Familiar with this: “I don’t feel the need for a mate, because I’m doing my mission”? Well, I am, because I already said this line many times.
Because I’m already in my mid-early twenties, the desire for a partner has become stronger compared to the former years. So I resort to pray to God, asking Him to reveal His will and even the woman I will be spending my whole life with. And while I’m praying, I wholly give myself to my mission.
I’m currently serving with the young singles ministry of my church and occasionally volunteering myself to the youth ministry. I preach and teach most of the times for these ministries. I also handle a group of young men, in the hopes of advancing the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). I love what I’m doing, as well as the people I’m serving. And my mission made me forget of my desire for a life partner, and kept me satisfied…but only to a certain point.
There are times (lots of them!) that I feel the emptiness within me. In spite of a fruitful ministry, the desire for a wife keeps coming back, or should I say, haunting me down. I wrestle with this desire when these moments come, and I’m often left emotionally down. “I thought I’m satisfied,” I say to myself. “What’s wrong with me?”
So what’s wrong with me? I’m glad that the Lord made me realize something. It’s really convicting.
It is this: I’ve been unconsciously finding satisfaction in my mission in the hopes of defocusing myself from the desire of a mate, and not in my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, I have replaced the Master with my mission. (In my church, the phrase Master, Mission, Mate is commonly used. I’m just not sure if this phrase is also used in other churches).
I’m reminded of what Blaise Pascal writes in his Pensees:
There once was in man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.1
There is an “infinite abyss” within me in which “in vain [I try] to fill from all [my] surroundings.” I try to fill that “mark and empty trace” with my mission. Now I know that is in vain.
Only God can satisfy me! I’m reminded of these verses:
11You make known to me the path of life; / in your presence there is fullness of joy; / at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
4Delight yourself in the Lord, / and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Only in Him can I find “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore.” He (and not my mission) alone can satisfy the deepest desires of my heart.
It remains true that my mission is a gift from God and is even instrumental to making me satisfied in Him. But I’m making a resolve not to let it take the place of God. As I wait for my mate, I will ultimately strive to find satisfaction in my Master alone, not in my mission.
1Quoted in John Piper, Desiring God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2003), 21.
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“When will you pursue her?” I usually ask my male friends. “Not now. I’ll focus on my studies first,” they usually answer, since we were still in college. Their answer seems sound.
Now that most of them are done with their studies, they answer the same question with: “Not now. I have to work first.”
I understand what they meant. I once shared their perspective. However, this made me think. I now ask myself: Is financial stability a crucial factor to consider before entering a relationship with a woman?
But before I attempt to answer the question, I will share some experiences first, so that you’ll have an idea where I am coming from.
Since I entered the youth ministry, I was trained to think that before entering into an exclusive relationship with a woman, I must first be prepared spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and financially. It makes sense to me, at least at the start. So I always thought that I wouldn’t court a girl unless I’m financially stable. So when I counsel others regarding relationships, I normally ask, “Are you prepared financially?” And when people ask me why I still don’t have a girlfriend, I reply, “I’m not financially stable yet.”
Then sometimes I bump into conversations with friends about wedding expenses. I usually debate with them with regards to the overall pricing of the wedding. Some of them claim that one must prepare at least a million for that special day (I wonder if it’s still considered special given one has to spend a million for just a single day). Another will be willing to spend more than P5 million (I think that’s crazy!). And while I want to keep my wedding day simple and low-cost, I’m tempted to increase my allowance for it, even up to a million pesos. I can’t help but reflect and ask, “Where will I get that amount of money?”
Also, there are lots of times I talk with my friends about their experiences with courtship and relationships. I remember a male friend telling me that a bank account with a decent amount of money is a plus towards a woman’s parents, especially the father. Honestly, this adds pressure to me.
So do you get where I am coming from? I was trained to think that financial stability is a must before courting a woman, was conditioned to think that I must spend extravagantly for my wedding day, and was pressured to have a good savings to please the parents of the girl. Let me add that my family isn’t really doing well, financially speaking, and as the eldest among the children and with a mom who is a widow, I must provide for them. Oh, the pressures!
I hate to admit this, but my financial situation and mental pre-conditioning will really hinder me from making a significant progress in my love life. It seems that my love life is enslaved to my financial standing. In other words, my bank account dictates my love life.
Financial Stability: A Measure of Marital Readiness?
Now, let’s answer the question. I bumped into a blog entitled How Do I Know if I’m Ready to Marry? by Glenn Stanton. He gives four factors to consider in assessing one’s readiness for marriage. But none of the four says something about financial stability. He writes:
Notice I’ve not said anything about completing college, establishing a career, saving a wad of money, buying a house or being able to afford a killer wedding. Far more people through the ages have married without any of these — and been wildly successful — than married with them. That is because they have nothing to do with whether or not you are ready for marriage. If not being able to have a big wedding is keeping you from marrying your beloved, you should ask if your dream wedding is more important than being one with this person. There is no connection whatsoever between a big to-do wedding and a happy, successful marriage.
I believe he’s right. Career, savings, and an expensive wedding have nothing to do with one’s preparedness for marriage. He adds:
The other things — college, career, savings, house — these just might make the process of marrying and starting a family easier, but they are not essential to marriage.
That’s it! Stanton just answered the question for us. Financial stability isn’t a crucial factor to consider before entering a relationship with a woman. It could lift a lot of burden in marrying and even starting a family, “but they are not essential to marriage.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not in any way saying that one must cease to strive for financial stability before courting or marrying. My goal is to achieve stability as well. What I’m pointing out is that one must not be hindered by his financial situation in courting or marrying. Or: Someone’s bank account must not dictate his love life.
Though financial stability is a goal that is worthy to achieve, it shouldn’t be a primary consideration. It is just secondary. Maturity in spiritual, mental, emotional, and relational aspects still deserves the primary attention before entering a relationship.
What Matters is Commitment
Now, let me mention something briefly: Commitment matters! Imagine with me for a while. Think of a child who wants the latest robot toy in the store. However, it’s so expensive. But he was determined to have it. He was committed to get it by all means. So he gathers his money and puts them into his piggy bank. Also, he endures hunger just to save. And he does well in school, exerting effort that deserves the rewards of his parents. His commitment drives him to save enough money so he could buy the robot.
I believe it’s the same when one commits to pursue a woman. Even when someone isn’t financially stable yet, or doesn’t have a job yet, but is committed to pursue a woman, it follows that he will all the more strive for financial stability or land a decent job. Commitment is a great driver!
Finding the Right Woman
As I end, I want to make a further reflection. In my blog I Love the Ministry and She Must as Well, I mentioned that l desire to be a pastor. Realistically speaking, a pastor doesn’t earn as much as someone in the corporate world does (I know some of you are clever and would say that a pastor’s employer is God. True. But let’s be practical for now).
If the Lord makes me a pastor someday, then it follows that I won’t be earning as much as others do. Admittedly, this adds another pressure to me. How can I please the woman I adore if I’m not earning much and couldn’t give her the lifestyle that she so desires once we get married?
Thankfully, I ran into another blog. This time, it’s from Mark Driscoll. In his blog Finance before Romance? he writes:
If you meet a woman who will not be satisfied with the level of income and lifestyle that you can provide, then she’s probably not the woman for you. Since it’s your responsibility to provide for the material and financial needs of your family (1 Timothy 5:8), life is much easier when you’re married to a woman who is content with the lifestyle you are able to provide.
If you work hard, give generously, invest smartly, and save prudently, you shouldn’t feel guilty for not making the big bucks. You want a wife who appreciates how you can provide rather than one who is continually dissatisfied with what you provide.
Driscoll’s words are comforting. I must simply look for a woman “who appreciates how [I] can provide.” Thank you, Pastor Mark.
Rather than concerning myself of how I can please the woman with my financial stability, I must “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” God will take care of my finances, even as a pastor, for “all these things will be added to [me]” (Matthew 6:33).
I must live by faith on matter of finances. I don’t want to be rebuked by Jesus, “O you of little faith?” (v.30).
Once again, let me say: Do not let your bank account dictate your love life.
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Starting today, I’ll be launching the banner The Single: Holy and Happy. This is a collection of blogs about my reflections on the single life. I’ll be posting blogs under this banner every Monday. This blog is the first one (for this year) under the banner. Anyway…
If you still don’t know, I’m greatly considering going to full-time ministry. I love Jesus and I love His bride, the church. I desire to become a pastor. Actually, many people call me pastor. And every time they do, I don’t know how to respond. Should I be happy? Or nervous?
If I desire to be a pastor (and God willing He makes me one), then it is but right for me to look for a woman who desires to be pastor’s wife. I once reflected what could happen if I marry someone who desires to be one, and if I marry someone who doesn’t.
Let’s consider the latter first. Here are some of the things that could happen if I marry someone who doesn’t share the same passion as I do for full-time ministry (Please take note that I’m exaggerating to make a point):
• When I block a day to study the Word, she becomes jealous of my time, for she wants to have a date with me.
• When I decide to give away money to support a pastor, or a church, or a ministry, she begrudges over my decision, for that means she has to give up her shopping money as well.
• When I passionately discuss life, ministry, and theology with her, she just looks me in the eye and nods her head, even if she doesn’t understand.
• When I travel for speaking engagements or for a missions trip, she complains her exhaustion (Actually, she’s just complaining because her travel money has been spent).
• When I receive criticism from the church, within or without, she immediately breaks down, for she never thought that the life of a pastor’s wife would be that hard.
These could happen initially at best, or until we die at worst. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love the church or the ministry. It’s just that her level of passion isn’t as high as mine. This is a nightmare for a pastor (or for an aspiring one like me).
But when the woman desires to be a pastor’s wife and shares the same level of enthusiasm for the church as I do, these could happen:
• When I block a day to study the Word, she is willing to wait for the appointed time of our date, and will even intercede to God on my behalf, asking that He “open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of [His] law” (Psalm 119:18).
• When I decide to give away money to support a pastor, or a church, or a ministry, she is sad initially to give even her shopping money, but quickly realizes that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
• When I passionately discuss life, ministry, and theology with her, she converses with a high energy, and even “debates” with me to reverse any wrongful thinking and to sharpen my mind (God bless such wife!).
• When I travel for speaking engagements or for a missions trip, she experiences exhaustion but also fulfillment, because “beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15).
• When I receive criticism from the church, within or without, she remains steadfast for me, even struggling in prayer like Epaphras did, “that [I] may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).
How beautiful it would be to marry such a woman. It only makes sense that since I love the ministry, she—the woman of my dreams (whoever she is)—must love it as well.
In one of my blogs last week, I have stated my deep desire to get married (as well as my fear of remaining single). Because of this desire, I often find myself imagining how glorious it would be to be marries to the woman of my dreams. Singles, you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? We’re all guilty of this!
We read books and attend seminars on dating, courtship, and marriage. We talk to our friends about the men or women we know, and how nice it would be to spend the rest of our lives with them. We daydream of the day we say “I do,” of doing life and ministry together with our spouse, of starting a family, and of living happily ever after. In short, our minds are saturated with thoughts of marriage.
But isn’t this too much? Isn’t this an excessive desire for marriage? Aren’t we idolizing marriage?
If we will take a closer look at ourselves and be honest, we will discover that we are already idolizing a future spouse or the married life. We make these good things into glorious ones. We make them gods, and put them in the place of God. Thus, the excessive desire for marriage is idolatrous.
The Bible is filled with warning against idolatry. We can find one in the Ten Commandments:
4“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. (Exodus 20:4)
Why shouldn’t we bow down and serve idols? It’s because God is a jealous God, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me” (v.5). We don’t want God to be jealous over us, right?
A Balanced View
So what should we do?
Since an excess of the desire for marriage is idolatrous, we should strike a balance. And we can do this by having a proper view of singleness. Singleness? Yes, that’s right.
For some of us, we view the single years with abomination. We look at our singleness like a prison, with marriage as the only bail. We liken the time of waiting to an extended stay in a torture chamber. We think or ourselves as incomplete persons until we marry.
But let’s take a look at how the apostle Paul describes a single person and married one:
32I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:32-25)
It seems that for the apostle, an unmarried person is better off than a married person. (Of course, there are many blessings a married person do experience that an unmarried one doesn’t). Why is that? It’s because time is running out! And an unmarried person has more time to be “anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.” He is unlike the married person who is “anxious about worldly things” and how to please his spouse. His interests are divided, while the unmarried one had undivided devotion. (To clear things: If a person is a single, it doesn’t automatically mean that he has undivided devotion for the Lord. And if a person is married, it also doesn’t automatically mean that he can’t give a high level of devotion. But compared to a married person, the single has more potential to have an undivided devotion).
Redeeming the Single Years
The single has more time to be “anxious about the things of the Lord,” pleasing Him. He has undivided devotion. Isn’t this wonderful?
Since the single has more time of undivided devotion, he also has more time to “delight [himself] in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4) as a single, finding satisfaction and wholeness in Christ. He has more time to strive for holiness as a single, for “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). He has more time to “serve one another” (Galatians 5:13) as a single. And he has more time to “Trust in the LORD with all [his] heart” (Proverbs 3:5) as a single, as he waits for God’s will on his future.
Are you idolizing a future spouse or the married life? If you are, you can find forgiveness in the Lord Jesus. And He will help you remove the idol from your heart and give you the strength to redeem the single years.