Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

Decisions and God’s Will: Tightrope or Playground?

Last week I preached on 1st Corinthians 7. This text includes Paul’s advice/instructions to those who are single. Paul wanted the Corinthians to consider the benefits of remaining single. He also said that getting married was a good, God-honoring choice.

Here’s what I find fascinating about this text: Paul essentially says, “Here are the pros and cons, now you decide.” He did not say, “God will tell you whether to be single or get married.” He did not say, “God will choose your spouse for you.”

Sometimes it seems that we try to be more spiritual than the Bible. I hear people, for example, talk about God choosing their spouses for them. I honestly like this idea, but I’ve never clearly seen it in the Bible.

This way of thinking can lead to some humorous interactions between single men and women. I know of more than one single person who has heard this line: “God told me that you are the one I am to marry.” The bewildered young man or woman then wonders why God didn’t inform him/her of “the plan.” Should I mention that this line is usually used on singles who are absolutely gorgeous?

Others are terrified that God will choose something they don’t want, like forcing them into a life of singleness. Or since God has a sense of humor, perhaps He will choose the ugliest man/woman in your city to be your spouse.

According to Paul, the very choice to marry is ours. Likewise, the person we marry is our choice.

I have a couple of analogies that I think are helpful. They aren’t perfect (analogies rarely are), but at least you’ll have some food for thought.

The Tightrope: Absolute Safety or Absolute Disaster

It seems that some view God’s will as a tightrope, especially when it comes to relationship choices. Stay on the rope and you’ll be absolutely safe–no harm will come to you. Make one wrong move and it’s all over, with no hope of getting back to safety. Every step must be slowly and carefully analyzed. Every move must be perfectly calculated. Some call this the “paralysis of analysis.”

With a tightrope mentality, every painful experience is interpreted as the direct result of your mistake. If you get heartbroken or rejected, it means that you stepped off “the rope” and you deserved it. This sounds extreme, but I constantly hear evidence of this mentality. It is not unusual for a heartbroken single to email me after a breakup. He/she assumes that he/she did something wrong. A perfect “tightrope,” after all, means that you find “Mr/Ms Right” on the first date and walk straight into marriage. Any other result and you’ve obviously departed from “God’s will.”

I think there’s a better way of thinking about God’s will:

The Playground: Boundaries, Bumps, and Bruises

God’s will, like a playground, does have boundaries. He instructs us, for example, to avoid sexual immorality in our relationships. He instructs us to choose singles who are committed Christians. His Word teaches us to make wise decisions. Step outside of His protective commands and you will have major problems–it’s just like leaving the playground’s fence and deciding to play in the street.

Within the playground, however, we will have more than one choice. We have the choice of staying single or pursuing marriage. We have more than one person to choose from if we decide to get married. We must carefully listen to God, but we can trust Him to warn us if we are somehow headed for disaster. There’s no need to be afraid in the playground.

We will probably have a few bumps and bruises along the way. All of us have fallen and scraped our knee a time or two. This is a normal part of growing up. We may get dumped or basted a few times. This doesn’t always mean that you disobeyed God–it is just part of living in an imperfect world.

So what do you guys think? Tightrope or playground–or have my analogies somehow missed the point altogether?

19 Comments

  1. Your analogies are pretty good.

    I do have a question about the thought that God doesn’t choose our spouse, instead we get to choose it. Rebecca and Isaac’s story, shows that God had a hand in their meet-up. Are you saying that this doesn’t happen anymore or, it still happens, but the choice to go with it is up to ours?

  2. Very good question. I actually mentioned this very story in an article entitled “Is it OK to search for love?” You can find it here on the blog.

    To put it simply, I think God guides us as we choose. In the case of Isaac and Rebekkah, this seems to be exactly what happened. Abraham took some steps and God guided them as they searched.

    I wish I could explain it on a deeper level, but I’m not sure that this is possible. We can’t know the mind of God–so it is impossible to say exactly how His intervention operates in all situations.

  3. This analogy is new to me. I always thought God has the say as to who we will marry. I always thought God has everything planned for us. He knew who the right person is, the right place and the right time. Kaya nga we trust God diba? Our choices are wrong but God is never wrong. Sana nga you can explain it in a deeper level.

  4. Well, I’m not sure that I can. I do believe that God guides us, but I’m not convinced that the Bible teaches that God Himself actually chooses our spouse for us.

  5. I came across a book at Powerbooks – “Heart-Stirring Stories of Romance,” authored by Linda Evans-Shepherd and a Lighthouse publication. Some stories there had God “playing cupid.” 🙂

  6. I haven’t seen that book. I have nothing against any book, I just think it is not wise to use such a book as the “standard” for the way we are to live.

    Many people assume that since God works one way in someone’s life, then it is supposed to happen that way for the rest of us.

  7. for me this is top 2 post. Second only to turo-turo meal blog 😀

  8. Thanks; glad it helped you.

  9. I fell inlove with a non-believer and marry her eventually do you think that I still have the blessings of the Lord even though I did not follow his command?

  10. If you are already married to her, the Bible instructs you to remain married to her and hope she will come to know Jesus.

    See 1st Corinthians 7:12-16

  11. “Others are terrified that God will choose something they don’t want, like forcing them into a life singleness. Or since God has a sense of humor, perhaps He will choose the ugliest man/woman in your city to be your spouse.”

    Sometimes, God asks for our Isaacs, which he returns to us sending another animal to sacrifice-to test our faith and love for Him.

    Sometimes, God asks for Isaacs but not exactly Isaacs because He did not send another animal in exchange. He did ask for what He asked. We had, have to yield in submission.

    We ask for grace to help us like what He likes..on our own, it is impossible.

  12. Thanks for commenting, though I’m not exactly sure what you mean.

  13. perhaps Id rephrase and just ask-

    do you believe that sometimes, God will give us someone whom we do not like at first?

    and then God changes our hearts and sets our perspectives right, till we see the beauty of the person and the wisdom of His plan.

  14. like sometimes, when we are “too in love” with our loved ones, realizing they are already taking the place of God.. then God deals with us, nudging us that He should be above all..

    we offer back the love of our lives to HIm.. as our Isaacs, sometimes, He gives this back..because He saw how true we are in pledging our love to Him.

    Other times, HE doesnt give what we offered to Him, because He had something better in mind.

    Just my thoughts, and experiences, not only in the domains of lovelife
    What do you think?

  15. perhaps Id rephrase and just ask-

    do you believe that sometimes, God will give us someone whom we do not like at first?

    and then God changes our hearts and sets our perspectives right, till we see the beauty of the person and the wisdom of His plan.

    Well, I certainly think there are times that we mature and come to appreciate someone more than we did at first sight.

    I’m still not too comfortable with the “God giving us someone whom we do not like” idea. It somehow implies that God chooses our spouse for us, and I don’t really believe it is biblical.

    like sometimes, when we are “too in love” with our loved ones, realizing they are already taking the place of God.. then God deals with us, nudging us that He should be above all..

    we offer back the love of our lives to HIm.. as our Isaacs, sometimes, He gives this back..because He saw how true we are in pledging our love to Him.

    Other times, HE doesnt give what we offered to Him, because He had something better in mind.

    Just my thoughts, and experiences, not only in the domains of lovelife
    What do you think?like sometimes, when we are “too in love” with our loved ones, realizing they are already taking the place of God.. then God deals with us, nudging us that He should be above all..

    we offer back the love of our lives to HIm.. as our Isaacs, sometimes, He gives this back..because He saw how true we are in pledging our love to Him.

    Other times, HE doesnt give what we offered to Him, because He had something better in mind.

    Just my thoughts, and experiences, not only in the domains of lovelife
    What do you think?

    I think I see your point.

    Guys, I would help me if you’d put your name with a comment. Post anonymously if you must, but it makes it more difficult for me to specify who I am responding to.

  16. He did not say, “God will tell you whether to be single or get married.” He did not say, “God will choose your spouse for you.”-

    but is it OK too to just say, “God, just find him or her for me, if You want me to have one in the first place…”

  17. Is it possible that God wants us to be single even when we want to get married?

  18. but is it OK too to just say, “God, just find him or her for me, if You want me to have one in the first place…”

    I personally think this is not a very good strategy. We should trust God, but we have to do our part. I can’t expect God to deliver a woman to my doorstep.

    Is it possible that God wants us to be single even when we want to get married?

    Theoretically, yes–but I don’t see much Scriptural basis for this. Jeremiah is about the only example I know of.

  19. why does it have to be one way or the other why not a balance . The scripture says if we lack wisdom we should ask God . when choosing our spouse when we meet someone why not first ask God would this person be a suitable marriage partner. Hes not making us making us marry them but still we …acknowledge Him in all our ways…

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