I once entered a relationship with the conviction that it was undeniably God’s will. I had prayed for a sign, and as far I could tell, He delivered. We didn’t get married. Did God get it wrong? Did I misinterpret the sign?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Acknowledging God is important in every situation, especially in relationships. In this verse, the Hebrew word for acknowledge is yada which can also be translated as ‘know’ – read Intercourse With God for my reflections on the significance of this word in the context of Psalm 91:14 (another verse in which it appears). Put simply, yada-ing God is an intimate endeavour. The ERV translation provides clarity on precisely what is meant by acknowledging God in your decision-making: “with every step you take, think about what He wants” (v6a). In essence, that’s what I was trying to do by asking God if we should proceed with the relationship. However, when we broke up, I couldn’t comprehend why God would seemingly co-sign a relationship that was doomed to fail. I questioned why He allowed me to ‘waste time’ by giving me a false sense of security that we’d go the distance.
God doesn’t change, but people do.
I was annoyed with Him for not simply saying ‘no’ in the beginning, but then that quickly turned to doubts over whether the ‘yes’ was simply a confirmation bias. Neither of those things was the issue. The issue was that somewhere along the line I/we stopped acknowledging Him. The verse says in all your ways, not just in the beginning. It’s possible that checking in with God later in the relationship might have yielded a different answer; however, if I’d yada-ed Him throughout the relationship, then I would have known sooner. God gives you guidance on the characteristics of a suitable spouse and the freedom to choose whom you wish to be in a relationship with (sign or no sign). He can bless your relationship so long as you conduct it according to His will. No matter how certain you were of each other in the beginning, the most important thing to remember is not to become complacent.
If you acknowledge God without allowing Him to direct you, then the acknowledgement was pointless. Whilst it does seem strange that you can know God intimately, yet still refuse to take His advice, it’s certainly possible. Remember: He desires to change not just your thoughts, but your actions, too. By learning to acknowledge and submit to God’s direction in singleness, you form an invaluable habit for your future relationship. Successful, godly relationships are comprised of two obedient people that are compatible for one another. Obedience to God will inevitably require you to do things that you don’t want to do, as well as things that you do want to do.
Preference is not an excuse to ignore direction.
Nobody gets into a relationship with the intention of breaking up. But what happens if God tells you that it’s time to go your separate ways? Is that the point you conveniently develop selective hearing? Proverbs 3:5 makes the assertion that your understanding is faulty. Therefore, acknowledging God isn’t advisory, it’s necessary. By choosing to place your romantic relationship above your spiritual relationship, you could be endangering your salvation. Usually, breakups occur because you refused to address the contributing factors as they arose. Perhaps God was telling you to stop doing X and start doing Y, but you completely ignored Him. Such is the futility of enquiry without action. Don’t amass knowledge without actually using it. If you know that God is telling you to do something, do it!
- Strive for intimacy with God – yes, you know God, but do you know Him? The fact you’ll never know Him fully is reason enough to pursue Him relentlessly.
- Be humble – refusing to ask for/take direction from God (about anything) means you assume you’re right. If you’re unsure of His will, ignorance is not an excuse for mediocrity or even sin. Be proactive and seek it. In The Mind of Christ I outline my thoughts regarding seeking God’s will.
- Exercise discernment – ask for signs if you wish, but remember that fruits are more useful. God tells you the qualities of a prospective spouse in His Word and you’re free to choose whomever is of that calibre.
Confirmation from God that you should proceed with a relationship doesn’t guarantee it’ll end in marriage. Providing you’re compatible and there aren’t any extraneous variables, your only guarantee will be your commitment to seeking and doing His will throughout the relationship.