Updated: Nov 8, 2022
How do I know if I’m ready to be married? This is a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time. As I reflect on the marriages I’ve seen (whether spiritually healthy or not), there tends to be a common denominator - sacrifice. What does it mean to sacrifice for another?
“'My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends'” (John 15:12-13 NIV). When we think about how God sacrificed for us to have life and life abundantly, we think of Jesus’ death on the cross. Does God expect the same kind of sacrifice from us? Well, let’s break it down.
Jesus commands us to love each other as He has loved us. What does that entail? I believe it involves mirroring all that He’s done while on this earth. I know that seems like an unimaginable task to complete, but Jesus even said, “‘Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father’” (John 14:12 NIV). So if God doesn’t think it’s impossible for us, neither should we. For those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ, He has given them an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to help them do great works for His kingdom.
Taking it a step further, Jesus defined greater love: laying down one’s life. As convenient as it would be for this scripture to be metaphorical, it is meant to be taken literally. Think about it this way, what if you were in a life-or-death situation and your spouse said to you, “I will metaphorically lay down my life for you.” Would you feel comforted? I wouldn’t. But what if they said, “I will literally lay down my life for you.” Would you believe them? I would. It takes conviction to make that kind of a statement. Remember, the precursor to such a declaration is having personal knowledge and experience of God's love and applying it to one's life. We can't access "greater" love without first having God's foundational love.
Sacrifice is empty if not fueled by the love of God.
And love requires literal sacrifice. With that being said, does that mean I have to be willing to die for my spouse? Greater love says yes, and not just for a spouse but for one's friends. I know it sounds extreme, but the love that the Bible talks about is extreme (think about what Jesus endured just to get to the cross). That is a reality not everyone is willing to accept.
You may be looking at yourself thinking, "I don't want to give up my life like that, I'm not ready." Or you may be looking at your partner thinking, "I can't see myself dying for this person." It's okay if that is where you're at. Ask God, "why do I feel this way?" It's possible you haven't fully laid down your life at the foot of the cross yet. We can't sacrifice for others if we're unwilling to let God be the Lord of our life. Or it's possible that you do not fully trust your partner yet and don't believe it's wise to make that kind of commitment right now. Marriage is no joke. If we're going to take it seriously, then we need to be looking at it through the lens of God's eyes and not the world's. After all, He is the One who created it.
When you're willing to sacrifice your life for the one you love, you are willing to sacrifice in the small things too. Truthfully, everything else is smaller in comparison. I knew my desire to sacrifice was growing when my free time became less of an idol to me. Being the very independent person that I am, I love having the flexibility to schedule dinners with friends and make calls to family whenever I want. As an unmarried woman I can decide which day of the week I’d like to commit to a small group, take a nap after work, go to the gym at any hour that I prefer, or accept invitations to outings with coworkers when I please. But this freedom no longer satisfies me like it used to. I am craving sacrifice, a desire I know God has put in me.
Dating is a great opportunity to practice sacrifice, little by little at a time.
This also allows for trust to grow, as you extend yourself and observe your partner extending themselves beyond what’s easy or convenient for you both. This is how love is displayed in action. And when you discern the next step towards engagement, you need to honestly consider whether you could lay down your life for that person.
If you’re asking yourself the same question I did, I recommend you study the life of Jesus. God is very clear in His Word, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus” (1 John 4:17 NIV). We are to exemplify Jesus to the world, even in His sacrifice. Are you up for the task?