Christian Biblical Counsel: PREMARITAL COUNSELING

Premarital Counseling

Are You Fit to Be Tied?

by June Hunt

Once upon a time, an unhappy frog lived in the enchanted forest. Year after year, the frog stayed in his swampy pond until the day he coaxed a beautiful princess to kiss him. In the twinkling of an eye, the ugly frog turned into a handsome prince. Then the beautiful couple married and lived happily ever after.

While children assume marriage is like a fairy tale, if you are seriously dating, you need to distinguish fact from fiction. If you believe marriage will meet all of your needs or miraculously turn your potential marriage partner into a prince or princess, you’re living in fantasyland! God’s Word exhorts us to be wise about our expectations for marriage and wise about whom we let into our hearts.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

(Proverbs 4:23)

I.     Definitions

Regret, regret, regret! How many couples choose their mates too quickly and then live their lives full of regret? In order to build a strong foundation for marriage, learn as much as possible about yourself, your future mate, and God’s purpose for marriage … before you tie the knot.

“Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

(Proverbs 29:20)

A. What Is Premarital Counseling?

Premarital counseling is practical advice given to a couple in preparation for marriage.

•     Ministers and mentors often give spiritual, financial, and emotional guidance with special focus on relational pitfalls.

•     Medical professionals give physical examinations and information about sexual and pregnancy issues, as well as genetic concerns.

•     Wedding consultants primarily give guidance about the wedding ceremony and reception.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

(Proverbs 15:22)

Q   “Instead of going through a marriage ceremony, why not elope? Undoubtedly, eloping would save a lot of money and effort.”

A   A marriage ceremony, by design, is a sacred event to be performed in the midst of those who love and care about you. When you both recite the marriage vows, you make a commitment in the presence of those who will support you in your keeping the covenant for a lifetime! The ceremony need not be big, elaborate, or expensive.

“Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.” (Genesis 31:44)

Premarital counseling involves teaching a couple open and honest communication in preparation for marriage.

•     Communication is sharing and understanding each other, both verbally and nonverbally.

•     Communication is listening and responding respectfully.

•     Communication involves a willingness to be honest and vulnerable.

“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

(Proverbs 15:4)

Q   “How can I be 100 % sure that the person I marry will remain committed to me?”

A   You can’t be 100 % sure about the commitment of any other person, but you can commit 100 % of yourself to the marriage and choose to stay 100 % committed to your covenant partner. This is God’s desire as revealed in His Word.…

“She is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.… So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife [husband] of your youth.” (Malachi 2:14–15)

B. Preparation for Partnership

A couple needs to have an accurate understanding of each other’s expectations and desires. Preparation for Partnership is an excellent exercise for opening the door to meaningful communication. Both parties should complete each sentence in writing and then talk through each point.

•     My definition of love is.…

•     My reason for marriage is.…

•     My way of handling conflict is.…

•     My way of dealing with anger is.…

•     My preference for spending free time is.…

•     My concept of the role and responsibilities of a husband is.…

•     My concept of the role and responsibilities of a wife is.…

•     My views on sex within marriage are.…

•     My commitments to my extended family are.…

•     My commitments to my future in-laws are.…

•     My expectation regarding time with friends (following marriage) is.…

•     My position on the use of alcohol is.…

•     My experience with illegal drugs is.…

•     My priorities for spending money are.…

•     My priorities for saving money are.…

•     My experience with debt and my commitment regarding debt are.…

•     My goals for marriage are.…

•     My desires regarding children are.…

•     My commitment to be actively involved in a church fellowship is.…

•     My spiritual goals and desires are.…

“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!”

(Proverbs 16:16)

C. What Is a Christian Marriage?

A Christian marriage is a covenant agreement in which a man and a woman, both committed to Jesus Christ, are legally, physically, and spiritually joined as husband and wife.

•     A covenant is a vow, a pledge, a promise.

“When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” (Numbers 30:2)

•     A covenant is a formal, solemn binding agreement.

“God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.’ ” (Genesis 17:9)

•     A covenant that is broken displeases the Lord.

“You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, ‘Why?’ It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.” (Malachi 2:13–14)

Q   “Is there a real problem if I marry an unbeliever whom I love? I believe our love will overcome all our problems.”

A   Although your fiancé may have many positive qualities, you need to be realistic about the long-term ramifications of marrying a nonbeliever. Assuming you become yoked to him in marriage …

•     If he is headed toward darkness, where are you pulled?

•     If he is headed toward death, where are you pulled?

•     If he is headed toward destruction, where are you pulled?

The Bible says, “Come out from them and be separate.”

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?… Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:14–15, 17)

D. What Are the Biblical Requirements for Marriage?

God designed marriage to be a committed covenant relationship between a man and a woman—a sacred, sanctified relationship of mutual love lasting a lifetime.

•     Look only to a person of the opposite sex for marriage.

“The Lord God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ … Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2:18, 22)

•     Leave your lifestyle of being dependent on your parents.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother …” (Genesis 2:24)

•     Link with your mate legally.

“… and be united to his wife …” (Genesis 2:24)

•     Live together as one in sexual union.

“… and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

•     Love your partner for a lifetime.

“What God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Mark 10:9)

Q   “I cannot financially afford to marry my fiancé. Isn’t it okay for us to live together without marrying?”

A   No. God set out in Scripture the right order regarding a man and a woman living together and enjoying a sexual relationship. In the second chapter of the Bible, God says a man is to leave his parents, enter into marriage, and then enjoy the sexual union. If the order is wrong, the results will be wrong. Before you enter into marriage, you do need to have wisdom and discipline about money, both income and expenses. God not only knows your financial situation, He also knows how to meet your financial need. Your resource for wisdom and provision is your God.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

E. What Is Love?

Realistically, every marriage will have temporary dry spells in which romance and affection will wane. And, gratefully, agape is the love that will carry you through those times to new depths within your relationship.

“Love never fails.”

(1 Corinthians 13:8)

•     Four Kinds of Love (as defined in the Greek language)

Storge

natural affinity for another … affection

Eros

emotional passion for another … romance

Phileo

liking and enjoying another … friendship

Agape

seeking the highest good of another … selflessness

•     What are biblical characteristics of agape love?

—Forfeit personal rights.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16)

—Focus on giving, not getting.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

—Forgive personal offenses.

“[Love] keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:5)

If   liking your mate is lost, and passion is in the past, agape is the love that   makes a marriage last!

 

Q   “I agreed to marry someone whom I really don’t want to marry. I have prayed that if God doesn’t want us to marry, He will intervene. Won’t God stop the marriage if it’s not His will?”

A   No. God doesn’t stop you from exercising your free will when you know a decision is against His will. In order to communicate His will to you, God either gives you His peace or withholds His peace. Since God has not given you His peace, it’s up to you to obey His will by not marrying this person. Don’t marry anyone unless your heart has total peace.

“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

 

II.    Characteristic Reasons for Considering Marriage

From the beginning, when God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), men and women have looked for someone with whom they can share their lives. But if a single person is searching for simply anyone to fill the void, that anyone can spell trouble!

A. What Are Wrong Motives for Marriage?

•     “I want to marry because all of my friends are getting married.”

•     “I want to be married because it’s a couple’s world.”

•     “I want to be married so I won’t feel like a failure.”

•     “I want to fulfill my romantic dreams.”

•     “I want to get out of my painful home life.”

•     “I want to get even with the person who rejected me.”

•     “I want a better family life than I had while growing up.”

•     “I want to prove that I’m stable and can make a commitment.”

•     “I want to prove that I’m not struggling with homosexuality.”

•     “I want the wholesome family ideal.”

•     “I want to please my family.”

•     “I want to please my friends.”

•     “I want to please the person I’m dating.”

•     “I want to please God, who said, ‘It’s not good for man to be alone.’ ”

•     “I want to have sex whenever I desire.”

•     “I want to have children.”

•     “I want my children to grow up in a two parent home.”

•     “I want someone so I won’t be alone.”

•     “I want someone to benefit my career/ministry.”

•     “I want someone to need me.”

•     “I want someone to make me happy.”

•     “I want someone to take care of me financially.”

•     “I want someone to take care of me emotionally.”

•     “I want someone with whom I can grow old.”

“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.”

(Proverbs 21:2)

Q   “I’m considering marrying someone I’ve been dating. He has negative habits, including abusive anger, yet he is not willing to change. Although he is very possessive, he says I am the reason he gets angry. I love him very much, but should I continue thinking about marrying him?”

A   Be cautious with your heart and be candid with your concerns. Ask if he would be willing to receive counseling for his possessiveness and excessive anger. He needs to look at the real reason for his “need” to control you, and he needs to look to God to meet his inner needs. If he is not willing, he is not marriage material! To consider marriage at this time would be unwise. He is too busy blaming you for his bad behavior.

“A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.” (Proverbs 19:19)

Q   “I know I’ve made a huge mistake—I’m pregnant, but not married! Should I get married for the sake of the baby?”

A   If you are considering marrying the father—or someone else—pregnancy must not be the primary reason to marry. You need to have similar commitments, goals, and values. The Bible says,

“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3)

Ask yourself these questions:

•     Would an immediate marriage now be wise in the long-term?

•     Am I in a good place to consider marriage?

•     Would my husband love my child and be a good role model?

•     Can he financially support the baby and me?

•     Does he like and want children?

•     Is he someone with whom I would like to spend the rest of my life?

•     Do I feel led by the Lord to marry him?

•     Do we share core spiritual values?

If you are considering marriage, first obtain premarital counseling. (And be aware that 75 % of teenage marriages end in divorce.) In order to consider marrying, you both need to have the same spiritual foundation, or your marriage may fall apart.

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.… What fellowship can light have with darkness?… What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14–15)

B. What Is the Right Reason for Marriage?

Being Guided by the Spirit of God

The most important decision a person can make, apart from accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, is the choice of a lifelong marriage partner. And since no one but God knows the future, the wisest decision we can make is to trust our future into the hands of the Lord and literally to be led by His Spirit.

“He [the Spirit of truth] will guide you into all truth.”

(John 16:13)

The Holy Spirit will guide you through …

•     Looking at the Word of God

Ask:

“Would this marriage measure up to biblical guidelines for a Christian marriage?”

“The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:8)

•     Leaning on the will of God

Ask:

“Would this marriage be the path that the Lord desires for me to take?”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)

•     Learning from the people of God

Ask:

“Would this marriage be affirmed by parents, wise friends, and church leaders?”

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

•     Listening to the Spirit of God

Ask:

“Would this marriage partner be God’s choice for me?”

“The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things.” (John 14:26)

Q   “Recently I’ve been dating someone who said, ‘God told me that we are to get married.’ I want to please God, but I’m not attracted to him in a marital way. What should I do?”

A   With great sensitivity you could say, “I am honored that you would want to marry me. Since we both want to please God, we need to realize that if God intended for us to marry, He would have also told me—but He hasn’t. It very well may be that God is preparing your heart for marriage. If that is His purpose, I’m confident that the Lord will bring the right person into your life, and you both will know it.”

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)

 

III.   Causes for Problems in Marriage

Reality roars like a lion … after the honeymoon. When marriage partners bring their unrealistic expectations into the marriage, disillusionment may begin to eat away the marital bliss. Preconceived ideas about how to relate to each other are usually formed from parental attitudes and actions. Before you begin the journey of marriage, share with each other your presumptions and expectations. This kind of communication will go a long way in helping you discern some of the adjustments required when two seek to blend their lives into one.

“A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

(Genesis 2:24)

A. What Are Unrealistic Expectations about Marriage?

•     Expecting sexual passion to be the same as authentic love

•     Expecting no consequences from engaging in premarital sex

•     Expecting romance to sustain your marriage forever

•     Expecting your mate to always need you desperately

•     Expecting marriage to solve your personal problems

•     Expecting to get your own way

•     Expecting your mate to be a mind reader

•     Expecting religious differences to be insignificant

•     Expecting constant submissiveness or strong spiritual leadership from your mate

•     Expecting to spend every holiday with your own family

•     Expecting that children won’t strain the marriage

•     Expecting your mate to save and spend money the way you would

•     Expecting total agreement on how the home is kept and managed

•     Expecting communication to be natural and automatic

•     Expecting to always be understood by your spouse

•     Expecting to always be defended by your spouse

•     Expecting to always be the number one priority of your spouse

•     Expecting to change your mate’s negative behavior after you are married

•     Expecting marriage to produce maturity in your mate

•     Expecting your in-laws to accept you individually and to approve of you as a couple

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little.”

(Haggai 1:9)

Q   “My fiancé and I are concerned that his over-controlling family will cause problems for us after we are married. How can we resolve some of these potential problems before we get married?”

A   You are wise to realize that any concerns about extended family problems should be addressed and resolved between the two of you before you marry. To help diffuse potential “in-law interference,” discuss and agree on the following principles:

•     Agree to the “leave and cleave” principle that establishes the two of you as united in the way you will handle in-law problems.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

•     Pursue peace at all times.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

•     Be humble, patient, and respectful when you are in the presence of your fiancé’s family.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

•     Maintain a positive attitude about your fiancé’s family. Don’t be critical, but instead look for the best in them. (Even if your fiancé is critical, you need to hold your tongue.)

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)

B. What Are “Red Flag” Relationships?

In many cultures, a “red flag” means, “Warning! Danger! Watch out!” The Bible offers numerous insights regarding red flag relationships, and those who are wise will heed these warnings.

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.”

(Proverbs 14:8)

•     Objection of Parents

Esau

The king of the Philistines said to Isaac, Esau’s father, “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you.” But years later, when Esau was forty years old, he married two Hittite women—foreign women with pagan ways who held beliefs contrary to God’s ways. The Bible simply states that these wives “were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.” Parents, because of past experience, can see potential problems that their children do not have the ability to discern (Genesis chapters 25 and 26).

The Bible says, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.… A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him” (Proverbs 1:8; 17:25).

•     Financial Irresponsibility

Ananias and Sapphira

Because of their greed and dishonesty, Ananias and Sapphira were terrible stewards of their money. Ananias kept back for himself part of the money he had pledged to give to God’s work, and his wife substantiated the lie. They demonstrated irresponsibility with what God had given them. And as a result, God took their lives (Acts chapter 5).

The Bible says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10).

•     Excessive Anger

Samson

Samson had a hair-trigger temper, combined with an impulsive, vengeful spirit. When his wife’s family behaved badly toward him, he declared that he had a “right to get even.” As the feuding escalated, his excessive anger drove him to kill more than a thousand of his wife’s people. Although Samson was an Israelite judge, he lost not only his sight, but also his spiritual insight (Judges chapters 14 and 15).

The Bible says, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered” (Proverbs 22:24).

•     Wrong Priorities

Nabal and Abigail

Nabal, whose name means “foolish,” was a wealthy, self-serving man. His arrogant attitude led him to make foolish decisions. Ungrateful for David’s protection, Nabal insulted David and his men, paying back their good treatment with rude and reckless snobbery. Fortunately, Nabal’s insightful wife sensed the disastrous ramifications of her husband’s actions. Had she not personally and graciously appealed to David, Nabal’s brash words and foolish pride would have resulted in bloodshed, disaster, and utter ruin (1 Samuel chapter 25).

The Bible says, “Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips” (Proverbs 14:7).

•     Unequally Yoked Relationships

Solomon

Once called the wisest man in the world, Solomon did something stupid.… He married 700 wives—many of them foreign wives. Although he knew God had forbidden him to marry foreigners outside his faith, Solomon thought he would be strong enough to withstand their heathen influence. However, in time, he compromised his devotion to the one true God and turned to his wives’ pagan gods. Because Solomon chose to yoke himself to unbelievers, he lost the light of God and descended into spiritual darkness (1 Kings chapter 11).

The Bible says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.… What fellowship can light have with darkness?… What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14–15).

•     Lack of Integrity

Samson and Delilah

Although he was one of Israel’s judges, Samson was drawn into an illicit relationship with Delilah, a deceitful, Philistine woman. From the beginning, she betrayed his trust, and in return, he lied to her. Even though he knew she was not trustworthy, Samson still did not stop the relationship. Ultimately, Samson’s lack of integrity and moral weakness caused his degradation, defeat, and humiliation (Judges chapter 16).

The Bible says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3).

•     Marriage of Convenience

David and Michal

King Saul considered David a serious threat to his throne. One day, after Saul discovered that his daughter Michal was in love with David, he lured the young man to perform a heroic military mission in exchange for his daughter … secretly hoping it would bring about David’s death. Instead, David’s mission was a great success. Now David had earned the right to marry into the royal family. However, this “marriage of convenience” for both Saul and David was merely an alliance that failed to bring harmony, for soon David’s heart and eyes wandered away from home (1 Samuel 18:17–29).

The Lord says, “Woe to the obstinate children … to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin” (Isaiah 30:1).

•     Not Romantically Attracted

Jacob and Leah

When Jacob met Rachel, he was immediately attracted to her. But in order for them to marry, he first had to marry Leah, her older sister. Leah knew she was not loved, but she hoped that, over time, Jacob would grow to love her because she bore his children. However, the romantic attraction that Leah so longed for never developed, and she never felt loved or cherished as a wife (Genesis chapters 29 and 30).

The Bible says, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love” (Proverbs 5:18–19).

Q   “Is it important to be romantically attracted to the one I intend to marry? After all, in biblical times a person’s mate was chosen by a parent or by someone else.”

A   In biblical times, fathers arranged the marriages of their children; however, today, that is typically not the case. In most situations, individuals decide for themselves whom they will marry—still desiring their parents’ blessing. Whatever the cultural setting, our sovereign God is able to work His will, either by directing the hearts of the fathers or by directing the hearts of the couples. The marriage of Jacob and Leah is an example of a husband who was not attracted to his wife. He gave his body, but couldn’t give his heart because it had already been given to Rachel. God intends marriages to be fulfilling in every aspect (spiritually, emotionally, and physically), so it follows that He would not direct two people to marry who were not physically attracted to one another. Physical attraction is not the glue that holds marriages together, but it definitely strengthens the glue.

“The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:4)

C. When Does Age Difference Make a Difference?

Typically, people thinking about marriage are fairly close to the same age. When two people with a wide age difference are drawn to one another, the reason is often that both are unconsciously seeking to satisfy their unmet needs from childhood. Peers who are about the same age perceive each other as equals and form relationships balanced in power. Conversely, couples with a greater disparity in age tend to perceive each other not as equals and form relationships with an imbalance of power … that is, with one partner having more power than the other. In the following scenarios, consider what needs each person is trying to fulfill.

•     A much older woman attracted to a much younger man

—What need is she trying to meet within herself?

This woman desires to be a caregiver, a nurturer, and at times, even a mother figure. In order to feel significant, she needs someone young whom she thinks she can control in order to feel good about herself. Sometimes, though, she picks a younger man in an attempt to recapture her youth.

•     A much younger man attracted to a much older woman

—What need is he trying to meet within himself?

This man desires to be fussed over, coddled, and even mothered in order to feel secure. He wants to feel carefree and is allowed to stay undisciplined and irresponsible in his lifestyle.

•     A much older man attracted to a much younger woman

—What need is he trying to meet within himself?

This man desires to be the ruler, the controller, and at times, even the father in order to feel significant. He is possessive and dominating and needs a woman to display, much like a trophy, so as to feel good about himself. Sometimes, too, he picks a younger woman in an attempt to recapture his youth.

•     A much younger woman attracted to a much older man

—What need is she trying to meet within herself?

This woman is looking for a provider and a protector who is more of a father figure in order to feel secure. She wants to be secure and worry free. She lives excessively dependent on the older man in order to feel secure. Sometimes because of an abusive background, she lives without emotional boundaries and finds it difficult for her voice to be heard.

When God created the first marriage relationship, He didn’t make the woman from the man’s feet so that she would be subservient to him or from his head so that she would rule over him, but from his side so that she would be equal to him.

“Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”

(Genesis 2:22)

A wide age difference is not always a problem, but it becomes a problem when such a difference destroys God’s design for equality in marriage. A combination of love and respect, not position and power, is the cornerstone on which a godly marriage is built.

“Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

(Ephesians 5:33)

D. Root Cause for Being “Tied” to the Wrong Person

Wrong Belief:

“Only in marriage will I find the love, significance, and security I need to feel complete.”

Right Belief:

As a Christian, I am totally complete in Christ, whether I’m married or single. If I am to marry, God’s abiding love will enable me to unselfishly love the one He has given me to marry.

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ.” (Colossians 2:9–10)

 

IV.  Steps to Solution

Couples who desire to please the Lord have already been given a picture of God’s design for the marital relationship. The Bible tells us that marriage is to reflect the sacrificial love that Christ has for His bride, the church. Although the backgrounds of a husband and wife may be different and their expectations may conflict, they can develop unity of heart through mutual submission and godly respect.

“Submit one to another out of reverence for Christ.… Each one of you [husbands] also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

(Ephesians 5:21, 33)

A. Key Verses to Memorize

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.”

(Philippians 1:9–10)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

(1 Corinthians 13:4–7)

The True Love Test

You will learn much about the maturity of your fiancé, about your relationship, and about yourself if you both take The True Love Test based on I Corinthians chapter 13. This will help you evaluate your readiness for intimacy in marriage. Each of you should fill out both lists and then discuss your answers, circling “Y” for Yes and “N” for No.

Yourself

 

Your Fiancé

 

Evaluate your love for your fiancé …   truthfully.

 

Evaluate your fiancé’s love for you …   truthfully.

 

 

 

 

 

I am patient   with you and with others.

 

 

 

 

 

You are   patient with others and with me.

 

 

 

 

 

I am kind to   you and to others.

 

 

 

 

 

You are kind   to others and to me.

 

 

 

 

 

I am envious   of you or of others.

 

 

 

 

 

You are   envious of others or of me.

 

 

 

 

 

I am boastful   around you or around others.

 

 

 

 

 

You are   boastful around others or around me.

 

 

 

 

 

I am prideful   around you or around others.

 

 

 

 

 

You are   prideful around others or around me.

 

 

 

 

 

I am rude to   you or to others.

 

 

 

 

 

You are rude   to others or to me.

 

 

 

 

 

I am   self-seeking.

 

 

 

 

 

You are   self-seeking.

 

 

 

 

 

I am easily   angered.

 

 

 

 

 

You are easily   angered.

 

 

 

 

 

I am keeping a   record of wrongs.

 

 

 

 

 

You are   keeping a record of wrongs.

 

 

 

 

 

I am delighted   when you or others fail.

 

 

 

 

 

You are   delighted when I or others fail.

 

 

 

 

 

I am truthful   with you and with others.

 

 

 

 

 

You are   truthful with others and with me.

 

 

 

 

 

I am   protective of you.

 

 

 

 

 

You are   protective of me.

 

 

 

 

 

I am trusting   of you.

 

 

 

 

 

You are   trusting of me.

 

 

 

 

 

I am full of   hope for you..

 

 

 

 

 

You are full   of hope for me.

 

 

 

 

 

I am faithful   to persevere through problems with you and with others.

 

 

 

 

 

You are   faithful to persevere through problems with me and with others.

 

Q   “My fiancé has difficulty talking about his feelings. How can I help him open up and share his hopes, dreams, and expectations for marriage?”

A   If communication is not established before marriage, you may both wake up afterward and discover you don’t have much in common. Therefore, seek advice from an older, mature couple. Find a church that offers premarital counseling. Make a list of topics for both of you to address. Ask married couples which issues they wish they had discussed prior to marriage.

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15)

C. Checklist for Choosing a Mate

Since no one is perfect, selecting a “perfect marriage partner” is impossible. But certain questions can help you determine whether a person would be great mate or not. For example, an excellent predictor of the future is wrapped up in the question, How does he treat his mother? or How does she treat her father? The following checklist is composed of other questions that will help in the selection of a great mate.

Indicate Yes with a checkmark (√)

“Is this a person about whom God has given me peace as a marriage partner?”

“Is this a person who is growing spiritually?”

“Is this a person whose values I greatly respect?”

“Is this a person with whom I can communicate honestly?”

“Is this a person who refuses to become bitter?”

“Is this a person who is responsible?”

“Is this a person who desires sexual purity?”

“Is this a person who has a joyful heart … and not a critical spirit?”

“Is this a person capable of a lifelong commitment?”

“Is this a person who loves God first and then loves me?”

“Is this a person who does not depend solely on me for happiness?”

“Is this a person who values the life God has given each of us?”

“Is this a person who honors and shows respect to both of our parents?”

“Is this a person who is flexible and is willing to make adjustments?”

“Is this a person who ‘fights fairly’?”

“Is this a person with whom I can laugh and cry?”

“Is this a person who reads God’s Word and prays with me now?”

“Is this a person with whom I strongly desire to share the rest of my life?”

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”

(Philippians 2:1–2)

D. Dependable Do’s and Don’ts for Those Contemplating Marriage

Don’t live in your past.

Do …  Look for the positive in the present.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18–19)

Don’t focus on your fiancé’s past mistakes.

Do …  Focus on your fiancé’s choice to marry you.

“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” (Proverbs 10:12)

Don’t expect to change your fiancé.

Do …  Accept your fiancé the way he/she is.

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7)

Don’t expect your fiancé to meet all of your needs.

Do …  Expect God to be your primary Need-Meeter.

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Don’t expect oneness to be equivalent to sameness.

Do …  Aim for unity while accepting that no two people always think the same.

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5–6)

Don’t criticize your fiancé’s parents.

Do …  Speak about them with kindness and understanding.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Don’t nag your fiancé.

Do …  Make your position clear; then commit it to prayer.

“A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.” (Proverbs 19:13)

Don’t joke about sexual promiscuity.

Do …  See sexual intimacy as a picture of the holy union between Christ and His bride, the church.

“Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” (Ephesians 5:3–4)

Don’t joke about divorce as an option.

Do …  Eliminate the word divorce from your vocabulary. God hates divorce!

“ ‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God.… So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” (Malachi 2:16)

Don’t rationalize, “It’s okay to have sex—we’re engaged, and we’ll be married soon.”

Do …  Realize that sexual responsibility before marriage demonstrates that you will be sexually responsible after marriage. And statistically, sexual impurity prior to marriage increases the odds of divorce after marriage.

“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

Don’t disregard a check in your spirit.

Do …  Talk with someone who knows your fiancé well in order to discern the cause of your uneasiness. Then wait for God’s confirmation.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)

Q   “Is it ever right to break an engagement after the invitations have gone out, all the wedding plans have been made, and many gifts have already been received? What could I say?”

A   “If you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor!” (Proverbs 6:2–3)

It is never too late to do what is right. No matter what has been said or done, don’t do what is wrong. You are not married until you are married, so everything that precedes the marriage commitment is neither binding nor obligatory. If you are walking down the aisle, yet know in your heart that what you are about to do is wrong, stop!

Whether others understand or not, if it’s wrong for you, it’s wrong for everyone involved, including your fiancé. Simply say, “God has not given me a peace about this marriage. I pray you will be able to forgive me for going this far with the wedding plans. I kept thinking my heart would change, but it hasn’t. I know you cannot see it now, but if stopping is right for me, it is also right for you. If we married now, we would both come to regret it, and I know that is not what either of us wants. Doing what is right will, in the long run, give us both peace.”

“The fruit of righteousness [doing what is right] will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” (Isaiah 32:17)

E. Our Negative Emotions Contract

We agree to set a time to talk when either becomes upset.

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5)

We agree to pray individually before we come together to talk.

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.… Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:13, 16)

We agree not to act out our angry feelings.

“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11)

We agree to seek to understand the reasons for each other’s thoughts and actions.

“He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers.” (Proverbs 19:8)

We agree to accept suggestions for changing the way we respond.

“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 22:3)

We agree to forgive one another completely.

•     We will choose not to dwell on it … mental replay.

•     We will choose not to bring it up again … manipulation.

•     We will choose not to repeat it to others … slander.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

We agree to seek a wise godly mediator who is objective if we cannot come to an agreement.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

Signed:

 

 

 

Signed:

 

 

 

Witness:

 

 

 

Dated:

 

 

 

F. Our Negotiation Contract

“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”

(Amos 3:3)

We agree to go first to God with our problem.

•     Seek guidance from God’s Word, asking, “Has God spoken about this anywhere in His Word?”

•     Seek discernment from God in order to come to a mutual agreement on the true problem.

•     Seek God’s will through prayer, asking for His peace if the decision is correct.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7)

We agree to negotiate a solution.

•     Make a joint list of all our options.

•     Individually mark each option as …

(P) Possible (I) Impossible

•     Evaluate all the P’s and jointly choose the best option.

We agree, if all options cancel out, to …

•     Delay making a decision until there is unity or until a decision must be made.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1)

•     Seek the godly counsel of others.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

•     Trust in the sovereignty of God.

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Signed:

 

 

 

Signed:

 

 

 

Witness:

 

 

 

Dated:

 

 

 

Q   “What do you do if both you and the one you love are Christians, yet your non-Christian parents disapprove of the person you have chosen to marry?”

A   God can speak through the counsel of non-Christian authorities—even in adulthood. Consider this approach:

•     Ask for their candid concerns.

•     Instead of being defensive, repeat back what was said, “Are you saying …?”

•     Then ask, “What suggestions do you have … (for him, for me, for our situation)?”

The best way to demonstrate your Christian commitment to nonbelieving parents is to respectfully present your appeal, but ultimately be willing to take their counsel seriously. Most parents know their children intimately, and they can sense why the marriage could be destructive.

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” (Proverbs 1:8)

G. Our Commitment to Grow Together Spiritually

•     We commit our lives to Jesus Christ and submit to His control.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

•     We commit our home to God and pledge to make it Christ-centered.

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

•     We commit our bodies to each other and vow to be sexually faithful.

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4)

•     We commit our finances to God and will honor Him with our tithe.

“ ‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’ ” (Malachi 3:10)

•     We commit to reading the Bible and praying with each other daily.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.” (Psalm 119:105–106)

•     We commit to not going to bed while still angry with one another.

“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26)

•     We commit to nurturing each other through loving encouragement.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

•     We commit to admitting our weaknesses and to seeking prayer support in order to change.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

•     We commit to growing with each other into a deeper relationship with the Lord.

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:22–23)

The   best marriage bond is this:

Two   people, each personally committed to Jesus Christ and together committed to   each other.

—June   Hunt

 

Selected Bibliography

Elliot, Elisabeth. Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1984.

Fryling, Alice, and Robert Fryling. A Handbook for Engaged Couples: A Communication Tool for Those About to Be Married. 2nd ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hybels, Bill, and Lynne Hybels. Fit to Be Tied. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991.

Mace, David R. Getting Ready for Marriage. Rev. ed. Nashville: Abingdon, 1985.

Mack, Wayne A., and Nathan A. Mack. Preparing for Marriage God’s Way. Tulsa, OK: Virgil Hensley, 1986.

McGinnis, Alan Loy. The Romance Factor. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990.

Wright, H. Norman. So You’re Getting Married. Ventura, CA: Regal, 1985.

Wright, H. Norman, and Wes Roberts. Before You Say “I Do”: A Marriage Preparation Manual for Couples. Rev. and expanded ed. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1997.[1]

 


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Premarital Counseling: Are You Fit to Be Tied? (1–26). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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2 thoughts on “Christian Biblical Counsel: PREMARITAL COUNSELING

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