Marriage is something that I’ve wanted from a very young age, ever since I saw from my parents and grandparents what it’s like to be married. Their lifelong love and commitment, as well as the stability that God-centred marriages like theirs brought to the household—the ability to be loving, accepting, selfless—were things that stood out to me. No family or marriage is perfect, but the intentional efforts to love and serve each other with God at the centre made forgiveness and reconciliation possible.
I must admit that the years of being single (and not by choice) have been difficult for me. From my teenage to young adult years, I was sure something was ‘wrong’ with me, that’s why I was not ‘dateable’. I thought perhaps I was too athletic, too intellectual, even too enthusiastic about my faith.
Thankfully, I am not the expert on marriage—God is. After all, marriage was His idea. I am thankful for the advice and prayers from godly mentors and sisters-in-Christ—to not settle for second-best, to be specific in my prayers for a husband, to remember that God loves me and knows my desire for marriage, and to trust in His timing and provision.
During my season of singleness, there were many questions I asked myself. And now that I’ve entered into a romantic relationship for the first time, I’m glad I took time to seriously reflect on these soul-searching questions.
1. What’s my goal of being in a relationship?
I initially wanted a romantic relationship and a marriage to feel “normal” among my peers and to get exclusive attention and affection. I eventually learned that these goals were far too small from God’s perspective.
In a sermon series on marriage, Timothy Keller said that the ultimate goal of earthly marriage was to bring spiritual refinement—so that husband and wife would help each other become more like Christ, until the day they both get to heaven.
With the help of this statement—and some recommended books, sermons, and podcasts on dating and marriage—I have gradually redefined my personal goals for being in a relationship to the following:
- To love and serve God better together—however I am serving the Lord right now, that should be strengthened as my future spouse and me labour side by side for God’s kingdom.
- To discover the romantic side of Jesus—I have known Jesus as a Friend and God as Father. Part of me wants to know Him as Lover, to let my earthly marriage be a foreshadowing of the union of Christ and His Bride, the Church.
Would my earthly marriage bring me deeper into or away from God’s purpose for my life (and my future husband’s life) in light of His kingdom? Anything less than that felt like I would be settling for second-best in marriage.
2. Would I date me?
As I prayed to God for my future husband, I found that some traits on my ‘list’ had remained consistent over the years, in terms of:
- Faith: Has an active relationship with God, knows his life purpose, able to be a spiritual leader of our family
- Social traits: Funny, a good listener, can carry a conversation, honest in his sharing, respects and cares for his family
- Emotional health: Teachable, secure and confident in himself
- Intellectual health: Has a growth mindset
- Diligence in caring for his physical health and appearance
One day, while praying over this list during quiet time, I felt the Lord tugging at my heart, asking, “How about you? Do you measure up to your own list?” This caught me off guard. I began to use my list as a mirror to myself—“Do I have an active relationship with God? Do I respect and care for my family? Am I teachable and honest in my sharing?”
Until that point, I had thought that life would only really begin once I was dating and headed toward marriage. But who would want to date me if I was waiting on someone else to ‘start’ my life? And if my future husband had these qualities, wouldn’t he be looking for similar traits in his future wife?
That day, I prayed: “God, no more double standards. You have given me the desires for these qualities in my future husband. Please grow me into the woman You want me to be with these qualities where possible. Let me not expect of others what I won’t expect of myself.”
3. Is there room for a serious relationship in my life?
To gauge this, I thought of it this way: if I were to be married within the short term, would I be ready—practically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially—for all that marriage entails?
It was a daunting thought, but I knew that having someone significant in my life (and vice versa) would take partnership and compromise. These are some things I had to think through:
- Spiritually, am I becoming more consistent in my time with God, and in allowing Him to break my harmful thought patterns and bad habits? Am I rooted in a strong and godly support group for spiritual accountability?
- Practically, will my schedule allow me to spend quality time with my future husband on a regular basis? Am I ready to adjust my commitments around my life partner?
- Socially and emotionally, do I have the openness and maturity to share honestly about myself? Am I ready to hear about another person’s life regularly—all his joys and struggles?
- Financially, am I ready to help shoulder the costs of a wedding and a house? Am I ready to talk about how we will manage our finances?
- Health-wise, am I happy with my diet, fitness, and sleep routines?
Looking back, I am thankful for God’s perfect timing as He did much work in my heart—breaking strongholds, addictions, and a complaining spirit, all of which might have compromised my romantic relationships if I had dated earlier.
4. Am I idolising romance and marriage?
During my university days, a preacher shared with us at a campus ministry event of his own journey into marriage. He talked about how it was possible that he could lose his wife (then pregnant with their first child) in an accident at any time.
If that should happen, he wondered if it would make him angry at God and give up his faith. He then realised that his wife and unborn child belonged first to God, and that God does not owe us the ‘happy ever afters’ we might imagine having.
This reminded me of the verse, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21b). I was encouraged by the pastor’s message, and it made me think, could I do the same with my boyfriend now?
Less than a month after my article on embracing the gift of singleness was published, my current boyfriend came into my life. It has been almost a year since we got into a relationship, and I am grateful to the Lord every day for him and how God has used him to deepen my faith, sharpen my life skills, and grow our creative pursuits.
Yet sometimes, I still feel incomplete when I see peers of mine getting married and seemingly “moving on” in their lives, whereas I am “still stuck” in singlehood. But then I realise that I’m pinning all my hopes and dreams on a fellow sinner, somehow expecting him to “save” me from a “lesser” life and make me feel complete.
God knows I have waited a long time and have kept myself pure. But, if my boyfriend should leave me, would I blame God for it? Yet God doesn’t owe me a boyfriend or husband. He doesn’t even owe me Himself or salvation. Everything is by His grace. If God thinks it good and fitting for me to be married, so be it. If He thinks it good and fitting for me to be single, so be it. God knows best and His ways are greater and higher than mine.
Embarking on a romantic relationship can be both exciting and nerve-racking. I am learning day by day what it means to love and be loved by my significant other. At the same time, I am assured that as long as we keep our focus on God and stay plugged into a godly community, a romantic relationship headed toward marriage can be one that honours God and shapes us to become like Jesus.
Here are some resources I’ve found helpful:
- Sermons and podcast
- “Finding the Love of Your Life” by Rick Warren
- Timothy Keller’s sermon series on marriage
- The Boundless Show by Focus on the Family
- Not Yet Married by Marshall Segal
- The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
- Passion and Purity by Elizabeth Elliot
- Your Future ‘Other Half’: It matters whom you marry by Rebecca VanDoodewaard