When it comes to finding a wife, I was using Proverbs 18:22 as proof positive of the belief that I needed to exert as much effort as I could to successfully find a woman worthy of marrying (and who saw me worthy of marrying too.) I pulled this verse out again when having an argument with a dear friend who said I needed to learn how to wait on the LORD instead of taking matters into my own hands, using it once more to refute my friend’s point.
But then I went back and re-read the verse carefully, and for the first time I realized I had been too presumptuous about the meaning of the word “find.” According to Hebrew’s lexicon, the word here is matsa’ (transliterated), and carries a variety of related meanings (based on the Hebrew tense Qal):
- to find, secure, acquire, get (thing sought)
- to meet, encounter
- to learn, devise
- to come upon, light upon
- to happen upon, meet, fall in with
- to befall
What the word indicated more than anything else was a state of discovery, yet I misinterpreted “find” to mean “to actively seek after,” which was not what the verse was indicating. Had the writer meant whoever actively sought after a wife would find a good thing, he likely would have used the word “baqash” instead, which is translated, “to seek to find.”
After all, one can find or discover something without actually looking for it (which is essentially what the word “encounter” means). I’ve seen this verse used before to chide people for not actively looking for their future spouses, but it seems clear to me it wasn’t meant to be conveyed that way to the reader.
So does this mean I should no longer actively seek a wife? No, I don’t think I’d agree with that either, it only means I no longer have the biblical justification I thought I once did to comb the entire world until I finally find my bride to be.
Some things really are better left up to God to handle, especially when it pertains to something as life changing and important as marriage. But rather than go from one extreme to the other (from exerting all human effort to meet someone, to hiding out in the closet and expecting the world to be handed to me), it’s better that I focus on renewing my faith in the LORD’s promises to give to those who ask of Him, and mentally preparing myself to be a good husband and friend to whoever God sees fit to bring into my life. Beyond that there’s no use fretting over things that I ultimately have no control over.