The greatest struggle of my adult life

Marriage is the second biggest choice anyone ever makes outside of their choice to accept Jesus. Every culture the world over has marriage of some kind, along with religion and alcohol. The choice of these three go far in making up the characteristic of a person. Marriage should be taken very seriously.

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When I first discovered about marriage by faith I was in shock. For those who are new readers marriage by faith typically works like this. Your personal mentor, usually referred to as a shepherd, decides you are ready to marry. He asks you if you are ready to marry. If you say no he waits and prays. He might ask you from time to time. But eventually once you say yes he picks someone from UBF and puts the two of you together. You are encouraged to make a choice quickly for God, and once that happens you marry in a short period of time. Your marriage from the start is all about honoring God, which means you are expected to become a missionary, pastor, or personal shepherd yourself. This is the mission of marriage as explained by most UBF people.

All of this seems tame but as I read about this topic and questioned it more it made me uneasy. It is a bad thing to feel uneasy about your marriage, since as I have mentioned it is so important. Here are the things I was uneasy about after reading nearly everything on the internet about the topic, and after speaking with dozens of people all around the world who were married by faith. I am not saying these always happen, but I read about it enough for me to become very concerned about marriage by faith.

  • The pastor, director, or shepherd gets between the couple if it is seen as being in the interest of the UBF chapter.
  • The pastor, director, or shepherd picks a person who is very loyal to UBF to marry someone who is not so loyal, and uses to loyal member to keep the not so loyal member in the chapter.
  • Children are seen as being secondary to world mission and are treated as such. Reports of children being left in rooms alone while the parents were in a prayer meeting were common.
  • Pastors, directors, shepherds not sharing to one of the to-be-married people very critical information that someone being arranged married ought to know such as mental illness, homosexual tendencies, stds, etc.
  • The families of the arranged parties being very nearly the last thought. Reports of families pushed aside.
  • Extremely sudden marriages after engagement.
  • Cancelled marriages when one party did not show enough loyalty. In at least one case a kidnapping of one of a bride to be.
  • A coercive effort to stop any dating because marriage by faith is the best way to marry.
  • A contrived argument based on an Old Testament narrative that because Isaac married Rebekah in the way he did, we should also; while in truth the practice is an Asian tradition being held up with a flimsy theological backing.
  • Dishonesty about what marriage by faith is, how it happens, and why it exists.

I cannot tell you how much I wanted to ignore these things. I really hated dating, and I really saw that the women who were married in UBF were Godly and loved Jesus. I really cannot impress that enough here. The women in UBF are nearly all kind, gracious, loving, and gentle. I had always deeply feared that I would not find someone. Most of my teenage years were spent praying for someone who would love me one day. Even when I was dating as a high school I had marriage on my mind. I intentionally did not date anyone my last two years of high school because I knew we could never marry if we went to different colleges. So for me I wanted to accept Marriage by Faith, but even as I tried to turn a blind eye to all the problems; the one that kept haunting me was how my bible studies kept trying to enforce it. The argument to marry by faith came up again and again where I felt like it didn’t belong. And in my heart I just could not accept such a lie masquerading as truth. At some point my questions became such that I was actually accused of jealously of my roommate. At this point I swore off the practice all together. I told people I wanted to be celibate. I was laughed at. I told people I didn’t want to marry now.  I thought I would give it more time. Better that I say “no” then “yes” than “yes” then “no” was my thought. After being held at gun point by a student I knew I couldn’t go back to my high school, but I needed a job. South Korea had been an option the summer before. I was praying for God’s direction. I knew what going to South Korea would mean and I was told that “God” would pick someone for me to marry if I went there. I was so conflicted as to what to do. I needed a job more than anything and Korea was a sure thing. But marriage? If I talked to missionaries they wouldn’t understand, if I talked to my friends they wouldn’t understand. In my heart of hearts I wanted to marry but every part of me screamed that this was just so wrong. I had nightmares about it. “You can’t be forced to do anything.” Is what I thought, but then I wondered how much self-control I could have after meeting a kind, wonderful, person who loved God. Would I really be strong enough to turn her down? It was consuming all my time. I was reading everything I could, just hoping that I could find something that would let me accept it and would ease my mind. But the more I read the worse it got. I started fearing that someone would be suddenly be introduced, and that I would be so stricken that I lost my sense of reason. I was at a cross road. It was the greatest struggle of my adult life, and it was a struggle I held in secret. I pleaded with God. If this is really your will let that be done I prayed. At the last minute I applied to graduate school last. I did not expect to get in since my grades were not good. God saves and I was accepted to graduate school. I knew in graduate school I would not be bothered by the marriage question. My chapter had had other graduate students and they were always so busy that the missionaries respected their study and did not often bring up the marriage topic. I had been in conversation with a certain Dr. Benjamin Toh, whom I met through this blog. I told him excitedly “At least they won’t talk about marriage anymore.” And his reply was something that changed my life: “Do you want to be married?…”

 

Next time I will discuss how God answered me.

25 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing, Forests. Your struggle reminds me of my own struggle regarding marriage in 1980 when I became a Christian since I was still single…except that there was no internet for me to search and read about some bad stories!

    Also, I was not afraid of being smitten by the person introduced to me, but being a perpetual pessimist I was deathly mortified of marrying someone I was not attracted to, but would then still feel pressured and compelled to “just marry her by faith and trust God.”

    In a sense I just “bit the bullet and married by faith,” gritting my teeth…but to my surprise it turned out for me to be my happiest story next to knowing Jesus, since it is nothing but God’s overwhelming mercy and grace to me through UBF: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/01/23/if-not-for-ubf-i-would-not-be-married/

  2. Thanks for sharing forests. You correctly expressed 10 horrid problems created by MbF. I have witnessed all 10 of these problems first hand multiple times.

    Even my MbF, which was considered successful until we left, we experienced some of those 10 problems. As I wrote about in my first book, “Rest Unleashed”, I tricked the MbF system and therefore mitigated many of these 10 problems for us.

    The bottom line for ubf: The MbF process needs to STOP and be completely overhauled.

    • forestsfailyou
      forestsfailyou

      It was very interesting to see how the MBF was done in the Philippines. Dr. William told me “In the Philippines marriage is supreme.” The Philippines actually bans divorce. The only way to end a marriage is with a annulment which requires that the married parties convince a priest that their marriage was never valid in the first place. The marriage bond is so sacred in their eyes and nearly all aspects of their culture reflect this. I think in a later article I will discuss how the MBF is different there and why I think it works much better.

  3. Maybe this is rather simplistic (yet perhaps still a rather prominent blind spot), but in my opinion all that really needs to be done and accepted is to do what many already teach in UBF through Bible studies and preaching:

    LET GOD BE GOD!

    What should be obvious from teaching and declaring this is that no man should play God over the marriage and the lives of others.

  4. Joe Schafer

    Great article; I look forward to the next one.

    Forests wrote:

    * “Cancelled marriages when one party did not show enough loyalty. In at least one case a kidnapping of one of a bride to be. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/01/06/the-greatest-struggle-of-my-adult-life/#more-8753

    Actually it gets worse than that. I know of two cases (both involving Americans) where people were threatened that their marriages would be cancelled AFTER they had already gotten married. And there are multiple instances where UBF leaders told someone to divorce a spouse because the spouse chose to leave UBF.

    • Mark Mederich

      man thinks he is god & can cancel a marriage, being an “indian giver” as sarah barry later commented; & so called leaders inducing divorce is reprehensible; so I now tell those leaders to divorce UBF-if they can’t overcome the wrong system & do right themselves, or be considered “white-washed tombs”
      (NIV: Matthew 23:27
      “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”

    • Mark Mederich

      HALLELUJAH! (PRAISE GOD!)
      humans incur the trouble of doing wrong until able to do right, prophets endure the trouble of doing right until humans able to stop doing wrong

  5. Thanks for sharing, Forests! Now I finally found out why you didn’t go to South Korea!

    I appreciate how you said you felt inclined to marriage by faith. Honestly, I also married by faith thinking that the UBF way was just so much better. Deep down inside, i disliked dating and wrongly embraced marriage by faith as a cop-out. If you marry by faith, any problems that result can be voided of responsibility, since it’s God who does it, at least that’s the mentality I think.

    I might have had a better experience than some. I read several people’s life testimonies before settling on my wife. My bible teacher prayed that God would move my heart, and I to this day believe God indeed did move my heart. I did put my faith in God, and I’m keeping it there!

    God has used it. But in no way should anyone ever think that’s the only way.

    There are always costs, too. My ministry strongly felt that after I married, three other people in my ministry ought to then marry. They were seen as those who would go after me, instead of free disciples of Jesus. Then the focus in our ministry was to get the others married, and surprise surprise, they all left. They tried to warn me too. It’s my sin that I allowed my marriage to be a standard against which they are measured, and I live in repentance of that sin every day.

    What do the leaders earn by getting shepherds to marry by faith? Notoriety, I think. All the testimonies people hear about how “God worked” that are so inspiring. It gains leaders “face” in the UBF community and earns them privileges and good gossip for years and years.

    Marriage by faith means trusting God–we should believe in God more than ourselves and our spouse. But in UBF unfortunately, in all too many cases, the “By Faith” part actually meant “According to X UBF Leader”.

    Be wise my friend. Be sober. Do everything before God. Personally, God let me marry by faith, but I think to see what it would give me. I was personally blind to the issues people brought up to me about it. God has been with us. But I got what I wished for in more ways than one. Yes, God can always work. But he gave us a brain and he does want us to use it.

    • forestsfailyou
      forestsfailyou

      In my many readings I heard about you long before I met you. It would take me too long to find it, but the topic was that you married without seeing the persons face. That was the way it was reported by UBF (later the announcement was taken down as people pointed at it). One person said something like “They finally got to Matt. Looks like he’s trapped. I am glad I got out when I did.” Later when I met you I found this wasn’t really true.

  6. Thanks, Matt, It’s so encouraging and heartening for me to hear you say this: “It’s my sin that I allowed my marriage to be a standard against which they are measured, and I live in repentance of that sin every day.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/01/06/the-greatest-struggle-of-my-adult-life/#comment-16146

    For a time, I shamefully allowed myself to be a standard to be followed by others, including my dear wife. I too live in broken repentance of such arrogance to this day.

    For the last six years since West Loop started in 2008 I have been apologizing to a dear American friend for butchering his lovely American speech by giving him two decades of “message training,” in order to (YIKES!) sound like me! Thank God that he forgave me. Thank God that after six years, he finally began to speak like himself, and it is lovely indeed!

    • forestsfailyou
      forestsfailyou

      It was interesting to see how people reacted to my brother’s marriage. My brother married on a Saturday. I asked a close friend in UBF if he would come with me, but he said he had a prayer meeting to attend so he wouldn’t come. My roommate Peter went with me though and we had a great time. When they were prayed over later it was said “We pray for this couple.” They were called a “beautiful couple”. House church or coworker or any of those UBFisms were never used, even though they are both Christians. To their credit they were given a gift when they attended church the next week, but it defiantly showed the double standard. It showed me that their marriage wasn’t “real” in some sense to them.

  7. While my own marraige story ended well, and my marraige is now and always has been one of the greatest blessings in my life, I have much to say against the whole process of MBF. Until very recently, I still had nightmares about it. Perhaps I will again. Thank you for sharing your struggle, Forests. It is good to get his out into the open.

    • Here’s hoping that more and more people like Forests will speak up until the traditional longstanding enforcers of MBF begin to realize just how much the “whole process of MBF” is highly traumatic to some people, no matter how much their own marriage may be happy and blessed. The latter “good result” can never ever excuse the former “horrible inexcusable process.”

  8. Forests, I’m deeply impressed with how you’ve navigated through this process. You’ve done your research and have sincerely prayed to make a god-honoring decision. At the same time, I’m very sorry that you were subjected to this kind of hell. This is exactly the type of thing that should be brought up to the ethics committee. Why would someone who is supposed to be God’s servant or a venerable leader in the organization cause someone under their care to suffer like this? Why is this continually overlooked/excused and even promoted in the organization?

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Agreed. It’s good to read how forests benefited from hearing the stories of those who went before him. Looking forward to hearing the rest of his story.

      Also, “Why is this continually overlooked/excused and even promoted in the organization?” That’s a good question. What UBF has done with marriage has become the staple of a UBF committed disciple and the single, most important way to show one’s faith in God. I attended a UBF wedding recently where the words “faith,” “trust” and “from God” were used so often it felt like the whole ceremony was a way to convince us all that the couple trusted in God in the most important way by marrying like this. Near the end of the reception, the mother of the groom came out and said, “We thank you for coming,” and, “We invite you all into our family.” I felt so sad when I heard her say that. She spoke as if the church were the family’s guests. But really the family are the guests. This was a UBF wedding. It was probably going to happen even if the family didn’t like it. Here was the mother welcoming the church into the family. It called to mind how often I heard of people being told to leave their families, to cut ties and time with family, to not be family-centered and to sacrifice them, even letting the dead bury their own dead. I also hurt my family in the way I married and I’m very sorry for it.

      Promoting marriage in this way is manipulating. I jokingly said, since the shepherd or director even determines who people marry, the church should also decide where people work and where they live, only to realize that UBF already does that!

    • Mark Mederich

      very insightful & helpful comment

  9. Mark Mederich

    marriage has been misused as a tool for corporate gain; atrocities have been committed; recompense must be paid

    • Mark Mederich

      when the outcry reaching heaven is enough/when sin reaches full measure, God acts swiftly/mightily punishing the unrelenting insolent & helping the enslaved/mistreated
      (NIV Genesis 15: ’12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

  10. I’m a product of MBF. I benefitted from it greatly. Also, the examples of MBF around me are really beautiful. But like others have commented already that doesn’t mean it is the only way to marry. (Although in UBF that’s pretty much how it works.)I think there was a time for MBF, but now that time is changing. First of all, it is such a slow process. It takes too long for a Bible teacher/”shepherd” to choose a spouse for each of his “sheep”. There are a lot of young people in UBF. They shouldn’t just sit and wait around to be introduced. A man of God should be able to pray about his marriage instead of waiting for someone to hand pick a spouse for them. I have friends who are waiting to be introduced to someone and another who wanted to get married and had a believing lady in mind, but his “shepherd” wouldn’t let him. My advice to them is to go out and meet someone. My advice to their “shepherds” is to trust them. Secondly, there is a double standard. Dating is frowned upon, but in MBF people call dibs on each other. My mom (behind my back) was asking about someone for me and it turns out he already has someone (or his “shepherd” has someone in mind for him. I don’t know if he knows.) And I realized that to get married you have to act fast and tell your “shepherd” to put a hold on that person. It’s just like dating but its hush hush. You’re supposed to act like you don’t want to get married, even though you really do. Anyways, there’s so much drama. UBF is very different from other churches in regards to marriage.

    • Well said, MJ. I observed and experience most of what you say. A while back I shared some thoughts on how to survive marriage-by-faith.

      When it comes to marriage, you are right MJ–ubf is VERY different. New bible students in college need to prepare for arranged marriage under the guise of trusting God. All of your faith and Christian life will be measured by it.

  11. I believe marriage by faith is beautiful..the problem is the rules of UBF…these rules are replacing God’s love and righteousness..UBF tries to establish their own righteousness…MBF is a rule not in love for people, families and the body of Christ…dating is a great way to learn God’s love and get to know the person you are marrying…trust God love and let people to be free to chose God love…to much control and playing God…

  12. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    A contrived argument based on an Old Testament narrative that because Isaac married Rebekah in the way he did, we should also; while in truth the practice is an Asian tradition being held up with a flimsy theological backing. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/01/06/the-greatest-struggle-of-my-adult-life/#comment-16185

    This is terrible and taught throughout UBF. This teaching goes hand in hand with “sacrificing Isaac” and “sending away Ishmael” which both produce the same result–cutting off and getting rid of a current boyfriend or girlfriend, in order to seek “God’s way.” Who didn’t get this kind of teaching during their Genesis Bible study? I cannot find any place where the apostles taught about Isaac and Ishmael like this. But we can find them teaching about Isaac and Ishmael in view of Christ, such as in Galatians 4:21-31, which I never heard taught in UBF Genesis Bible studies on Isaac and Ishmael.

  13. UBF is blinded to fact that all Christian marriages are by faith…they try to make marriages so that people commit to UBF…when you dont know your wife it can be scary when you find out…the goal is to make you a slave to their twisted theolgy…love is replaced with rules and is very harmful to families…so blessed to be free in love and grace….Forests, you are right they look down on traditional Christian marriages….everyone travels from a far to attend their weddings…once I helped one —-of my bible students to pop the question tohis girlfriend..I was best man at the wedding but nobody I invite UBF came…there is an air of superiority and pride in UBF…God had to deal with me….UBF needs real healing

    • forestsfailyou
      forestsfailyou

      Yes there is definitely a lot of double standards. Later when my roommate met my fiance on skype, she said “oh you are a product of marriage by faith too.” And he replied “Yes, we did it by the book. The unspoken UBF book.”

      Your book was very helpful for me to see the what could happen. You spoke a lot about your regret that you did not date longer and it was a major consideration in not immediately proposing.

  14. Mark Mederich

    those who have controlled shall be controlled..