My friend Jon is a young, single Christian who has been actively looking for a wife the past few years. Recently he threw me off guard when he asked an important question I hadn’t heard in a long time. “Jim,” he said quite seriously, “how am I supposed to know when I’ve found ‘the one’?”
Since there’s a good chance you aren’t looking for a wife or husband at the moment, I want to expand Jon’s question a little bit. Perhaps you’re searching for the right career, the right city to live in, or the right sense of “calling” for your life.
The first question to ask is whether there truly IS just “one” answer to your search. Is it possible God wants you to enjoy serving Him in the career, city, and calling of your choice, but there’s not just one right answer?
Well, that’s a controversial theological question, but Romans 12:1-2 is a good place to start. It says that when we unconditionally present our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord, we will ultimately discover His “good and acceptable and perfect will.” Our aim should always be to walk in His perfect will, but sometimes our choices fall short of that. So maybe “good and acceptable” isn’t such a bad outcome either.
Yet Jon’s question got me thinking about some stories in the Bible where people learned crucial lessons while searching for “the one.” If you’re seeking a husband, for example, you can learn a lot from Ruth, the Moabite widow who was blessed with a fantastic marriage to Boaz.
So how can you know for sure whether you’ve found what you’re looking for? There are some great lessons in the story of how the prophet Samuel sought “the one” who would be Israel’s next king (1 Samuel 16). God had told him the king would be chosen from among the sons of Jesse. But when seven of Jesse’s sons marched in front of the prophet, he was told, “The Lord has not chosen these” (v. 10).
Hmmm….what is the lesson here? Samuel was sincerely trying to find the Lord’s will, yet it seemed like nothing was working. Instead of finding “the one,” Samuel had found no one who met with God’s approval. Perhaps you can relate.
Lesson 1: If you’re looking for “the one,” don’t be surprised if the initial prospects turn out to be rejects. You might think I’m being crude here, but there’s some truth in the old maxim, “Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you discover your prince.” And the corollary is this: “It’s probably unwise to marry the first frog you kiss.”
In this story of Samuel seeking the next king, he had to turn down Eliab, Abinadab, Shammah, and four other sons of Jesse before finally discovering David. So you can’t be in too much of a hurry if you expect to find God’s best. Your “David” may be right around the corner, hidden from view at the moment. If you’re too quick to make your selection, you may end up settling for second or third best in God’s eyes.
Lesson 2: Make sure you aren’t overly impressed by outward appearances. In one of the most profound verses in the entire Bible, God told Samuel, “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (v. 7). Can you imagine how many poor choices in marriage partners could have been prevented if people had followed this basic principle?
Sure, physical attraction is wonderful and a person’s outward appearance can be a wonderful asset, but such things will be trumped every time by a person who is beautiful on the inside. For example, while Saul had seemed a logical choice for king based on his physical stature, David’s most important attribute was his heart after God (Acts 13:22).
Lesson 3: If you’re making the right choice, the Holy Spirit will bear witness. Verse 13 says, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” What exactly does this mean? Did people see some kind of supernatural display of power in David’s life? Did he manifest a greater measure of the fruit of the Spirit (character traits), described by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23? Or was there just a deep, abiding sense of God’s peace, signifying that He had confirmed this important choice? (Colossians 3:15). Whatever the answer is, it’s important to note that you’ll never find “the one” you’re looking for unless the Spirit of God is leading you, giving you discernment, and endorsing your choice.
Lesson 4: If your choice is correct, it will eventually be confirmed by wise, godly friends and leaders. When God led Samuel to choose David as the next king, no one initially even knew who David was. However, later we read that “all Israel and Judah loved David” (1 Samuel 18:16). Although sometimes our decisions are misunderstood or must “go it alone,” things always go better when we are accountable to others who can see our blind spots and give us feedback on our important decisions.
I heard about a funny example of this recently. A friend really liked a woman he met on Match.com, and there was immediate chemistry on the first date. But he was surprised that on each of the next two dates she brought along Christian girlfriends to meet him.
Although a bit unusual, her strategy was actually very wise! She basically was saying, “Hey, I could be deceived by some sweet-talking man. But the danger of that happening is much less if the guy passes inspection from those who know me well and are willing to tell me the truth.”
My friend, there’s so much more that could be written on this subject. But I’m praying for you to find what you’re looking for.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” Proverbs 13:12 says. But then it adds, “A desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” May this be a wonderful new season in your life, when you delight yourself in the Lord and He gives you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).