What Premarital Counseling Didn't Teach Me

I got married three months after my college graduation. Naturally, I was pretty sure I knew everything. Yes, marriage would be hard. Yes, I would have to make sacrifices and learn to serve my husband instead of demanding my own way. Yes, there would be adjustments. But I'm a pretty determined person, so (with God's help, of course), I could handle it.

The same summer, four of my closest friends from college also got married. We were headed off to our new lives, excited about the future and ready to serve God in our various vocations.

Our premarital counseling prepared us for arguments that might arise. We were told marriage would reveal our selfishness. We were taught about finances and sex and parenthood. These were all helpful things.

But then the trials came. Infertility. Disease. Job loss. Family trials. Suddenly all the training we had received was completely inadequate. Squabbles over how to hang the toilet paper roll or whether the cup goes lip-up or lip-down in the cabinet (lip-up, for the record), were shelved in the midst of great suffering.

We thought we were prepared for everything that happened in a normal marriage. What we weren't prepared for was when things went awry. My friends and I had made our plans—marriage, children, grad school, etc.—and they were not coming to pass as expected.

I spoke with a friend recently, and she said she wished her premarital counseling had focused more on the unknown, rather than the known. I get what she means. How many couples plan everything—the five-year plan, the ten-year plan, kids at age twenty-nine, and so on—only to find their plans crumbling around them?

The thing is, we can't really plan for the unknown. But we can plan that the unknown will occur. So how do we do this?

Our premarital counseling prepared us for arguments that might arise. We were told marriage would reveal our selfishness. We were taught about finances and sex and parenthood. These were all helpful things. But then the trials came, all the training we had received was completely inadequate.

The secret is not in a chart or checklist, nor is it in most marriage books. The secret is in the good news—the gospel—that changes everything. Paul understood the supreme value of Christ and wrote in his letter to the Philippians, "I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:8). He describes losing all things for the sake of gaining Christ and says his goal is to know Him. Earlier in the chapter, Paul says "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil 1:21).

Christ is supremely valuable. Knowing Him is better than having children, economic success, physical health, or fantastic sex. These things are blessings, but they are not ultimate.

With each trial, this truth is more real. As each aspect of the "plan" changes or is taken away, I see God's hand lovingly guiding me to see His Son as far better than my plans. He removes my idols and replaces them with Himself.

So if you're just starting out, whether in marriage or college or life on your own, plan for the unknown to come. Press in to Christ. Pray that God will open your eyes to see Christ as more precious than life itself. And plan to experience joy greater than you can imagine.

How have the "unknowns" in your life driven you closer to Christ? What idols might be keeping you from seeing Him as supremely valuable?

Did you discover God’s Truth today?

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About the Author

Catherine Parks

Catherine Parks

During nap times and between loads of laundry at her home in Nashville, TN, Catherine Parks is a writer. At other times of the day you can find her either pretending to be a cheetah wrangler with her two small kiddos, or trying to convince her husband, Erik, to become a coffee drinker. Catherine has a BA in English literature from Bryan College and has finally put the degree to work in A Christ-Centered Wedding.

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