Ministry to young adults can be challenging and fun. Marriage is one of the topics that often comes up with them that is both of these things. For whatever reason, many young adults have lots of questions about marriage. It may have to do with their desire to be married, the relationships that they or their friends are in, an elevated view of marriage in the church, or even seeing marriage as an outlet to help them with a particular sin struggle or identity issue. No matter the reason, the topic of marriage comes up often. So, how we respond to those questions and how we teach young adults about marriage is incredibly important.
Here are four realities of marriage that are important for young adults to understand.
Marriage is not an escape.
For many young adults that I’ve talked to about marriage, one of their greatest desires is to escape a sin struggle or identity issue. It may be a struggle with sexual sin that comes from a pornography addiction or an unhealthy relationship. It may be a struggle with confidence in who they are and how God made them, and so they feel unlovable or unwanted. In these cases, many young adults may look to marriage as their way out of these issues. They may think, Marriage warrants a license for sex, and so I won’t deal with my ungodly temptations anymore. Or they may believe, If someone loves me enough to marry me, then surely I can be more confident in who I am.
No matter the issue, marriage is no escape. As a matter of fact, the only thing marriage gives you an escape from is independence. It is important for young adults to understand that marriage is not where you go to get your problems fixed, it is actually a relationship that identifies and displays more of your weaknesses. Marriage will not provide a way out for you in your temptation, but the Bible promises us that God provides that way out for those who trust in Him. Young adults must understand that marriage is not an escape from struggle.
Marriage has a grand design and purpose.
Marriage is beautiful. It displays the relationship between Christ and His Church in a way that nothing else in our world can. Oftentimes, marriage is seen as a contractual agreement or some never-ending sleepover. Though by the law of the state, there is a contractual component to marriage. And, though marriage does grant the opportunity to spend most every night with your best friend, it is so much more than this.
The Bible teaches us that marriage is a glorious gift that displays God’s glory. Every marriage has the potential to demonstrate the gospel in a compelling way through the way a couple relates to one another, serves one another, helps one another grow, and fulfills the roles associated with a godly husband and wife. The Bible also teaches specifically that the purpose of marriage is clear, to show the beauty of Christ, the way He loves, and the intimacy that a relationship with Him brings. Young adults must understand that marriage has a design and purpose that is grand and redemptive.
Marriage is harder than you think.
It never fails, at every opportunity for a young couple to receive advice, there is almost always one or several mentions of how miserable their lives are about to get. The “woe is me” marriage advice is not only diminishing the beauty and significance of marriage, but it is also simply not true or helpful. Marriage is clearly a wonderful thing that brings many good things with it. However, marriage is often more difficult than young couples realize.
It is important for young Adults to be set up with a right expectation of the challenges associated with marriage, without a fatalistic view of this holy union. I find it incredibly helpful to get deep in the trenches with young adults when talking about marriage. Let them see the beauty and the struggle. And, make sure that they see in the difficulty of marriage that it is worth it, and it is sanctifying. No good thing is ever without its struggles. Be sure to help young adults understand that marriage is much harder than they may think, but that the struggles can often bring about much good.
Marriage is not the goal.
Finally, it is important for young adults to avoid the temptation of believing that marriage is ultimate. Interestingly enough, there has been much shifting in the church’s view of marriage and singleness throughout church history. In early church history, singles were held in high regard due to their deep level of commitment to the Lord. In more modern history, marriage has been given the upper hand, though the view has changed on the age at which marriage is to become a priority.
It is essential that no young adult be taught that marriage is the goal of their young adult life. Instead, being taught that marriage can be a God-honoring reality in the right way and for the right reasons. But, it’s also imperative to teach young adults that singleness is to be regarded highly because the Bible regards singleness in such a way. Marriage should not be the goal of this season of life nor their lives in general.
Marriage is a gift. A gift with a great purpose. But, like all gifts, it is not intended to be sought after more than the Giver. And, like all gifts, it does not nullify the value of other gifts like singleness. In God’s economy marriage is valuable, but not of ultimate value. In light of this, young adults must be taught that marriage is not an escape. Marriage has a grand design and purpose. Marriage is harder than you think. And, marriage is not the goal. If we want to raise up young adults who help fulfill the Great Commission and grow the local church, in part through faithful marriages and singleness, we must faithfully teach the purpose and the place of marriage.
Steven Ackley, his wife Emily, and their four kids live out their love for anything sports and Cookout milkshakes in Murfreesboro, TN where Steven serves as the NextGen and College Pastor at LifePoint Church. Steven holds a D.Min. and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can connect with him on Twitter.