One of the most enjoyable and humbling aspects of ministry is premarital counseling with young couples. In a relationally, maritally challenged and sexually confused culture, I get to spend many precious hours with couples looking at God’s design for love and sex, and probing his wisdom and insight for a healthy marriage.
One thing I often do with couples is share a familiar scripture but adapt its message specifically for marriage. Here’s a bit of what I think Jesus would tell a young couple if he were offering premarital counseling based on Mathew 7 (The Message):
“Don’t look for shortcuts to a healthy marriage. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful marriage that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though many couples do. The way to a healthy, lasting marriage —to a Godly marriage!—is vigorous and requires total attention.
“These words I speak to you[ in these premarital sessions] are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a marriage on. If you work these words into your marriage, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. That marriage was fixed to the rock.
“But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your daily life together, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, that marriage collapsed like a house of cards.”
Or, more familiar version:
“Enter marriage through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the path that leads to divorce, and many are going that way. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the Way that leads to a healthy, lasting marriage, and only a few are finding it today.”
See also my Wedding Parable of the Grandfather Clock.