By Patrice Burrell Grant, Crosswalk.com
The proposal, the ring, the magical moment of saying yes. Becoming engaged is one of the most unforgettable moments in a couple's life. All of the excitement building to the wedding day, all the fun of sharing your journey with family and friends.
Your next level commitment is almost a permanent covenant, but then the unthinkable happens. It's hard to imagine how two people who have made a public declaration of their love somehow arrive at a crossroad that demands consideration if their love is meant for marriage. The thought seems so far-fetched, yet this is the reality many have painfully confronted.
Choosing a mate to spend the rest of your life with is the most important decision you will make in this life, next to accepting Jesus' gift of salvation. Some may question how a relationship could progress to the point of engagement only for it to be called off.
Actually, there are a plethora of reasons that warrant this decision. Marriage is a covenant relationship that should be entered soberly, prayerfully, and confidently because both parties are in agreement with God and each other.
In Amos 3:3 (KJV), Scripture tells us, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" If you and your prospective marital partner are out of sync with God and/or each other, it will be extremely challenging to walk together in agreement. In this context, calling off your engagement might actually be the most mature and godly choice you can make for yourselves and each other to honor God.
If you are experiencing internal conflict over your decision to become engaged and continue pursuing marriage, here are three signs you might need to call off your engagement.
1. You Lack Peace
It is true. Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is neither the presence of perfection.
However, peace provides a settling within that cannot be substituted or overlooked when not present. One of the very names of God is Jehovah Shalom, which means God Our Peace. When God's presence is present, we will have peace. The opposite of this is equally true. Without God's presence, not only is there a void of peace, but it is often replaced with chaos and confusion.
We are admonished to pursue peace with all people (Hebrews 12:14). Scripture also advises us to let peace be our umpire. Colossians 3:15 (NLT) states, "And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body, you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful." We can never disregard, discount, or downplay the necessity of God's peace in the decisions we make, especially a life-altering decision like marriage. If you lack peace during the engagement period, that is a sure sign you need to re-evaluate your current position within the relationship.
2. You Lack Love
Yes. You read that correctly. In our day and age, it is sad I must call this to the carpet, but it is regretfully true that many people get married (and even stay married for that fact) for reasons that are not motivated by love. Of all the ingredients a marriage needs to be successful, one that cannot be left out is love.
We know 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV) teaches us all about love: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
Is this the kind of love reflected in your relationship with your potential future spouse?
Some people marry for comfort, convenience, or companionship. But none of those should be the primary motivating factor. If the fruit of love is not being demonstrated in your relationship as an unmarried couple, then perhaps your relationship's foundation needs some work before marriage. More concerning, if you are in a relationship with someone who treats you oppositely to what is outlined in the above passage in 1 Corinthians 13, you may not be in an emotionally healthy relationship.
Abuse in any form is unacceptable treatment, and it does not honor the principles of God's love.
If you are in a loveless relationship now, why would you set yourself up to experience that for a lifetime? John 3:16 reminds us God so loved the world that He gave us Jesus, the greatest gift and ultimate expression of love. If you do not know the love of God through your partner, then something is fundamentally wrong in the relationship.
Love gives; it does not take away from who God has created you to be. Love elevates; it does not oppress and stifle your growth. Love celebrates; it does not suffocate or demean another child of God. Your fiancé should love and support you first as a sister or brother in Christ Jesus. Although love is sacrificial, it cannot be sacrificed in your relationship while engaged. Otherwise, you set your future marriage up for failure before it ever begins.
3. Lack of Counsel
Doesn't it make sense that we would seek godly counsel before making a decision as significant and life-impacting as marriage? I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to participate in couples and individual counseling prior to engagement, during the engagement period, and throughout your marriage. Be concerned if the person you are engaged to refuses to go to counseling. If they are unwilling at this stage of your relationship, the likelihood they would change their position once you marry is unrealistic.
Let us shatter all of the cultural stigmas associated with counseling. Fact: healthy people seek godly counseling outside of themselves. Let us also crush the myth that something has to be "wrong" with you if you seek counseling. As an advocate for mental health and being prepared for marriage, I encourage dating couples to participate in counseling before becoming engaged. Counseling sessions during engagement are framed differently since it is understood you are soon approaching your wedding day. Starting this process sooner is like sowing seeds you will later reap a harvest from as time goes on within your relationship. Additionally, married couples who attend counseling together use these sessions as opportunities to engage in preventative marriage care and maintenance that equips them to continue experiencing a fulfilling marital union.
The Bible tells us in Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV), "Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors, there is safety." If unresolved issues need to be addressed in your relationship, one of the best things you could do is to invest effort and energy in seeking proper counseling. But make no mistake - you have got to be willing to put in the work.
"A multitude of counselors" should include pastoral counseling specifically for spiritual advisement as it pertains to dating, engagement, and marriage. You can also select a licensed mental health Christian counselor to assist you in your journey. Receiving counsel from couples who may serve as marriage mentors can be beneficial for a newly engaged/married couple because the more seasoned couple can share their wisdom in sustaining a fruitful marriage.
Becoming engaged and getting married is not something Christians should enter into lightly or hastily. If you are seriously contemplating entering a life-long commitment with someone you and you have not individually and collectively sought out biblical counseling, this may be a good reason you need to pump the breaks, press pause, and reassess if you need to be engaged at this time.
Above all, bathe your relationship in prayer. When we sincerely pray without pretense or preconceived ideas, God will reveal to us His will. God speaks to us about our prospective partners and shows us things about ourselves that we need to deal with before accepting the responsibility of marriage.
You Can Never Rush Being Ready
Two people must both be ready to enter into holy matrimony as a team, and individually, we must be ready because we are first one with God. If it is not your time, then accept that it is not God's best for you in this season.
One of the ways we prepare for a successful marriage is by becoming a successful individual. Our season of singleness is to be embraced, not endured. It should be treasured as the special gift from God that it is and never despised. Maybe when we are not ready, it is because God knows we need space independently to grow and mature before our lives are joined with someone else. Whatever the reason, I encourage you to pray through it until you receive a green light from the Holy Spirit's leading to move forward.
When it's time, you will have peace within yourself, the love of God will be evident in the relationship, and you will have received accountability and affirmation in the safety of godly, discerning counselors. Remember, the safest place in the whole wide world is in the will of God. May we have the strength and courage to accept whatever His will for our lives may be in every season of our lives.