“But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife.”—1 Corinthians 7:33 (ESV)
There was a young missionary couple living in Sudan. Decades of civil war had made roads impassable, so they had to walk between villages to minister. Eventually, walking became increasingly painful for his wife, but with no doctors nearby, there was no treatment available. While home on a short leave, his wife visited a doctor and was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. She had to remain home in the states to receive the necessary treatment. The mission field was no longer an option for his wife.
One hundred and fifty years ago, there would have been no question what this husband would have done. He would have left his young wife home with family and returned to Africa to continue God’s work. Many of our missionary heroes have stories that read exactly like this.
Today, the opposite choice is made with little thought. The husband stays home to care for his wife. The season for work in the foreign field has passed.
Paul instructs readers through a delicate teaching. At a glance, it looks like Paul is pro-celibacy and anti-marriage. But nothing could be further from the truth. Paul is not elevating one calling above the other. In fact, if you read Ephesians 5:22–32, you’ll discover that Paul describes the marriage relationship between a husband and wife as the best expression Christ’s love for His bride, the Church.
Paul is answering specific questions that have been raised by the congregation in Corinth about a young engaged man with a strong call on his life to ministry.
Paul wants the man to be as free of worry as possible so, like a wise mentor, he lays it all out for him. During this season of singleness, he can give himself fully to the Lord. If he has a stronger sense that it’s time to be married, then get married. But if he tries to do both—that is, launch a new ministry venture and get a new marriage off the ground—he’ll endure more stress than he’s built for.
Examine the season you’re in, status of your relationships, and call of God on your life and decide where the Lord is leading you. But don’t try to do it all.