"I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, do not stir up or awaken love until it pleases." – Song of Solomon 2:7
Many single Christians are excited for marriage. Well and good, for marriage is truly exciting, but there's always a perfect time for everything, including tying the knot. How do you know if it's the right time to get married? Let's talk about that.
The right time
Solomon writes to us in the Song of Solomon that we should not "awaken love until it pleases." Although other translations say "until the right time," "until the appropriate time," and "before its proper time," all of them point to one thing: there's both a right and a wrong time for love to be awakened.
To make it easier for us to know when the right time to marry is, let's first talk about when it's not the right time to marry.
We don't even need to look into spiritual things for signs that it's not yet time to marry. There can be good practical reasons for waiting a little longer and here are a few:
1) You're not yet mature enough
We don't like to admit this about ourselves so some tough honesty is called for here: are you really ready for marriage? Not the fairy tale where the man and woman live happily ever after, but the real-life marriage – a covenant relationship that requires a lot of effort to maintain, grow, and cultivate. We should be mature enough for all it entails (see 1 Corinthians 13:11).
2) You can't afford to
While finances aren't a one-all requirement for marriage-readiness, it is still an important consideration. Many marriages are weighed down by money issues, and unless a man is able to provide for his wife-to-be (or is at least willing to look for ways to do so), he shouldn't marry yet. The Bible does say that he who does not provide for his family is worse than an unbeliever (see 1 Timothy 5:8). Essentially, make sure your own house is in order before you invite someone else to come and live in it.
3) You're not willing to forsake all others
Christ Jesus specifically mentioned that "a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife" (see Matthew 19:4-5). He knows that marriage requires that a man be weaned and willing to leave other relationships, especially those from which he still clings to. It's the same with a woman.
Unless the single man and woman are willing to let go of others so that they can be joined to each other spiritually, emotionally, socially, intellectually, and even financially (yes, not just physically), their marriage won't work. Unless both are willing to forsake other people and other relationships for each other, I believe it's not yet time to marry.
The right time
So now, when is the right time? Personally, I can't answer that for you. There's no specific age (as long as it's legal), no specific bracket for the amount of savings in the bank, and no particular educational attainment. It all varies.
And ultimately you may feel sure about your answers to all of the questions posed above, but probably the most honest and objective opinion about yourself isn't from you.
That's why, with a consideration as weighty as marriage, it's wise to seek the counsel of someone who knows you well and whose opinion you trust. What do they say about you? Do they think you're ready? What do they think of the person you have picked out for yourself? If you say you're ready and others are agreeing with you, you're probably on safe grounds to proceed. But if you're saying you're ready and those who know you well are raising their eyebrows, it would be wise to hear them out on their concerns.
One thing I can say is that as a married man, it all boils down to this: when we are prepared to lay down our life to love and serve a single person for the whole rest of our life, all for the glory and purposes of God, perhaps we're ready so it's good to be praying for that kind of character formation before you think about marriage. Think about how Paul explained love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
"Love suffers long and is kind; love envies not; love flaunts not itself and is not puffed up, does not behave itself improperly, seeks not its own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things."
May you love with that kind of love!