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My next installment was going to deal with God's perspective on romance, but I'm going to hold off on that. From the comment section of my last blog, it's evident people are interested in this issue of free will versus God's sovereignty in relationships, which Scott Stanley talks about here.
Stanley seemed to play both sides in his discussion, but he concludes that whatever your view on God's sovereignty versus man's free will, you should be careful to avoid the potential relationship pitfalls that accompany each.
Stanley points out someone with a high sovereignty view may believe God will deliver "the one" to his or her doorstep. The resulting mistake might be passivity (e.g. He never asks her out; she never makes an effort to show herself friendly) and waiting for a "burning bush" moment that never arrives.
The freewill person, on the other hand, believes it is up to him to make the best possible choice. And considering there are approximately 1.5 billion women worldwide to evaluate, he will most likely be overwhelmed with choice and be tempted to spend exorbitant time and effort seeking out his soul mate while perhaps never deciding on one.
I resonated with what Stanley says about the freewill person:
If I'm the freewill guy, then the error that I might make is that not only should I search and search and search, but God isn't even that invested in who I make the choice about. It doesn't matter a lot who I make the choice about. Because, you know, He's not really thinking at that level of detail about my life.
It's unnerving to think about a God who doesn't care about something I care about so deeply. Stanley suggests a more moderate perspective:
If I don't want to believe in the one thing, the one woman, one mate idea, I at least should have a balanced view that it should take a fair amount of my effort and thought. I should be wise about this. There are things I should be paying attention to. And at the same time, I should believe a bit from the sovereignty perspective. This really matters to God not just because He's hoping I really make the right choice, because it somehow fits into His big plan of what He's trying to do.
Something I have found helpful is to look at relationships through the filter of the same biblical worldview that colors other areas of my life. For example, Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Whether I lean toward total sovereignty or free will, this is a practical step. Trust God at a deep heart level. Don't rely on my own wisdom. Invite God into every area of my life...relationships, singleness, ministry. And He will make my paths straight. That's comforting. However the details are working out, if I'm acknowledging Him, He is making my path straight.
Stanley also employs the path analogy:
I want to end by talking to that reader who looks at the disappointing direction their life has taken in the area of relationships and wonders where God is in it all and how they are to face the future. It's so important to realize that God will take whatever path we're on and get the maximum mileage out of us learning on it.
If I am on a straight path where God can teach me and use me, that is the most important thing. As Stanley suggests, I need to be aware of actions or attitudes that may be leading me away from the marriage and family I desire, but there is no need for me to be panicked that I'm on the wrong path.
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Comment by Paul:
About Scott Stanley's quote:
"If I'm the freewill guy, then the error that I might make is that not only should I search and search and search, but God isn't even that invested in who I make the choice about. It doesn't matter a lot who I make the choice about. Because, you know, He's not really thinking at that level of detail about my life."
I would just repeat part of my response to Part 1:
"*However* that in no way means that He isn't profoundly concerened with our lives, including the trials and tribulations of single life, our unfulfilled longings, our lonliness, etc. He's affected by all of it. Further, He cares about the decisions we make in life, especially one so important and life-changing as whom we marry. Not all choices are equally wise, even if they don't violate any clear Biblical injunction. He wants us to ask for wisdom concerning these matters and He promises to grant it: James 1:5 (NKJV): "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him."
Comment by kaarina:
I fail to see how a disbelief in predestination equates a vision of an uncaring God. Predestination is a paradox of free well. If it is already established what we are going to do, how are we truly free to make a choice whether we will or not? Clearly, God knows what we are doing before it was done, but I have found the theory that He does so because He exists not only inside linear time, but outside of it, being such that He is in all time simultaneously. Clearly, God MUST care about us, as people, because He loved us enough to give us freedom of choice even at His own cost and pain. He didn't have to. Some might argue it would have been more "loving" to make us naturally obedient and unsinful by nature.
It seems to me that the narrow view that there is "one right way" in everyone's life to being "in God's will" is ridiculously small. Sometimes God calls us to a place, with two truly equal opportunities to serve Him and love Him more, and we simply must make a choice. Praying which one is more "right" only leads to the further conviction that we must choose a road. We cannot "pray enough" until one opportunity magically becomes "better" than the other, just until we feel a stronger conviction for one than the other (should you go on a mission trip to Africa or South America? Should you lead a small group or start a Sunday School class? Do you assist a charity that feeds the hungry or provides books to schools?). This is true of every aspect of our future, not just our romantic life. I believe God empowers us to make important choices, but because we cannot see all ends, we can't really know how things could have been. And yet if we had chosen the other way one thinks God would have blessed us, not necessarily because we were "meant" to take it but because we came to that place and earnestly followed God there.
I am convinced that predestination has little, if anything, to do with marriage -- marriage has to do with cultivating Christ-like character, and being mindful of God's timing and trusting that when it is time to make a deliberate choice, He will provide us with the insight about what choice to make. But it really is up to us, God might throw at us the most perfect person in the universe to be our husband or wife and if we do nothing, we can hardly say that we were "predestined" to miss the ball with justifications such as something "better" is coming or God's plan isn't yet fully revealed. But at least, it seems very certain to me that God provides for us when we screw up -- after all, isn't that the whole meaning of the cross? Just because He knows we're going to make mistakes, does that mean we're predestined to make them? I should hope not.
Comment by David:
These verses help me deal with suffering.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines for me have fallen in pleasant places; indeed I have beautiful inheritance.
You hem me in behind and before, you lay your hand upon me.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
It awesome that we serve Jesus who experienced our human condition in every way. He knew loneliness, rejection, disappointment, the loss of his father, he was used by other people. He died a humuliating, scandalous death on the cross. He suffered more than anyone has. We must see that the life that he has for us is his best if we are following and surrendering to him. He uses suffering to draw us to himself. I wish I did not need any suffering to want to be one with him even though that is the best for me. It is a painful experience, a break of the will but God uses it to form us like himself and to ultimately give us more joy. We need to learn how to suffer well. It is really hard to that.
You make read this post and think why is this guy posting about suffering when we are talking about predestination or the involvement of God's leading in my life.
I think the question behind the question is that is God really good? How well does he know me? Is he really for me? The resounding answer is yes! he knows you more than you know yourself and yes!
The revalation of God's involvement in our lives is a paradox. In one sense he is faithful to complete a Good work. On the other we are to surrender to him and to do good works.
Does it really matter exactly how it comes together how relationships come together? We know that God is sovereign and that he is good. We know the roles that men and women should play. People arent married in heaven. We know who we should be becoming like. I know of one woman who was widowed 3 times and happily married to each of them. We only have the choices that are set before us. My mom is happily married to my stepdad but still believes that her marriage to my dad could have worked out if he let it.
All I am trying to say is that I detect alot of anxiousness. Isnt good to get all hot and bothered and figure everything out. If you could figure God out than he would be God. Enjoy the tension of the mystery of who he is!
Comment by Ro:
Can't wait for the next post. Interesting teaser topic. I would love to know what God's perspective on romance is. Is it something he actually wants for us? Or is singleness and ministry, and growing through singleness preffered?
Bated breath here.
Perhaps slighlty off-topic here, but I'm not sure where else to post this! I just think the quality of writing, as well as the content on this blog are excellent, as is the blog moderation and we really enjoy it when the contributors join in the discussion!
Thanks for giving us the chance to discuss topics close to our hearts, and help guide us towards Biblical wisdom. The variety of interesting topics on a wide-range of subjects is very interesting.
Suzanne, I love the wisdom of inviting God into my singleness and seeing what he can do with it. Thank you for the honesty of your posts, which is really an encouragement to know that we are not alone in our questioning, as we seek to honour God with our lives.
You guys really have an excellent quality of blog going around here! And thank you to all those who comment, sharing their vulnerabilities and thoughts. Its very encouraging and makes for good reading, and makes us more wise people!
Comment by AdamSloope:
Great post, I think there is danger in either end of the spectrum. Ultimatley we cannot understand how we can have free will under an all mighty God who in in control of everything, but we should trust that He knows what is best and act as if we do indeed have the free will to choose who to date. I am seeing a girl now who thinks that God is just going to put a spot light on the man of her dreams and then she'll know, but what she fails to realize is that any relationship will require effort because God is not a puppet master who will do the work for her. I am more on the other end of the spectrum, so it is very difficult for her and I to see eye to yee on this dating thing. Good post though.
Comment by suzanne:
Thanks for the encouragement! I'm glad you find the blog helpful and edifying. Someone commented on a recent post about how I "got it wrong" with something I wrote. I hope that readers understand we're not perfect over here! Nor are we claiming to be the authority. We're just putting our thoughts out there as God teaches us, hoping that they will get others thinking and talking. Thanks again for the kind words.
Comment by Lorilee:
This was truly an amazing article that helped to separate two spectrums of thought, and yet combine the need for Christians to rest assured in God for a future mate and realize that some work is required throughout the process. God does not award the prideful, but the humble. He does not give rewards to the lazy, but to the worker. I pray more people realize what it means to truly rest in God's grace when it comes to important relationships and that we do not have to become a future statistic.
Comment by Chris:
In my own life, I've seen that it's a mix of both - I have freewill, but if I stray off the path God has planned for me, He takes control. Over the last few years, I've come to recognize the times when God simply takes control of my relationship/future marriage desires and points me back to what His plans are.
One time, I heard a speaker say "In God's world, you never fail a test; you get to keep taking the test until you pass it the way He wants you to." Again, freewill and God's sovereignty work together.
I realize this post is a few years old, but it's a great series Suzanne wrote and it warrants rereading every once in awhile.
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