Preparation for Marriage and Thoughts on Courtship
By Tamara Eaton
In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel shares the words of wisdom and advice his mother gave him, saying "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies..." As a mother, I can identify with how his mother wanted only the best for her son --a wife who would fear and serve the Lord, and delight in following His ways.
The following articles were first written for my firstborn son, with a heartfelt prayer that he and his future bride would commit their way unto the Lord, and follow Him with all their hearts. Homeschooling gives us a wonderful opportunity to disciple and train our children in principles for godly living during their most formative years. Since these essential qualities for marriage aren't formed overnight, preparation for marriage actually begins from the cradle --and we can ask the Lord to be our guide!
"I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." --Psalm 32:8
Preparation for Marriage
Marriage is for mature adults --mature not only physically, but psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.
* One who is prepared for marriage has an adult perspective on life, knows how to judge priorities and determine God's will --not just live for fun and pleasure or selfish desires.
* He understands how to set and achieve both long-term and short-term goals and how to lead a disciplined life.
* He is willing to "die to flesh" and place his future spouse's needs (and future children's needs) before his own. No longer can selfishness reign! All decisions and actions affect two people now.
* He is willing to pay the cost to lead his family spiritually and he recognizes that he is going to answer to God as to how he leads his family. He has surrendered himself fully to the Lord and allowed Him full control.
* He is prepared to provide for his future wife's and future family's financial needs.
* He has learned to judge things in light of Eternity --he understands what is really important and what is not.
* He takes the time to study God's Word and pray --for himself and for others, for his future spouse, and for wisdom and understanding of the Lord's will for their lives.
* He realizes his spiritual maturity is revealed by the degree in which he cooperates with the Holy Spirit and chooses to live by His instructions and lines his life up with the Word of God.
* He prays that the Lord leads him to the perfect spouse for himself, one who has also dedicated her life to Jesus Christ and is submitted to His Lordship and desires to walk in accordance to His Word -- otherwise, how can two walk together except they be agreed?
* He is totally committed to one spouse for life, divorce will never be an option or even in his vocabulary. He realizes love is a decision, not just a feeling and that while feelings may increase and decrease in intensity according to current circumstances, true love endures because it is based on more than just a feeling --it is a lifetime commitment.
"Essential Qualities for Marriage"
1. A personal total commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Total commitment to Christ means not holding any area of your life back for your own, but giving it all up to Jesus. Are you spending time in His Word, applying it to your life, and do you seek His face daily?
2. An appreciation and acceptance of one's own unique gifts and calling from the Lord.
Self-acceptance doesn't mean selfishness, but rather understanding that God has created you for a special purpose and loves you with an everlasting love.
* He has a unique plan and ministry for you that only you can fulfill. (Psalm 139; Ephesians 1:18, 2:10)
* Accept the gifts He's given you and avoid comparing yourself with others.
* Offer yourself continually up to God and He will continue His work in you and conform you to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28)!
* Be more concerned about being adorned with the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22f) rather than your physical appearance.
* Let God's perspective become your perspective!
3. A humble and forgiving spirit
Pride and unforgiveness can cause bitterness, distrust, and resentment to build and destroy relationships and marriages. It can also cause deep depression. The cure? Forgiving others as Jesus forgave us, even while we were yet in our sins. (Mark. 11:24-26, Matt. 6:14-15, Luke 6:37, Matt. 6:12, Luke 23:34, Col. 3:13, Eph. 4:32). And when the enemy tries to bring those unforgiving thoughts up again, we must remind him that we've already forgiven and are free thanks to our Lord Jesus!
" Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you." --Eph.4:31-32
"Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" --Heb.12:14-15
"Only by pride cometh contention..." --Prov. 13:10
"He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife..." --Prov.28:25
"... be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." --1 Pet.5:5
Purity is a beautiful gift to offer your future spouse. Confess any sins of impurity and allow the Lord to help you "walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16) As He lives in you, He will bring to your mind any thoughts, words or actions that are impure. By filling your mind with God's Word (Romans 12:2; Psalm 119:11), you can defeat the enemy who would seek to distract you and rob you of purity before the Lord and before your future mate.
5. Awareness of Purpose
Without specific goals and purpose in life, one is reduced to floundering along life's roads with no sense of direction. Christians are given not only a road map --God's Word --but also the means by which we can discern God's Will for our lives --His Holy Spirit!
The Lord has a unique purpose and ministry for each one to fulfill and it's important to seek Him for wisdom and direction. Having goals and a sense of purpose is not only energizing but gives meaning to life, and allows one to set priorities in planning and working for the future.
The first and foremost goal for all Christians is to glorify God. One's job or career should not be an end in itself but only the means by which one fulfills part of God's plans and purposes for his life. Neither should the pursuit of leisure or pleasure be the ultimate goal --working in order to make enough to spend on fun weekends and buy more "toys" is not a worthy goal! Even working with the sole goal of financial security falls way short of God's plan --He wants each one to be focused on HIM alone for the ultimate security!
Examine your priorities in light of God's Word and what is of eternal value --don't squander time, energy and resources on things of no enduring value. How much wasted time and stress could be avoided each day by taking time to seek the Lord first and asking Him for wisdom and help in establishing priorities and godly goals!
Jesus saw many needs when He was performing His earthly ministry but even He didn't met them all--instead He did the work that His Father had given Him. That's all anyone can do--seek the Lord for His will and do it, not becoming side-tracked, even by seemingly worthwhile things. These side issues can drain us or keep us so occupied that we aren't able to accomplish what God has called us to do in the first place.
Remember: "There is always enough time to do the will of God."
6. Financial responsibility
Supporting a household is a huge responsibility, especially when you're young and just starting out. There are many expenses that come up unexpectedly and it's wise to have a cushion of savings to fall back upon if necessary (and it almost goes without saying --it will be necessary!). If a young couple starts out with both working outside the home, it's easy to grow accustomed to having two incomes, which causes huge challenges when the children begin to come along. It's best to learn to get along on one income to avoid these problems!
Don't let a "worldly" philosophy be your guide --God has much to say in His Word about finances and managing your money. Don't go into debt. Pray before purchasing. Ask the Lord to make you a good manager of the money He's provided. Look to the Lord to provide all your needs and make sure you're meeting all the conditions of being responsible with what He has already provided. If this has been a weak area, take time to read good books on managing your money and learn to plan and budget. It is much easier to learn this as a single person before you are responsible for providing for another person, too!
Above all else --dedicate all your money, possessions, time and future to God and allow Him to give you wisdom and direction! He doesn't want you to be bogged down with worry about material things, He promises to provide all your needs if you seek Him first. (Matthew 6:33)
7. Respect for authority and divine order
A couple prepared for marriage must have a proper respect for authority and divine order in the home. The Lord is the head, the husband leads the home under submission to God, loving his wife sacrificially just as Christ loved the Church, and the wife is in loving submission to the husband. God has given Christian husbands and wives to each other to function as a team, in mutual respect and honor, totally sold out and committed to Him, each contributing special gifts and wisdom as they're yielding themselves to Him, and thereby working efficiently and effectively to further not only His will in their lives, but in the kingdom of God!
Examine yourself and your future spouse --how many of these qualities are now present? How many are lacking and need further development? Before marriage the problem areas need to be strengthened and any weaknesses overcome. The Lord doesn't leave you on your own to struggle with this, He promises to equip and strengthen you as you trust and abide in Him. (John 15)
"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.... If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." --John 15:5,7
"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them." --Colossians 3:17-19
"Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is....Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it..." --Ephesians 5:17-25
"Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear..... Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered." --1 Peter 3:1-7
Thoughts on Courtship
Courtship, as opposed to playing the "dating game", is a popular subject in many homeschooling circles these days--and you'll find various definitions as to what exactly constitutes "Biblical courtship". I don't believe there is one set of rules for courtship that applies to all.
Courtship has been around for a LONG time --and even in the Bible we find different ways marriages came about. I think it's important to stick with the principles found in God's Word for purity, faith in God, looking to Him for wisdom, honoring parents, marrying in the Lord, living the crucified life --instead of a set of rules and regulations. We have brought our children up to know and understand the importance of putting these Biblical principles into practice from the start --way before they became old enough to start thinking about marriage!
We have prayed and will continue to trust the Lord to bring the right ones into their lives (if it's His will that each one marry) and we have asked the Lord to give them the wisdom and understanding necessary to discern His perfect will for their lives. We do believe it will be confirmed to all of our hearts when it is the "right one" and the right time for each of them to marry.
One reason we have such confidence in the Lord's ability to work out all the courtship details for our children is because we've experienced God's workings in this area firsthand.
William and I both prayed before we met each other that the Lord would have His way in our lives and provide a deeply committed Christian spouse. We saw His faithfulness in the way He worked in our own lives and clearly revealed His will to us. We also had the opportunity to get to know each other and fellowship around the Word of God as brother and sister in the Lord BEFORE we revealed our deeper feelings to each other. We discussed our convictions, goals, the Word of God, prayed together and learned that we both viewed the Word of God as our standard. It certainly makes it easier when both partners go into a marriage determined to follow the Lord and the standards set forth in His Word! (And it makes it much easier to talk about different issues BEFORE being so caught up dreamily gazing into another's eyes!)
Some parents are fearful that if they don't join the "right group" (homeschool organizations, church youth groups,etc.), their children will NEVER be able to find good "marriage material" (future spouses!). Certainly it's one way for young adults to meet other believers their ages, but it's not the only way GOD can bring that special someone into our young adult's life!
My mother was the only one out of all of our parents who was serving the Lord at the time William and I met--and we're eternally thankful our fathers didn't find spouses for us! We prayed; God answered. He is faithful and not limited to our finite understanding and ability to make plans. We don't have to hire a detective to investigate various families' backgrounds looking for "quality matches". (Whew!) What a relief that we can trust Him for EVERYTHING! We encourage our young adults to SEEK GOD, not a mate...."and all these things shall be added unto thee" --Matt.6:33.
Bottom Line: If we can trust our Lord to handle all these other issues of life, we can certainly trust Him to handle our children's courtships and marriages.
[Note--If you don't know the Lord in a personal, saving way--find out how you can be set free from all condemnation and receive Eternal life, as well as His daily help and guidance! (Knowing God)
© Copyright Tamara Eaton 1994-2000, all rights reserved.
Permission is given to reprint any of Tamara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and website address. Please send a copy of the publication to :Deeper Life Family Ministries, P.O. Box 909, Killen, AL 35645.
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"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."