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[updated: 3/15/19]

Future Marriage University actually started out in our living room as a 14-week marriage class led by my wife and I for singles. In these intimate same-gender groups, students felt comfortable to say what they really thought. And many times we heard comments like this: “If marriage is really going to be that hard, I’m not sure I want to be married.”

My early response at the time was, “If you really feel that way, then don’t get married. Don’t even date. Until you change your mind.”

Perhaps those words were a little tough, but I don’t think it was bad advice.

Marriage is hard and if you don’t want to work hard at it, you are better off not starting what you’re not committed to completing.

Your would-be spouse will be better off, too. Ditto for any kids you might have had. (And do I need to throw the whole world in, while I’m at it?)

Over time, I began to develop a different answer. It went something like this: it’s not just that marriage is hard. Life is hard, period. You’re going to have trials in life: disappointments (sometimes having to do with your spouse, sometimes not), illness, loss, pain, persecution, betrayal and death.

Knowing you’re going to have experiences like that regardless, how do you want to “take your lumps:” married or single? On the one hand, trials can be easier to go through if you have a well-chosen life partner by your side. On the other hand, when there’s two of you, you suddenly have twice the opportunities to endure such trials. And often times, it’s more difficult to watch a loved one go through stuff than to go through it yourself.

Though I still think that answer rings true, I feel it discounts the reality that though life is hard, marriage can be a particularly challenging endeavor. (Perhaps the most challenging.)

I’ve finally settled on an answer I think I’m going to stick with. Here’s the deal.

If you are going to follow Christ, you will have to die to yourself. It’s going to happen, one way or another.

It’s an unpopular truth, but one that’s dead on. (Pun intended.)

Then he [Jesus] said to them all, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23 (NIV 1984)

Let’s see how Jesus is quoted in a parallel passage to Luke 9:23.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? – Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV)


  • Does this come across as a suggestion or a requirement? Why do you think so?
  • What do you think Jesus meant by this statement? What would that look like? Does it sound fun or easy?
  • How often are we to “take up our cross?” Why do you think Jesus states it like that?
  • How do you think you’re going to learn how to “lose your life” to find it?
  • How often do I “deny myself?” How often do you? And when we do “deny ourselves” is it really voluntary or only when we have no other alternative? Is the “last resort” type of denial even the kind for which Jesus is asking?
[If this post put you in a “headlock of love,” you need to know something. God has more to tell you! This is an excerpt of the 2nd book in our discipleship series: Beyond Sex & Salvation. So seriously consider purchasing a digital copy and you will learn three key life disciplines for relational success; habits best best forged BEFORE you fall in love. Even before you date! Find out more or purchase the book at this link.]

DNA: It’s What’s For Dating

Dug this weekend’s DNA? Be a good friend and share with your friends on the social media platform of choice: Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, or Twitter.

The LoveEd discipleship series, Beyond Sex & Salvation, will empower you to prepare for relational success when it counts: BEFORE you fall in love!

It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. And would like to learn how to better build healthy relationships in the meantime.

Check out all three study guides in our store. You can walk through them on your own, but it’s more fun with friends (that and it kinda makes sense to grow in relational success in actual relationships with others), so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study.

Even better? And ask a rock star married couple you respect to lead it!

[originally published: May 16, 2013]