By: Joseph Warren Kniskern
Author, Making a New Vow: A Christian Guide to Remarriage
Many Christians believe that God's will for their lives is very specific--including one right marriage partner selected for them by the Lord. Of course, this belief becomes more problematic for those considering remarriage. Was the prior spouse the "right one" or the "wrong one"? Will your remarriage partner now be the "right one"?
We need to weigh this belief carefully against Scripture in the context of marriage. What happens when the couple faces inevitable difficulty in marriage? Will they begin to question whether they made the right decision in remarriage? This leads to serious problems that compound as time goes on. Doubts may lead a spouse to rationalize divorce because he/she married the "wrong person."
Other Christians believe God provides general biblical guidelines for our decisions, with the expectation that we make wise decisions of our own, using these biblical principles. And so our Sovereign God graciously provides us with many options and choices in life--including multiple persons who might be suitable remarriage partners for us. I believe this is the most scripturally consistent position, which is why we have gone into such detail in earlier articles about checklists of qualities to look for (and avoid) in a suitable remarriage partner.
So how can you know when you find one of those suitable remarriage partners if you're widowed or scripturally divorced? Godly remarriage candidates share many of the following characteristics:
They are wholeheartedly devoted to God. You can tell because of the focus of their conversation and action in their lives. They are consistently, intelligently, and without reservation serving the Lord with all of their hearts, minds, souls, and strength. God tops every priority list in their lives. And they desire spiritual priorities in life (Matt. 6:33, 22:34-40; 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 4:6, 6:1-2; Eph. 4:3, 5:15-20, 6:10-18). Not only are they spiritual people, but they are spiritually related to you through Christ by being Christians.
They thrive on biblical love. They know it, show it, and grow it in their lives.
They embrace commitment. Director George Lucas spoke about his famous "Star Wars" series when he said it, but the same principles apply to those who understand the nature of commitment: "You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks, jump over the hurdles and break through the brick walls that are always going to be placed in front of you. If you don't have that kind of feeling for what it is you're doing, you'll stop at the first giant hurdle."1 This is just a small picture of the commitment Christians are willing to make to God, and to their spouses and family in remarriage. Commitment like this continues even when disease or old age comes. Truly committed spouses desire to stand by their mates in sickness and in health.
They model consistent integrity, character, maturity and experience. They consistently act lovingly with grace and poise. When they're competing in groups, or have a flat tire, or lose their money, or suffer stress from work or family obligations. They are responsible, mature, and self-disciplined persons (Prov. 23:20-21, 29-35; Gal. 5:19-26; 2 Pet. 1:5-9, 3:17-18). Adlai Stevenson astutely noted, "A sign of maturity is accepting deferred gratification." These individuals know how to exercise self-control and restraint in dealing with the sins of the flesh. They believe Christian character is essential for godly families, and consistently live out that belief daily (Prov. 16:3; Matt. 5:3-12; Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 15:58; 1 Thess. 5:16-28; Rev. 2:10).
They value friendship. Great remarriage candidates don't sacrifice the real "glue" of any relationship--friendship between partners--for the sake of romance or privileges with another person. They value the worth and significance of the person first before seeing their partners as love interests.
They can communicate. They know that listening, talking, and being responsive to the wishes of others is extremely important in the remarriage and stepfamily (Prov. 15:1, 16:18, 20:5). You can talk to them about almost anything without fear of judgment or a putdown.
They appreciate others. One of the greatest acts of love is attentiveness. This leads to empathy, understanding, and appreciation. Even the iconoclast Voltaire acknowledged, "Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well."
They desire emotional intimacy. Intimacy dwells in almost every quality marriage, but it is almost always absent from terminal marriages. Intimacy is sharing our lives and allowing the Lord to weave us together at the deepest levels of our existence. Great remarriage candidates yearn for a deeper spiritual and emotional intimacy with their partners.
They are peacemakers. Great remarriage candidates put into practice the principles of conflict resolution that Jesus set out for us in Matthew 5:23-26 and 18:15-17. They know how to manage anger with the Lord's help (Prov. 14:17, 29, 15:13, 18, 18:24; Eph. 4:26; Jas. 1:19-20). They are slow to anger, and quick to rid themselves of it before it wounds anyone.
They quickly forgive. They know marriages fail where there is no forgiving attitude (Prov. 24:17; Matt. 5:7, 6:14-15, 18:21; Lk. 23:34; Eph. 4:32).
They love children. They are compassionate and loving, while being good role models for children--even if children may not be a part of any remarriage.
They are graciously flexible. My parent's former housekeeper, Olis, is a bright and joyful soul, and a pleasure to be with. But the family chuckles whenever lunchtime comes because she would be very particular about her meals. Many times we would ask her, "Olis, what would you like to have for lunch?" She would reply with a smile, "Oh, just anything will do!" We then offered a number of menu items for her approval, always ending with her telling us, "Oh, I can't eat that!" After a time we discovered that what Olis really wanted was fried chicken without skin and a Twix bar!
Great remarriage candidates have no hidden agendas. They are willing and dedicated to thinking about the needs of others first and above their own. They are not rigid and inflexible. Instead they want to do whatever is reasonably necessary to make the relationship work. Actress Carrie Fisher, a divorcee, once observed: "If you want to work out a relationship, everything is negotiable. If you don't, everything is a door."2
They know how to laugh. Research confirms that appreciating good clean humor, and being able to laugh about the ups and downs of daily life with a partner, is one of the top five qualities most everyone wants in a mate. Without it, life in any marriage--and particularly a remarriage with a blended family--can become burdensome and dreary.
They learn the song in the hearts of their beloveds. Garborg observed, "To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart, and to sing it to them when they have forgotten." Great remarriage candidates are encouragers and healers. They keep hope alive. They capture the fire of their beloveds' vision and dreams and heat them up more! They truly want their partners to succeed, and rejoice greatly when they do!
They are soulmates. The bottom line is that you really don't have to select someone to marry. When you meet the "right one," your lives just fall into step with each other because you are fit and suitable for one another. Each of you has a life to share with each other--not tame. You are willing to make genuine personal sacrifices--one of the best litmus tests of any relationship. If your partner has a 6:30 AM flight, you gladly offer a ride to the airport. You are willing to bend for the sake of the relationship.
You and your beloved can talk, listen, read each other's body language, encourage, nurture, and fight fairly. You respect, cherish, and trust each other. You feel romantic about each other much of the time, but also experience a comfort and contentedness with one another. It is paradoxically feeling both vulnerable and powerful at the same time. You know all the tiny details of your beloved's life--the ones that would be insignificant to anyone else. Each interesting insight brings deeper fascination. You can't stop talking to each other, and never go two or three days without touching base with each other. There's a special intimacy between you that is uniquely personal and private. Your souls are being knit together in harmony and peace at the deepest levels of your existence. It's knowing what your partner is thinking before putting it into words. It is reveling in each other's happiness.
Above all, you and your beloved agree on the kind of remarriage you want, and accept one another as Christ accepts both of you. Both of you know that remarriage is, and always will be, a work in progress that requires constant attention to keep it from going dry.
Godly people want mates who will challenge them to depend upon God, rather than trying to control him or other people. They seek those who truly feel compassion for others in ways that the seekers haven't fully experienced in their walk with the Lord. They desire mates who will challenge their thinking, and stretch their perceptions and life experiences, in ways that will deeply unite them with God and their mates.
Strong, godly relationships are built on communication, appropriate boundaries, biblical conflict resolution and, with remarriage, a lifetime commitment. Why should we settle for less than what God wants for us and our children?
Taken from "Making A NEW Vow: A Christian Guide To Remarriage" by Joseph Warren Kniskern (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003). Used with permission.
1 As quoted in Investors Business Daily, November 14, 2001, P. 4.
2 Interview with Prime Time Live, March 31, 1994.
Joseph Warren Kniskern is a Christian attorney, mediator, and author of "When The Vow Breaks: A Survival and Recovery Guide For Christians Facing Divorce," and "Making A NEW Vow: A Christian Guide To Remarriage," both available from Broadman & Holman Publishers, Inc. in Nashville, Tennessee.