Blog

Is it Possible to Marry the Wrong Person?

While I was a singles’ pastor for six years, I often dealt with issues from those whom I had married. I had these issue in both premarital counseling and post-marital counseling. In post-marital counseling things got interesting. I would often sit in the presence of a discouraged wife or husband whose marriage was less than happy. For some, things just weren’t clicking. For others, the problems were more serious. Much of the time people would suggest that they had made a mistake. In their mind, they simply married the wrong person and their “soul-mate” was still out there waiting.

These type of things quickly become a matter of theology—very practical theology. The question is this: Is it possible to have married the wrong person?

No matter how difficult things were I would always discourage such a direction in thinking. I don’t think that it is ever possible to have married the “wrong” person. I know that this sounds strange to some, but it is simply a natural outcome of my belief in God’s sovereignty. Just as the election and the government is ultimately in God’s hands (Rom. 13), even if and when people make selfish and evil choices, God’s will is ultimately being accomplished.

Getting personal: My wife and I met in a bar. Yes, that is right. Seventeen years ago, I was out, drunk and picking up on women. In a drunken stupor, I stopped my wife (my waitress at the time) and said “Before I get drunk, I want to say ‘I love you’” (sweet pick-up line, huh?) We hit it off, and to make a long story short, we got hitched. As I grew in the Lord, I questioned my motivations for marrying her. If you have seen her, you know she is very beautiful. This is not to brag, but to give you a sense of conflict that I have had (and, I am sure, Kristie has had as well). We have had our share of difficulties. I would like to say that things have been great with me and Kristie, but we have some very serious personality conflicts. Sometimes these are so severe, so discouraging, so long-lasting, so unforgiving, that the terrible question pop’s in my head, “Did I marry the wrong person?” It is in these times that my theology begins to lock certain doors.

Are you supposed to meet your wife in a bar? No, not ideal. Are you supposed to fall in love with her primarily because of looks? No, not ideal. Can you make wrong decisions that lead to an important decision such as marriage? Absolutely. So, was it God’s will that I marry Kristie. You bet.

You see, I believe that God works with us in our sin. Come on folks, does he have any other choice? If he did not work through our sin, 1) what does the world “grace” mean and, frankly, 2) when would he work? If God works, he works through fallen people who make selfish and ungodly decisions. If his will is going to be accomplished, he uses these to do so. He uses sin. This does not mean he brings about the sinful disposition that leads to our choices nor does it justify sin, it just means that they become his instruments to bring about his plan.

God brought Kristie and I together and our togetherness has been hard. Yes, I am sure it could have been easier had we married someone else. We could have smiled more. We could have been more relaxed. Things could have more “click” to them. We could be setting an example of a “Christian marriage” for all to see. Simply put, we could have a “better” marriage according to another standard. Although I hate to say this, the grass sometimes really is greener on the other side.

But my shade of green is not necessarily God’s. My standard is not God’s.

Is it God’s will for Kristie and I to be together? You bet. And we are committed to this. Could there have been better choices made? “Better” is rather relative and can get you into trouble. From a human perspective which does not see all ends and is foolishly self-serving, yes. From a divine perspective, no.

God has a purpose for Kristie and I to be together. Neither of us married the wrong person. Sometimes we cannot see what is really going on and our passions are clouded by the pain, but we must keep our eyes on the sovereignty of God and find a much deeper level of satisfaction in each other knowing that God—the all-knowing God—has put us together for a reason. In this we discard our thoughts of mistake and we let go of the humanistic “soul-mate” theory. Once this is done, we find a new fairy-tale marriage that is better than any we could have chosen. Why? Because God knows best. Because God works through sin. Settled, satisfied, and in constant delight describes my marriage when I take this perspective.

Did you marry the wrong person? No. What if you are divorced, does that mean you married the wrong person? No. What if you are remarried, does this mean that you remarried the wrong person. No. It does not sanctify our decisions and attitudes that led up to these decisions, but we have to remember that God, in grace and his relentless pursuit of his own will, works out his will in all things, even sin (Eph. 1:11).

Before you react to this post in a very critical matter, believing I have lost my bearing, heading toward some sort of radical Calvinism, please answer this: If you were talking to someone whose birth was the result of a rape/incest union and they asked you, “Was it God’s will for me to be conceived?” What would you say?

170 Responses to “Is it Possible to Marry the Wrong Person?”

  1. Do you think there is also the myth of our culture of “Mister Right” or “Miss Right” – in other words there is a ONE perfect mate for each of us out there, and everyone else will be second best.

    In my thinking, there is a large number of potential mates that are likely to be “compatible” with me. I have the freedom to chose any one of these to marry. Once I have made my choice, I am committed to my spouse “until death do us part” as is God’s intention for husbands and wives.

    God is a gracious God, and when we do stuff up (which we all do in different ways), he can turn any situation around to his glory, if we allow him.

    What saddens me is when I see Christian marriages fall apart because one partner (in my observation more often the husband) has met someone else (younger and prettier perhaps) and believes they have “fallen in love”. Do you think this is why Jesus talked about allowing divorce in the case of adultery?

  2. I was all set to object and then you had to go pulling on my Calvinist heart strings. Is that allowed? :)

    Seriously, I do find it difficult to swallow that I would marry a non-believer during my rebellious years and one who treated me harshly and with way less concern than a husband should and that was the right person.

    Funny thing is, God used his family members to bring me back about a couple of years into the marriage. And because of my husband’s disability and subsequent death, it would allow me to eventually go to seminary. Hmmmm

  3. First off, I have a niece out west born of rape. Her life is as valuable as any other. I’ll probably never meet her, yet she is as beautiful as any child born on this earth.

    Now as to the question concerning marriage, I can say that I’m very grateful that I didn’t marry my supposed “soul mate” because my understanding of that idea was severely distorted by my recent loss of a loved one. This along with with the fact that she also was driven in our relationship by her own family losses, her parent’s divorce.

    Our relationship, in that sense, was a perfect storm of disfunctional interaction. Neither of us were ready for marriage. I am grateful that we didn’t marry. Not because of her, but because of me. I still hope to marry. Someday. But I know that any relationship I engage in will be between two deeply broken people knowing that it takes the grace of God to shine through our cracks and crevices.

  4. You have posted similar before? I’ll put in my perspective (which I may have previously).

    I think we can marry the wrong person. I think that if we do not secure God’s approval then we can make mistakes; that if we were willing to honestly ask God before the marriage if we should marry this person and heard him clearly that God would be saying no quite often. Consider Christians who marry non-Christians for a start. But even within the church there are people who should not be marrying each other.

    There are biblical examples where God chose someone a spouse.

    This does not imply there is only one particular person you should marry, as you say God works with us in our sin so if we respond to him at different times then his will for us may be other than at a different time.

    This does not mean people are currently married to the wrong person (which I think is more in line with your post). Even if you married in lack of obedience the person you marry becomes the right person. They are who God wants you to be married to now.

    • Where does the Bible ever tell us to stop what we are doing and seek God’s approval? When it comes to marriage, the Bible tells us our potential spouse must be a believer, of the opposite sex, who is biblically free to marry…that’s it. I do not see the Apostles and any disciples waiting around for “feelings” of confirmation from God.

      Think about the chaos you would cause by marrying the wrong person. Now not only did you marry the wrong person, but your spouse married the wrong person, and the people you and they were supposed to marry are going to marry the wrong person, and now their spouses are married to the wrong people…and so on.

      God gives us parameters i.e., his revealed moral will, and we are expected to work within those parameters. There is freedom, and God through His sovereign will (which we do not know) has all things under control. We cannot throw God for a loop.

  5. Thanks for this post! If more people understood God’s sovereignty in this issue maybe there would be less divorce. Without the constant wondering if there is someone better out there, they could spend more time enjoying their marriage.

  6. John from Down Under November 8, 2010 at 6:30 am

    I agree THIS IS very much a theological issue. Had it not been for my theological convictions on this matter I would have given up on my marriage a long time ago.

    I was haunted by the same doubt a while ago as I met my wife in a charismatic church, and shortly after we realized our attraction for each other we had ‘prophecies’ commanding us to get married ‘or else’. I was threatened by ‘the lord’ that ‘a plague would come to my home’ if I did not comply. This made us marry in a hurry and I was a new Christian then. Later in the marriage we began wondering if we would have ended up getting married anyway, had it not been for that interference (or spiritual rape more likely) and the relationship was allowed to grow naturally.

    My lifeboat was my belief that God can redeem a problematic marriage even if both parties ended up together for all the wrong reasons. Since the institution of marriage was God’s idea in the first place, I always thought (rightly or wrongly) that it has the potential to succeed by default. If it fails, it’s because one of the two parties, propelled by his/her sinful nature acts contrary to God’s biblical pattern for marriage.

    I think it works both ways. If you get married for ‘the right reasons’ but do the ‘wrong things’ in a marriage, there’s a good chance of shipwreck. Au contraire, if you marry for the wrong reasons but do the ‘right things’ in a marriage, it will most likely grow strong and survive. It is almost analogous to the Babylonian exile. Though it was not God’s original desire that they end up there, once they got there God promised to bless them if they obeyed him (Jer 29:4-7)

    Even if God handpicks your partner (how you verify that, I have no idea), it is no lifetime warranty against failure if you don’t work at building your marriage on biblical foundations by God’s grace. It didn’t help Saul that God handpicked him to wear the crown, he still lost his kingship because of his disobedience.

  7. John:

    “If you get married for ‘the right reasons’ but do the ‘wrong things’ in a marriage, there’s a good chance of shipwreck. Au contraire, if you marry for the wrong reasons but do the ‘right things’ in a marriage, it will most likely grow strong and survive.”

    Beautifully, beautifully put!

  8. Yeah, my friend Mark is about to marry his buddy Steve, I was going to tell Mark he was about to marry the wrong person, but instead I’ll go ahead and tell him that C Micheal Patton said that you could never marry the wrong person and it’s OK. (I am just kidding of course.)

  9. Thanks for this post. It was very encouraging to me as I have been a bit discouraged in my marriage as of late. I too sometimes have the thought that I married the wrong person. This is a good reminder that even if we make a bad decision, even a disobedient one, if we repent and become obedient in our current situation, God can work things out together for good!

  10. I agree with you, Michael!
    BEFORE one marries is the time to reflect on “the fit” but once you have made a covenant, God will work on both parties to make the fit–fitter.
    Are some fits easier than others–sure, but I believe both persons bring “baggage” into the union; as Beth Moore puts it some bags might be “brown paper” and some might be “Gucci” but baggage is baggage.
    And to quote another great radio preacher (whose name escapes me). If you are married, then they are the right person.
    Been married since 1969…my only credential :)

  11. So the summary of this could be:

    Can you marry the wrong person? God’s decree: No.
    Can you marry the wrong person? God’s revealed will: Yes.

    So we are to act according to God’s revealed will. Be careful who you marry, but as Michael says, you married who you were supposed to marry. We are not to seek escape from it, but God’s glory through it (pending whether it is a legitimate union of course, Isaiah :)).

  12. So if a Christian chooses to marry an unbeliever it is because of God’s decree? He decrees that a Christian will sin in this way? Is that what you are saying, Hodge?

    I’m sorry, but I don’t think I will ever be able to wrap my mind around all of the ins and outs of Calvinist theology!

  13. If you were talking to someone whose birth was the result of a rape/incest union and they asked you, “Was it God’s will for me to be conceived?” What would you say?

    I’d say the only correct thing that can be said: “Who knows?”

  14. This discussion reminds me of a Tolkien quote I’ve always liked:

    “Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might be found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to.”

    Letter to Michael Tolkien (March 1941)

    The whole letter is a real gem. It and others can be found here: http://glim.ru/personal/jrr_tolkien_42-45.html

  15. Michael Patton,

    Would you say that if a believer marries a non believer, (which I am assuming every one here believes is something God has commanded us not to do in the Bible), that he is still marrying the right person? Since you have said that you don’t believe it is possible to marry the wrong person, I have to assume you would agree with this.

    I certainly don’t understand why a person that God has forbidden someone to marry in His Word is the person that is “the right person” for a believer to marry and the one that God has (evidently as Hodge pointed out above) decreed for the believer to marry. That is way too contradictory to make any kind of sense to me.

    • Cheryl, the point is more that there’s isn’t a single “right” person to marry that you have to look around for. Rather, there are a bunch of people that would be good to marry, and a bunch that would be bad to marry; and the one you choose is the one you’ve got to stick with.

      This isn’t a question specific to Calvinism; it’s more common in American “pop” evangelicalism. Calvinists deny that the decree of God can be known by man anyhow.

      -Wm

      • William,

        “Calvinists deny that the decree of God can be known by man anyhow.”

        Just to be clear, you mean in the future sense, correct? We know that what has come to pass and what is currently is the decree of God, or it would not be. Hence, the issue of whether one is married to the “right” person now by God’s decree can be known. I just wanted to clarify that point, as that seems to be what we are discussing.

      • The only trouble with that, William, is that Michael made it about Calvininsm in his OP. Or at least as I understood it he did.

  16. Cheryl,

    We accept this because of our theology. Obviously, you don’t share that theology. However, what you essentially set up is a world where people are in fact marrying people that God had no control over. He just couldn’t get those humans to do what He wished. Hence, they must live in perpetual regret that they were supposed to marry someone else. Instead, the Bible seems to indicate that a sinful decision in marrying the “wrong” person is also the right person in God’s plan. For instance, David marries Bathsheba, a woman who was married and only marries him now because he made sure that her husband would be killed. She is clearly the wrong person. However, she is the mother of Solomon, and therefore, a mother who links the lineage of Christ, who was decreed by God to come through her. Hence, she is the right person as well. How, then, can she be both the right person and the wrong person according to God at the same time? Do you have an answer to this, or do you see God as continually making things up as He goes?

    • Not sure what you mean by, “making things up as He goes.”

      And just for the record here, I don’t think I have either the time nor the energy to get back into this conversation regarding Calvinism for any length of time here again.

      But then, someone told me earlier that I was “predestined to have these conversations on this site”, so I guess time will tell, huh? :)

  17. I’m not sure we’re thinking in the correct categories. In this (and many other matters) it comes down not to right and wrong, but wise and foolish.

    Was it morally wrong for Michael to marry this particular woman? Certainly not: God, in His grace, provides marriage for believers and unbelievers alike.

    Was it wise for Michael to marry her? Probably not: given the limited circumstances we have been provided, his choice was not wise.

    To rationalize everything as being part of God’s decree is just bad Calvinism – and, no, I do not believe I’m being redundant. We are responsible for our decisions whether they pertain to right and wrong (when it is a moral issue), or to wise and foolish (in non-moral matters).

  18. Hodge,

    Let me ask you the question I asked CMP.

    If Jane Christian down the street falls in love with and marries Joe unbeliever in direct disobedience to God’s commandment to not be unequally yoked to an unbeliever, am I to understand that the reason she did this was because it was God’s decree for her to be married to him?

    I thought God made it clear that as Christians we are to obey His Word. In fact, Jesus made it clear that if we don’t do what He says, we have no right to call Him Lord.

    I also thought that we are to be conformed to the image of His Son–His Son who never once disobeyed or sinned in any way.

    Soooo…now you are telling me that it is God’s plan and decree that Jane Christian down the street be married to an unbeliever–he is indeed the right one for her–in direct contradiction of what He tells us we must do in His Word? He in actuallity decrees that even Christians go against what He has told us to do in His Word?

    He decreed at some time in the past that she is to be married to unbeliever Joe down the street, that he is the right one for her, and then turns around and gives her a command that she must not marry him?

    Again, I don’t get it!!

  19. Thank you for writing this Mr. Patton.
    I think God’s plan for our lives is SO MUCH BIGGER than who we marry. At least I hope it is. I think the point of living is to glorify God and I think we should be able to do that no matter who we marry.
    I’m on marriage number 2. The first was pretty abusive and some said I just married too young and he was never who God ‘intended’ me to be with. I don’t think I agree with this anymore. I met God in the mist of that marriage. I don’t know if I could say ”I KNOW God” if I hadn’t married him.
    (Should I have stayed married to him? Maybe. Can God change violent irrational people? Sure. I guess He can do anything. But that is neither here nor there because I remarried. It seems pretty plain that I shouldn’t divorce again.)
    But I do struggle with this. The sanctity and work of God in ‘bad relationships’ and where the line is. Or is there a line? Hopefully one day I’ll meet God and get to ask Him if I made the right decision.

  20. Is being or staying married to an abuser or pedophile what God would have us do, no matter what? Is this being married to the ‘right’ person, in that God has intended to see us or or our children physically or sexually abused? Or even killed?

    Is letting ourselves or one of our children be put in harm’s way God’s idea of being a good Calvinist? And why would God plan/ordain/ predestine such a thing for his elect?

    Like Cheryl, I don’t get it!

  21. Dr. Mike,

    The Scripture paints the categories of “wise and foolish” as synonymous with the categories of “righteous and wicked.” I don’t think we ought to separate them as distinct. What is wise is righteous and what is wicked is foolish (and vice versa). So what is foolish is morally wrong.

    • Hodge:

      So, if I understand you correctly, what Michael did in marrying his wife was not “just” foolish but wicked.

      And, if I foolishly give $10 to a homeless person for them to buy food – ignoring the fact that they will likely buy drugs or alcohol instead, my action would be wicked.

      Right?

  22. Cheryl,

    Let’s frame your question biblically:

    Did God wish for the Jewish leaders to obey Him and not murder Christ? Yes. Did God decree that the Jewish leaders crucify Christ? Yes. Does that answer your question?

  23. mbaker,

    There’s so much bad theology in your objection I don’t know where to begin. For one, God’s goal in our lives isn’t to keep us from physical harm. Otherwise, He fails in His goal with every life, including that of His Son. For another, this conversation isn’t about staying in a place where you will be killed no matter what. A parent has the responsibility to protect his or her children from physical harm and preserve their lives (they are the immediate human government in the lives of those children). But it doesn’t give anyone the right to go marry someone else (but I digress, since we’ve had this discussion already). Michael’s point is that one ought not think that the someone he or she was supposed to marry is still out there. They are not. The person that one was supposed to marry, according to God’s decree, is the one to whom you are married (even in a second marriage).
    Now, I would again reiterate that with which we are to concern ourselves is whether we are being obedient to God by entering that covenant, but once we do, we are not to break it. The Israelites sinned by making a covenant with the Gibeonites, but once they did, God held them to it (and even that was in His plan).

  24. Hodge,

    No you didn’t answer my question. The Jewish leaders were not Christians as I am speaking of. Does God delberately have Christians that are supposed to be conformed to the image of His Son sin to accomplish His purposes? Does He deliberately, by His decree, make us go against what He has said in His Word that we are to do in order to accomplish His purposes? Remember, the question I am asking at this point has to do with Christians only.

  25. Cheryl,

    So you believe that God wants all non-Christians to sin against Him?

    My point is that God knows that we are going to sin and He uses our sin (whether those sins come from believers or unbelievers) to accomplish His plan. Let’s say, for the sake of a silly argument, that God knows Cheryl will sin 5,000 times in her lifetime. Now, God chooses before the foundation of the world that He will use Cheryl’s sins to fulfill His purposes, so instead of having her sin in situation X, He sets up the situation so that she sins in situation Y so that it fulfills His plan. Of course, I don’t believe this is how it happens, but I’m trying to make it overly simplistic.
    So, in the same way, God knows that the Jewish leaders, or David, are sinners and He decrees that their sin nature will serve His purposes in individual acts that bring about the events and situations He desires. Hence, even a covenant made in sin is within the plan of God, and therefore, the covenant that was supposed to be made (in the decretive sense, not the moral sense).
    Your limiting the issue to Christians only fails to note that God desires all to do good and not evil. It also fails to deal with the example of David and Bathsheba (who apparently is a godly woman otherwise) I gave you.

  26. Hodge,

    Let’s avoid the bad theology, ad hominem. It makes you seem condescending rather than helpful. Besides, I think Lisa’s post on another thread already covered that.

    You may have found happiness with a good woman, whom I believe you stated earlier in another thread is your ‘best friend’. I have that NOW in a second marriage but not before.

    The real question is just how far are we supposed to go with a thing that works out in the long run to be a bad choice, when we accepted that the person we married was the ‘right’ one and they turned out to be so wrong?

  27. Hodge,

    Your limiting the issue to Christians only fails to note that God desires all to do good and not evil

    No, it takes into account that Christians are the ones that God has specifically said that He is conforming to the image of His Son. Romans 8:29 How are they being conformed to the image of His Son if they are being decreed to break His commandments?

    And besides that, is not the reason that Cheryl will sin 5000 times in her life (as per your illustration above) specifically true because He has indeed predestined and decreed that she will sin that amount of times? (In Calvinist theology?). So, if that is the case, it seems to me that your argument is rather circular.

    It is one thing to say that God takes the sins and bad choices that people make and works them all for good and to bring about his ultimate purposes. But to say that He predestines all of those sins to be done, especially by Christians that are to be conformed to His Son so that His specific purposes will be accomplished, seems to be contrary to His purpose as stated in His Word.

  28. “And besides that, is not the reason that Cheryl will sin 5000 times in her life (as per your illustration above) specifically true because He has indeed predestined and decreed that she will sin that amount of times? (In Calvinist theology?). So, if that is the case, it seems to me that your argument is rather circular.”

    No, Cheryl. This is where I think you didn’t grasp the argument before. You will sin on your own. If God decreed nothing to occur, you would sin. My point is that God knows this and decrees that your sin will serve His purposes rather than only the purposes of evil.

    “It is one thing to say that God takes the sins and bad choices that people make and works them all for good and to bring about his ultimate purposes. But to say that He predestines all of those sins to be done, especially by Christians that are to be conformed to His Son so that His specific purposes will be accomplished, seems to be contrary to His purpose as stated in His Word.”

    Actually, they’re not much different. One simply has God react to the specific sins that you autonomously commit and one has God decree that the sins you will commit on your own be brought out in specific ways. I’ve already stated that I believe God decrees the specifics of our sin in view of our sin nature and that we are IN sin, not just people who DO sin. Hence, the state God foresees us in is used to bring about specific acts that accomplish His purposes. In regard to marriage, then, that sinful act of marrying the wrong person (morally speaking) is a specific decreed by God in view of our sin nature.
    If your argument was consistent, you would have to say that sin in a Christian’s life is not controlled by God. If not controlled by God, it works only toward an evil end. If only toward an evil end, it cannot work for good. But the Scripture says that God cooperatively works/does all things for good for the ones who love Him.
    This is what I meant before when I asked if God is just…

  29. …making it up as He goes along. If He is reactionary only, then He’s just responding to sins committed and making lemonade whenever He’s given lemons. In my view, the lemons are not the individual acts, but the inevitable sin that an individual will commit. He takes that lemon of a sin nature and makes lemonade out of it beforehand.
    As I said before, this does not excuse the individual from the sin of marrying the wrong person, morally speaking. It just shows that even the bad that occurs is not lost, as it was also meant to happen for a reason.

  30. “However, what you essentially set up is a world where people are in fact marrying people that God had no control over. He just couldn’t get those humans to do what He wished.”
    vs
    “My point is that God knows that we are going to sin and He uses our sin”

    Hodge, in that first quote you seem to be implying that God actively decides what we will do; in the second you seem to be saying that God leaves us free to choose what to do, but uses our actions (good and bad) to accomplish his plans. Could you clarify which is your position?

    EDIT: Never mind, I saw your post above after posting this, you were too quick for me :)

  31. My philosophical 2 cents for the day:
    I think we all agree that we do bad things and God can use it for good.

    The distinction between God causing or controlling our bad actions (Hodge’s view), and God allowing and responding to our bad actions (Cheryl’s view), is imho one we are not able to make. God, being atemporal, all-knowing, all-powerful, knows everything that happens at all times. When he created the universe, did he see all possible trajectories and choose one of them that suited his end purpose? Or, did he let it choose its own trajectory, but he already knew everything that would happen and engineered it to fit his own end? Am I the only one who sees the impossibility of making this causal distinction? I think we can safely say that God is in control, but I wouldn’t be willing to take a firm stand either that God fatalistically chose who I would marry or that God had no part in who I chose to marry. The universe is such a horrendously complex system that it is hard enough to figure out physical cause and effect, without adding a transcendent and atemporal being to the equation….

    On the other hand, we should make a very legitimate moral distinction, that is to say that God wishes us to do good and does not wish us to do bad, although he (allows it and uses it for his purpose -or- causes it in a way that acheives his purpose -or- both, considering they are quite indistinguishable in my mind).

  32. As one who is currently going through a divorce, it seems to me that you can easily marry a wrong person. A wrong person to marry is one who will give up on the marriage and decide they must divorce you at all costs, rather than stay married at all costs.

    I like Dr Mike’s direction on this in the sense that there are wise and foolish decisions. Even if you frame those as righteous and wicked decisions, there are many different paths, some of which are wise/righteous and others that are foolish/wicked. If we are doing our best to obey God we will try to make the right/wise choice about who we will marry. If we are doing our best to obey God we will try to make the right/wise choices to be committed to and love the one we are currently married to. Making a wicked/foolish choice at point A (who to marry) does not let us off the hook for choice B (whether to be a committed and loving spouse).

    On the problem of abusive spouses or the like, I believe God gives us means to get away from those situations while remaining true to our commitments. I think God’s intention is for separation, or even divorce to bring about repentance in the offending party (see the use of divorce as a picture of rejection of Israel, with intent of Israel to repent – Jeremiah 3:6-14), not for “fixing” a “mistake”.

  33. Hodge,

    Thanks for your explanation. I understand your position a little better now. I think…. :)

  34. So, going back to my original question about the Christian that marries an unbeliever.

    In effect you seem to be saying that the fact that the unbeliever is “the right person” for the Christian to be married to because God decreed that they be married applies to the fact that He decreed this particualr person as the best possible outcome of an inevitable sin by this Christian?

    After all, ccording to His Word, this person is still very much the wrong person for the Christian to be married to.

    I hope that makes sense. I’m getting way too tired here.

  35. A couple of thoughts:

    If people would be more concerned about BEING the right person, instead of FINDING the right person, I think we’d see less second-guessing on marriage. If each partner focused on doing his/her own part according to Ephesians 5:21-33, instead of how their spouse is failing to fulfill their duties, I believe “a rising tide would lift all boats” to borrow a metaphor.

    The idea of a “soul-mate” is not biblical, but comes from Plato’s Symposium.

    A couple of years ago we had a discussion about marriage in Sunday School, and one of the teaching team stated her opinion that any two Christians should be able to marry each other and have a successful marriage, if both are truly committed to following God’s Word. Yes, some couples will have to work harder than others because they don’t have a “natural fit.”

  36. I think we all have a way of messing up our lives because of bad decisions and we and others suffer for those decisions because we did not listen to God. Did God will it or not is not important (those are things that God is concerned about not men), what’s important is what we make of those bad decisions and how we redeem them.

  37. Sorry, I have been extremely busy lately. I am not able to engage to much here.

    However, let me say a quick word: This issue is not about divorce or remarriage. I have many blog posts on this. All you have to do is click the “Marriage and Family” category here at P&P.

    This is about God’s sovereignty in human choices.

    Let me be clear: There is no one who is qualified in both wisdom and knowledge to make the most important decisions of your life. There is deception, misinformation, processing issues, emotive, and a thousand other things (not to mention prayer) that inform our decision. Then there is our own depravity that taints it all. There will not be a time when you are finally qualified to make the marriage decision. You will never be spiritually mature enough if you are counting on your own wisdom and maturity. Never.

    With all these things, we do our best. But once we make these choices, we must be able to hang our hat on something besides ourselves. I believe that God’s sovereignty covers us in his grace. Therefore, I don’t believe you can marry the wrong person. Even if you are divorced, I don’t think you can say that your first wife or husband was not “God’s best.” Your divorce can even be legitimate (having abuse or infidelity), but it was still God’s will for you to suffer through such in my opinion.

    If you take bad things out of God’s sovereign hands, then we don’t really have much left for God be be sovereign over.

    Think for a moment about how most all of human history has worked with regard to marriage. Most of them are fixed, not by your own wisdom, but by parents. Even then, I believe that you cannot marry the wrong person.

    Introduce the human propensity to sin and we are left eternally second-guessing our decision and being in-content. Let God be sovereign and we are at the mercy of his grace. But what a great place to punt.

  38. As I read through this, I think there is certianly going to be some misunderstanding about what I said in hast.

    “Even if you are divorced, I don’t think you can say that your first wife or husband was not “God’s best.” Your divorce can even be legitimate (having abuse or infidelity), but it was still God’s will for you to suffer through such in my opinion.”

    What I mean is that your divorce can be legitimate and it was still God will for you to marry your first spouce AND his will for you to divorce them.

  39. So… If all decisions made apart from God end up being “correct” ones in God’s plans then why bother seeking his will? I can just do what ever i see as good in my own eyes because what ever I end up doing will be used to further “God’s plan” anyway. There is then really no free choice at all. God just manipulates our choices in such a way as to “make them” be the right choice for His plans.

    The person conceived through sin does not correlate to the argument on marriage as he/she is not the one who sinned.

  40. CMP,

    So what about my question of a believer marrying a non believer? Is that still God’s will for that person?

  41. Cheryl,

    Once it has happened, yes, Paul makes it clear that it is God’s will, even though the decision was disobedient. 1 Cor. 7:12

  42. David, I will answer that if you will answer this: :)

    If you were talking to someone whose birth was the result of a rape/incest union and they asked you, “Was it God’s will for me to be conceived?” What would you say?

  43. Michael,

    That is not what I asked. You said it is not possible to marry the wrong person.

    I didn’t want to know is she should stay married after they were married or if the unbeliever is God’s choice for the Christian at that point. I wanted to know if you believe the unbeliever is the person that God decreed for the Christian to marry since you said it is not possible to marry the wrong person.

    Is this scenario somehow an exception to your belief that it is not possble to marry the wrong person? If it is, how does that work with your understanding of God’s sovereinty? And if you believe that the unbeliever was indeed the right person for the Christian to marry, how does that work since it is against his direct commandment?

    I just don’t understand how this theology works when the rubber meets the road here.

  44. Cheryl,

    I discussed God’s sovereignty over these matters with you because I thought that was important to note that all is within His plan. However, I want to make clear that I don’t believe a Christian marries an unbeliever. I believe a professed Christian who marries an unbeliever is not a Christian. I get that from my reading of Scripture and from the idea that we marry what we are and what we ultimately love. Hence, I don’t believe it’s God’s will for a Christian to marry an unbeliever for the most part because I don’t think there is such a thing. However, I do believe that it is God’s will for an unbeliever who will later become a believer to have married an unbeliever before their conversion. Just wanted to make that clear.

    BTW, I say “for the most part” because it was the case in the OT that God commanded a believer to marry an unbeliever (e.g., Hosea, although we might say the woman he marries is still within the physical covenant community). However, this is not a marriage that stems from what the believer loves or seeks in disobedience to God.

    • Hodge,

      Now you have me really curious. Obviously, to you a Christian marrying an unbeliever is different then any other type of sin a Christian can commit? It is different then any other type of disobedience a Christian could do to God’s revealed law? It must be if you think that a Christian can not do this.

      You don’t believe that if a Christian commits some other kind of sin it automatically means they are an unbeliever do you?

      • Cheryl,

        I believe that marrying an unbeliever is a denial of Christ as Lord. Can someone repent and become a genuine Christian later? Perhaps, but this is viewed as a rejection of God as Lord, a rejection of the faith community, and a rejection of the very purpose of God in the creation of marriage. I simply don’t believe a genuine Christian does this. It has always brought about a condemnation by God that that the individual who does has no inheritance in the community and is exiled (by death or banishment) from it.

        • “It has always brought about a condemnation by God that that the individual who does has no inheritance in the community and is exiled (by death or banishment) from it.”

          Where is this seen specifically? Are you talking about the Old Testament perhaps? Many things there were punished by death in the Old Testament that are not in the New Testament.

          I’m afraid you have lost me here.

          • It’s seen in the OT, but is also brought out in the prohibitions found in the NT. Of course, the NT does not have us execute people, but we do banish them after going through the process of Church discipline and they remain unrepentant. It may also be reflected in Paul’s statement that those young widows who seek to get married contrary to Christ have set aside their previous commitment to Christ. That’s disputable, but I think it is something to think about.
            My point is that one who wishes to join their temple to the temple of Satan, and willfully loves what is hostile to the lordship of Christ, is the same as one who rejects Christ verbally. But this is getting too far from the point, so we should wait until this subject comes up.

          • But in the NT, people were disciplined and removed from fellowship for many reasons if they remained unrepentant. I still don’t know that I agree with your thinking that this one sin is so much worse then any other. Any sin we choose to do is hostile to the Lordship of Christ. That doesn’t automatically make us an unbeliever, does it?

  45. Cheryl,

    I think it is what you asked. “Can you marry the wrong person” assumes the marriage has already taken place (at least in the way I am describing it).

    Could I say that it is a an act of disobedience to be intentioned to marry a person who is not a believer? Yes, most certainly. But as Paul implies, once you are married to that person, it is God’s will. And I don’t think that this is God’s “adjusting” will, but his active will which works with sinful people and uses sinful acts to accomplish his will (i.e. in the death of Christ.)

    This is where the rubber meets the road. I have to deal with these situations all the time and my theology must inform them.

    However, I think that this question makes the issue more decisive:

    If you were talking to someone whose birth was the result of a rape/incest union and they asked you, “Was it God’s will for me to be conceived?” What would you say?

    What would you say?

  46. CMP,

    To me the question, “Can you marry the wrong person?” speaks of a present or a future act. Not a past one. That question would be, “Did I marry the wrong person?” would it not?

    So are we talking about two completely different things here? You still said it was absolutely God’s will that you marry Kristie. You said he brought you together. That is all past tense at the time you actually got married and before, was it not? That doesn’t sound to me like you are talking about simply the present being lived out.

  47. Yes, Cheryl. Theological hindsight is the issue here. Certainly we can make wrong decisions, but God uses our sinfulness to bring about his will.

  48. However, I am not letting you get past this!!!

    If you were talking to someone whose birth was the result of a rape/incest union and they asked you, “Was it God’s will for me to be conceived?” What would you say?

    Ok, I will let you (even though I would like to hear what you have to say). At the very least, you can see the extent of the problem through this question and the reason why I would answer the one the same as the other.

  49. Michael,

    Someone way back up the thread said they didn’t think there was a direct correlation between your question and the issue of marrying the wrong person. I think I tend to agree. Specially when it comes to the issue of someone deliberately going against God’s revealed will and a Christian marryng a non Christian like I have been speaking of.

    The person that was conceived through rape or incest had no place in this decision making at all. They had no choice if they were conceived or not. The person who would go against God’s will as revealed in the Bible and marry an unbeliever and then claim that one was the right one for them to choose to marry because God decreed they would marry them and God brought them together is a whole different point as far as I can tell.

    I am really not sure how you link the two together. In your scenario, I would say that God used what happened to bring about a new life.

    What I really want to know is, do you believe that God decreed ahead of time that the unbeliever was the one the Christian was to marry even if this is against His written Word? If not, how can you say that it is impossible to marry the wrong person? I am not talking about after the vows have been taken, I am talking about before that time.

    Sorry if I sound like a cracked record, but we seem to be talking past each other here. I am trying every way I know how to state what my real question is here!

    Would God decree that a Christian bring about His plan if in order to do so the Christian must sin to bring it about –especially if that plan is a lifetime of living in a situation that God says is not one a Christian is to put themselves in?

  50. I don’t see how it is helpful to say that it was “God’s will” for you to marry the person you married, any more than it is helpful to say that God decreed it would rain today. We are saying that God, in his sovereignty, has decreed everything that will happen, and then observing that something has happened (eg you are married to someone), and therefore concluding that what has happened is God’s will (eg you are married to the right person). This is self-evident and meaningless. It is God’s will that I was born on April 13 rather than April 14, and if I had been born on April 14, or if I had been aborted, that would have been God’s will too. We have simply defined all past events as God’s will… (my point is that this is not descriptive, not that this is untrue from a causal perspective–unless we allow randomness to have a causal effect in the universe, which I realize I neglected to consider in my previous comment)

    In any case, I believe it would be more helpful to say that God is capable of fixing your relationship no matter how insufficient you and your spouse are.

Leave a Reply