God’s wisdom can help us avoid numerous problems, but ignoring it can lead to all kinds of trouble and heartache in every area of life. And when it comes to the decision of whether or not to marry, God’s Word provides an abundance of wisdom and cautions that can save you from years of heartache. Ignore it at your own peril.
Also read about one secret to contentment, the danger of delayed justice, and some important questions to consider before exercising our “freedoms” in Christ.
1 Corinthians 10.19-33
Premarital Red Flags
“Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (8.11).
And we wonder why our criminal justice system doesn’t work?
It’s not that we shouldn’t take the time to allow for a clear investigation and give an accused person a chance to defend him or herself, but when cases drag on for years and sentences are not carried out in a reasonable amount of time, punishment is much less of a deterrent.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry
“So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun” (8.15).
This is not about living a party lifestyle, doing whatever we please, but about enjoying life’s simple pleasures within the framework of God’s will. The sad fact is that just like Adam and Eve, we constantly feel we must go outside the guidelines God has given to find the pleasure we think we “deserve.” God gave them the whole garden to enjoy and they settled for a lousy tree!
“Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun” (9.9).
God gives us all the benefits of marriage to enjoy and we will settle for some other guy or some other woman who we think “understands us” or builds up our ego—forgetting the spouses they are willing to neglect while they commit adultery with us! We will destroy two families, our testimony, and our relationship with God to have what we think we want, and realize too late it doesn’t deliver.
Premarital Red Flags that Can Keep You from Years of Heartache
13 This wisdom I have also seen under the sun, and it seemed great to me: 14 There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares around it. 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man.
16 Then I said:
“Wisdom is better than strength.
Nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised,
And his words are not heard (9.13-16).
Solomon reminds us that “Wisdom is better than strength,” though he admits it may not always be appreciated in this life.
Even God’s principles, the ultimate wisdom, are often rejected as too hard, too inconvenient or too restrictive. But when the consequences of living life their own way set in, people come looking for help just as the men of this small city came looking for this wise man.
One area where I see this played out is with premarital couples. At our church we require couples to take a “Preparing for Marriage” class before they can be married by one of our pastors. It is followed by an interview with one of the couples leading the class. When there are red flags concerning marriage, they may refer one or both of them to one of our counselors.
I have met with women on numerous occasions where I have told them that marriage to this person is unwise, sometimes sinful if the potential spouse is an unbeliever. I have been known to say, “Don’t walk away … run!”
Sadly, often the “strength” of their emotions and desires rule the day. Just as often, they come back, sometimes only months later, looking for help to deal with serious issues.
At that point my counsel must be completely different. Before marriage, they had a choice about whether or not to marry the other person. Now, God’s Word says they must stay and do their part to make the marriage work (1 Pet. 3.1; 1 Cor. 7.12-13).
The guy who said he would go to church with her, no longer will. In fact, he resents the fact that she wants to go. Those women sometimes go to church alone for years unable to share the most important part of life with the person closest to them.
Or the woman who insisted on having her way about everything before they were married has no intention of submitting after they are married.
Sometimes there are serious issues toward the other one’s children from a previous marriage or relationship. Sometimes there are patterns of abuse or drinking or problems with work ethics. Many of those things can be worked on, but too often there is no desire to do so on the part of the other person.
21 Premarital Red Flags:
The following list is taken from Preparing for Marriage (the book our premarital teachers and counselors use) published by Family Life Ministries:
- You have a general uneasy feeling that something is wrong in your relationship.
- You find yourself arguing often with your fiancé(e).
- Your fiancé(e) seems irrationally angry and jealous whenever you interact with someone of the opposite sex.
- You avoid discussing certain subjects because you’re afraid of your fiancé(e)’s reaction.
- Your fiancé(e) finds it extremely difficult to express emotions, or is prone to extreme emotions (such as out-of-control anger or exaggerated fear). Or he/she swings back and forth between emotional extremes (such as being very happy one minute, then suddenly exhibiting extreme sadness the next).
- Your fiancé(e) displays controlling behavior. This means more than a desire to be in charge—it means your fiancé(e) seems to want to control every aspect of your life: your appearance, your lifestyle, your interactions with friends or family, and so on.
- Your fiancé(e) seems to manipulate you into doing what he or she wants. You are continuing the relationship because of fear—of hurting your fiancé(e), or of what he or she might do if you ended the relationship.
- Your fiancé(e) does not treat you with respect. He or she constantly criticizes you or talks sarcastically to you, even in public.
- Your fiancé(e) is unable to hold down a job, doesn’t take personal responsibility for losing a job, or frequently borrows money from you or from friends.
- Your fiancé(e) often talks about aches and pains, and you suspect some of these are imagined. He or she goes from doctor to doctor until finding someone who will agree that there is some type of illness.
- Your fiancé(e) is unable to resolve conflict. He or she cannot deal with constructive criticism, or never admits a mistake, or never asks for forgiveness.
- Your fiancé(e) is overly dependant on parents for finances, decision-making or emotional security.
- Your fiancé(e) is consistently dishonest and tries to keep you from learning about certain aspects of his or her life.
- Your fiancé(e) does not appear to recognize right from wrong, and rationalizes questionable behavior.
- Your fiancé(e) consistently avoids responsibility.
- Your fiancé(e) exhibits patterns of physical, emotional or sexual abuse toward you or others.
- Your fiancé(e) displays signs of drug or alcohol abuse: unexplained absences of missed dates, frequent car accidents, the smell of alcohol or strong odor of mouthwash, erratic behavior or emotional swings, physical signs such as red eyes, unkempt look, unexplained nervousness, and so on.
- Your fiancé(e) has displayed a sudden, dramatic change in lifestyle after you began dating. (He or she may be changing just to win you and will revert back to old habits after marriage.)
- Your fiancé(e) has trouble controlling anger. He or she uses anger as a weapon or as a means of winning arguments.
- You have a difficult time trusting your fiancé(e)—to fulfill responsibilities, to be truthful, to help in times of need, to make ethical decisions, and so on.
- Your fiancé(e) has a history of multiple serious relationships that have failed—a pattern of knowing how to begin a relationship but not knowing how to keep one growing.
If you’re dating or engaged and recognize any of these relational or premarital red flags, I want to encourage you to meet with your pastor or a good biblical counselor. If you recognize any of these and you are sexually involved, I encourage you to break off your sexual relationship, immediately. Sexual intimacy will cloud your vision and make it very difficult to make a wise decision in this area.
Other things that can make it hard to make a wise choice are loneliness, idealistic thinking, spiritual immaturity, or because wedding plans are already underway. Believe me, the push back that might result from any of these is minor in comparison to 20, 30, or 40 years spent in a difficult marriage.
Wisdom can help us avoid many heartaches and troubles in life and shorten their duration when we can’t avoid them, not only in this area of marriage, but in many areas. Seeking and following wise advise in our finances, for example, can lead to peace and a greater enjoyment of God’s blessings. Allowing margins in our budgets prevents added stress when there is a major repair or emergency.
But wisdom must be sought after and listened to. Yet, as Solomon understood, it is often unappreciated and ignored.
Is there some area of life where you have learned, perhaps the hard way, to make wiser decisions? Is there some area where you have been ignoring wise counsel or red flags and need to reconsider some decision?
Today’s Other Readings:
Not What We Deserve
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. 9 He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities (vss. 8-10).
Praise God for His mercy. Those of us who have accepted His offer of salvation, don’t get what we deserve, we get His grace!
Those Who Are Drawn Toward Death
11 Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. 12 If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds? (vss. 11-12).
We cannot pretend ignorance regarding the world around us, especially those who are destroying their own lives and those of their born and unborn children. May God give us the strength and the boldness to speak truth to those He puts in our paths.
Questions to Consider
23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.
31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Some important questions to consider before we exercise our “freedoms”:
Is what I am doing “helpful” to me in my walk with God?
Will it edify me?
Will it edify others?
Does it bring glory to God, that is, will it cause others to have a right opinion of Him?
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