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While it is true that people change as a normal course of aging, there is also another angle to this problem that I want to interact with here: dating couples lack careful assessment and outside input about getting married. Without sound biblical advice, love blinds, and if it does, there is a good chance the pair will be set up for a lifetime of disappointment.
As you read, my appeal is for you to ask the Spirit of God to illuminate your mind and remove anything that hinders you from benefiting from the content of this chapter.
Try to read without the conflicting distractions of your desires and experiences. Momentarily die to yourself. Read as though this chapter was not about you. I’m asking you to think in the most biblically objective way that you can. Perhaps it would be helpful if you read as though you were thinking about a friend.
What if you pretend you are going to give “counsel” to your friend? What would you tell her after reading this chapter? I’m going to share with you some of the leading causes of marriage problems that have their roots in the dating relationship.
I’m not dealing with every possible angle of the dating relationship. But I do want to highlight four major red flags that should cause a pause in any girl’s heart regarding her boyfriend.
Most of my marital counseling has been with couples who had consensual sex before they were married. And though their pre-marriage fornication does not represent all of their problems, you typically see a constellation of sinful patterns associated with their infidelity.
I talked about this in the last chapter: Sex Before Marriage Leads to a Trail of Tears. Here is a paraphrase:
Fornication is usually mishandled, and thus not resolved. They may mask the problem, but never truly ignore it. If there is not biblical repentance, the long-term residual effects that arise from premarital sex are difficult to overcome.
Sin is real, and you must deal with it in biblical ways. If you have fornicated, you have to choose if you’re going to confront this sin directly. Do not try to use denials, justifications, or rationalizations. You cannot fool sin.
Sin will extract a payment from someone. It must. It’s an unalterable law: sin requires a payment, which is the triumph and glory of Christ’s death on the cross. Jesus paid for your sins, and you may repent and accept the payment He made by His death on the cross.
If you have fooled around with your guy during the dating season, you are guilty before God, regardless if you went all the way. Let’s not play games here. Don’t try to deceive yourself by rounding the corners of your sin by saying, “We didn’t go all the way.” That’s deception. You know this. I know this. If you have sinned, I appeal to you to own it. Bring it to the light.
Though there are many things to say about sex before marriage, my main point is that if a man is willing to touch you, fondle you, rub you, or have sex with you, he lacks good sense and self-control. He is weak mentally and emotionally and lacks biblical integrity and maturity. The Bible would call him a fool.
(It would benefit you to find every reference in the book of Proverbs about a fool, foolish, foolishness, or folly.)
Do not think your boyfriend will all of a sudden grow up after you marry him. If he is willing to crawl across the Word of God to get his lust-filled hands on you, do you believe he will show more self-control and less selfishness after he ties the knot?
If he is willing to defraud you and sin against God while he is on his best dating behavior, how do you think he is going to behave when he begins to presume on the relationship during your marriage? His current weaknesses will play out in many other areas of your future life.
It is right and wise to assess him. Ask God to give you the clarity to observe other contexts where he is not behaving maturely. If you don’t work through this now, within five years of your marriage, you will not respect him, and you will more than likely feel trapped in your marriage.
It is not that difficult to take a young lady’s heart. It is easier today than ever before. Girls are pre-wired by God to be captured and whisked away to an enchanted place by their knight in shining armor. All they need is a knight, and for some girls, any knight will do.
In today’s culture, because of the dysfunction of the parental/male role model, many girls are not only wired and ready to go, but they are angrily wired and are counting the days until they can do life on their terms, in their way, with whomever they desire. They can’t wait to carve out a better life with a better male, a better male than their previous experience with their fathers.
Insecure guys will dangle the marriage bait before the girl, and if she is insecure, angry, or desperate, she will probably take it. The immature man will do this instead of talking to her dad, pastor, or some other male authority in the girl’s life. His first order of business is to get the girl rather than ask the parent for the girl.
Heart stealing is an unwise, immature, secretive agenda that can have a long-term negative impact on your future marriage. This method of getting the girl is hard to repair. Typically, a wrong-footed beginning is how the relationship will continue unless God’s grace intervenes. Without biblical repentance, a bad start will make for a challenging future.
If you allow him to persist in this type of pre-conquest ritual of sensual advances and marriage talk without proper accountability and counsel, you may be well on your way to giving in and eventually becoming disillusioned.
At some point, someone will ask you what you like about him. What will you say? Is it his personality, looks, work ethic, or how he treats you? While these things are not bad things, they are not the best things.
As your future husband changes, there must be one thing that changes for the better. If he loves the Lord God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, his personality, looks, work ethic, and how he treats you will find submission to this transcending quality.
You must have full assurance that God is the point of your relationship rather than your boyfriend. Observe his life. Who is leading? You will know your answer by how he navigates your relationship. If your boyfriend is humble, submitted, and passionately following the leadership of Sovereign God, you are probably in a good place.
This last question is an important one. If you were married today, it is possible you could be parents in nine months. Do you believe he is mature enough to hold down a job, take care of you, run a home, and father a child at this point in his life?
Do you have any doubts? If you answered “yes” or gave affirmative answers to this section, what if you broke up and waited another year before you married him? If you are assured God wants you to marry this person, even if he became a paraplegic tomorrow, why don’t you wait a year to see if he is the right guy for you?
I’m not asking you to do this. I’m challenging you to think deeply about one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. If God wants you to marry this person, no power on earth can stop you from marrying him.
You will marry him, whether it is tomorrow, a year from now, or five years from now. Why do you have to marry him now? Be honest with your answer. Again, I’m not saying don’t marry him now. I’m merely challenging your faith about moving forward.
For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
Do you doubt it? If you have any doubts about any of the questions I have asked you thus far or if anything in this chapter has caused you to pause, I appeal to you to put the relationship and possible marriage on hold.
Walk away from it. Seek counsel. Make sure your heart is right before God. Remember, if God wants you to marry this guy, you will marry him.
So why sweat it?
Take a break.
Regain clarity, especially if you guys have been sexually inappropriate. Clear your heads and cool your jets. God is good, and He will take care of you, but if you persist in your way, He may let you choose a path to future disappointment.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).