Read an Excerpt
Making the Choice
Your Final Answer?
You're probably too young to remember, but once upon a time in a galaxy not too far away, a game show called Let's Make a Deal thrilled audiences with its spectacular prizes and wacky games.
The contestants came from the studio audience, which kept excitement high both on and off the stage. When chosen, the contestants would play a simple game to win something, and the prizes ranged from cash to appliances, furniture, and electronicsnothing too sensational or expensive. But these prizes became bargaining chips for the second round.
During round two, the player could either leave, satisfied with his new toaster oven or TV, or he could "make a deal" with host Monty Hall. If he chose to deal, the contestant traded his prize for what lay behind one of three huge doors.
Since no contestant had any idea whether the hidden prize would be something better or worse, an element of risk existed. By taking that risk, the player might walk away with a brand-new car or thousands of dollars in cold, hard cash. Then again, the wrong door might reveal a family of monkeys dressed like baseball players, chewing on peanuts and swinging inflatable bats. (No kidding, they really had stuff like that! And get thisyou didn't even win the monkeys.) If the contestant later walked away with a car, he would probably feel he'd made the best pick of his life. On the other hand, seeing the baseball-playing monkeys could definitely leave him depressed over his decision-making skills.
Almost all game shows come down to one make-or-break choice. And the stakes have only escalated in the years since Let's Make a Deal. Now America sits glassy-eyed as Regis Philbin helps discover who wants to be a millionaire. Contestants aren't risking a new lawn mower anymore. They're playing with six- or seven-digit figures.
If you haven't seen the program, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is played like this: The contestant must answer fifteen multiple-choice questions to win the million. The first question is worth a measly $100, but eventually the money starts doubling and you can win serious dough.
At each level, the player has the option to take the money he's already won or risk it to go on to the next question. Once his winnings reach $32,000, that much is guaranteed. So if you've won $250,000 and answer the next question incorrectly, you forfeit $218,000. You lose all but the guaranteed $32,000.
Yes, indeed, the game-show stakes have increased exponentially from the Let's Make a Deal days. If a player on Millionaire chooses wisely, he walks away with a truckload of money. But if he chooses poorly, he winds up losing big time.
In reality, however, the contestant in both these examples loses nothing except the idea of winning. After all, you don't play with your own dollars on Millionaire, and even the cheapest beginning prizes on Let's Make a Deal were never yours to begin with. In the land of game shows, you risk nothing except the chance to win something unexpected. Your participation in the game makes a difference, but it won't cause you personal loss.
(Protection from personal loss may be changing though. We saw a brief segment of a British game show in which a nice couple from a London suburb was asked a trivia question in the category of "Geography" to win some prize. Apparently as part of the game, the couple had risked their family car on the question. Unfortunately, they answered incorrectly and then watched as their car was lowered into an industrial crusher. In moments it was turned into a neatly compressed square of metal.)
But most game shows today are not reality. In real life, you make choices every day, all day long, that affect your life, even when you might feel you're "playing" with things that aren't yours or that your choice won't matter that much.
Some choices do in fact matter a great deal. Some choices are risky, and making the right decision requires wisdom. If you lie to your parents, you risk getting grounded or, worse, losing their willingness to trust you. If you choose to do drugs, you risk injuring your body for life. If you have sex before marriage, you risk pregnancy, STDs, and psychological trauma. You may even risk facing these consequences if you "fool around" without going "all the way." Some choices make the difference between a good life and a miserable one.
Choosing whom to marry is a life-altering decision that matters. Whom you marry makes the difference in almost every area of lifefamily, friends, and even your walk with the Lord. Next to accepting Jesus as your Savior, choosing whom to marry is the biggest decision you will make.
"Hold on," you say. "I'm nowhere near ready for marriage. Why do I need to think about this now? I thought this book was going to help me look for the right people to date."
This book will help you make wise choices and date according to God's standards. But we want you to think about where those choices eventually lead.
As a young person who desires to honor the Lord, you want to please Him when you eventually marry. Why not learn now how to determine whether a person of the opposite sex will complement you and spur you on in your relationship with Jesus?
Now is the time to start thinking seriously about your standards for a life partner. If you begin to formulate godly ideas about what you desire in a spouse, you'll be better able to find your prince or princess without having to kiss a bunch of frogs.
It doesn't work to date willy-nilly and expect that someday you'll find a man or woman worth marrying. Choose wisely now, for your choices along the way will influence and shape your final choice. By learning wisdom in the smaller choices now, you prepare yourself for that later life-changing and all-important decision of choosing whom to marry.
"We Rent Wedding Rings"
For making those wise choices, you won't find much help from the world. The world's view of marriage is a poor one. Next time you watch television or go to the movies, count the number of married couples you see who have happy, healthy relationships. Compare that number with how many couples you see who are having affairs, or are always arguing, or whose love for each other has died. Hollywood doesn't usually take marriage very seriously. If you go by what you see on TV and in the movies, you might easily think of marriage as boring, dreadful, or a total joke.
So it's no surprise that the world considers divorce the normal next step when a husband and wife don't see eye to eye. It's "normal" for a person to have one, two, or three ex-spouses. Divorce has been completely integrated and accepted in our society. Divorce proceedings have even become "entertainment," as couples air their dirty marital laundrythe scandals, the betrayals, the painbefore thousands of viewers. Studio executives must think portraying a healthy, happy marriage would be boring by comparison.
The world's easy escape clause of divorce enables people to make the decision to get married with little or no thought. In fact, isn't that what many television and film couples do? Over a few drinks together, they decide to tie the knot. Then they make a quick trip to Vegas to get married. They "go for it," because it feels right at the moment.
It's no wonder that the divorce rate has skyrocketedto more than 50 percent for those marrying for the first time and to over 75 percent for remarriages. The world views the choice of whom to marry as not much more serious than buying a dress or ordering a dish off a menu: If you don't like it, you can exchange it or send it back. A high-priced jewelry store in a Hollywood neighborhood actually advertised, "We rent wedding rings." Wear the ring for the "trial" period, and if you don't care for the person you married (and chances are you won't), you can turn the ring in until you're ready to try again.
But to be fair, this negativity about marriage isn't simply the creation of the modern media. As far back as 1678, a French moralist said, "There are good marriages, but no delightful ones." Who would want to get married with that kind of recommendation?
Is this how we're to view marriage? Are all marriages doomed to be "good" but never "delightful"? Is marriage just a bad joke?
'Til Death Do Us Part
The world may not take marriage seriously, but God certainly does. He designed marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and woman. He made clear His intentions for marriage when He Himself matched and married Adam and Eve in the Garden.
He designed marriage as the miracle of "two becoming one." He arranged for spouses to be bondedphysically and emotionallyuntil death separates them. That's why the marriage vows require a husband and wife to cherish, love, and serve each other "until death do us part." God intended marriage to be a life-changing and lifelong covenant. To the Lord, marriage is a life-and-death matter.
Jesus doesn't mince words when it comes to divorce, as we can see in the following selections from the contemporary translation of the Bible called The Message. Several Pharisees are confronting Jesus to test His views. They badger Him:
"Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?"
He answered, "Haven't you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female? And because of this, a man leaves father and mother and is firmly bonded to his wife, becoming one flesh no longer two bodies but one. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart." (Matthew 19:3-6)
Jesus boldly declares that divorce destroys God's art. It cuts apart two individuals whom He has firmly bonded together. This separation cannot be done without great pain and suffering to both people. The Lord knows that divorce ravages His design for life and love.
But the Pharisees don't give up.
They shot back in rebuttal, "If that's so, why did Moses give instructions for divorce papers and divorce procedures?"
Jesus said, "Moses provided for divorce as a concession to your hardheartedness, but it is not part of God's original plan. I'm holding you to the original plan, and holding you liable for adultery if you divorce your faithful wife and then marry someone else. I make an exception in cases where the spouse has committed adultery."
Jesus' disciples objected, "If those are the terms of marriage, we're stuck. Why get married?"
But Jesus said, "Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn't for everyone.... But if you're capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it." (19:7-12)
Notice what Jesus reveals about the seriousness of marriage. First of all, God intended marriage to last a lifetime and allowed divorce only because of the stubborn and unyielding hearts of His people.
Second, Jesus holds us to the original standard, which deems a person guilty of adultery if he or she divorces a faithful spouse and remarries.
And finally, Jesus reveals that marriage is such a big deal that not everyone can or should do it. For some people marriage is too great a commitment, too hard a course. It's fascinating that Jesus' disciples, not the Pharisees, object, "But Lord, that means we're stuck with whomever we choose." Even His most committed followers had a problem with the "forever" part of marriage! And Jesus confirms the truth of their conclusion. Because you're "stuck" once you make the choice, every person should weigh the gravity of marriage before taking the vows.
From the beginning, God planned marriage to be a lifelong commitment. He wanted men and women to take it seriously. And here's the bottom line: "`I hate divorce,' says the Lord God of Israel" (Malachi 2:16). The Lord views marriage so highly that He cannot stand to see it torn apart.
We should have this same mind-set. When it comes to marriage, our Lord makes it clear that once we've taken the vows, once we seal the covenant before Him, He desires and expects us to follow through until death do us part.
Tragically, many Christians have followed the ways of the world and have reneged on their commitments, breaking their covenant vows. Today the divorce rate in America among Christians is equal to that of nonbelievers, and it continues to grow at a frightening rate. Christians seem to believe the lie that if you choose poorly the first time, you can simply get out and start again.
As a young adult who has the chance to make the right choice the first time, take the Lord's words seriously. Regard marriage as He does and plan to make a lifelong commitment when you find a person of godly character. Make the selection process as important to you as it is to Him.
Learn now to pick your dates according to the same biblical standards you have for a spouse. When you do, you'll set yourself up for successful relationships. Then you can date and eventually marry a person who is holy, outrageous, and trustworthy.
But WaitThere's Morel
You can see the sharp contrast between the world's view of marriage and God's view. Now we'll give you a few more reasons why marriage is such a major life-decision.
These reasons originate in God's purposes for creating marriage. First, God instituted marriage because He found it wasn't good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). God wanted man to have a mate who would satisfy part of his need for love and intimacy. Alone, he could not have these needs met. Sharing his life in marriage, however, he could be completed, fulfilled, and delighted.
Because God intended marriage to solve the problems that come from being alone, you need to search for a spouse who will meet your needs for love and intimacy. Look for a mate who can be trusted with your vulnerability. God saw that it was "not good" for man to be alone without a companion, but it's worse for a man or woman to feel alone in marriage. Your choice of a spouse determines whether you will be fulfilled or lonely in marriage.
Another reason the Lord created marriage was to reflect His love for the church. That's why husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church, giving Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). In The Mystery of Marriage, Mike Mason expands this idea: "The love between a husband and wife is a participation in the love of God for the whole human race."
God intended marital love to mirror His love for people in a unique and precious way. Think how serious that makes marriage! If you choose wisely, your marriage can be a powerful testimony of God's gracious love. But if you choose poorly, not only do you miss the privilege of reflecting His love, but you also risk distorting the way others perceive that love.
God also designed marriage for the purpose of completing and complementing His children. It's no surprise that we all have needs ("gaps") that we can't fill on our own. Instead of filling them directly, the Lord sometimes elects to use other people.
When He created Eve for Adam, the Lord made it clear that she was a helper and completer for him (Genesis 2:18). Only together did Adam and Eve make creation "very good" (1:31). The husband-wife relationship is complementary and fulfilling in a way no other relationships can be.
In the film Rocky, the tough-as-nails prizefighter meets and falls in love with shy Adrian, who works in a local pet shop. Adrian's brother Paulie, a lowlife character who works in a meat factory and aspires to become a debt collector for Philadelphia loan sharks, can't understand what Rocky sees in his sister.
"I don't get it," he says. "What's the attraction?"
In his husky, muddled speech, Rocky voices, "I dunno. Fills gaps, I guess."
"What gaps?" Paulie questions incredulously.
"She's got gaps. I got gaps. Together we fill gaps."
If you want to find someone whom God can use to "fill gaps" in your life, you need to make careful decisions. The Lord desires and intends to use your spouse to mold and complete you. Wait for a person with whom you can unite to be "very good" in His sight.
Finally, we want to mention one more reason that marriage is such a huge decision.
Without sin, maybe marriage wouldn't be such a huge decision. Sinless spouses wouldn't argue or hurt each other, so you could probably marry whomever you wanted and be happy. But let's get back to the real world. Since sin perverted God's intentions for marriage, we must face the reality that marriage will be difficult and trying at times. To weather the inevitable storms of marriage, you need to make smart decisions starting with your first date.
And there will be storms. "No one has ever been married," writes Mason, "without being shocked at the enormity of this price and at the monstrous inconvenience of this thing called intimacy which suddenly invades one's life."
Mason likens the trouble to a massive tree, which sprouts and grows in the middle of your house. There's no way to maneuver or live without constant thought and deference to the tree. You must change your patterns and lifestyle to fit with it.
Marriage changes your life, and we both can tell you that sometimes you won't like the changes. You'll even get annoyed at "little things"your wife likes chocolate more than "real food," or your husband needs every tool on the Sears Craftsman shelf.
What's worse, you'll find yourself arguing over these petty things as if they were life-and-death matters. You'll slam doors or yell or cry over whether he rinsed his dish well enough or whether she bought the right kind of milk.
Marriage doesn't lessen the struggles of life. In fact, in some ways it heightens and highlights them, making them more painful because they're now doubly personal. Two people sharing each other's burdens (or creating burdens for each other) make the heartaches of life more keen. Robert Louis Stevenson once said that marriage is like lifeit's a field of battle and not a bed of roses.
You will face difficulties in your marriage, and one of the best ways we know to mitigate those struggles is to have carefully decided whom you will marry. Hold out for someone with whom you can struggle and grow, not struggle and give up.
Now and Later
Marriagethe wonderful gift which made the "not good" of man's loneliness into a "very good" proposition ... the terrific privilege a man and woman have to reflect God's love ... the gracious place in which gaps can be filled ... and the field of battle in which hearts are strengthened through paincannot be entered into lightly.
Choose wisely both now and later. Right now, learn to develop relationships with men and women who resemble someone you would want to marry. Eventually, you may make the life-changing decision to take the vows of marriage. Having trained yourself to recognize godly companions along the way will make your choice of a spouse a more secure one.