It's a growing problem. Men and women who have hopes and dreams for a happy marriage, but can't find a compatible mate. What is the answer?
FOR MORE than 50 years, the Plain Truth magazine has stood for the highest moral standards. We write frequently about marriage with special emphasis on how to have a quality relationship. We have written so often about good marriages that we have caused a response that requires us to address quite a different aspect of the marriage problem. What about those who simply cannot find a suitable mate? In the January 1984 Plain Truth I wrote an article entitled "Love, Marriage & Sex!." The accent was on how important it is to get them in the right order. Most of the letters commenting on that article were appreciative and in agreement. But not all. There were two categories who responded somewhat negatively. One represented the unfortunate modern trend to promiscuity. A large segment of society has been doing what pleases the human senses without regarding God's instructions. Our modern Western world satiates itself on food and drink and plunges into a morass of sexual promiscuity. Few heed the signs of this moral crisis. Much of the Western world has set aside moral values in favor of situation ethics. Many see no harm in premarital or extramarital sex — especially when done by "consenting adults." Singles who don't choose to marry often live together as an experiment in compatibility. Homosexuality, too, has become an accepted standard for a minority. When we write on the sacredness of marriage and the holy purpose for which God created mankind male and female, we are sometimes asked: "Why, you don't mean to imply if one chooses not to marry that a person must deny sexual relationships?" That is not only what we mean to imply — but boldly proclaim! When the apostle Paul described a world cut off from God's Holy Spirit, he showed what the results would be! "Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like" (Gal. 5:19-21, New International Version throughout). That is an apt description of a jaded society in the late 20th century. And what did Paul say would be the result of this life-style? "I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God" (verse 21). I'm sure no one gets any special pleasure out of telling the world its life-style is leading to destruction. It certainly won't get any votes in a popularity contest. But then this is not a popularity contest we are in. It's a life-and-death struggle. Those who persist in living contrary to God's laws will pay the ultimate penalty for their actions. So this magazine will continue to speak out for God's truth. After all, that is the name of the magazine The Plain Truth. Fortunately, as indicated by our mail, most of our readers are not in that first category.
But What About the Others?
The second category of letters received could perhaps be best illustrated by this letter that reflects the thoughts of several single ladies who wrote me. "Dear Mr. Kelly, "I read with interest your article: 'Love, Marriage & Sex.' I especially appreciate your articles on marriage. But you have created a dilemma. The Plain Truth pictures marriage so beautifully. That's the kind of marriage I want. "But where can I find a man who will love me and respect me and obey God's laws? "It seems most of the men I have dated are more interested in sex than marriage. Or they are not interested in women at all. "I have tried to keep myself pure waiting for the right man. It has not been easy. And I certainly haven't found the right man. I can't seem to find one who wants to live by God's standards and who can fall in love with me and me with him. "Am I destined to live out the rest of my life lonely and single? Or should I compromise my values? I especially want to have a child. I have even come to the point I would consider having a child out of wedlock. I know this is sin, but what can I do? "Please help." I'm sure there are a number of young men (and maybe not so young) who are also having a hard time finding the right woman to marry. Of the nearly 20 million people worldwide who read The Plain Truth every month, I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of singles. Many have not been married. Others have been unhappily married and have divorced — some probably more than once. Most singles hope for a good and happy marriage someday. Meanwhile they wait. Perhaps the first order of business is to address being single.
On Being Single
Remaining single is no sin. Any number of biblical personalities did not marry. Or if they were married, became a widow or widower, and did not remarry. For many this is a matter of choice. There has been, unfortunately, a social stigma with being single. This can sometimes lead to undue pressures to marry the wrong person. The predicament then created is even worse than being single. That is assuredly not the answer. The apostle Paul did not marry because his service in God's work was so strenuous and dangerous he simply did not feel he could ask a woman to share a life of perilous travel and frequent persecution. Yet he indicated he had the same appreciation of marriage as any of the other ministers in his day (I Cor. 9:5). For the same reason his traveling companions Luke, Timothy, Titus, Silas and others apparently did not marry — at least in their younger years. Yet Peter, James, Philip and other ministers of God were married. Paul has been accused of being a misogynist and misogamist — two fancy words that mean a hater of women and a hater of marriage. Paul was neither. Many have misunderstood Paul's statement in I Corinthians 7:1: "Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry." The times were rough. There was persecution upon many Christians. In the pagan society of Corinth, it was difficult to live a Christian life. Paul's advice not to marry was temporary. Notice what he said in verse 26: "Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are." Some were married and wondered if the difficult times meant they should separate. A few who had unconverted mates even wondered if they should divorce. Others who were not married questioned whether they could or should get married. They did have natural sexual desires and knew they would be tempted to sin if they did not marry. Paul instructed those who were married not to separate. And those who were single? He understood the problem. He said, "If you do marry, you have not sinned" (verse 28). But he advised if they could wait till the persecution subsided, they would be better off. In no case was he permanently opposed to marriage. At this time most of our readers are not undergoing severe persecution. It is perfectly normal to plan and pursue marriage if you are otherwise free to do so and if you desire.
But How to Find a Mate?
What if you are among those thousands of singles who really do want to obey God's laws, but have not found a compatible mate to share .the remainder of your natural life with? It is not always an easy task to find both physical and spiritual compatibility. Yet both are important ingredients to a happy and successful marriage. The best answer to this problem anyone has ever found is to recognize one fact: The one person you can prepare for marriage is you! While you wait for the right person there are a number of things you can do. First, pray fervently about it. There is a God in heaven who knows your every need. He wants you to express those needs to him in prayer. If you trust in faith, in the course of time, when God knows it is right, he will direct you in finding the right person. If you are a well-adjusted, outgoing and happy single, the chances are you will make someone a wonderful life partner. If you have developed the ability to converse, and have a warm concerned desire to serve and help, when you marry, you have a much better chance for adjustment — provided it is with the proper person. On the other hand, frustrated and selfish individuals who marry out of desperation do not make suitable mates.
Take Advantage of the Single Years
To diversify your skills and develop a greater capacity for a happy marriage, get the best possible education for your interests and abilities. Take the time to pursue further education or obtain special job training. Take advantage of the single years. The chances are, with a mate and, later, children, it will be hard to find time for such pursuits. Another broadening experience is travel. If as a single person you can afford an international trip (or for that matter travel within your home country) you will find this can add to your perspective of life. It will help you better understand the world you live in and give you a greater sense of confidence. The most logical way a person in the Western world becomes acquainted with a member of the opposite sex is through dating. And this is often where the rub comes. How do you become acquainted with others well enough to go out with them? And what if their moral values and standards are not as yours? To younger singles, dating is often less of a problem than to older singles. While in college or working with others in a younger age group, dating is a normal routine of single life. But when one is no longer so young and a majority of those with whom you work or who live in your neighborhood are married, it narrows the field of availability. The place not to go is a singles bar. And don't place an ad in the paper. The chances of a very unpleasant experience are simply too great to risk.
How to Put It in God's Hands
Because God is the author of male and female, the most important part of preparing for marriage is to seek his guidance. One of the most beautiful stories in the Bible perhaps will serve better than any other to illustrate how God can intervene for those who have prepared themselves. It is the story of Ruth — told in the book by that same name. It's quite a story. Because of drought, a Hebrew family moved to the land of Moab. After a time, the head of the family died, leaving a widow and two unmarried sons. The two young men married Moabite women, but ironically after about 10 years both the young men died. Now there were three widows living together. They heard conditions had much improved in Judea, so Naomi, the mother-in-law, decided to return to her homeland. The two younger widows had to choose where to live. One decided to stay among her own people — the other to remain with Naomi and live in Judea. One of the best-known passages of scripture in the Bible is the statement of Ruth as she made that momentous decision. She said to her mother-in-law: "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried" (Ruth 1:16-17). When they arrived in Judea they were so poor, Ruth had to glean the fields after the harvest just to have enough food to eat. The owner of the field where Ruth was gleaning was a wealthy single man. Ruth must have been attractive, because even working in the hot sun with dirt on her face, she caught the eye of Boaz. He checked to find who she was. Upon hearing the story of her love for her mother-in-law and her willingness to leave her own people, to continue to worship the true God and to seek a new life in Judea, Boaz was much impressed. He must have wondered, "Could this be the woman I have been waiting for?" As it turns out, she was. But the story doesn't end there. It was not simply a matter of a man and woman finding each other. God had brought them together. Ruth and Boaz became the great grandparents of David the future king of Israel. And from David descended Mary, the mother of Jesus. While your and my needs today may not be as important to history and the plan of God as was the marriage of Ruth and Boaz, we still can depend on God to provide our needs. The apostle Paul said, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28). There is one thing I can tell those of you who are single and who do faithfully and patiently wait for the great Creator God to direct you toward the proper marriage. When you are happily married to the right person, it will soon make any or all of those single years seem like ancient history. There is a marvelous mechanism God must have built in us. After a few months of a happy marriage, we begin to forget what it was like to be single. After a few years we almost totally forget the previous frustrations of the single years. And frankly it doesn't matter if one is 22, 32, 42 or 52 when first married. Believe me, a few happy years with the proper mate are far better than any number of miserable years with the wrong one. The same thing happens after children are born into a family. When you have a child, or more than one, you will have a hard time remembering what it was like around the house before the children came. Marriage and children become an integral part of life. But the wrong marriage to the wrong person? There is no greater turmoil and unhappiness. Far better it is to endure the sometimes frustrating pangs of the single life than to end up trapped in a miserable marriage.
So What for You?
If you choose not to marry, you have not sinned. There should be no shame in being single. But if you have a sincere desire to marry and have a family, patiently wait for the right person. Spend the intervening time preparing yourself to be the best possible husband or wife. It's never really too late. A man I know turned 63 last year. He had not married. He was shy and had spent his life working hard. More than 50 years ago he had a crush on a girl in his grade school. But being shy, he didn't develop the romance. She later married and had a family. About 10 years ago he found she was now alone and had been caring for her elderly mother. Still being shy, it took a while to work up the courage to tell her he had that crush on her years ago. But he finally did and they began to date. They were married last summer. When asked about his feelings on marriage, he said it's a "whole lot better" than he thought it would be. He not only got the girl of his dreams, he became the instant father of three and the grandfather of twin 4-year-olds. But he did have a very long wait. Most of you who are single probably won't have to wait that long. If you really do hope for a happy marriage, make your desires known to God. Then do all you can to prepare yourself. Make every effort to meet people you share common interests with and who have values you can respect. There is no way you can lose if you confidently and faithfully trust in God for your needs — including your need for the person you marry.