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Marriage or Missions?

Marriage or Missions?

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 Crossworld recruiter, 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. Compassion for the least-reached gripped my heart, and what began as a genuine longing to help people grew into a throbbing ache to share the good news with those who have never heard.

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. Getting to the field became my highest motivation, and anything less heaped guilt in my heart.

Nevertheless, twice I entered serious relationships that led to the question of marriage. Both men loved the Lord and cared well for me. Yet neither of them felt the same leading toward the nations that I did.

In both situations, I sought wise counsel from the Holy Spirit, mentors, and friends. And both times, I decided with tears and heartache to end the relationship — trusting the Spirit’s conviction and believing obedience would bring so much more joy than disobedience. And oh, how relieved I am that I made those choices and began taking steps again toward the least-reached.

If you’re struggling with a similar situation, let me share with you a few things I learned through my experience.

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. I would argue that you should look for an “equal yoking” not just in faith but also in lifestyle convictions. It’s important to have those conversations — including the one about your desire to be a missionary — before you get too emotionally invested in the relationship. God can and may alter your path or course-correct your convictions 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 not whether you end up married in North America or single on the mission field (or vice versa), but 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. Surrender your journey to the Lord and let him refine you through the process.

Putting it into practice

As you search God’s Word, ask yourself some honest questions. Here are a few to get you started:

  • What does it 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?

If you’re single, you get to process these questions without the implications of your answers affecting an existing relationship. Invite the Lord into the conversation and ask him to guide your thinking.

If you’re dating and considering marriage, 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.

Want to talk through these questions with a Crossworld recruiter? Reach out to us today.

Natalie, Crossworld RecruiterNatalie 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.

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