The Sacred Search: What If It's Not about Who You Marry, But Why?

The Sacred Search: What If It's Not about Who You Marry, But Why?

by Gary Thomas


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What if you stopped looking for a “soul mate” and started looking for a “sole mate”—someone who will live out with you the great purpose of God? What if dating isn’t about finding “the one” but making a wise choice so you can better serve the One who loves you most? What if God didn’t design relationships to make you happy but to make you holy?
In The Sacred Search, Gary Thomas will transform the way you look at romantic relationships. Whether you are single, dating, or engaged, Gary’s unique perspective on dating will prepare you for a satisfying, spiritually enriching marriage even before you walk down the aisle. As Gary reminds us, a good marriage is not something you find—it’s something you make.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781434704894
Publisher: David C Cook
Publication date: 01/01/2013
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 46,802
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Gary Thomas is writer-in-residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, a frequent guest on Focus on the Family and FamilyLife Today, and a popular speaker around the world. His award-winning books have been translated into a dozen languages and sold hundreds of thousands copies. Thomas and his wife have three children.

Read an Excerpt




David C. Cook

Copyright © 2013 Gary Thomas
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4347-0489-4



The faithful pastor's face grew taut as he told me, "Let me be honest with you. My marriage has constituted the biggest cross of my life."

The tears that slipped out of his eyes and rolled down his cheeks provided a sobering picture of the weight this man carries with him every day of his life. Instead of launching him into newer and bigger opportunities, instead of providing encouragement and sustenance and hope, his marriage is acting like dead weight. God continues to use him, but he walks his journey with a rock in his shoe that hurts him every step of the way.

A thirty something woman looked into my eyes and let tears of another sort flow freely as she spoke of her husband's care for her. She's had some health-related issues to contend with, and life has not been easy, but her husband has been another kind of rock, a source of tremendous encouragement and acceptance: "Next to Jesus, my husband has been the greatest joy in my life. I can't even imagine where I'd be without him or how I would have faced all that I have without him by my side."

Both of these scenarios are true. I'm sorry that they may reinforce gender stereotypes—the male leader and the woman needing support. Because they are based in fact I can't, with integrity, change them. Look past that for a moment to see the real-life frustration and joy, respectively, that each person feels. One person is crying tears of pain, working as hard as he can to keep his marriage together, but his relationship is compared to a cross. It saps his strength, but he perseveres, because he knows it's the right thing to do.

The other person is also crying, but not because she is struggling through a difficult relationship. She weeps because she is grateful for a man who loves her so well, so wonderfully, that she can't imagine life without him.

Tears of pain and tears of joy.

A marriage compared to bearing the cross.

A union compared to a foretaste of heaven.

Ten years after you're married, what kind of tears will you be crying? Will they be the stinging tears of pain or warm tears generated by joy? The reality is, every marriage has plenty of both kinds of tears, but it's also true that some marriages are marked primarily by pain while others are marked primarily by joy. No marriage is easy, but some marriages build each partner up, while others tear each partner down. Every marriage takes time and effort, but some marriages sap the spouses' strength, while others generate joy and enthusiasm and intimacy.

I'm writing this book because I want you to cry tears of joy on your tenth anniversary. I want you to be able to say, with all sincerity, "Next to becoming a Christian, marrying _______ is the best decision I've ever made."

But here's the thing that might shock you: the answer to this question may well be driven more by why you get married than by who you marry. It's not that the "who" doesn't matter (in fact, it matters very much); it's just that asking and settling the "why" question first will set you up to make a wise choice about the "who." Why do you want to get married? That's what you need to ask before you decide who to marry.

It's a particularly important question because if you make one bad financial investment, you can always start over, but biblical marriage is a one-shot deal. Many Christians believe there are a couple of biblically "accepted" causes for divorce, but these are limited and severe. In the vast majority of cases, should you become disappointed in your choice, your obligation as a believer will be to work it out instead of walking out and starting over. This fact alone makes it doubly worth the time, effort, and even the heartache of a breakup for believers to make sure they're making a wise decision before they enter into marriage. Once you get married, every evening, every weekend, every holiday, every morning will be marked, for good or for ill, by that relationship.

The person you marry is the last person you'll see every night before you go to sleep. Their face is the first one you will see when you wake up in the morning. Their words will encourage or discourage you, their humor will make you laugh in amusement or cry in shame. Their body will pleasure you or threaten you. Their hands will hold you or hurt you. Their presence will be a healing balm or a reminder of all that could have been.

Many years ago, when speaking at an event in California, I slipped out of a hotel ballroom in order to pick up an extra shirt at an outside mall (poor packing). Surrounded by beautiful people in a beautiful setting, I longed more than I can describe to see my wife walking toward me. I had a fantasy about my wife, but there was nothing sexual about it. I just wanted to see her walking out of that mass of people and smiling in my direction, to know she would spend the rest of the weekend with me. It was an impossible fantasy—Lisa was a thousand miles away, just north of Seattle, caring for our children, but there wasn't a sight in the world that would have given me more joy that day than to see Lisa—my wife— walking toward me.

I want you to have moments like that—where, even when you're apart, you wish you could be together. I don't want you to be like so many couples I talk to whose fantasy is watching their spouses walk away.

It changes you as a person when a woman who calls you her pastor is crying on the phone because she's worried that your work with her husband will cause him to stay. She's exhausted by her marriage, disappointed to the extreme, ready for it to be over with—but she wants to honor God, so she and her husband meet with you. She then listens to you talk and thinks God might actually use you to convince her husband to fully repent and change his ways, and that's what causes her to break down. She and her husband had a good nine months of dating, but there hasn't been a good nine-month stretch in their entire ten-year marriage, and his divorcing her would feel like liberation.

I don't want that for you. I don't want you ever to be at a point where you think your happiness as a spouse depends upon my failure as a pastor to convince your spouse to stay. But, friends, that's real life for a lot of couples. They rushed the process or made the decision for poor reasons and now are fighting the consequences every day of their lives.


So let's briefly introduce the "why" of marriage to set you up to make a wise choice about the "who." A home established on Matthew 6:33—"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (NKJV)—is a glorious thing. While this verse contains a command, it's also an exciting promise of a rich and meaningful life. When husband and wife are committed in Christ, growing together in the Lord, supporting each other in their spiritual walks, raising children in the fear of the Lord, loving each other out of reverence for God, joy abounds and miracles happen. Selfish people become servants. Self-centered children grow up to become workers in God's kingdom. Strangers become intimate friends. Daily life is filled with the drama of kingdom building. There are plenty of mistakes, lots of repenting, times of frustration, sickness, and even doubts. But in the end, God's presence prevails, people are transformed, kingdom work is accomplished, and trials are overcome. If two people join themselves around this mission—if they make their marital choice based on the best person with whom they can accomplish this mission—they are far more likely to have a fulfilling and soul-building marriage.

On the other hand, I've witnessed how miserable people can make each other when they live for themselves. Though their initial sexual attraction might have been off the charts, it is usually only a matter of months until they are saying and doing awful, awful things to each other, so awful that they will call a pastor on the phone, someone they don't even know, because they are so desperate to find another way to live. There was a time when they couldn't live without each other; every second, they had to be together. They couldn't keep their hands off each other. Now they can't bear to live together. When they're in the same room, or in the same car, or on the same telephone call, they can't stop fighting.

It's made me realize that the old cliché is all too true: a good marriage is the closest two people will ever come to heaven this side of eternity; a bad marriage is the closest two people in an affluent society will ever come to hell.

Such problems usually erupt from trying to build a life together without purpose, without mission, without something that not only establishes a connection but keeps you caring about each other for the next fifty to sixty years.

Can I be honest with you? There isn't a person alive who can keep you enthralled for the next five or six decades. If they're really funny, really attractive, and you're really infatuated, you can be enthralled for a few years, but selfish people—even wealthy selfish people, or beautiful selfish people, or famous selfish people—eventually get bored with each other, and the very relationship that once gave them security and life feels like prison and death. No matter how intensely you feel in love now, the same thing will happen to you if you get married without a shared mission.

I want you to have a spiritually enriching marriage, a marriage that spawns life, vibrancy, intimacy, a lifetime of memories with your best friend, and the overwhelming joy of creating a family together. Family life is such a good life, and intimate marriage is such an amazing gift. The friendship that results from facing all seasons of life together, praying together, raising kids together, serving the Lord together, having fun, having sex, suffering heartaches and heartbreaks, overcoming setbacks and learning to deal with disappointments, growing together through all of them, creates a bond that no initial sexual attraction or romantic infatuation could ever hope to match.

The reward for making a wise marital choice is so tremendous that I don't want you to miss it. The consequences of making a foolish choice can be so painful and lasting that I don't want you to have to endure them.

I cannot overstate how crucial it is to be cautious and discerning in making such an important decision. You don't want to miss out, do you? This is not a time for romanticized foolishness. If you remain rooted in Christ, fully engage your mind, and draw on all your resources—God's guidance, Scripture, your family, your church, your sensible friends—and approach this decision with all intention, purpose, and wisdom, you are far more likely to enter a rich, satisfying, and soul-building marriage.

Ask yourself: "Ten years from now, what kind of tears do I want to be crying? Tears of joy, or tears of pain? Do I want to be in a marriage that lifts me up, or one that drags me down? A union marked by a shared partnership, or one where we're hiding from and hurting each other on a regular basis?"

Stick with me, and I'll do everything I can to help you cry tears of joy.


1. Describe a marriage you respect: what is it about the couple that makes you admire their relationship?

2. Ten years after you're married, how do you hope someone will describe your marriage relationship? Write out the "ideal" description of the relationship you hope to have.

3. Describe some of the marriages you've seen that you definitely do not want to model your own marriage on. What attributes of those relationships do you hope to avoid?

4. Have you ever asked yourself the question, "Why do I want to get married?" Why do you want to get married?

5. How do you think getting married with the intention of "seeking first the kingdom of God" will change the way you pursue someone to marry, as well as the type of person you might consider?



Can you help me out here? There must be a version of the Bible out there I haven't read yet, one that has a mysterious exception clause.

I thought I had the bases covered in my research. I've checked out the King James, the English Standard Version, the New King James, the New International Version (both the 1984 and the 2011 editions), the Message, the New Living Translation, the New American Standard, and many others. None of them—not one—contains the exception clause I'm looking for, so if you find it, will you please email me and let me know which version has it? Because apparently it's the version many singles read.

The exception clause I'm referring to is found in Matthew 6:33. Here's how it reads in the New King James Version: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

The mysterious version I'm looking for, the one I see so many people following and memorizing, goes something like this: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, except when you're choosing someone to marry. In that case, you should follow your emotions, insist on a thrilling romantic attraction and overall relational compatibility that makes the relationship fun, and then all these things will be added unto you."

Let me ask you: do you trust Jesus? Do you believe that He truly has your best interests at heart, that He would never mislead you—that if you follow His advice, you're setting yourself up for the best, most meaningful, and most fulfilling life imaginable? Can you count on Him knowing what He's talking about? Do you think it's possible that the second most important decision you'll ever make—who you marry—should be based on Jesus's fundamental agenda for our lives: seeking first God's kingdom and righteousness? Do you believe every significant decision we make should be run through this grid? If our choice of marital partner is an exception, what wouldn't qualify as an exception? If Jesus's words aren't relevant for such a crucial decision, why would they have any importance in any lesser decision?

I want to make a promise to you: if you will seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness and let that agenda drive your decision regarding whom you choose to marry and refuse to compromise on that, you will set yourself up for a much more fulfilling, spiritually enriching, and overall more satisfying marriage. The degree to which you compromise on this verse is the degree to which you put your future satisfaction in jeopardy and open wide the door to great frustration and even regret.


If you're under thirty years old, your generation is the first generation in about a hundred years not to assume that you need to call the phone company when you move into a new apartment or house. In my day, that was one of the first things we did—at college, and then afterward. We "hooked up the phones" so that people could get in touch with us.

Cell phones have demolished that assumption. Most people under thirty don't even have what used to be referred to as "land lines." If someone wants to reach you, they have your cell phone; why pay for a line inside your house?

And yet every month, millions of older people who own cell phones still pay thirty to forty dollars to maintain a home phone line, just because they always have.

You can laugh at your parents for not getting how the world has moved on, but there are a few things singles are susceptible to, things you take for granted, that just aren't true either. Even so, you keep on doing them, because everyone you know blindly accepts certain assumptions—such as the belief that you should seek romantic excitement and sexual chemistry above everything else when it comes to choosing someone to marry.

Our culture is still stuck on viewing marriage through the lens of happiness first and foremost—defining happiness by romantic intensity and sexual chemistry. Since the 1960s, sociologists have found a steady progression of young American men and women who demand more and more of love—yet we're getting less and less out of our marriages. In 1967, a study of college-age women found that 76 percent of women said they would marry someone if the man had every trait they were looking for, even if they didn't feel "romantic love" toward them. In more recent research, 91 percent of women said "absolutely not." That's a huge shift. People have been pursuing such pairings for several generations now, and I'm asking you to be an astute and honest observer: how's that working out for us?


Excerpted from THE SACRED SEARCH by GARY THOMAS. Copyright © 2013 Gary Thomas. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1 A Tale of Two Tears 13

2 The Great Exception 21

3 Vulnerable and Stupid 29

4 You Don't Want What You Think You Want 43

5 Soul Mate or Sole Mate? 55

6 A Match Made in Heaven? Isaac and Rebekah 71

7 The Religious Romance Lottery 77

8 Passive Surrender or Passionate Pursuit? Compelling Reasons to Get Married 83

9 What's Your Style? 91

10 Are You Strong Enough to be My (Wo)Man? 115

11 Making A Marriage 131

12 Something You Must Agree About 147

13 You're Looking for a Complement, not a Clone 157

14 What You Don't Know Really Can Hurt You 171

15 A Neurochemical War Against Your Reasoning 183

16 Problem People 203

17 Why You Won't Know Your Wife Until She Turns Thirty-Five 215

18 What About You? How Would Jesus Date? 223

19 Mercy Marriages 231

Epilogue: A New Vision 247

Author Information 251

Notes 253

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The Sacred Search: What If It's Not about Who You Marry, But Why? 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
LAWonder More than 1 year ago
Do you wonder why your marriage isn't what you thought it would be?   Are you single and cannot seem to find the "right one"?  Are you in a  relationship that doesn't seem to be going anywhere or has you confused?  How about, you are sure this must be true love and want to take it to the "next step". If you fit into any of these scenarios, then this is the book for you.  Even if you do not fit into these situations, and maybe just beginning to date, you STILL should read this book! In 'The Sacred Search', Gary Thomas touches upon what each individual needs to be observing and aware of in the dating process and with each's relationship with the opposite sex.  Each individual needs to be aware of their own thoughts and attitudes and not only of those of the other companion  involved. I doesn't matter which religious affiliation you have, nor does it matter if you really do not have one, this is still a book each needs to read and study.   All of us wants happiness in a relationship.  Within these pages are step-by-step direction in finding that fulfilling, long-term commitment.   At the end of each chapter are discussion questions to consider. Gary discusses the difference between true love and infatuation, between healthy relationships and unhealthy ones along with the attitudes that accompany them.  He discusses the reality of "Sole or Soul" mates.   Gary points out how some of us get caught I certain scenarios which leads us  to continue in unhealthy relationships with those with the same types of behaviors as in former relationships. I believe the points he makes in this book is the key to a truly happy, healthy, long-lasting marriage.  Don't we all seek happiness?  Many of us just do not know how or where to find it.  We often become dependent on others to make us happy. This is a much needed, inspired book.  These are directives and principles that can lead others to avoid the pain, rejection and devastation bad relationships can cause. I review this book giving it a strong Four Stars rating.  Although it is an excellent source, it does get quite repetitive at times. This book was generously went for an honest book review of which I have given.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JoelS More than 1 year ago
This book was a breath of fresh air! I kind of had an idea of who I wanted to marry and what I was looking for in someone, but this  book really helped me to 'cement' what I am really after.  
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CassandraCC More than 1 year ago
All single adults and parents of teens or adult children should read this excellent book. Although some principles are a review, other ideas were brand new--like his recommendation that those seeking marriage should be proactive, not just wait for God. And he cited biblical examples. This has been helpful to me as a parent of adult singles, and I have given copies to both my unmarried sons.
VicG More than 1 year ago
Gary Thomas in his new book, "The Sacred Search" published by David C. Cook asks us What If It's Not about Who You Marry, But Why? From the Back Cover: What if being in love isn't a good enough reason to get married? What if dating isn't about finding "The One" but about serving the One who loves you most? Don't get married until you read this book. What if you stopped looking for a "soul mate" and started looking for a "sole mate"--someone who will live out with you the great purpose of God? What if dating isn't about finding "the one" but making a wise choice so you can better serve the One who loves you most? What if God didn't design relationships to make you happy but to make you holy? In The Sacred Search, Gary Thomas will transform the way you look at romantic relationships. Whether you are single, dating, or engaged, Gary's unique perspective on dating will prepare you for a satisfying, spiritually enriching marriage even before you walk down the aisle. As Gary reminds us, a good marriage is not something you find--it's something you make. On the issue of marriage there are some issues that can be compromised on, this one shouldn't be. "The Sacred Search" is all about finding the person that you will not only spend the rest of your life with but will be the co-parent of your children and grandparent to your children's children. There is much that the Bible has to say on this matter and Gary Thomas addresses many of these issues. In marriage the person you marry will be your best friend, your confidant, your beloved so choosing that special someone better be done wisely and according to the way God has said. Gary Thomas in "The Sacred Search" has given us a book that will help anyone looking to get married laser focus their vision. I recommend this book highly! Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from David C. Cook for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Theophilusfamily More than 1 year ago
 Gary Thomas has written a book that I have filled up with notes.  This quote is an excellent summary of why Sacred Search was written- "I am writing this book because I want you to cry tears of joy on your tenth wedding anniversary. I want you to be able to say, with all sincerity, 'Next to becoming a Christian, marrying ___ is the best decision I've ever made.'"      I think we all want to sincerely cry tears of joy  on our wedding anniversary!     This is Gary Thomas's vision for Kingdom Marriage. "I pray that God will raise up couples who are so in tune with each other that they will be that much stronger to withstand the inevitable spiritual assaults that are unleashed on any productive Christian. I pray Christian believers will conceive and/or adopt lots of children and let them see what a God centered view of marriage is. I pray that while such couples will certainly need times of support and counsel as they work through the issues of their sin, even more they will be a resource to other couples--of counsel, prayer, encouragement, and example.  We need more of these families.  There can't ever be too many of such families. There is a dearth of these families today. many of you will get only one chance to create such a family. Please choose wisely. We need you to make the right choice."      Knowing that we are responsible to advance Christ's Kingdom, and knowing that we will be either torn down or built up by our spouse, we must marry wisely, discerning whom God would have us marry.  They will be our best friend, our confidant, our beloved, our husband or wife. And not only our spouse, they will be the mother or father of our babies. And their parents will be our baby's grandparents. For Christians looking to leave a legacy, the grandparents are essential to consider. It is a blessing like rain on a field to have godly grandparents, because they will be a secure wall around your family and teach your children Scripture with you.  I was so glad to see this in Sacred Search. I was also glad to see pornography handled in this book. A porn addiction is a real reason to call off an engagement. A healthy, loving marriage will not fill the hole that dark sin is occupying. You will not change them by loving them. Their perceived "needs" will not be met by your love. A book for further study on this, even for unmarried people, would be Vicki Tiede's When your Husband is Addicted to Pornography.  Her book takes an unflinching look at recovery after a marriage to a hard core porn addict. Another idea I was pleased to see here was Mercy Marriages, which is when a person marries someone who is spiritually immature, or addicted to drugs or alcohol to "save" them. Scripture says Do not be unequally yoked.  I love Gary Thomas' complementarian stance, and his vision for marriage. This book emphasizes the need to agree on things before you marry, and at the same time Gary Thomas knows that agreement with each other is not enough. To glorify God in your marriage you must agree with HIM, and make His choices your choices. Too many couples think there are a lot of neutral choices, neither good or bad, and as long they they agree they are free to choose whatever they want.  I disagree that there are any morally neutral choices about anything, even less so about children, roles or work. As Gary Thomas says, when talking about roles in marriage, "Ultimately this is a biblical issue more than it is a matter of what you want. After you reach that conclusion (of what Scripture teaches), find a believer who agrees with you. Some issues can be compromised on. This one shouldn't be." (I am not sure what issues can be compromised on- other than a true matter of preference.) My thoughts. 1. It is more important that you both agree with God than with each other.     If your marriage is truly going to Glorify God you must seek to be taken captive by Scripture  alone and to agree with God on every issue, not just each other.  Scripture is our final authority. If your spouse bucks having Scripture as his authority rather than his own will, you have a sin to deal with. We must lay aside our own will and the agendas of our culture. This is extremely needful. We have been assaulted with the anti-Christian agendas of the world and some have learned to interpret Scripture in light of them. A thorough study of where our presuppositions about love, marriage, children and roles came from, who gave them to us, and whether they were advancing the Kingdom or attacking it when they began selling us their ideas, and then replacing these ideas with Scripture is at the core of renewing your mind. Finding this out before marriage is imperative. 2. Some choices you feel free to agree on are NOT your choices to make.      You can't decide how you are going to define your gender roles  in your marriage. God already did, and His definitions are beautiful. A time of Scripture seeking on gender roles and roles of wives and husbands is the way to begin a marriage. A study of where egalitarian "interpretations" came from and when they cropped up would also be helpful, as well as a look at Historic Christianity and its teaching on gender. We aren't free to self define. You also are not free to define your sexuality. Mutual agreement is not acceptable justification for an act that God and sound sense condemns. 3. Some preferences are sins.     If a wife is crying in shame because of her husbands "humor"- then we must find out if that "humor" was objectively shameful- crude, vulgar, obscene, foul, and so should make a Christian cry in shame.  In that case the man is in sin, and is disobeying Ephesians, where it says that we must put away crude talk and coarse joking. If he continues in crudity then he is either saturated with Culture's words instead of Scripture's words or maybe he is a non-Christian.     If the humor was fine but the wife just does not like jokes about slipping on a banana peel, we have a different situation- a preference. And he can either love her selflessly and pack up the bananas, or she can learn to laugh with him at that innocent joke. In a culture that devalues marriage and routinely speaks evil of this covenant that God ordained,  we need every portion of wise counsel on marriage we can get. Sacred Search raises some very good points to remember.    I would recommend that you read It's Not that Complicated by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin for a very sensible, Biblical look at relationships with a view toward purity and marriage, and that you watch Voddie Baucham's series of Videos Love and Marriage. They can be seen free on youtube.