…Not Just A Beautiful Wedding. Are you thinking about getting married, or planning to get married? For most couples, this is a somewhat scary, exciting, tense, and overwhelming time. Love-struck young couples need support and encouragement to manage the stress that will inevitably result from the process of becoming “one flesh” with another sinful human being.  They need help even deciding whether to commit to becoming one with each other.  A marriage that lacks true spiritual intimacy between both partners and the Lord will fail to achieve true intimacy in any other respect.  Conversely, a strong Christian marriage illustrates the gospel and lives out its implications through a depth of intimacy that unbelievers cannot fathom.  I suggest three environments Christian young couples should commit to as they move towards marriage to ensure that they don’t simply plan a wedding, but build a gospel-centered marriage: a biblical community suited to the needs of engaged couples (or those considering engagement), intensive premarital counseling, and mentoring by a couple that has been married at least 10 years.

Community. A primary need of engaged couples is to establish two critical lines of support as they build on their relationship with the Lord and each other.  They need relationships with other Christian couples who are preparing for marriage and with spiritually mature Christian couples who are seasoned in marriage.  Obviously, the local church is the primary place where Christian couples should look to establish both of these types of relationships. A multi-generational small group or Bible study consisting of couples in various stages of life is ideal. However, if your church doesn’t offer community in this form, I highly recommend that you seek it out on your own. An excellent resource in a workbook format that I utilize in premarital counseling is Catching Foxes, by John Henderson. Reading and reflecting together about books such as When Sinners Say “I Do”, What Did You Expect?, Sacred Marriage, This Momentary Marriage, or The Meaning of Marriage provides couples an excellent opportunity to discuss and think about the implications of the gospel for marriage (sacrifice, humility, grace, giving, etc.), as well as God’s wisdom for couples on issues such as intimacy (conversational, emotional, physical, sexual and, above all, spiritual), communication, finances, parenting, and conflict resolution.

Premarital Counseling. Most engaged couples are married in churches by ordained clergy, yet very few marriages are preceded by premarital counseling.  With approximately half of all marriages ending in divorce (a statistic that is unfortunately shared by both unbelieving and Christian marriages), the church appears to be blessing a lot of marriages that are not adequately equipped for success.  Although most churches provide some type of optional premarital counseling, these premarital counseling programs are often simply a “hoop” to jump through on the way to the altar. There is no substitute for several weeks of intensive pre-marital counseling by a qualified pastor or counselor. We offer comprehensive, gospel-centered marital and pre-marital counseling at North Texas Christian Counseling. But whether you pursue it with us or someone else, I strongly encourage intensive, heart-focused, biblical premarital counseling.

 Marriage Mentors. Find a couple who have been happily married for at least 10 years and ask them to walk with you through the premarital process and the first year of marriage.  The relationship between the couple and their mentors should be mutually-defined and personalized.  Mentoring might include meeting to discuss Scripture or a book that both couples are reading (such as the ones linked above), getting together over coffee to discuss plans for the wedding (and, more importantly, life after the wedding), or simply spending time in the mentoring couple’s home.  The key is to provide the engaged or newlywed couple with a model of a gospel-centered Christian marriage.  Almost half of today’s young adults spent at least part of their childhood or adolescence in a home shattered by divorce.  Make sure that you see examples of godly marriages so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Young couples need the support, encouragement and training that gospel-centered community, premarital counseling and mentoring can provide. Taking advantage of these opportunities honors the sacred covenant of marriage and strengthens future marriages and families for the advance of the gospel of Christ.

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