From Friendship to Marriage
God’s love displayed in the growth of a relationship
The following story is the account of how my wife, Sarah, and I grew to know and love each other. Even more, it is the story of how our relationships with our heavenly Father grew through our commitment to wait on Him to bring about His best in our lives. My comments appear first, and Sarah’s follow in italics.
Discovering Common Interests and Compatibility
I first noticed Sarah when she was straightening chairs. It was the fall of 2001, and we were preparing a room for a children’s program. During that week’s skits, games, and hard work, I became interested in Sarah. I had one problem: I was 20 years old and wasn’t ready for marriage. I had made a commitment to pursue courtship instead of dating. This choice involved an agreement with my parents that I would wait on romantic relationships until I was ready for marriage. Therefore, I kept my relationship with Sarah at the level of a casual friendship.
It wasn’t love at first sight, but it was definitely close. During that weeklong children’s program, I noticed a number of things about Kirk that I really liked. I enjoyed his sense of humor and his love of fun, and I admired his humility and his walk with the Lord. I also loved that he was absolutely great with children. We found we had a number of common interests and that we worked very well together. By the end of the week, my interest was piqued. I had a crush on Kirk.
Fighting the Battle of the Heart: Waiting
I left California in January of 2002 to volunteer for a year with the IBLP Prison Ministry in Little Rock, Arkansas. Later that year, I mentioned to my dad that I was interested in Sarah. He said, “Well, Kirk, you lack two things: a good job and a college degree. ” He counseled me to wait until I was equipped to pursue a relationship. My one year in Little Rock stretched into three, and during this time I gained more responsibility and maturity.
I still had Sarah in the back of my mind. No one else I met could compare with her. I was a little worried about waiting—after all, I felt that any guy in his right mind could see Sarah was a wonderful young lady! However, I believed that if she married someone else, then it would not have been God’s will for me to marry her. If it was God’s will for us to be together, He could keep us for each other until the time was right.
Sarah and I had occasional contact through the friendship of our families and business phone calls to IBLP Headquarters, where Sarah worked for a while. Every time we met or talked, it was a challenge to be patient and continue as casual friends.
When Kirk left for Little Rock, I was disappointed. Although nothing had been said, I was pretty sure he liked me, and I had hoped that something might come of it. However, God had just begun our story, and it wasn’t nearly finished. I desperately fought the battle of the heart. I remember praying that the Lord would give me Kirk as a husband—quickly! God answered me right away with one word … “Wait.” God also challenged me to keep my heart pure for my husband. Since I didn’t know exactly who that would be, I needed to keep my heart free from any romantic entanglement with Kirk. I went to my dad often and asked him to pray for me because Kirk was on my mind a lot, and I desired to like him more than I felt I should at that time.
Surrendering Hopes and Focusing on God
During my last year in Little Rock, I became restless and thought about Sarah and marriage. At the end of the year, I moved home to California and took a good job with Mono County. In January of 2005, I was still restless and looking for fulfillment. I wasn’t finding fulfillment in my relationship with the Lord. Although I’d been taught all my life that I was supposed to find fulfillment in Him, it just wasn’t happening. Finally, I realized that I was doing religious things because I wanted other people to admire me. I decided to just be real about who I was and the struggles I was going through. I became willing to admit that I had problems and that I wasn’t the perfect Christian I had wanted others to believe me to be. I then realized the Lord’s grace and love in a deeper way, and I learned to love and enjoy my relationship with the Lord.
During this time, I surrendered the possibility of a relationship with Sarah to the Lord. Though I was still interested in her, I decided that I’d rather draw closer to the Lord than anything else, even if it meant giving up my dreams of Sarah and marriage. I told the Lord that I was committed to doing things His way.
Kirk stayed on in Little Rock, and he stayed on and on at Little Rock. I began to wonder if he was ever coming home! During those years, I spent time investing in various ministries, building new skills, and learning a lot about working with people. My work with IBLP in Chicago occasionally brought me in contact with Kirk by phone, and I looked forward to those calls. All the while, God continued asking me to keep marriage in His hands and not to take it into my own. I struggled with finding contentment in the Lord alone and with serving Him as a single person. Slowly, God taught me, and one day I realized with great joy that I was content and ever so happy in that contentment.
Shortly after finding contentment in the Lord, He started bringing my attention to points of discontentment in my heart. I found I wasn’t ready to give them up or deal with them, and I often followed after my own ways and desires. Soon I was very unhappy and knew that my relationship with the Lord and my parents was not what it should be. God started asking me a series of “Will you trust me? ” questions. I decided I wanted to spend the year 2005 working on my relationship with the Lord, so He and I did just that.
During that time, God continued to ask me to trust Him and give Him the things I held dearest. One of those things was the never-ending hope to marry Kirk. I surrendered it completely to God, putting it in His hands. He asked me the same thing with most everything, until one day I told the Lord, “Yes, nothing is more important than You. What I want most is to do whatever You ask, to go wherever You call.” With this surrender, I came to understand God’s rest and peace like I had never experienced it before.
Receiving Direction—At Last!
As my relationship with the Lord started growing, He began asking me “What if?” questions about issues in my life. He worked on my heart until I could finally say, “I’d be willing to do that if you asked me to.” Then it seemed God would say, “Okay—just wondering.” One day, I sensed the Lord asking, “What if I wanted you to marry Sarah?”
“I’d be really happy!” I replied. Afterwards, I felt the Lord finally leading me down the path toward marriage. God’s direction was confirmed through my parents’ blessing as I spoke with them about Sarah.
On December 26, 2005, I took the fearful plunge of talking with Sarah’s father about beginning a courtship. After I corresponded with him for about three months, he gave me his permission to win Sarah’s hand in marriage. The Lord blessed our time of courtship, and I found out that Sarah had been interested in me all those years. As we talked of practical matters, our dreams, and our goals, I felt the Lord's confirmation that Sarah was the right one for me. I asked Sarah if she would marry me, and she joyfully consented.
Early in 2006, I began to suspect that Kirk was getting serious about marriage and that I was the object of his interest, but I didn’t know for sure. I realized that while I still hoped to be his wife, I could now trust God as the Giver of good gifts to guide and direct my path. Once again, I put Kirk and I in His hands and told my closest friend that I was ready to serve God either single or married—that I could be happy either way.
Two days later, my dad told me that Kirk had asked to court me! We began courting early in March and enjoyed a wonderful three months of getting to know more about each other. Then on June 17, to my unmatched delight, Kirk asked me to marry him. I give God all the glory for what He has done and how He has brought us together in His perfect time.
Enjoying God’s Goodness and Mercy
Sarah and I are now married and overflowing with blessings from the Lord. We joyfully give Him the credit for how He prepared us for each other and brought us together in His time. We gave the Lord control of this area of our lives, and He has blessed us in a way that is so much better than we had even dreamed. The method of courtship is good, but it is not the method that blessed us. Rather, our relationships with our loving heavenly Father brought us through it.
About the Author
Kirk and Sarah Hartstrom live in California, with their infant son, Caleb David. Read more about the Hartstroms >>
Related Command of Christ
This testimony illustrates the command of Christ to Love the Lord. (See Matthew 22:37–38.) In their single years, Kirk and Sarah made their relationships with God their number one priority. By honoring His direction regarding marriage, their walks with God deepened and now enrich their union.
The views expressed and information given in this article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of IBLP or Bill Gothard.