to all decisions we make which of course applies to how we make one of the most important decisions you will make in your life — picking a lifelong mate. One key thing to apply to your life is “do not lean on your own understanding.” This is a command and if God commands you to do something, he will give you the ability to do that. Yes, it is easy to try to make decisions based on what you think and what your past experiences tell you. However, you should ask yourself. Am I leaning on my understanding or the Lords? Self assess and adjust accordingly.
On the flip side, maybe you make a decision where you felt confident that you were leaning on God’s understanding in the past, but now you doubt that decision or have fear or anxiety about it. It is possible that you were leaning on God’s understanding, but now you aren’t and that is why you have doubt. Continue to ask yourself who’s understanding you are leaning on instead of reverting on your previous decision.
You may think that is easy to say and hard to live out. While that is true, remember what God promises in James 1:5-6, and ask God with confidence to give you wisdom generously and He will.
How We Knew that We Knew
When trying to make this decision, we often heard people say, you will know when you know, just like many of you have heard. This was super frustrating to be honest, but this ended up happening. It didn’t happen just by chance, though. Both of us prayed individually for the Lord to reveal his will for us and if we should move towards marriage by getting engaged.
There were a few questions we pondered throughout our time of engagement, but the biggest one was, “Are we better for the kingdom together than we are apart?” We came to this conclusion together because we served together often, and we looked at how we served together more specifically in ways we complimented or conflicted one another. We saw that there were many ways we complimented and very few ways we conflicted. This answer is a yes, so we thought it could be in God’s will for us to get married.
A specific area we saw fruit in our relationship is serving in kids’ ministry together. We served together in kids ministry for about a year and saw many kids take big steps in their faith. Of course, this is because God moved in those kids, but we believe part of this is because it takes both a man and a woman after God’s heart to complete God’s work. Think about creation, God wasn’t finished until created Eve. Together, God gave them roles in the Garden and called it good. God has continued to multiple our efforts when we serve in kids ministry together. Even though we aren’t one yet in the union of marriage, kids can still get a glimpse of how a healthy relationship resembles Christ and His Church, which can point people towards Jesus.
Essentially, you are looking for God’s fruit present in your relationship like Matthew 7:15-20 discusses about, “You will recognize them by their fruit.” This is talking about not being fooled by false prophets, but this can also help us discern a healthy relationship since, “every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” To be clear, the relationship doesn’t produce the fruit God does, but an unhealthy relationship will not foster the movement of God.
In the process of dating, it’s important to consider the compatibility of the callings God has placed in each of you. For example, if one of you is called to the local church and one feels called to global missions, that wouldn’t work well. People have done it before, but it’s not the most compatible circumstances, and it might require one of you to be disobedient to the call God has for you.
The Need For Community
It is very important to ask people around you what they think about your relationship — especially people who know you best. We did this by inviting mentors and family into the nitty gritty of our relationship and let them ask tough questions. You can look at people like Samson in the book of Judges who wanted to marry Delilah against his family’s guidance (Judges 14:1-3), which ended up in him getting his eyes gouged out and being turned over to the Philistines (Judges 16:21). Obviously, we see he should have listened to his parents, but he was blinded by his pride and lust. We also know that all parents — and believers — don’t have the same spiritual maturity, and as with anyone speaking into your life, you should take their input back to the Lord and seek confirmation to see if it aligns with God’s will. If it doesn’t let it fall away, but if it does, take it and apply it.
Often those around us are too nice for our good, so we need to give people permission to speak truth and listen when they do speak. We are not saying that everything others say needs to be applied, but you should receive it then filter it through what God has said to you through prayer and scripture. Also, never be afraid to take these questions to a pastor or counselor.
Matt’s Side of The Story
God helped me to see if we should get married overtime by praying the simple prayer of “Lord, bring clarity on our future.” He answered that prayer overtime by making things stand out to me in conversations I had with Holly and those in my life and by giving me an overall sense of peace about our relationship.
The final thing for me was one night at my small group. I was to the point where I was pretty sure about engagement, but I wanted a final bit of clarity. So I shared a prayer request in my small group for God to provide final clarity and He did that by prompting Holly to swing by my house earlier in the day and drop off a few encouraging notes around my house. When I read these, I knew that I knew. I was overcome with emotion and peace that I should move forward with getting engaged to Holly. This also showed me how God answers prayers outside of time since I prayed for this around 8 PM and Holly dropped off the notes around 3 PM.
Holly’s Side of The Story
God helped me have clarity through a conversation with my parents about marrying Matt. During this conversation, I asked for their input and concerns. They commented on a lot of things, but the most important thing they said to me was, “I don’t know if you’ll find anyone more fitting for you”. Later, I found out that Matt had this same conversation with his parents about marrying me, and that his parents said the same thing about me. This comment really touched my heart, and it was a reminder that God knew what He was doing. I needed this comforting reassurance to keep moving forward in confidence toward marriage.
How to Do Engagement Well
To be honest, we are still figuring this out for sure and love to hear any tips our readers have for us in the comments. But here are a few thoughts.
Premarital Counseling is super important. The more the better. We did 12Stone’s Premarital Program, which was great to get a better understanding of marriage, to learn from pastors, to grow in community with other engaged couples, and to learn from one another. We also are doing a more traditional premarital counseling with a counselor and just us as a couple to work through things that are more personal and deep.
For you, this might look like seeking out a pastor at your church who will walk you through premarital counseling or asking your church for counselors they recommended for you to meet with regularly. Overall, the more counsel, the better. (Proverbs 24:6)
Seek Out Mentors
Keeping mentors involved in our lives personally and as a couple is very important. We have heard it said, “you learn from making mistakes or listening to what other people have learned from their mistakes, you choose.” No matter the season of your relationship, find a couple that you think does it marriage really well and meet with them and let them pour into you. Most couples would be more than happy if you just ask. An easy way to get the conversation start might be to ask them to go on a double date.
If you are not in a relationship, the same thing applies: just meet with one member of the couple you think has a great relationship.
Also, just as you should seek a mentor, you should also seek people to mentor yourself. You might just be the answer to someone else’s prayer for guidance.
Even though we have set a spiritual boundary of not praying together until marriage, we should continue to pray for one another privately. We know that prayer moves the hand of God, and if we want God to move and bless a future marriage, we need to continue pressing into His presence through prayer. I believe the best way to love your spouse is to pray specific prayers for them.
Next Steps for You
All this is based on asking God for wisdom and discernment which we trust God to provide according to James 1:5-6, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting.”
This is great news and we all need to ask for wisdom often and the Lord will provide no matter the circumstance we always need to invite God’s wisdom in. So if you are considering engagement, pray for wisdom and for him to provide clarity on the future of your current relationship. Ask others to speak in that you trust their spiritual discernment.
If you are not currently in a relationship, focus on chasing after Jesus, and not on the opposite sex. And you might just find the right person along the way.
A few other verses to ponder are, 1 John 4:1, James 3:13–18, and Matthew 7:24. Reading the entire book of Proverbs is another great section of scripture to dive into.