“Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together today. Marriage that blessed arrangement, that dream within a dream …” and so goes one of the most famous quotes from the movie, The Princess Bride. What makes the quote funny is how the minister pronounces the words. What makes the quote ironic is that many people do not find marriage to be a “bwessed awangement”, and even less find it to be a “dweam wiffin a dweam”, and still others find that “twooh wahv” was not really true love after all. It is no small wonder, then, that many people delay marriage or choose not to marry at all. The average age of people getting married is getting older and older each year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average of women getting married is 27.4 years and for men it is 29.5. For many, this is great news as these single men and women are able to finish college, get started on a career, establish some sound finances, and mature to a level when adding marriage into their lives makes good sense. From a biblical perspective, however, this delays fulfilling what was one of the foundational elements for humans from their creation: to get married, multiply, and exercise proper dominion over the earth. Yet, in spite of this command, many godly, Bible-believing people count themselves among those in our world who say that marriage should be delayed for some or all of the above reasons.
To those who are concerned about what the Bible says, I write this article in the hopes that it might point us back to a biblical worldview when it comes to marriage. Too many people who love God and desire to follow God’s Word see the pitfalls and the problems of marriage, and seek to discourage men and women from marrying young, instead of seeing that there are wonderful and biblical blessings of finding a spouse and starting a family, fulfilling the first commission given to us on this earth.
Now, before I articulate a number of biblical blessings, I first want to address a big objection raised with young marriage (defining young marriage as between 18-25 years old): statistics will show that divorce is higher for those who get married young. As someone who was a statistics major in college, before going into ministry, I am keenly aware that statistics can be skewed in a direction for any number of reasons. Some of these reasons might be purposeful so as to produce the desired outcome. However, other reasons can involve real factors that need to be considered.
For example, an often quoted statistic says that most car accidents happen within a five-mile radius of your home. This is used to motivate drivers to wear their seatbelts even when they are just running to the store. Now, why do most accidents happen close to home? Is it because people are more careless on familiar roads? Is it because they go on autopilot and don’t think? Or, could it be that the great majority of the driving we do is close to home? So, back to our marriage statistic, could the percentage of young divorce be a result of a variety of factors, which would include that they are married longer and have a greater chance at divorce? Certainly other factors could be involved, but to depend on that statistic is fine if you don’t have a Bible on which to base your worldview.
If you believe God’s Word is our source for wisdom and guidance in life, we should not be scared away from marriage by a statistic. The logical conclusion of this would be that we should tell everyone to stay single and that would bring the divorce rate down to zero. Yes, that is a bit extreme to say, but the point is we should not form our worldview by statistics, but rather by Scripture. Yes, some of the statistics may be because young people are rushing into marriage, but we should not allow the fear of that keep us from encouraging young marriage in our families and churches. There are many good blessings from young marriage and we need to keep these in mind as much or more than the possible pitfalls and statistics. Before we consider the blessings, let’s look at three truths…
Truth #1: It is good not to be alone. This is an inference from God’s own words when, in looking at the man He created, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” If God said that, then the opposite must be true that it is good for the man to not be alone. This is not simply an antidote to loneliness, but rather a part of God’s perfect design: that man and woman should marry and become one and thus complete that perfect design. It is at that point that God says, “It was very good.”
Truth #2: The starting of a family fulfills the commission from God given to our first parents: be fruitful and multiply. This is not to suggest that everyone needs to have a quiver full of children; but of all the things God could have given the man and woman to do, what He did tell them is that—at the top of the list—is the growth of family life. This runs counter to what most of the world is saying: that you can add the family in later—after you figure out a career, find a place to live, and arrange for yourself a comfortable lifestyle with which you can “afford” children.
Truth #3: The leaving of father and mother to cleave to the wife is indeed living out the created order of things, according to God. In Genesis 2:24, we are told, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast (or cleave) to his wife.” The “therefore” points us back to the fact that God saw the man alone, put him in a deep sleep, took one of his ribs, and fashioned the perfect counterpart for him: a woman. So, on the basis of God and His creative work, marriage is simply living out the model that God created. Like any technological device we purchase, it works best when used according to its created purpose.
Now these are 3 biblical truths of marriage, but the question is whether this should be delayed for some reason. Certainly there are reasons for why we might say that two people should not get married. But for the sake of this article, we will assume that there are no red flags, other than the fact that they are younger than some might feel is the appropriate age. Let us discuss the practical blessings of young marriage.
Blessing #1: Those who marry young will more easily blend together because they have not had years of living their own lives. This is one of the great challenges of marrying later in life, where you did not have to worry about someone moving your glasses or “leaving the seat up”; where you did not have to argue about the remote control or listen to endless snoring. It is easier to change and adjust to married life if you are younger. At least in theory, although a lot still hinges on a lack of stubbornness and increased maturity (and lack of petty selfishness) between spouses.
Blessing #2: Those who marry young will have more and complete shared experiences. As someone who has been married for more than 25 years and who married young, I can attest to the joy of having so many shared experiences. We remember things from school, or things in early married life. This is both enjoyable to reminisce, but also it is a strong foundation of seeing God’s faithfulness over many years. We may remember the story of finding our first sofa at a garage sale in a torrential downpour (true story), the desire for a pet that led to our parakeet who loved Sandy Patti (another true story), or the many years of low salary jobs as God led us towards both ministry and adoption.
Blessing #3: Those who marry young will learn early on what it means to depend on God. Now some will marry young and have good paying jobs, but the vast majority of young couples will start with very little. For some, this is too risky a venture and so they would say that young marriage is not safe. However, what better way to see God provide than to step out in faith. What better way to learn the secret of contentment that Paul writes about in Philippians 4. We remember with fondness the kitchen table we found at a thrift store with 3 chairs, the matching area rug that was thrown in with the drenched sofa, and the many other little ways that God provided. We also remember with fondness the gift of God that allowed us to take a family vacation years later to Disney World with our six children. Now we enjoy being able to help our children out a little as they begin their new families. Through marrying young, we have learned together to depend on, and rejoice in, the daily bread.
Blessing #4: Those who marry young will often have the opportunity of being in a network of family relationships that help to build a solid foundation for a long and healthy marriage. Now, not everyone will enjoy a good relationship with their parents, but many will have recently left their parents’ home and many will still be in fairly close contact with their families. This is valuable in that the families can support and encourage the young couple in ways that can strengthen them in the early years, yet still give them the freedom to be their own family. We have benefited greatly from a supporting and loving family, as well as a church family that helped us in those early years of marriage and parenting.
Blessing #5: Those who marry young will share a network of friends and acquaintances that will bring them together, not separate them apart. There is nothing wrong with a wife having her friends and the husband having his friends. That can be very healthy in the marriage relationship. But, in the same way, having friends that are mutual friends, that encourage partnership in the marriage, is also very healthy for a marriage. These friendships become refreshing to both husband and wife, and give further strength to the marriage. It allows couples to do things together in meaningful ways, rather than living two separate lives.
While there are many considerations that any couple must take before pursuing marriage—and a few more that younger couples must take in addition—if Christ is the center of the relationship, and the parents have given their blessing, we ought not to delay marriage simply out of a preconceived notion that it is “too risky”. The blessings of fulfilling the purpose God has for His people is worth the risk.
Rick Hanna serves as Senior Pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Guilderland, NY. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Heather, and is a father to ssevenchildren. He is passionate about international student ministry and adoption and enjoys reading, music, and sports (though as a Philly fan & Purdue alum, it usually means supporting the losing team).