The following article was written by Bryan Stoudt.
Welcome back for the final post in our mini-series about choosing a wife who will help you fulfill God’s calling as a pastor, planter or ministry leader. In Part 1, we covered four traps to look out for, and in Part 2 we discussed four essential qualities to pursue.
We all know, though, that in practice it’s not a formula, right? We, and any woman we might pursue in marriage, are complex beings living in a seriously fallen world. And we’ve all seen ministry marriages crumble. So in this final post let’s talk about steps you can take to actually find a Proverbs 31 wife who will bless you and the people God calls you to serve.
Four Ways To Find A Godly Wife
Take your time
Like Elvis warned us, ‘only fools rush in’. This is the time to ask God to work in you patience and self-control, two of the Spirit’s fruits (Galatians 5:22, 23). Your heart may be on fire toward someone you’re dating, but give it time to unfold so that you see her true colors. Ultimately, the key to being patient and wise is keeping Christ first in your heart. If he is truly your greatest treasure (Matthew 13:44), you’ll be okay even if the relationship doesn’t pan out. And that produces restraint.
Limit physical contact
When my wife and I were dating, we really struggled with sexual purity. Our hormones were like Roman candles, and we couldn’t seem to keep our hands off of each other. Looking back, this is one of our biggest regrets about that season. If you and the woman you’re dating aren’t right for each other, physical contact can become like superglue that makes it (much) harder to end the relationship. It can also become an unhealthy focus that distracts you from harder, more important things. Like difficult conversations, seeking the Lord together, and pursuing community.
Spend time in community
Speaking of community…when you’re interested in someone, all you want to do is spend time alone with them. But listen to Proverbs 18:1: ‘Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.’ While we need one-on-one time with someone we’re dating, too much can be a gateway to trouble. Especially physical temptation, but also unhealthy emotional attachments. It all feels so natural, but in the end isolating ourselves can be selfish and unwise. This is another area where my wife and I failed big-time before our wedding day.
Ironically, you’ll get to know someone far better when you spend time together in community. Does Christ really seem to occupy the epicenter of her life, or is he more of an add-on? Does she naturally take an interest in others, or does she often turn the conversation back to herself? Have you seen her confess sin, say she’s sorry, or admit a need for growth and change?
During the time Sharon and I were dating, her heart for caring for others in conversation really stood out to me. I saw that when we spoke one-on-one, but seeing her do that with others confirmed my hunch that she was even more than she appeared to be.
These are the kinds of things that are unearthed through informal moments of community. (Of course, a wise woman should be vetting you, too!)
With about 40% of Americans using online dating, community becomes even more important. It’s fine to start online, but understand that you’re getting the carefully-curated version in someone’s profile. Inviting others in early on is a great way to start a more honest, full-orbed evaluation of each other.
As your relationship deepens, it’s time to take a courageous step. To ask your friends and mentors what they really think of the woman you’re dating. About their observations of you, too. ‘Since I’ve started seeing [so-and-so], what are your thoughts?’ There’s a reason that, three separate times, Proverbs tells us to seek many ‘advisers’ or ‘counselors’ (11:14; 15:22; 24:6)!
Finally, as you start to seriously consider marriage, premarital counseling is another, important layer of community. Find an older, godly couple whose marriage you’d like to emulate, even if you have to ask around. If you can’t find a couple to meet with, then choose a pastor or someone who has a good marriage. You’re unlikely to get significant help for your relationship from someone whose own relationship is only so-so (or worse). Do a little homework to find out what areas you need to cover, then bring those up if your counselors don’t. Ask them about surprises you might encounter. Finally, remember that most of the heavy lifting takes place between your sessions. You’ll progress as you process, pray through, and act on what you discuss during your sessions with your counselors.
Depend on the Lord
Although there are many things we should do–and avoid–ultimately finding a godly wife isn’t something we accomplish, but rather something God does. As God brought Eve to Adam (Genesis 2), he can bring a godly wife to you. Will you ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart’ and ‘not lean on your own understanding’ while you wait (Proverbs 3:5) ? Will you confess your failures to God and others, trusting in his forgiveness and new power to obey (1 John 1:9; James 5:16)? And will you ‘continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving’ (Colossians 4:2)? These are all, of course, normal parts of the Christian life, just tailored to your desire to find a godly wife who will join you in God’s calling to ministry. You already know how to do this.
Worth The Effort
We’ve covered a lot of ground in these three articles, haven’t we? But apart from your decision to follow Christ, choosing a godly wife is the most important choice you’ll ever make. Not only for you, but for the people you serve in ministry, the children you’ll have together, and many others. If you’ll depend on the Lord and others you trust, you can avoid the common pitfalls and find a wife and ministry partner who is ‘far more precious than jewels’ (Proverbs 31:10).
May the Lord bless you richly on this journey in every way.
For further reflection: As you think about finding a wife to join you for the adventure, which of the above suggestions is most helpful? Why?