It’s with some hesitation that I write this review. I married young and have not experienced long term singleness, the unmet desire for companionship or the chance of not having children. Yet, having been involved in marriage ministry and walking for 15 years alongside people in pastoral ministry, I can say without hesitation that who you marry matters. It affects your happiness on earth, but much more than that, it has eternal consequences. Spouses either lead each other toward Christ or away from him, and a life lived serving the Lord can be much harder in a difficult marriage.
We trust that God’s grace is sufficient for all circumstances (including being married to a non-Christian) and he gives us the ability to live for him in life’s joy and challenges. But sometimes the reality of a book like this is needed to help people prevent making life-altering, unwise choices.
If you are a single woman (and hoping to be married), I wonder what your internal monologue tends to be regarding men and marriage. Does it include the following?
• I deserve to be happy, to be married and to have children
• God doesn’t want me to be miserable and single
• My boyfriend is a new Christian but he’ll mature
• He’ll change (I can help him)
• He’s willing to come to church, that’s enough
• It’s my fault he lost got angry or lost control
• I don’t want to lose the only chance at marriage I may have
Deepak Reju, writing from years of pastoral and counselling experience, outlines the current dating landscape, noting our culture has lifted marriage and self-fulfilment to be a right to which all are entitled. Christian women have bought this lie, noting that “As Christian women, we teach the gospel, pray the gospel, sing the gospel—and we secretly hope for marriage”. To be clear: to hope for marriage is not a problem, but it is when marriage becomes the thing you seek first, what you long for, and you expend all your energy to find. Rather, we are to seek Christ first. Of course, this is not exclusively applicable for singles. Everyone is called to seek Christ first, rather than our own personal idols of happiness, comfort, companionship and family. He identified numerous reasons women settle for inappropriate men: they put marriage above everything else, love is blind, they are afraid (maybe of being alone, being rejected) and they are unwilling to heed wise counsel.
He calls women not to forget Jesus, and encourages them to ask themselves two hard questions:
1. Do I desire Jesus more than anything else?
2. Would I settle for the wrong guy?
As Christians, our goal is to grow closer to Jesus, not to find a man. God himself has promised that we belong to him, he will love us faithfully and that he will never leave or forsake us: “Don’t build your heart around temporary treasures, like marriage to a godly husband, raising children, or the dream of a future together. Let your heart by captivated by Christ. Make Christ the greatest of all treasures.”
Reju then outlines ten types of men to be wary of: the control freak, the promiscuous guy (does he push for pre-martial sex?), the unchurched guy, the new convert, the unbeliever, the angry man, the lone ranger (unwilling to be held accountable), the commitment-phobe, the passive man, and the unteachable guy.
Reju then outlines ten types of men to be wary of: the control freak, the promiscuous guy (does he push for pre-martial sex?), the unchurched guy, the new convert, the unbeliever, the angry man, the lone ranger (unwilling to be held accountable), the commitment-phobe, the passive man, and the unteachable guy. While it seemed initially like a long list, each chapter was compelling. Each of these types of men present serious issues in marriage; whether for your own growth in godliness, their own salvation, or having a relationship that is loving, gentle and mutually encouraging.
As I read through these, I was tempted to think – will any men be left at the end? Yes, there are: godly men who want to serve Jesus and their prospective spouse. This is where Reju takes us in the final chapters – in pursuit of real Christian men. Men who value what God values and love Christ more than the woman they are with. One very helpful distinctive he makes here is the difference between immaturity and the problematic man. Maturity takes time, you can’t expect the same godliness and wisdom of a mature Christ-loving, self-sacrificial 60-year-old man in a 22-year-old. But you can see the signs of where he will go.
“Choose wisely. The imperfect guy – the one who is growing in Christ and still has growing to do as he figures out how to be a boyfriend and a husband – give him a chance. Ditch the problematic man. Stay away from him.”
This is a necessary counter, because you could end up with such high goals for a Christian man that you’re seeking perfection, which does not exist. We are all sinful and fall short of the glory of God. There could also certainly be wisdom in waiting longer to marry, to have a clearer idea of how you both are maturing in Christ.
There were insightful questions to ask about your relationship and wise guidance on how to break up. He acknowledges that for many women, the choice is between this average guy and being single (not between this average guy and that godly, wise man). He strongly encourages women not to settle for the average guy, even if he appears to be your only option, but to be content to wait upon the Lord. He closes by showing the many ways God’s grace is at work in singleness and marriage, helping us to live faithfully for Christ in various circumstances.
Single women would be advised to heed the pastoral wisdom of this book as they consider the dating options around them. Single men should read it too, with an open and honest willingness to examine their own hearts and whether they are being willingly conformed to the image of Christ. Those with single friends or who counsel singles will also find much to recommend. Something about the title does make me wonder how many people are likely to read it though, and I wouldn’t recommend it to women who are already married. This book is preventative. A whole other approach is needed for women already in difficult marriages.
I found myself wondering if there could be a companion volume, for there are also types of women that Christian men should be wary of. Such a list might include: the passive aggressive, the controller, the change-agent, the emotional manipulator; and similarly to this book: the angry woman, the unbeliever, the unchurched, and the new believer.
This book asks: “is it OK to settle in marriage?” Some things we should be willing to settle for. If your ideal man must be good-looking, athletic and outgoing, it’s time to question what you really value. The quiet, shy, awkward man on the sideline may be the one who is growing in godliness and grace. But don’t settle for a man who is ungodly, unwilling to live in Christian community, or continues in unrepentant sin. Of course, God is his mercy can work miracles of grace and change in anyone’s life. But the message of this book is: let God start that work in him before you consider joining your lives together.