What Should We Look for When Making the Most Important Relationship Decision?
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
Relationships really matter, and recent scientific research supports this conclusion.
In a famous study on what lifestyle attributes make for human health and longevity, the Alameda County Study, researchers tracked the habits of nearly 8,000 residents of Alameda County, California, for decades. It tracked the typical things like smoking, exercise, weight, sleep and alcohol consumption and concluded that healthy habits improve the chances for a longer life. But what makes it particularly interesting is a cohort study that included an examination of the impact of having close a connection with others (feeling loved, cared for, and valued) in a personal relationship.
Surprisingly, the study found that the most isolated people were three times more likely to die than the most relationally connected people, and that people who had bad health habits (smoker, poor diet, obese, heavy alcohol use), but also had strong relational connections, lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits, but were isolated.
So apparently, it’s better to eat Twinkies with good friends than to eat broccoli alone!
Kidding aside, it’s clear that relationships really do matter. In fact, our God-given destiny is often tied to our relationships. That is, we simply cannot fulfill our God-given purpose for existence by ourselves. We need others along the way – just as God intended.
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We Need Each Other
Throughout Scripture we can see this truth revealed in the accounts of God’s people:
-Adam could not fulfill his destiny alone, so God gave him Eve.
-Abraham could not fulfill his destiny alone, so God gave him Sarah.
-David could not fulfill his destiny alone, so God gave him Jonathan.
-Elisha could not fulfill his destiny alone, so God gave him Elijah.
-Timothy could not fulfill his destiny alone, so God gave him Paul.
Even Jesus needed close relationships in order to fulfill His destiny, so God gave Him twelve disciples.
Unfortunately, Satan also will use relationships to sabotage and derail us if we are not careful! For example, David and Bathsheba, Samson and Delilah, Cain and Abel, and Jesus and Judas, to name a few.
In short, relationships can either make us or break us! The good relationships can “make” us, and the bad ones can “break” us.
“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’" (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Perhaps the most influential and important relationship to our destiny is our romantic one. Therefore, choosing the right spouse should be done with a great deal of consideration and prayer. And by looking at the courtship of Boaz and Ruth, our biblical Romeo and Juliet, we can learn much about how to choose Mr. or Miss Right.
Look Beyond What the Eye Can See
In one sense, you could compare choosing a spouse to buying a car. If you ever saw the movie Fast and Furious, you’ll remember the street cars were raced for the “pinks,” or the title deed of ownership to the car. The loser of the race turned over the ownership of his car to the winner. That means they were serious; they were all in – racing for keeps.
In the same vein, when selecting our romantic relationship, we need to keep in mind that everything is on the line: your identity, emotional stability, destiny, dreams, prosperity, family, self-image – even your relationship with God is ultimately on the line.
When we enter into a romantic relationship, we put the proverbial title to our lives on the line.
Ruth and Boaz
In the Book of Ruth, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons left Israel due to a famine and resettled in the land of Moab. In time, their sons married local girls, Ruth and Orpah.
Tragically, Elimelech and his sons died, and left Naomi and her two daughters-in-law destitute. Naomi decided to return to Israel, and urged the two girls to remain with their families to find new husbands. Orpah agreed and left, but Ruth declared she would remain with her mother-in-law, regardless.
And thus began one of the greatest stories of love, romance and redemption ever to be lived.
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Gleaning the Harvest
Naomi and Ruth journeyed back to Bethlehem where they were desperately poor. Fortunately, one of the social laws of ancient Israel was that landowners were permitted to harvest their crops with one pass only. Anything missed, or dropped, was to be left in the field and made available to be gathered up by the gleaners (widows and the poor).
So Ruth went daily to gather up grain for herself and Naomi. One day, as she was working in a field owned by a man named Boaz, a relative of Elimelech, she caught his attention:
“Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘Whose young woman is this?’ So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, ‘It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.’ Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you?
And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.’ So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’ And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before’” (Ruth 2:5-11).
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More Than Skin Deep
Notice the first thing that happened in this romantic relationship. Boaz looked beyond the superficial (what the eye could see), that is, beyond the physical attractiveness of Ruth. He looked at what was most important — not the kind of beauty which is skin deep, but the beauty that resides in the heart. A person’s character on the inside will eventually manifest itself on the outside. So Boaz first asked around to find out what kind of character Ruth had, what was in her heart.
“It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law…” (Ruth 2:11).
Boaz had determined Ruth was a woman of noble character – a virtuous woman. She could be counted on to put her family first, remain committed, display love, loyalty and compassion. She was a hard worker who honored her parents and God. To Boaz, Ruth was a rare find indeed.
“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies” (Proverbs 31:10).
In our own romantic relationships, we must also first look beyond the outward beauty of a person and first impressions of “good behavior.” Also look beyond clever pick-up lines, expensive cars and clothes, or impressive “stories.” People often exaggerate or even lie to manipulate others, especially when they have bad intentions. Like Boaz, remember, it’s the person’s character that counts!
How Do They Handle Pressure?
Relationships are hard work, and life puts tremendous stress on relationships. It’s unavoidable. Every relationship will experience some turbulent times, so you need to know how your romantic choice will respond under stress.
- Do they fly off the handle?
- Do they have anger issues?
- Do they shut down and boycott communication?
- Do they bolt and run?
- Do they turn to an addiction or a vice?
- Do they play the blame game?
Or are they calm, rational, forgiving, controlled and prayerful?
Boaz observed that Ruth was all those things. She was honorable and walked God’s path. And she did all this under extraordinarily stressful life circumstances.
When making a romantic relationship choice, we must first get beyond the “love is blind” period of dating. Witness how they respond under duress before making any life-changing decisions!
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Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs
“So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’” (Ruth 2:10).
In other words, she was grateful.
But imagine if she said something like, “Thanks, but you know, the law says you have to let me glean in your field anyway, so you really aren’t doing me any favors. And the least you can do is tell those pigs to leave me alone, and give me a drink.”
Do you know what that would have been? A warning light that said, this was a high maintenance woman carrying some serious baggage; one who had an attitude of entitlement and selfishness.
When it comes to romantic relationships, we’ve got to pay attention to warning lights. Remember, bad company corrupts good character. (1 Corinthians 15:33)
Moreover, who does the person spend time with? It’s been said, show me your friends and I will show you your future. As the old saying goes birds of a feather, flock together.
And most of all, pay attention to their relationship with Christ. Remember what Jesus Himself told us: You will know them by their fruits. Matthew 7:16. Or, put another way, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck!
And unsurprisingly – you can’t change a duck. Yes, Jesus Christ can, but you can’t.
Just because someone says they are a Christian, doesn’t mean they actually are a Christian. If they don’t have a prayer life, if they aren’t committed to living by the Word of God, if they do not possess the fruit of the Holy Spirit, if they have inner-circle relationships with people who have worldly values, if they are non-committal to church attendance – chances are they are not a Christian and you have no business being in a romantic relationship with them. Full stop.
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Finally, Get a Second Opinion
What happens when you buy a vehicle that is not firing on all cylinders? The car starts bucking and you are in for a rough ride.
Just like you would never buy a used car without first getting the advice of a trusted mechanic, never get into a serious romantic relationship without the advice of some “relationship mechanics.”
What is a relationship mechanic? It’s a godly person that loves you enough to be honest with you, someone whose advice you can trust, and who has a proven track record in the area of a successful marriage relationship, like parents, grandparents, friends and pastors. They will help you see where love has blinded you, and where your romantic choice may not be “firing on all cylinders.” Remember, this relationship is for keeps and will bring you closer to God or lead you away from Him.
Ruth spoke with Naomi, who gave her the green light on this romantic relationship (Ruth 3:1-5). As the story goes, Ruth followed Naomi’s wise directions and eventually married Boaz, and became part of the lineage of Jesus Christ.
So listen to the “relationship mechanics” God puts in your life. They are God’s voice to help us make the most important relationship choice in life, and to ensure we can become everything He has planned for us to be.
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Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.