FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Knowing God’s Will for Marriage, Part 2

with Dennis Rainey | April 16, 2010
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"To have and to hold from this day forward..." You said these vows at the altar, but what do they really mean? Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks about the covenant of marriage. You won’t want to miss it!

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • "To have and to hold from this day forward..." You said these vows at the altar, but what do they really mean? Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks about the covenant of marriage. You won’t want to miss it!

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Dennis Rainey talks about the covenant of marriage.

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Knowing God’s Will for Marriage, Part 2

With Dennis Rainey
April 16, 2010
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Dennis:  If by chance, there is someone out here who is playing church and knows they’re not a Christian, don’t enter into that relationship knowing that you’re putting on the guise of Christianity or “spirituality,” so that you can get this woman or this man into this union called marriage, because, my friend, you are headed for serious conflict.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday April 16th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I'm Bob Lepine.  We’ll hear today why along with all other kinds of relational compatibility, spiritual compatibility is essential. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  Some of our listeners, they were hearing you earlier encourage women to call for the question.  If a woman who’s in a dating relationship with a guy and it’s kind of gone on for a while, and nothing’s happened…

Dennis:  I’m not saying it’s been a long dating relationship, but the earth’s crust was not fully hardened when they first started dating. 


Bob:  I will never forget, sitting at a dinner table one night with these couples.  We were just getting to know one another.  So I asked the question around the table, “How did you get engaged?”  I got to this one guy and I said “How did you get engaged?”  And he said, well, I had a deadline.  So I finally asked my wife to marry me.

I said, “What do you mean you had a deadline?”  He said, I was thirty years old—I’d been dating my wife for about three or four months, and she came to me and she said, ‘You know, I am not interested in a dating relationship.  I am interested in finding the person that God would have me marry.  So I’ll tell you what.  You’ve got six months to figure this out.  If I’m not the person, we’ll move on.  If I am, then you need to propose and I’ll consider the proposal.  But…” she said, “the clock’s running, you’ve got six months.’”


Dennis:  Good for her. 

Bob:  And he said if she had not done that, he would have gone on for years.


Dennis:  Sure.  You know, what happens is in a lot of these single dating relationships—and I’m not saying all, and I’m not saying all of what I’m about to describe occurs within the Christian community, but far too much of it does—they sample some of the privileges of marriages and I’m speaking of emotional intimacy, sexual intimacy.  What’s the reason to get married?


Bob:  When your girlfriend is coming over and doing the laundry for you?  Right.


Dennis:  Exactly.  I think after the age of—I don’t know—twenty two, twenty five, somewhere in that range, somewhere in there, recreational dating just to date, or just to get to know the opposite sex, I think it has to come to a conclusion. 

At some point, you’ve got to decide “Am I in need of someone of the opposite sex?  Am I in need of a spouse and a helper as a young man?”  If I am then I need to pursue, I need to get off the fence, I need to pursue a young lady, and I don’t need to define the relationship with my lips—as in kissing—I need to define it with words and with clarity of commitment.

Really what we’re listening to, or what we’re about to listen to here, is a message I gave a number of years ago at a Weekend To Remember® marriage conference where I talked to these young people.  All either engaged or contemplating engagement, about how they could know they’re marrying the right person.  If you haven’t heard Part One of this message, I wouldn’t listen to today’s part two and make any decisions about your relationships without listening to Part One.  But, put them together, and I’ll tell you, it’s a good one-two-punch.  It’ll give you a process and a perspective for how you make the decision of trusting God that you’re marrying the right person.


Bob:  Part One and Part Two are both available online at, I was just with Dr. Al Mohler at Southern Seminary and he’d move your date for dating back to maybe 19 or 20.  Forget this 22 or 25 stuff.  He says it’s time to grow up young men.  Don’t keep playing around if you’re not serious about the whole deal.  But, let’s dive in.  This is part two of Dennis’s message on how to know if this is God’s will for you.


Dennis:  Do you both have a heart for God?  Do you both have a heart for God?  Some of you may be thinking, “Hey, he doesn’t really have a heart for God yet, but I’m going to reform him.  I’m going to work on him”?  I would like to promise you, my friends, marriage is an institution, but it was never intended to be a reformatory.  If they don’t have a heart for God now, don’t take that responsibility upon you to change that other person’s life.

Another key question is what is the advice of wise counselors?  What is the advice of wise counselors…mature, reliable Christians who know you both well?  Have you gone to one?  Look at Proverbs 11:14 in your notes.  Where there is no guidance, what happens?  The people fall.  But look what happens in the abundance of counselors:  There is victory. 

I don’t think you need to run to and fro and talk to 153 people about this deal, but I do think you need to talk to two or three people who have a godly perspective of life and of marriage and will tell you what you need to hear, not join sides with you and tell you what you want to hear.  But if you go to wise counselors, be willing to heed their advice.  And if they say to back off and give your relationship some time, then trust the fact that God may be saying something to you through those people.

Well, let me give you the following, which will provide help in affirming God’s will; top of page 57.  These are simply some guidelines I’m going to take you through; first of all, just a little context and then quickly some steps to walk through in making this decision.

First of all, letter A.  If you’ve been on the fence for a period of time, it may be due to several reasons.  What are those reasons?  First of all, you may have a history of indecision, as I’ve said.  You’ve decided not to decide.  Both feet are firmly planted in mid-air.  You’re riding the fence and it may be time for some of you to get off the fence and make a commitment.

Second, you may fear making a commitment.  That’s why you’re on the fence.  You’re scared because of the context of life that you see around you.

And third, perhaps you’re on the fence and God is leading you apart, and you’re scared to break it off because there’s so much security in this relationship, but I can’t break it off.  If that’s the case, after you go through all this, would you do your friend a favor and do yourself a favor?  Don’t keep on going on forever and ever and ever and playing games, because there are a lot of couples who do this.  They just keep on dating forever and ever, and they never want to step out and make the commitment.

Well, let’s look at a suggested project for you, point B.  Both of you should get alone with God for 48 hours to help confirm God’s will.  The following steps are suggested guidelines for your time.  You get alone separately and you work through these projects and these steps individually.  Confess your sins.  Humble yourself before God.  Relinquish all rights of your life to God. 

Psalm 66:18 warns us:  “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”  Your prayer of seeking him for a relationship called marriage; your prayers get no higher than the ceiling.  Are you right with God?

Step two:  Write out a list of all your fears.  This is a good one.  Do you know how many pages of things I feared when I was single?  Four pages, single-spaced.  I had fears about what kind of husband I would be, whether I’d be a good father, whether she would get fat kneecaps, whether we’d both become ugly, disfigured in a car wreck; I mean, all the strange fears of a relationship…Afraid she wouldn’t like me, I wouldn’t be a good lover.  I mean, on and on and on, I had fears.  Some of them were hilarious.

I took that list and wrote across it, “1 John 4.  Perfect love casts out all fear.”  And it’s inside Barbara’s wedding ring, because both of us had a lot of fears about our marriage.  But the realization…and listen carefully…the realization that God in heaven loved us individually enough to provide the other person for us began to cast out that fear as we began to experience that from one another.  As I loved Barbara, her fears were cast out.  And as she loved me, my fears were cast out.

Step three:  Confess those fears as sin and acknowledge them to God.

Step four:  Commit to God to accept or reject the other as God’s provision for your needs.  And if you can’t receive them, then let them go.  Don’t just keep on going.  One guy from a city south of here had been dating a young lady for six years.  He called me on the phone.  He’d been to our conference two or three times. 

He couldn’t make a decision, he told me.  And I informed him over the phone, “It is not correct to say you can’t make a decision.  It is true that you will not make a decision.  You’re not willing to either get with the program and carry her off to the castle or break off the relationship and let her go.”  And if you can’t marry her, guys, and carry her off to the castle and love her with that love that casts out all fear, then do her a favor and let her go and stop burning daylight and wasting time.

Step five:  Write out that commitment to God that he confirms in your heart.  And I’ve just got one word written out beside this.  The word is “vow”…v-o-w.  Write out that commitment to God.  And then you know what you can do? 

Read this to your mate in your wedding ceremony, and jar a few people who come to these ceremonies, who come and they put their brain in neutral and it’s the 13th wedding they’ve been to this spring, and jar them with something from the heart rather than just this traditional stuff that has lost a lot of its meaning.  Let them in on the inside of your commitment to this man or this woman that God has impressed upon your heart.  Oh, that’s beautiful.  You may have a hard time.  You may cry.  That’d be good, because our culture needs to see that.

Step six:  Then, after you make this decision to marry or to release, hold your decision privately for 24 hours, allowing God to confirm it with His peace.  Tell no one.  Get away for a weekend.  Make your decision on Saturday.  Keep it to yourself until Sunday night.

And then, step seven, on Sunday night tell one close friend, which allows him or her to confirm your decision and hold you accountable.  Just go to that person and say, “Hey, I need you to hold me accountable for this decision.  I’ve been off and on and hot and cold with this relationship, and I need you to help me here.”

Step eight:  Then go and verbalize your decision to your potential mate or your ex friend.  Now, that’s a sad thing to say, but in some situations that is the right thing to do.

Point C:  After the decision has been made it is important to protect yourself and your potential mate from backing down on your commitment.  A lot of people get really scared at this point.  What do you do? 

Well, look at this.  Number one, once God has directed you, procrastination can lead you back into indecisiveness.  Go ahead and verbalize your commitment to your mate.  Move out.  Lay it on the line.  Make a commitment.  Verbalize it.  It’ll be freeing and liberating as you do.

Secondly, if you decide it is not God’s will for you to marry, it is essential that you make a clean break.  Letter A, we strongly suggest that there be no communication, if you break it off, for six months…no letters, no phone calls, no late-night phone call when you get lonely and you’re having a pity party and no one will come.  You know that he knows you and he’ll know how to meet your needs.  And you call him up and he’s just beginning to heal in his heart, and then your phone call comes and it just spins him off into all kinds of emotional turmoil.  Don’t call.  This is a suggestion so your hearts can heal.

Point B:  If there’s a question that God is leading you back together, then wise counsel should be sought as a protection before re-establishing contact.  That’s the purpose of the accountability that was back up in step seven of the process.  Why?  Because sometimes we can begin to think, “Well, I made a mistake here to let that person go, and I need to go back and let them know that I made a mistake.  I want to marry him.” Or “I want to marry her.” 

Some of us are fickle.  We go back and forth on this marriage commitment.  So before you call them up and send it off into turmoil again, go to the friend and bounce your idea off of them.  And give some time here and some perspective to occur.  I’m going to tell you a story at the end of this hour of a couple who did that and how it worked out.

Point three:  If you decide it is God’s will for you to marry, it is important to protect yourself from doubts.  Look at this.  Bring doubts out into the open.  Discuss them and deal with them as they arise.  If his love is not strong enough, lady, to deal with your doubts, then how will he be able to deal with your real fears after marriage?  Hey, if he really loves you unconditionally, then those doubts, hey, they may hurt a little bit.  “It’s okay, sweetheart.  We’ll work this through.  Tell me more of what you’re feeling.”  She may need some more reassurance there.

Point B:  Become accountable to others for your decision.  That’ll protect you from doubts.

And point C:  If one is totally overwhelmed with doubts that he or she cannot control and the Lord does not remove them, the only option is to break the relationship.  A broken relationship is better than a broken marriage.  Boy, that’s a great statement…far, far more important than any of you in this room realize.

Point D:  Remember, God’s will is ultimately known by faith.  There’s only one way to know God’s will.  It’s by faith.  And without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him; Hebrews 11:6.

A young couple came to me a number of years ago to get married.  He was a lawyer, she was a CPA; a delightful couple.  He knew he loved her and she was very uncertain.  I gave them the assignment you’ve gotten:  “Get alone, separately.  Come back in my office on Monday morning and tell me your decision.” 

Well, I knew when she walked through the door we were in trouble.  He came in.  His face was glowing.  She came in.  She was looking at the floor.  The young lady looked at me.  She said, “I can’t marry him.  I don’t believe it’s right.  I don’t believe it’s God’s will.”  I looked at him and I said, “Bob, what did you decide?”  He said, “I’ve got to marry her.  She’s the woman.  I’m convinced.”

Well, it takes two to get married, doesn’t it?  We didn’t have a marriage there.  So I instructed both of them, no calls, no letters, no phone calls, no communication for six months, and asked them to be accountable to me before either one of them made contact with the other.  At the end of about two and a half months, I ran into him downtown.  I said, “How are you doing?”  He said, “Boy, my heart aches.”  He said, “But to get over her, I’ve buried her six feet deep, and I will get over her.”

Two days later I got a phone call.  It was her.  I’ll call her Cindy.  Cindy was on the phone and she said, “Dennis, I’ve got to talk to you.  I’ve made a mistake.”  I said, “No, no, Cindy, you haven’t made a mistake.  You made the right choice.”  She said, “No, you don’t understand.  I made a mistake.”  I said, “No, you did the right thing.”  I went back through the whole thing.  She says, “Dennis, I’ll buy you lunch.  Will you talk?”  I said, “Okay.” 

Well, we were at lunch together, and she began to go through the process of how she had come to grips with her aloneness needs for this man and how she realized how she really, truly needed him and wanted to accept him as God’s provision for her needs.  And I played the devil’s advocate over lunch and pestered her and pounded her with questions, and she answered every one.  And by the end of that time, I felt really good that she ought to make some contact with him.

And I told her at the end of lunch…I said, “We’ve got a problem.”  She said, “Oh, really?  What’s that?”  I said, “You’re six feet deep.”  So I suggested she go to a hardware store and buy a shovel, which she did.  And when he got off work that day, there was Cindy, leaning up against the car with a shovel in her hand and she said, “Where do I start digging?”  Four months later they were married. 

Now, the guys think that’s a drippy story.  Today they’re married, and they can look back to a decision that was made where they piled up some stones as a memorial of how God led them together to become one.  And all I want for you all…because the trouble will come…is to be able to look back with your mind’s eye to a decision that confirms that you did the right thing.

Bob:  It’s good counsel.  I’ve got to think there are a lot of single listeners who, as they’ve listened to what you’re talking about in both part one of this message and part two of this message, that it’s pressed them to a place where they feel a little more confidence to press on.

Dennis:  Bob I think we have a generation of single people today maybe even more than was true back then in 1993 when this message was first given, who are terribly afraid.  Singles look at the landscape. They see the debris of divorce, they see people breaking up.  They’re afraid to place their wager on one person they’re afraid they’re going to miss the right one.  They’re just hedging.  They’re hedging their lives, their bets, their commitment and you just can’t keep on dating. 

Marriage is a decision of the will where you make a decision before God and by faith to say, “You’re the one.  I choose you.  I’m going to make a commitment to you that the only prenuptial agreement is that it’s till death do us part.”

Bob:  Right.  “For better for worse…”

Dennis:  That’s right.  “In sickness and in health…”  There’s no getting out of this because this is for keepers.  This is for a lifetime.  That’s why we wanted to feature this broadcast.  There are just a ton of folks making decision today, I think based on feelings, based on attraction, based on sexual connectedness, or based on fear and panic.  They’re afraid they’re going to end up being single. 

Some singles need to understand that being married and lonely is really worse than being single and lonely.  Here’s my challenge to you: If you’re in a dating relationship, and it’s time to call for the question, could I encourage you—could I implore you, could I beg you, could I exhort you—please go to the Weekend to Remember®.  If it isn’t the very finest investment in the process of making the decision for you and your friend or fiancé you know what, we’ll give you your money back.

Bob:  Right.

Dennis:  This isn’t about selling something.  This is about equipping you for the second most important commitment you’re ever going to make in your lifetime.  I’m passionate about this, Bob because I see tons of young people today making decisions on the wrong basis and they’re not going at it according to the Bible.  That’s what we’re trying to do here, is equip them with a process that’s anchored in the scriptures and upon faith and trust in God.

Bob:  If folks need more information about the Weekend To Remember® marriage conference they can go online at  There’s information about all of the upcoming conferences that we’ve got still this spring.  There’s also information there about the newly updated and revised version of the Preparing for Marriage workbook that our team put together a number of years ago.  Hundreds of thousands of couples have been through this material and found it very helpful.  We have just had it revised and freshened.

If you’re engaged or you know someone who is engaged, you can go online and order these workbooks.  You ought to get one for him and one for her.  If you’re already married, and you know somebody who’s engaged, rather than just getting the workbooks for them, get a couple of the workbooks for yourself and then invite them over and say, “Can we take you through these workbooks, and just help you get ready for marriage?”  It would be the greatest wedding gift you could give a young couple you know of who’s planning to get married.

Find out more at, and order from us online if you’d like, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800-“F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word TODAY.

I want to take minute and say thanks to those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We appreciate your financial gifts that keep us on the air in this city and in cities all across the country.  This month if you’re able to make a donation to help support our ministry, we’d like to say thank you by sending you a couple of study guides, HomeBuilders® study guides. 

We’ve just had some of our HomeBuilders® studies refreshed and updated as well.  These are great for couples to use on a date night together or to use when they get together with other couples.  These two study guides are our gift to you when you make a donation this month to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, donation of any amount. 

So if you’re donating online at, and you’d like a couple of these study guides, type the word “BUILD” into the key code box on the online donation form.  Or, if you call 1-800-FL-TODAY, and you make a donation over the phone, just ask for the HomeBuilders® guides.  Again we’re happy to send them out to you, and we do appreciate your partnership with us in this ministry and your financial support of FamilyLife Today.

Well, I hope you have a great weekend.  I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend and I hope you can join us back on Monday.  Dennis has some ideas for men about how we can do a more effective job of loving and serving our wives.  How we can express love and show our appreciation for them more effectively.  That’s coming up Monday so guys, get ready.  I hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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