The following article was written by Bryan Stoudt.
After the service, the pastor’s wife was pleasant but distant. Whenever the conversation turned toward her, she perked up. But as the focus shifted toward others, she became less present and struggled to hide her disinterest.
Her husband, the pastor, seemed much more engaged.
As we turned to leave, my heart sank. It was only a sample size of one, but I sensed that the church was only loved by one in the marriage. They were not true partners in ministry.
Sadly, this ministry couple is not alone. Many pastors have wives who are relatively lukewarm to the ministry – and them. Even worse, I know others whose wives have either functionally, or literally, left both altogether.
This is not to place the blame on the ladies. Indeed behind a wife who lacks passion for God’s people there is sometimes a leader who is not leading well. In the dance of pastoral ministry, it takes two to tango. But how do we know if we are choosing a partner who dances well in ministry?
A Noble Pursuit With High Stakes
If you sense God’s calling to marriage, you’re engaged in a noble pursuit. As Proverbs 18:22 puts it, ‘He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.’ A godly wife can help you glorify God by portraying the gospel (Ephesians 5:22-33), bring vital ministry gifts and skills you lack, help you see more clearly, and so much more.
Apart from deciding to follow Jesus, this is the most important decision you’ll ever make. It’s worth doing well.
So in this series, let’s take a look at common traps to avoid, qualities to pursue, and, how to actually find a godly wife. (If you’re already married, hopefully this will help you provide guidance for younger men as they pursue marriage.)
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
While Scripture celebrates marriage, not every guy promises to be a good husband and not every lady will become a good wife. For example, some are not even called to marriage, like Jesus or Paul. And if we do marry, it must be ‘in the Lord’. (1 Corinthians 7:39)
But if we are called to marriage and ministry, pursuing another Christian is just the starting point. Truth is, some ministry wives are Christian-ish. They’re believers, but not terribly excited about the Lord, or, serving his people. They possess little desire to help you, or the people you’re called to serve. They feel your call should make no claim upon them. How can you avoid pursuing marriage with someone who may not flourish in the ministry to which you are called?
Here are four signs that a woman may not be served by marrying you.
Four Common Traps To Avoid
The Beauty Queen
Although pop culture encourages us to go for the babe , God – and reality – tell us that ‘beauty is vain’ (Proverbs 31:30), or, ‘useless’. It simply doesn’t last. By the way, regardless of what you are telling yourself, it won’t last in you either. Sure, we should be physically attracted to our future spouse. Testosterone tempts younger guys to elevate this quality more than they should, often at the expense of what really matters.
Thank God for beauty, but if you’re called to ministry, marry character. Like good wine, it ages well.
We’ve all met women with personalities the size of Texas. Charisma, after all, is a wonder to behold. But Proverbs reminds us that this too can be ‘deceitful’ (also Proverbs 31:30). If we’re drawn simply by personality, we are destined to a pretty superficial marriage. Charm isn’t bad, I wish I had more of it; and there ought to be a certain chemistry and enjoyment with someone you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. The key issue here is whether a woman’s personality says, ‘look at God’, or, ‘look at me’.
When we’re evaluating a potential spouse, Jesus’ simple priorities for our lives are incredibly helpful. Love God with all of who we are, and, love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39) Does a woman organize her life around the Lord and serving others? Or is she laser-focused on sculpting her body, exalting her career, and accumulating more and more money?? Again, these are all good things when they’re kept in balance and humbly enjoyed as gifts from God. The question here is one of orbit. Does the life of a potential spouse revolves around herself, or the Lord and others?
This last trap is about you, not who you might marry. When I was in college and grad school, I had a list of things I was looking for in a future spouse. Nothing on the list was wrong, but looking back I was subtly approaching marriage like a demanding consumer, with relatively little concern for what I could give. When we remember that none of us has yet attained to ‘the fullness of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:13), we’ll find it easier to focus on what’s most important and de-emphasize what’s not. (Great tip from Brandon Adams: make a list of things you don’t need in a future spouse.)
Of course, many times these traps can be subtle. It’s usually easier to focus on finding a woman who exhibits the kind of godly qualities scripture lays out, and we’ll turn our attention there in the next article.
For further reflection: Which of the traps above (or another) is most tempting to you as you consider marriage? Why do you think it’s so tempting for you?