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"Next to accepting Christ it was the biggest decision of my life," said Andrew. "But looking back, it was pretty much stress free."

What monumental choice did he make with relative ease? A mate. A life partner. In fact, his fiancée, Stephanie, had a similar experience. "I had done a lot of praying and talking with mature Christians whom I respect," she said, "and my Christian growth over the last 10 years prepared me well for this choice."

If only Andrew and Stephanie's experience was the rule rather than the exception.

Even the most mature Christians often agonize over knowing God's will about marriage. Teenagers can too, despite the fact that it may be more than a decade before they'll walk the aisle. While we shouldn't discourage adolescents from being marriage-minded as they date or develop friendships with the opposite sex (that's actually quite healthy), we can relieve some of the stress. Having a godly goal in mind while nurturing a spirit sensitive to His leading is terrific preparation for life's second-biggest decision.

Questions Worth Asking
We can start by encouraging teens to ask basic questions, beginning with Is the person I'm attracted to a Christian? Countercultural though it may be, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 plainly states that marriage is not an option if the answer is no. Yet you'd be surprised at how often this issue gets ignored until it's too late.

Second, assuming the person is a believer, advise your teen to examine their friend's personal walk with Christ, as well as relationships with parents and other family members. They should be asking, Do we both have the same level of commitment to the church? and How does he/she handle stress or define love and commitment? Speaking of which, emotions (as well as hormones and personal desires) can cloud judgment and cause us to rationalize unhealthy decisions. Questions such as Would I lay down my life for this person as Christ did for the church? and Is this someone with whom I can serve God for a lifetime? can help young adults sort through their feelings and gain a more level-headed perspective on the relationship.

Adopting God's Priorities
Andrew and Stephanie had been in Europe serving on missions teams when their paths first crossed. Within two weeks of meeting, Andrew explained his take on dating: "I told her my real interest was in finding out if God might have marriage as an end for us." Stephanie seemed to have similar priorities: "I wanted to date a fellow believer who, like myself, had marriage in mind. Recreational dating was not for me. I wanted God to direct the relationships in my life."

A realistic understanding of what Scripture says about God's will can minimize the personal angst we feel when working through big issues like this one. The Bible calls Christians to pursue moral purity (1 Thes. 4:3-8; 1 Pet. 4:1-6). It tells us to be equally yoked. Yet I have a hard time believing that God has predestined that we end up with one particular person. What if my divinely appointed spouse used her free will to choose someone else? Would her mistake condemn me to loneliness or a second-rate marriage? Of course not. I'm convinced that, within God's boundaries for moral living and basic Christian growth, a believer may sincerely make any number of choices and still be in God's will.

Duke Hale, dean of men at a Christian college in North Carolina, has helped more than a few young couples work through these issues. He said, "If a couple is in God's will, they will be able to understand the difference between infatuation and love. You may fall out of infatuation. God's will is that this relationship intended for lifelong duration be built on love as He defines it."

Those Summer Nights
During the summer months in particular, teens can feel extra pressure to be dating someone. To have a companion for parties, picnics and walks on the beach. To be on call when friends get together as couples. Who can blame them? With so much free time, it's great to have someone special to share it with. No one wants to feel lonely or left out, especially after having that romantic notion reinforced by decades of movie magic, YA novels and sugary pop hits.

Consequently, Christian teenagers who take a higher view of relationships than does the entertainment industry may feel inadequate or incomplete for having decided to avoid recreational romance. Help the young people in your life see the bigger picture. God desires the best for His children, and will guide those actively seeking His heart. When scriptural principles (such as a deep respect for marriage and moral purity) are ingrained in their lives, we can be confident that they've been equipped to make God-honoring choices, no matter what the season.

Alex McFarland is Plugged In's teen apologetics expert. For more about his ministry and speaking schedule, visit alexmcfarland.com.

Published April 2013



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