Anyone who knew me in high school knew I was obsessed with this mystical creature called "My Future Husband." I wrote over 40 letters to him. I talked about him all the time. I made many decisions with him in mind. And I had no clue who he was.
I had a lot of ideas of what I wanted in a husband, but my ideal man seemed to shapeshift to whatever guy I had my eye on at the moment. I knew I needed to have standards, and I needed to be able to expect some non-negotiable character traits. I just didn't know what those were...what really is most important in a guy?
A lot of the guys I had crushes on---who at that time seemed like promising, Godly young men---have ended up being total losers. So how can you look at a young man and have a decent idea of what kind of a husband he'll be after you're committed for life and he's not trying to impress you anymore?
I creepily observed my husband Peter for a full two years before he began to pursue me. He wasn't the overly romantic type during courtship (no flowers or fancy dates), but I had a pretty good idea that he would be a keeper long-term because I saw the makings of a good husband before and during that period of observation. In this list I'll brag on my hubby a little as I describe what I mean by that.
2 1/2 years and almost two children later, I don't know a lot about marriage or everything about my husband, but the time certainly counts for something. I've learned that there were some things I thought were important but proved not to be, and there are some things that I didn't think were important that have proved to be absolutely essential.
In my previous post, I talked about the "Finding My Mr. Right" fallacy and what to do if you find yourself married to "Mr. Wrong." This post is primarily addressed to single women who are trying to figure out what to look for in a man.
I acknowledge that sanctification is a lifelong process and it is completely unfair to expect any man to be perfect; only Jesus can be that for us. However, there are some things about a man that I think we can expect to already be present if he is to be considered "marryable." We can expect growth and fruit from his branches as long as those branches are at least already present.
Does he really love Jesus?
Jesus. The person.
I'm not talking about ministry. I'm not talking about theology. I'm not talking about feelings/experiences. I'm talking about Jesus. Does the man you're considering actually adore the risen Christ?
If you're not a Christian, this requirement will not mean anything to you. In fact, you should not be in the market for marrying a Christian if you are not a Christian. Please consider the words of 1 John 5:12: "Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life." You are desperately missing out today and for eternity. I beg that you seek Jesus.
Yet even if you do identify yourself as Christian, this requirement still might not seem that important. I have some questions about that:
1) How can you expect someone to love you unconditionally if he himself is empty of the unconditional love of Jesus? He is not free to love you with everything he has because he still desperately needs love that you cannot offer him.
2) Who is he modeling himself after? A football player? Will Smith? A nice guy at work? You're selling yourself short if you think someone can pull off servant leadership without constantly looking to the Suffering Servant himself.
3) The difference between Christian and non-Christian is, biblically, life and death (see 1 John 5:12, quoted above.) Indeed, even if you have a nonbelieving husband it is possible to have a good marriage and to raise your children well. But if you still have a choice in the matter, please consider deeply the implications of marrying someone who is not spiritually alive.
If you think your husband candidate really loves Jesus because he's on the track for ministry or missions, I also have some questions for you:
1) What is he doing right now to know Jesus and tell others in his life about Him?
2) When you walk away from a time of "good fellowship", is it all because he talked about future ministry or poked fun at poor theology, or did he actually talk about his own personal current growth and struggles? When you ask what God has been teaching him, does he give you vague concepts or is he able to tell you specifics that prove is actively pursuing Jesus?
In short, if a man is doing nothing of value in his mundane right now, he probably won't ever truly do anything of value, no matter how lofty his position might be someday. Additionally, if his worship experiences at church (no matter how emotional or passionate) are the only times he worships, something is very amiss. If a man raises his hand on Sundays that means nothing if he never uses that hand to open his Bible on the other days of the week.
Does the man work hard?
I read recently that the construction industry in America is in such great need of workers that we are having to outsource to foreigners. Americans simply are not willing to get their hands dirty. It says a lot about a man's humility if he gets strong by using a shovel instead of lifting a dumbbell...but I'd better stop here because I think I'm getting into "preference" territory. I know plenty of Godly men who work desk jobs and go to the gym.
(Let me just also throw in the fact that Christ was a carpenter for 30 years. I really believe there's something particularly Christlike about a man willing to lower himself to do a dirty job.)
You know you've found a good man when you read Proverbs and he keeps coming to mind. Is he faithful? Can he hold a job or commitment without getting bored with it and walking away? Does he work when he needs to but doesn't want to? (Notice that his work ethic is probably closely tied to how willing he is to work on your marriage.)
Because of the decision we made to start our family when neither of us had college degrees, and because Peter is insistent on me being a stay-at-home mom, this has looked like some really difficult times of figuring out what we could do for a living. When Peter's job was slow, there were times when we were going around town turning in applications everywhere so he could get a second or even third job to make ends meet. But God has been faithful and Peter worked hard and he is now the owner of a very successful business that supports our family well. I feel like most guys our age would have simply collapsed under that kind of pressure because they don't want to lower themselves to do less-than-glamorous work.
How does he treat family?
I'll just say it: I knew Peter was a loving man because of how he treated his mom and how he treated my grandparents.
I read an excellent article recently that talked about how a litmus test for someone's understanding and application of grace is how they treat children and how they treat the elderly. The family is the perfect context for finding the character of a man because how a man acts at home is how he really is.
Peter had no experience with kids (Stephen was pretty much the first baby he held!) but I knew he would be a good dad because of how he loved my grandpa. He talked to him and enjoyed his company. He talked to me about how much he admired Pappaw and before things got really busy for us he made it priority for us to go to my grandparents' house every Friday night to spend time with them.
It's hard to tell how a man treats his mom when the people he tries to impress aren't around, but how respectfully a man speaks to and about her really does count for something. After 19 years of living together, Peter had seen his mom's bad side, and she's seen his, so the mom-test is a good one when possible. I don't think Peter has ever said anything derogatory about his mother. Additionally, the way Peter's mom talks about her son also clued me into how much they love each other, and it gave me the idea that he would really love me and treat me well.
Is he good at repenting and forgiving?
E-Harmony would never match Peter and I. Aside from Costco trips and Tom Cruise movies, we share no hobbies. Our styles of communication differ greatly. Our love languages are not the same. Our personalities clash. It's not the cute kind of "opposites attract." We argue and disagree all the time.
But as long as we both possess one trait, we will thrive: repentance and forgiveness. We're good at saying "I'm sorry" and we're good at saying "I forgive you." And we're good at meaning it.
Even on the day I wrote this, Peter and I had a really ugly spat. However, instead of fuming and holding grudges for days, about an hour afterwards we both apologized for sinning against God and each other and were able to have a really sweet evening together.
This really does fall under the umbrella of being changed by the Gospel. I expect us to both grow in our repentance because that's what's happening all the time as every Christian is made more like Jesus. If there's no continued repentance, there was never any salvation, so repentance is something every Christian should be good at and growing in.
I would much rather have a man with an occasional temper who is very good at admitting that he's wrong and working to improve than a man who is easygoing but always thinks he's right. The first man can only become more kind and the second man can only become more of a jerk. Repentance and forgiveness is essential for the longevity of any good relationship.
I'll add here the importance of being a member of a local church that practices church discipline. I can rest easy knowing that if Peter (or I!) were to stop this process of repentance/forgiveness and fall into sin, or if we were to withdraw from other believers, he/I would be pursued quickly, lovingly, humbly, and persistently until the issue was resolved. Church discipline happens on a weekly---if not daily basis---through accountability groups and deep relationships within the church. I know that heart issues are addressed, and if confrontation is spurned, the proper steps would be taken to bring us to repentance. As my pastors say, the purpose of church discipline is not punitive but restorative. So a man's submission to other members and to elders in the church is absolutely imperative (though sadly, most churches don't expect such submission and do not practice church discipline!)
Is he a man of prayer and a student of the Word?
Especially since we've begun parenting, I've seen how important it is that my husband and I are unified in our beliefs on the depravity of man, who Jesus died for, God's priorities in ruling the universe, the Holy Spirit's work, and the sovereignty of God. It would be very difficult for my husband to comfort me about God's hand in something if we believed differently about the extent to which God's hand is in things.
That said, I know many Godly men who believe differently than I do, and I know many immature boys who do agree with me theologically. That's why there are other requirements.
But even more than specifics that are not essential for salvation, a husband candidate should be a student of the Word. I don't mean that he attends Bible college or wants to go to seminary. I mean that he must love the Bible because it's God's Word. Joking about the Bible or speaking of theology light-heartedly should make a candidate lose points. A marryable man is one who reads, studies, meditates, and memorizes scripture because he realizes that he needs it.
I knew Peter was a student of the Word because he talked about it...a lot. Whether he was discussing theology or witnessing to someone, he quoted scripture. He was slow to explain things with "Well, it's like John Piper says," and quick to explain things with "Well, 1 Corinthians 14 says..."
I think the most admirable thing I noticed about Peter was when he encountered a theological topic on which he did not yet have a good understanding. He surely did read books and listen to sermons about it, but by far the main deciding factor was scripture. He memorized an entire book of the Bible that he knew dealt largely with that topic because he wanted to have an in-context, full understanding of God's heart on the matter. This taught me that my husband is on the track for pursuing truth, so I can be confident in his leadership of our family in whatever theological issue we encounter in the future.
In these 2 1/2 years I've already seen this fleshed out in two areas in particular: 1) involvement with a local church, and 2) family worship. When we got married these weren't things that were really on our radar, but as we've encountered each issue, Peter has sought God through prayer and the Word and has led our family well. I don't know what we'll have to sort through next, but I trust that my husband will take it seriously and approach it biblically and humbly, because that's what he's made the habit of doing in the past.
I noticed these things about him over five years ago. Now Peter's commitment to prayer and scripture looks differently than it did back then because he has a lot more on his plate. However, my husband remains a man of prayer and student of the Word and is growing still.
This list is not exhaustive. In five, fifteen, and fifty years I might re-evaluate this and make some changes. But I think, timelessly, these four questions must be able to be answered with a resounding "YES!" before a Godly woman should allow herself to be pursued by a man.
I also think a woman's loved ones should be able to answer a resounding "YES!" to these questions about the woman herself.
And finally, pray for your future husband!
Unfortunately, manliness is becoming a lost art in many churches and there is major shortage of genuine discipleship. Young men tend to not be teachable, and older men tend to think any young man who shows any interest in the Bible needs to go be a pastor. The result is a bunch of tweeting 20-something-year-old kids who think they know everything but in reality know oh so little of hard work, diligent prayer, reverent study, valuing family, or adoring Jesus. So what must waiting women do when all the guys are losers? Change churches and find a system that's producing real men, maybe, but most certainly pray.
God responds to prayer every time, because even when we pray for unbiblical things the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and changes the gobbly-gook we said to things that are actually consistent with God's Word, then God answers them (see Romans 8:26-28.)
This blows my mind because each day I spend with my husband I get to see answered prayers from my mom since before I was born, myself since I was in 8th grade, and the countless friends and relatives who had been praying for my future husband too. There is never not value in praying for your future husband.
What would you add or take away from this list? Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!
<-- for the sake of sharing on Pinterest
I used to have this idea that there's "The One" guy that God picked out for me and all I had to do was find this Mr. Right...but I didn't know how deadly that mindset would be when marriage started getting to be difficult. Peter and I have both been tempted to think that we married the "wrong person" because sometimes it just feels so difficult and so wrong. (Jesus is the only "One" who will never let His bride down, by the way.)
If I let myself really think that there's someone out there who was actually "God's best" for me but I missed my chance with him, then what a bummer life with my actual husband would be. That's why we must trust the covenant of marriage to sustain the love of marriage rather than the other way around; as I've said before, "It's not passion that sustains the promise; it's the promise that sustains the passion."
Before I begin, I don't want to give the impression, however, that if you're in an abusive situation you should just pray and submit. This is where your local church needs to step in and help, especially if your husband is a covenanted member who has agreed to be subject to church discipline.
Even worse, if I really believed that God had allowed me to "stray from His will" by choosing the wrong husband, I would grow quite bitter towards God. I try to imagine how I would feel towards God if I sustained this belief in "The One" only to find out shortly into marriage that, indeed, my husband is a total jerk and probably not even a Christian. I'd have to live the rest of my married life knowing that I'm in "God's Plan B" and there's nothing I can do better? Let me just tell you that I would probably try to right the wrong and murder my husband if that were the case.
The Bible mentions women who probably were tempted to feel like they married the wrong man. In fact, the weaknesses of Bible characters are so profound that this probably went through the mind of just about every wife of every husband we read about. But two examples come to mind that should be encouragement to women who feel like they married total jerks, and especially to women who actually have married total jerks.
God's Hands Are Not Tied by a "Bad"---Or Even Unbelieving--- Husband
I've benefited a lot from learning about Timothy's mom Eunace (see also a great sermon here.) Timothy's dad was probably not a believer (see Acts 16:1-3), but his mother was. So did his mom just pout and whine and give up because she found herself raising a child with someone who had totally opposing views? 2 Timothy 3:14-15 (which alludes back to 2 Timothy 1:5) gives us a really good glimpse into what she did instead:
"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings,
which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
From childhood, Eunace showed her son the scriptures. She must've known them well herself, because she used the "sacred writings" they had (the Old Testament) to point her son to Christ. She taught her son the gospel. He believed, was discipled by Paul, and became a really great help to the church.
God is Able to Bring Repentance to a Husband
I cannot even describe how many times 1 Peter 3:1-6 has been a refuge to me in these short years of marriage (see also this great sermon.) There have been times when I've known my husband is in the wrong. Some women have given me counsel about how to respond that is quite attractive to my sinful nature, but completely fails when held up next to this golden passage.
Verse 1 even addresses wives of unbelieving husbands in particular ("if some do not obey the word.") How are their husbands won? Is it by airtight arguments or years of nagging? This verse says that it can be done "without a word by the conduct of their wives" (emphasis mine.) Change is so possible, even in an unbelieving husband, and God's Word says that it can happen by a woman simply obeying God's Word and being submissive to her husband nonetheless.
Sarah respected Abraham (a man that I would not like to be married to) so much that she called him "lord", after all. She was able to do this because she hoped in God.
What Happens to You Is God's Plan A
From my studying of the scriptures, I have been convinced that everything God does is Plan A.
Ephesians 1 says He predestined us for adoption before the foundations of the earth. So that means He chose for us to be a part of His family, at the cost of His Son, before sin ever even entered the world.
One time I talked to a man who had adopted five kids and he said, "We wanted kids of our own, but that didn't work out, so we adopted." That is not what God did for us.
Even moreso, one of my absolute favorite verses is Romans 8:32:
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"
God didn't keep Jesus from us, so why should we ever think God will keep anything good from us?
Even if you were sinning when you said "yes" to the man you married, be comforted that those who crucified Jesus were certainly sinning as well. But God is big enough to handle your sin (see Genesis 50:20)...if He brought the best good out of the sin that put Jesus on the cross, He can most certainly bring great good out of any sin or lack of wisdom that put you in your marriage.
God doesn't want you to feel condemned because Jesus already bore 100% of the condemnation for you (see Romans 8:1.)
That said, read Part 2 (Future Husband Requirements) here!
"I can't stand it, Dad! I just can't look! Why are these poor boys torturing themselves?"
"I love it," My dad heartlessly replied. "They're giving it their all. I'm challenged by them. This is real sports!"
He was almost giddy as we watched several young men writhing in the grass trying to catch their breath. Other high school guys were puking or flailing their arms in delirium. I overheard one of my brother's teammates describing the hallucinations he saw "in the death zone."
I was about to lose it...whether that meant throwing up or crying my eyes out, I wasn't sure, but one thing I did know: I will never stand near the finish line at a cross country race again.
Even still, I think my distaste for true athleticism hurts me in many ways. I've seen verses like 2 Timothy 4:7 and Hebrews 12:1 slapped onto T-shirts and used almost as gimmicks by Christian coaches during pep talks before a big race. However, it wasn't until I saw how the top runners truly spent themselves that I appreciated the Bible's sports-related metaphors.
As I watched the boys "catch their breath" (to say it conservatively), the Hebrews 11 heroes of faith as well as heroes throughout church history that I've read about came to mind: George Muller, Sarah Edwards, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Adoniram Judson, Helen Rosevare...I imagined them finishing this race of the Christian life to reach Christ, fall at His feet, and puke all over the place in exhausted relief because they had spent every ounce of strength they had during their time here.
I feel like I, on the other hand, wouldn't even be breathing heavy because I have wasted so much of my life just trying to be as comfortable as possible. My issue isn't even primarily with seeking physical comforts such as keeping the AC on 75 or whining if something isn't dishwasher-safe (I pride myself with having gone three months without a microwave recently.)
The major place I see the luxurious I-deserve-comfort mindset in my life is when marriage or parenting is hard; the thing I seem to want most out of the difficulty is relief, not for God to be made known to myself and others more truly. I want the problem gone; growth and depth are not priority in those moments.
Recently my husband Peter had a day off work, and we just stayed home and relaxed for once. I even took a nap. It was awesome. As we were going to sleep, I begged Peter to never work again so we could have such relaxing days all the time. "This life is not our rest," he gently reminded me.
How true a statement! God has not only provided but commanded that we take a day of rest every week, and sometimes it's good to even have short seasons of rest to recharge so we can be more effective. However, those days only look to the Day when our souls will be able to rest in enjoyment of Christ forever. (As Shai Linne says in his song "Fal$e Teacher$", "If you're living your best life now, you're heading for hell!")
1 Corinthians 15:58 charges us to "always be abounding in the work of the Lord."
Proverbs 14:23 says "In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty."
I could point to numerous other verses (especially in Proverbs) that highlight the value of a lifestyle marked by hard work. Better yet, the Bible emphasizes hard work done "heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Colossians 3:23.)
In fact, I have found that the times I get most bored with my work is when I'm not working very hard. If my goal as a stay-at-home-mom is "a pretty tidy house", "decent meals", and "keeping my child alive", I'll probably spend my days rolling around wishing I was doing something actually stimulating. I put the blame on the monotony and mindlessness of my job, not on the lack of effort and motivation on my part. I'll be tempted to think things like "I wish I could be doing something more exciting than this. My mind is made for greater work than this."
Indeed, there will be times (like when there's a newborn, sickness, etc.) when keeping my kids alive and having sandwiches for dinner will be all I can do. But I've found that when my goal is to spend myself for Jesus, most of the time it's definitely possible for that to look like a clean, organized, and beautiful home...nutritious, delicious, and economical meals...a disciplined, educated, and loved child...and it's truly a thrilling challenge to try to do all those things! That doesn't even cover investing in relationships outside our home or practicing hospitality! As I learn to grow and excel in all these areas, I find that my job (the butt of many jokes by people who have "real" jobs) is very intellectually stimulating!
So I think it's possible, even if all I am for the rest of my life is a homemaker, to cross the finish line as a true athlete, spent and useful. I look again to Hebrews 12:1 and find my greatest hope in the verse that doesn't make it on the athletic T-shirts:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. -Hebrews 12:1,2
The heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 and throughout church history ran their race with endurance, for sure, but only because their gaze was on the One who not only created and referees the race, but who entered our race and ran with joy, spending Himself to the uttermost for His glory and our good. I think this is even exemplified on the cross, when He did not take the wine mixed with myrrh (which would've helped dull His pain) but He did accept the sour wine, which prolonged His pain. He spared no expense for us. What a wonderful Jesus to whom we can look as we labor!
Before I began reading J. Stephen Yuille's book A Hope Deferred, I would have told you that it's a book about infertility and international adoption, both of which are topics that I really care about, but neither of which I'm walking through right now. I thought it would be good for me to read so I could offer helpful counsel to friends in those situations, but I was certainly not ready for the depths of the Gospel that God would counsel me with in the pages to come.
The odd-numbered chapters address the six blessings of adoption in Romans 8, and the even-numbered chapters briefly share the Yuille family's story with a primary focus on things they learned about God in each part of the journey. I appreciate Yuille's frankness when talking about what it was really like to go through years and years and years of waiting and uncertainty, so much so that I sometimes thought "Is that really how a Christian should struggle?" because the pain was so real to him. But his grasp on the scriptures and the character and providence of God quickly silenced such thoughts. On the contrary, I appreciated the biblical truths even more given his decades of experience in trusting God's goodness and faithfulness amidst confusing circumstances. The things that I think take forever to come about (like these last couple months of pregnancy!) pale in comparison to, say, over five years of waiting for the adoption of one specific child (after they had already begun the process multiple times ten years earlier but were delayed for various reasons.) In other words, the Yuille family has certainly earned a platform to teach me about the fatherhood of God.
J. Stephen Yuille writes very pastorally, with brilliant exposition on every page and an appropriate amount of illustrations and clarifying examples. Scripture is exalted and informs every sentence. I also appreciated the frequency with which he quoted the Puritans. I would definitely say this book is worth re-reading. I've read Adopted for Life by Russell Moore and highly recommend it to every Christian, and I would put this book on the same level.
I received this book for free from Shepherd Press via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising four little people ages 1,3, and 5, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and Coke icees, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today