Marriage or Missions?

How to navigate relationships on your journey to the nations

This article was originally published by Crossworld here.

How do you navigate dating relationships alongside your desire to serve God in missions? This is a hard topic to discuss and an even harder one to answer. As a missions coach, I often get questions like these:

  • Should I date someone who’s not interested in missions?
  • Can I pursue missions and marriage at the same time?
  • How do I stay focused and avoid distractions while being open to God’s intervention?

These big questions need prayerful consideration because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Let me start by telling you my story.

My story

God gave me a desire to move cross-culturally for the sake of the gospel when I was 14. As I grew older, I began to hear warnings like this one: “A lot of women don’t go to the field because they choose to get married instead.”

I hear the good intentions behind that statement — the call to stay focused on God’s leading and avoid distractions. But in my mind, relationships became the enemy of missions.

Nevertheless, twice I entered serious relationships with men who loved the Lord but didn’t share the same leading I feel toward the nations. In both situations, I sought counsel from the Holy Spirit, mentors, and friends, which led me to end both relationships — trusting the Spirit’s conviction and believing obedience would bring so much more joy than disobedience.

Let me share a few things I learned.

What does God’s Word say?

Looking in Scripture at God’s design for relationships, Genesis 2 says God created marriage and that it’s good. Ephesians 5 tells us marriage illustrates Christ’s sacrificial love for his people.

From these two passages alone, we learn that relationships are not the enemy. Marriage and missions do not have to be mutually exclusive.

But we also see the caution in 2 Corinthians 6 about being unequal partners. It’s important to have the conversation about your desire to be a missionary before you get too emotionally invested. God can and may alter your path through a relationship. But let him be the one to do that, not your emotions.

Last, we see in 1 Corinthians 7 that both marriage and singleness honor the Lord. You can serve Christ in any location, in any profession, and with any relationship status. What ultimately matters is that your undivided devotion belongs to the Lord. You will do well to focus your motivation on who you are in him, rather than what you do for him.

Putting it into practice

As you search God’s Word, ask yourself some honest questions:

  • What do I mean when I say, “I want to go overseas”? Do I have clear ideas regarding timing, location, culture, ministry, etc.?
  • How have I seen God leading me that direction, and have others affirmed it?
  • What convictions has God given me about my way of life, resources, and decisions?
  • What qualities, convictions, and beliefs are non-negotiable in a partner?

Invite the Lord into the conversation and ask him to guide your thinking. If you’re dating, process these questions with your significant other and give space for sincere answers. Consider bringing a godly mentor into the conversation who knows both of you well and will speak truth even when it’s hard to hear.

Above all, seek God in prayer. Pursue his heart and obey his leading. Cling to his unchanging character — not your own plans and dreams.

Whatever the Lord has in store, it will be the best thing for your life and for the advancement of his kingdom through you.

Natalie M. serves as a recruiter with Crossworld in Kansas City, where she invests much of her time in the city’s growing international population. She’s passionate about different cultures, is game for trying any and all ethnic cuisines, and enjoys learning to make disciples as a way of life..

This article is submitted by Crossworld. Crossworld is a Missio Nexus member.  Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

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  1. Bravo. In my case, God’s will was for my wife and I to wait till my mid-30s to find each other.
    We need a more robust theology of singleness in missions (which will help fend off the “Alphabet Jihad” now attempting to infiltrate our ranks and make it acceptable to compromise with sexual sin).

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