My wife returned home from the salon and told me about the single lady who had cut her hair. This young woman shared some of her frustrations with dating sites that are only about how people look. Swipe this way if you think the person is cute; swipe the other way if you don’t.
She lamented that once you connect with someone, they usually just want a short-term physical relationship — nothing long-term or committed.
I grieve for those who find themselves grasping for relational intimacy through means like this. If you’re single and desiring to be married, you will find that taking the Bible seriously will prove to be the best dating guide in the long run, rather than the superficial criteria the world urges us to focus on.
In particular, Proverbs 31 offers some clarity about what trajectories of life to look for in a spouse. The description here looks back across many faithful seasons in the life of a virtuous woman, but we can also think of many of these characteristics in terms of what a woman should be looking for in the life-direction of a man.
1. Does this person follow through on his word?
“Taking the Bible seriously will prove to be the best dating guide in the long run.”
Verse 11: “The heart of her husband trusts in her.” He is never worried about her faithfulness to him. He never has to wonder if she is using their money in dishonest or foolish ways.
As you are getting to know someone who would be a potential spouse, consider if the person is honest and trustworthy. Does he have a track record of following through on his word?
2. Does this person make you stronger?
Verse 12: “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” Verse 23: “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” It seems odd that right in the middle of this passage about the woman who fears the Lord, there’s a verse about the husband. But it makes a point about the woman’s commitment to her husband. Her work at home and service to her husband benefits his reputation and success. He is a better man because he is married to her.
Look for a person to marry who is going to encourage you and work alongside you in a complementary manner. A married couple should be stronger together than they would be apart.
3. Is this person hard-working?
She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her . . . maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
Look for someone who is disciplined and diligent, who has goals and works toward them, who starts projects and finishes them.
4. Is this person generous and hospitable?
Verse 20: “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”
This woman looks to the needs of her family, but she also looks to other needs around her. She is generous and hospitable and helpful.
5. Is this person wise and eager to help others?
“Does this person fear the Lord? Is this person a believer? Don’t compromise on this point.”
Verse 26: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” She looks for ways to help others — both in practical, tangible ways, and also in emotional and spiritual ways. She is a sage, and others will seek out her wise counsel and benefit from it.
You want to marry a person like that — someone who is not consumed with his own selfish activities and entertainments, but delights to help others and has the wisdom to be truly helpful.
6. Does this person truly trust Jesus?
She is not overcome by worry, because she is trusting in her Lord. Verse 25: “She laughs at the time to come.” This woman fears God, and out of such healthy fear flows wisdom and kindness and hard work. The virtuous, godly woman will trust in God and in his providential plans for her. Therefore, she won’t be consumed with fretting over the details of the future.
This question gets at the core characteristic to look for in a spouse: Does this person fear the Lord? Is this person a believer? Don’t compromise on this point. Don’t become “unequally yoked” with someone who doesn’t share your most fundamental identity in life (2 Corinthians 6:14). Christ must be the foundation of the relationship, with both of you looking to him, trusting in him, and laughing together at the days to come.
Dream and pray and seek counsel about the characteristics you should be looking for in a potential spouse, and then resolve not to settle for less. Don’t let your dating search be driven by appearances. “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion” (Proverbs 11:22).
The world’s way of dating is a path of folly and pain. Search for a person with biblical discretion, a characteristic that is rare and rewarding. As you rest in God’s plan, in his timing, pray for a spouse who is trustworthy, helpful, hard-working, compassionate, wise, and trusts Jesus.
“Pray for a spouse who is trustworthy, helpful, hard-working, compassionate, wise, and trusts Jesus.”
And one more thing: Don’t go at this alone. Don’t presume that you, on your own, have a sufficient amount of discernment to evaluate a potential spouse. If you’re in a dating relationship, introduce this person to as many friends of yours as possible, especially your church family. Ask for what they honestly think, and see what yellow flags they raise. That is what humility looks like in a dating relationship — inviting the counsel of others and not believing the lie that you know better than everyone else.
Let the wisdom of Scripture guide your dating decisions, not superficiality.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)