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A Six-Step Engagement Plan

Life is full of choices—some of little consequence, and some that can change the entire course of your future. There is perhaps no other decision that has more far-reaching implications than selecting a spouse. Here are some time-tested scriptural principles, as well as practical advice on how to go about making this choice in a way that will bring the Lord’s best blessing.
First, keep in mind what marriage itself is. At its heart, marriage is the unconditional promise between one man and one woman to be husband and wife, faithful to each other so long as they both shall live. In Jesus’ day, “betrothal” was just such a public and unconditional promise, although the man and woman did not live together as husband and wife until after the actual marriage ceremony. That’s why the Bible refers to Mary and Joseph both as being betrothed (Matthew 1:18) and also as being married (Matthew 1:20) prior to their wedding day.
In our own day and culture, engagement is most often simply a couple’s announcement that they intend to make their public and unconditional promise at a future date. In other words, the engagement is not the unconditional promise itself. Still, such a decision should not be entered into lightly. How can a person go about it with God’s blessing?
1. Pray, sincerely and often, for the Lord to lead you to find the spouse that He intends.
2. Meet and spend time with people of the opposite sex who may be good candidates for marriage. While doing this, keep in mind that it is vital to exercise self-control with regard to physical desires. The Lord makes it clear that the privileges of the marriage bed are only for those who are already married (see Hebrews 13:4).
3. Evaluate the qualities of a possible mate. Does this person know and trust in the Lord Jesus as the only Savior? Are you in agreement about the Bible’s teachings? (This needs to be settled before children may arrive.) Does this person exhibit the qualities of humility, responsibility, respect for authority, and appreciation for children as blessings from God? Men: is this woman someone whom you would gladly love, honor, and cherish for your whole life? Women: is this man someone whom you would gladly love, honor, and cherish for your whole life—and will you gladly follow his God-given leadership in the home?
Take this step carefully! It’s easy to become infatuated with someone who would be a poor choice as a lifetime companion.
4. Seek advice from trusted Christian friends. Take advantage of your pastor’s pre-marital counseling course. Continue to pray for God’s guidance.
5. Seek the blessing of your own and your intended’s parents.
6. Ask, “Will you marry me?” Come to a mutual agreement that you will make your unconditional promise to be faithful to each other, for life, on your wedding day. Then, be prepared for the flurry of planning that is often needed to arrange for invitations, the bridal party, the wedding service itself, and the reception that follows.
Finally, though you should fold your hands in prayer often, don’t sit on them afterward, expecting God to drop a spouse out of the sky for you. An engagement to be married rarely happens without first engaging with many others, so be friendly with many people. Be a close friend, in a chaste way, with those who share your interests, and then count on the Lord to make it plain to you when the “right one” comes along.
“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.
Bruce Naumann is associate pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.