If Christian marriages are to picture the gospel as the Bible says they should (Eph. 5:22-33), then believers who are in dating relationships need to be able to answer the question, “Am I willing to serve, sacrifice for, and forgive the person I’m with until death do us part?”
If you are seriously dating someone right now, ask yourself that question. If your answer is “yes,” then it is highly likely you’ve found “the one.”
See, finding “the one” is less about demanding selfishly from the perfect person (note the sarcasm) and more about choosing to serve the person - flaws, sins, and all - whom God has intentionally placed in your path.
Now, to be clear, a certain level of scrutinizing is wise. Biblically, we call this godly discernment (Heb. 5:14). We want to watch for red flags in character, ask about our date’s history, and discern their relationship with Christ to ensure it is genuine, fruit-bearing, and grounded in the truth.
However, in the midst of us scrutinizing the person we are dating, we can easily forget to search our own hearts and motives.
Ultimately, you must determine if you are willing to choose to serve, sacrifice for, and forgive the person you are dating until death do you part. If the answer is “No,” then either you, yourself, are not yet ready for a marriage relationship or the person you are dating is most likely not the one you should wed in the covenant of marriage.
To get more specific, here are a few questions to help you discern if you are dating “the one”:
1. Are they using self-control? Are you using self-control towards them?
Self-control is an important aspect of the fruit of the Spirit because it not only proves the activity of God in a person’s heart (John 15:8), it is an indication of how this person will most likely act once they are committed within a marriage.
Paul instructs husbands to love their wives as their own bodies, and he encourages wives to show respect to their husbands (Eph. 5:28,33). What is the guarantee that either of these mutually loving actions will take place if the dating relationship was built on a lack of them?
If you or the person you are dating chooses not to practice self-control, then this is a major red flag. Finding “the one” involves both being a person of self-control as well as dating a person of self-control.
2. Are they willing to have hard conversations? Are you willing to have hard conversations with them?
I’ll never forget the first difficult conversation my husband and I had together. We were not yet engaged, and we were both wondering, “Is this ‘the one’ for me?” When the confrontation happened, and when we both realized how maturely we both handled it, that day became one of the defining moments that ultimately pushed us towards a decision to marry.
The willingness to engage the person you are dating in hard conversations, and the willingness to be open to constructive criticism, is an indicator that a certain necessary level of trust has been established between you. Trust, honesty, and speaking the truth in love are foundational elements of any healthy marriage, and dating is an opportune time to build this foundation through willing, gentle confrontation.
3. Are they quick to own up to their mistakes and sins? Are you quick to own up to your mistakes and sins?
If we believe that part of the purpose of marriage is to see each individual become more like Christ, then quirks, mistakes, and even sins will be seen as opportunities to grow in spiritual maturity. Because of this reality, there is a freedom in our marriage to “the one” to lay bare our sins and shortcomings before our spouse, knowing it is their goal to point us to Christ and his gospel.
Do you see this quality in the person you are dating, or do they tend to hide their flaws and ignore their sins? Are you willing to own up to your own sinfulness and ask forgiveness of the person you are dating? Or do you often find yourself defending your choices and belittling your sin?
4. Have you seen them sacrifice something important for you? Have you sacrificed something important for them?
What are you willing to give up for the person you are dating? What are they willing to give up for you? Finding “the one” is about being ready and willing to lay down your very life, along with all of its details and preferences, for the benefit of the other person. It is important to discern early on if dating is a mere confidence-booster for you, or if you truly desire to help the person you are dating flourish and grow into Christ-likeness, at great cost to yourself.
This is why Paul calls marriage an illustration of Christ and the church. Jesus laid down his own life for the sake of saving a people for himself. He knew the cost would be his own blood, yet he set his face to Jerusalem anyway, rather than demanding his own comfort and rightful, eternal position as King and Lord.
You know you’ve most likely found “the one” when both of you have grasped the beautiful but costly gift of sacrifice in your dating relationship.
5. Do you trust this person? Do they trust you?
When no one is looking, what are you doing? What are you thinking about? What about the person you are dating?
Similar to using self-control, walking in consistent loyalty, integrity, and uprightness is a vital part of a healthy, Christ-centered marriage. If you have reason not to trust your date because of consistent occurrences of dishonesty, you might want to reconsider the relationship (after gently, lovingly confronting the person). You know you’ve found “the one” when both parties delight in being faithful to one another in thought, word, and deed.
Will we as fallen humans mess up in this regard? No question about it. We will sin against each other; that’s a biblical fact. But the gospel reminds us that we have the power and freedom to forgive one another, just as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven us (Col. 3:13).
6. Ultimately, do you want to serve, sacrifice for, and forgive this person for the rest of your earthly life? Do they feel the same way?
Of course, there are plenty more questions you could ask in this regard. I would encourage to check out John Piper’s blog post “Questions to Ask When Preparing for Marriage.”
It is normal to wonder if we are obeying the Lord in our decision to date a person, and it is especially normal (and good!) to desire to be in alignment with God’s will in a decision for marriage. If you are seeking the Lord, and if the Lord has placed a specific person in your life, then that relationship is his will for you in that moment.
And if the Lord is placing on both your hearts a desire to serve, sacrifice for, and forgive the person you are dating for the long haul, then you can have peace in knowing that marriage is most likely his will for you, that you have found “the one.”
Kristen Wetherell is a writer, speaker and the Content Manager of Unlocking the Bible. She's married to Brad, loves exploring new places, enjoys cooking, and writes music in her spare time. Her desire is to glorify Jesus Christ and edify believers through the written word. Connect with Kristen at her website or on Twitter @KLWetherell.