In its outward appearance, marriage is deceptively ordinary and simple. Just a man and a woman joined in lifelong sexual union, serving God together, loving and helping each other, laboring together, through good times and bad, as long as both live. Yet God personally and painstakingly created that structure and essence from the very beginning, so that male and female united that way are necessary for, and a gorgeous adornment over, all of his creation; generating, sustaining, and ordering human society.
Moreover, Scripture tells us that the simple blessings of godly marriage are among the richest gifts we can receive from God, more than money, fame, or power. David describes God’s reward for the man who fears the Lord: “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table” (Ps 128:3). In one of the most gorgeous passages in Ecclesiastes (9:9), we find this heartfelt recommendation: “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.”
But simply getting married seems like it’s getting harder and harder these days.
Finding the right partner and then pursuing marriage with him or her is typically delightful, exhilarating, agonizing, and perilous—often all at the same time. The decisions that people make during these seasons are of inestimable consequence for them, the cause of Christ, the children they may have and raise together, and numerous other people. Both the Scriptures and human experience attest to the value of that grave, ecclesiastical admonition in the Book of Common Prayer that marriage should not “be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly . . . but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.”
The months or years people spend meeting and considering potential partners, falling in love, courting, becoming engaged, and preparing for marriage are difficult to navigate. In the many assessments and deliberations involved, folks often find it difficult to distinguish the trivial and irrelevant from the significant and relevant, accurate from false impressions, and so on. Confusing signals and contradictory counsel abound. Lovers headed toward marriage also typically, and rightly, experience powerful longing, and strong, often conflicting, emotions. Many young lovers can sympathize with the betrothed woman in the Song of Songs, “Sustain me with raisins; refresh me with apples, for I am sick with love” (2:5).
People should certainly relish those “happy golden years” to the fullest and remember them fondly into old age. Yet as they travel the road to marriage, they should never neglect biblical principles, sober and prayerful reflection, wise counsel, and sound practical wisdom.
Take special care, that fancy and passion overrule not reason, and friends’ advice, in the choice of your condition, or of the person. I know you must have love to those that you match with; but that love must be rational, and such as you can justify in the severest trial, by the evidences of worth and fitness in the person you love.
—Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory
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This excerpt is adapted from Christian Marriage: A Comprehensive Introduction by David Ayers.