If Christian marriages are to picture the gospel (Ephesians 5:22-33), then believers in dating relationships need to be able to answer the question, “Am I willing to serve, sacrifice for, and forgive the person I’m with until death do us part?”

If you are seriously dating someone right now, ask yourself that question. If your answer is “yes,” then it’s likely you’ve found “the one.”

See, finding “the one” is less about demanding from the perfect person and more about choosing to serve an imperfect person – flaws, sins, and all – the one whom God has intentionally placed in your path. 

A Biblical Pursuit

Often, our perspective on marriage becomes twisted, and we misunderstand what a biblical pursuit of marriage looks like during the dating season. Why is this?

First, our sin nature breeds selfishness, causing us to scrutinize the person we’re dating in terms of how well they meet our needs. Second, our culture feeds us an unrealistic view of love through television, books, and movies, making it easy for us to seek our fulfillment and happiness in finding “the one.” We make our checklists of characteristics this person must exhibit, and then we scrutinize them accordingly.

To be clear, a certain level of scrutinizing is wise. We call this godly discernment (Hebrews 5:14). We watch for red flags in character, ask about our date’s history, and discern their relationship with Christ to ensure it’s genuine, fruit-bearing, and grounded in the truth.

However, in the midst of us scrutinizing the person we are dating, we can easily forget to search our hearts and motives.

Ultimately, you must decide if you’re willing to serve, sacrifice for, and forgive the person you are dating until death do you part. If the answer is no, then maybe you’re not yet ready for a marriage relationship, or maybe the person you’re dating isn’t the one you should wed in the covenant of marriage.

Six Questions to Ask of Your Dating Relationship

To get more specific, here are six questions to help you discern if you’re dating “the one”:

1. Are they using self-control? Are you using self-control?

Self-control is an important aspect of the fruit of the Spirit because it not only proves the activity of God in a person’s heart (John 15:8), it’s an indication of how this person will most likely act once they’re committed within a marriage.

Paul instructs husbands to love their wives as their own bodies, and he encourages wives to show respect to their husbands (Ephesians 5:28, 33). What’s the guarantee that either of these actions will take place in marriage if both were absent during dating?

If you or the person you are dating chooses not to practice self-control, then this is a red flag. Finding “the one” involves both being a self-controlled person as well as dating a self-controlled person.  

2. Are they willing to have hard conversations? Are you willing to have hard conversations with them?

I’ll never forget the first difficult conversation my husband and I had. We were not yet engaged, and we were both wondering, “Is this ‘the one’ for me?” When the confrontation happened, we handled it maturely, and that day became one of the defining moments that pushed us toward a decision to marry.

The willingness to engage the person you are dating in hard conversations, and the willingness to be open to constructive criticism, is an indicator that a certain necessary level of trust has been established. Trust, honesty, and speaking the truth in love are foundational elements of any healthy marriage, and dating is an opportune time to build this foundation through willing, gentle confrontation.

3. Are they quick to own up to their mistakes and sins? Are you quick to own up to yours?

If we believe that part of the purpose of marriage is to see each person become more like Christ, then quirks, mistakes, and even sins will be seen as opportunities to grow in spiritual maturity. Because of this reality, there’s freedom in our marriage to lay bare our sins and shortcomings before our spouse, knowing it’s their goal to point us to Christ and his gospel.

Do you see this quality in the person you are dating, or do they tend to hide their flaws and ignore their sins? Are you willing to own up to your sinfulness and ask forgiveness of the person you’re dating? Or do you often find yourself defending your choices and belittling your sin?

4. Have you seen them sacrifice something important for you? Have you sacrificed something important for them?

What are you willing to give up for the person you are dating? What are they willing to give up for you? Finding “the one” is about being ready and willing to lay down your very life, along with all of its details and preferences, for the benefit of the other person. It’s important to discern early on if dating is a mere confidence-booster for you, or if you truly desire to help the person you’re dating flourish and grow into Christ-likeness, at great cost to yourself.

This is why Paul calls marriage an illustration of Christ and the church. Jesus laid down his life to save a people for himself. He knew the cost would be his own blood, yet he willingly set his face to the cross, rather than demanding comfort and his rightful position as King and Lord.

You’ve most likely found “the one” when both of you have grasped the beautiful but costly gift of sacrifice in your dating relationship.

5. Do you trust this person? Do they trust you?

When no one’s looking, what are you doing? What are you thinking about? What about the person you’re dating?

Similar to self-control, walking consistently in loyalty, integrity, and uprightness is a vital part of a healthy, Christ-centered marriage. If you have reason not to trust your date because of consistent occurrences of dishonesty, you might want to reconsider the relationship (after gently, lovingly confronting the person). You know you’ve found “the one” when both parties delight in being faithful to one another in thought, word, and deed.

Will we as fallen humans mess up in this regard? No question about it. We will sin against each other. But the gospel reminds us we have the power and freedom to forgive one another, just as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13).

6. Ultimately, do you want to serve, sacrifice for, and forgive this person for the rest of your earthly life? Do they feel the same way?

Of course, there are plenty more questions you could ask in this regard. I would encourage to check out John Piper’s blog post “Questions to Ask When Preparing for Marriage.”

For the Long Haul

It’s normal to wonder if we’re obeying the Lord in our decision to date a person, and it’s especially normal (and good!) to desire alignment with God’s will in a decision for marriage. If you’re seeking the Lord, and if the Lord has placed a specific person in your life, then that relationship is indeed his will for you in that moment

And if the Lord is placing on both your hearts a desire to serve, sacrifice for, and forgive the person you are dating for the long haul, then have peace in knowing that marriage is most likely his will for you, that you have found “the one.”

This article has been adapted from its original version at iBelieve.

Kristen Wetherell

Kristen Wetherell is a wife, mother, and writer. She is the author of multiple books including Humble Moms, Fight Your Fears, Help for the Hungry Soul, and the board book series For the Bible Tells Me So, and the co-author of the award-winning book Hope When It Hurts.