Many of the opinions I’ve come across concerning marriage fall in one of two categories: marriage is the place where everything good in my life goes to die and marriage is my fairytale happy ever after where everything is perfect and nothing will ever go wrong.
I’ve been married long enough to know that neither of the two are accurate representatives of divine marriage; they’re extremes based on expectations which are in turn founded on wishful thinking, deep seated fears and cultural half-truths.
There are so many things I could write about divine marriage but for this post the Holy Spirit pointed out this one – waiting.
If you intend to get married God’s way, there’s an element of waiting involved. Waiting for God to lead you to the right person. Waiting to have a particular kind of physical relationship (including sex) with your partner until after you’re married. Waiting to live under the same roof and share certain aspects of life together. Waiting for provision for your wedding and the new life you intend to start together. On and on it goes.
With all the waiting that comes before marriage, there’s little said about the waiting that comes in marriage. The unspoken expectation is that the drudgery of waiting ends at the altar. Yet this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Waiting on God is a discipline no Christian can run from. Waiting on God in the context of relationships doesn’t end once you’re pronounced man and wife. The only thing that changes as you cross over into marriage is the context of your waiting.
If you were waiting for certain things as an individual prior, your life is now tied (in covenant) to another person and you wait on God together. Waiting for career milestones. Waiting for the ideal home. Waiting for resources to get stuff done. Waiting for the 1st child; or the 2nd or the 3rd. Waiting for ministry breakthroughs. Waiting for your children’s milestones. Waiting for your children to get the best life partners. Waiting for grandchildren. On and on it goes.
When I realized that there would never be a point in my life where I wasn’t waiting on God for something, my approach to waiting changed. I began to see it not as a menace to be overcome within the shortest time frame but as a glorious opportunity to dig precious depths in my relationship with my Jesus.
Inherent in God’s creation of time is His allowance for us to wait on Him. He unravels His purpose for our lives in seasons rather than all at one go. It is in our understanding and acceptance of this that we find the grace we need to wait on God.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV
We can’t help but long for certain things because with eternity in our hearts something deep inside us has caught a glimpse of that which awaits us ahead. Yet, we must live in what is even as we wait for what will be.
Unfortunately, many couples (dating and married) peg their joy to the fulfillment of certain things. A conscious or unconscious choice is made to not be happy until their marriage looks a certain way, their partner/spouse acts a certain way, and their life mirrors all their desires.
But life and marriage don’t work that way. How can they? If you’re never not waiting on God for something, does this mean that you’ll never be happy? Because the moment one thing gets fulfilled another one takes its place on the waiting list.
Joyful contentment before marriage and in marriage is a choice. Even where God affords us joy, we still have to make the choice to lay down everything that would keep us from experiencing what He has for us and to wholly embrace what He’s given us. It isn’t automatic that when God gives joy, we instantly receive it. Just in the same way, when someone gives you a gift, you have to open it and make use of it.
Our desire for things in relationship and in marriage isn’t necessarily wrong. But how we express that desire, how we position our hearts and minds because of it, can easily cause friction and rifts between us and God as well as our partners. You can get so caught up in what you want to get from God that you begin to despise what you already have – which is ironically the fulfillment of a promise you were once waiting on God for. You can get so entitled in your demands to God that you start throwing tantrums at Him and your significant other when your every whim isn’t met. You can get so lost in your desire for one thing that you lose sight of the One who has been faithful through and through; and the one thing takes His place in the throne of your heart.
If you’re trusting God to find the right partner and to get married, don’t despise this season of waiting. It’s helping you build muscle for the waiting you’ll do in marriage (and other areas of your life!). It’s unfortunate that we’ve reduced celibacy to be solely about sex when it’s a much broader conversation about learning to trust God for something and how to operate in spiritual covenant.
If you’re already in marriage and it doesn’t look like what you thought it would, now is a good time to lay all to your desires and expectations down at the feet of Jesus. Ask Him what you need to leave behind and what you need to carry with you.
Wherever you are, whatever the longing of your heart, may the Lord renew your strength as you wait not on the thing, but on Him.
“Isaiah 40:31 doesn’t say those who wait will renew their strength. Nothing’s more exhausting than waiting. It says those who wait ON THE LORD will renew their strength. We tend to hear “trust God while you wait on the thing” & miss the key. He’s redirecting focus! “Wait on ME!”
Bring God the thing: the need, longing, heart’s desire, the petition, hope, dream. Give it over to Him then, instead of fixating on waiting for the fruition of the thing, reset your focus on waiting on the Lord in regard to the thing. Seems subtle but it’s a total game changer.
We miss 1000 works of God around us fixating on the 1. Give Him the 1. Give it over & over if you must. But give it to Him then watch for Him to work in all sorts of ways. If He gives you what you first asked, hallelujah! This way instead of seeing 1 thing, you got to watch 1001.
Here’s what I know: If you wait upon the Lord, you will always, without fail get what you’re waiting on: the Lord Himself.”
– Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM)