The young woman beamed into the camera and exclaimed, “I’ve found my soul mate! I don’t have to be lonely any more!” The young man next to her seemed to reflect the joy she was expressing. A match made in heaven.
Today it seems everyone is looking for a soul mate.
Internet “relationship sites” are filled with pictures and testimonies of loving couples. Glowing ads promise that you too can find a love that lasts a lifetime, your very own soul mate.
But what exactly is a soul mate? And is finding one part of God’s plan for marriage? The dictionary tells us that a soul mate is a person temperamentally suited to another. And what is a temperament? Again, the dictionary explains a characteristic or habitual inclination or mode of emotional response. So a soul mate is someone who is temperamentally suited to one’s typical form of emotional response. Certainly not a bad thing, but is it enough to sustain a marriage for the long haul?
First, we must understand what our soul is and what it does. We are all composed of three parts—spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). We are a spirit and we live in a body. What then is the function of our soul? It is our mind, will, and emotion. Our soul is the storage space for everything we have ever learned and everything we have ever experienced. All our emotional reactions to every situation, both good and bad, are filed away in our soul.
Peter told us, “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). So Jesus is the Shepherd of our souls. But why do souls need a shepherd? Because left alone souls are like sheep. They wander and get into trouble. Our soul is our Decision Maker. It decides what rules and reigns in our lives—our spirit or our flesh. If anyone would know about souls needing shepherding, it would have been impetuous Peter. Until he truly submitted to the Lordship of Jesus, his mind, will, and emotions led his every decision. Is it any wonder then that without shepherding our souls might not make the best decisions either?
God’s design for marriage begins with and is sustained by covenant—a binding agreement between the husband and wife to remain faithful to each other, no mater what. Today the promises of covenant faithfulness have become so commonplace in wedding ceremonies that we don’t always understand the impact they are creating in the lives of the couple repeating them. The words “for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer…until death do us part” essentially mean, “no matter what, I will be faithful until one of us dies.”
In response to either love, compatibility, or in obedience to custom, an individual makes a decision, “I will marry this person.” The soul has decided! The wedding is wonderful and then the marriage begins. Now the soul’s role becomes critical. What many do not understand is that when times get tough—and they do in every marriage—it is not up to the soul to make decisions based on emotional or intellectual response to the situation. Many believe that promises are nice and vows are important, but it is equally important that they be happy? Is their soul, the Decision Maker, getting out of the relationship what was expected?
Marriage is God’s plan and truly the essence of covenant faithfulness is that each person submits his or her soul in obedience to the will of God on their wedding day. Each one promises to be faithful according to God’s plan. Any decision that the soul, the Decision Maker, makes from that point on should be in agreement with God’s plan for marriage.
God designed marriage to be a relationship that turns up the heat to bring to the surface the imperfections of our lives. The depth of marital relationship is tailor-made to bring out things that no other human being on the face of the earth can do. Why? So that we might know what is truly in our heart and we might allow God’s refining work in each of our lives.
Be sure, though, that the soul does not enjoy this refining work of God. It fights every step of the way for happiness and fulfillment. An unshephered soul does not want to endure hard times or experience unpleasant circumstances. A soul that is not submitted to the Lordship of Jesus wants its own way and will fight to get it.
So, is it wrong to search for your soul mate? No, compatibility is a wonderful asset to a marriage. If, however, you base your faithfulness to your marriage partner on the continuing happiness and fulfillment of your soul, you are going to be faced with many disappointments. Establishing a relationship soul to soul may be a good beginning, but it will not sustain a relationship without covenant commitment and steadfastness. The soul is fickle. One day it is blessed and the next it is challenged—all by the same person. Only a commitment to faithfulness enables us to ride out the challenges and truly enjoy the blessings of marriage.
Whether you are making decisions today about your future marriage or whether you are already married, the answer is the same. Covenant faithfulness overrides soulish fulfillment every day of the week. Both you and your spouse need to submit your mind, will, and emotions to Jesus, the Shepherd of your souls. When we set our hearts on the Lord and desire to obey His word, He changes hearts and circumstances. He gives us the desires of our hearts and true fulfillment in Him. It is covenant commitment and faithfulness, not soulish compatibility that see a marriage through!
Featured Image via Elisabeth of Nancy Ray Photography