“The time left is reduced.”—1 COR. 7:29.
GOD’S Word foretold that “the time of the end” would be marked by wars, earthquakes, famines, and pestilences. (Dan. 8:17; Luke 21:10, 11) The Bible also warned that this decisive period in human history would be a period of great social changes. Marriage and parenting would be among the things “hard to deal with” in these critical “last days” / end times. (2 Tim. 3:1-4) Why are such changes of concern to us? Because they are so extensive and so powerful that they could influence how Christians today view marriage and parenthood. In what way?
Nowadays, divorce has become easy and widespread, and the divorce rate in many countries is climbing. However, we should keep clearly in mind that God God has a completely different view of marriage and divorce than the one generally accepted in the world around us. What, then, is God’s view?
God expects those who are married to remain faithful to their marriage vow. When he united the first man and woman in marriage, God stated that “a man . . . must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” Jesus Christ later repeated that statement and added:
Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart. Jesus further stated: Whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery. (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:3-9)
Hence, God and Jesus view marriage as a lifelong bond that ends only when one partner dies. (1 Cor. 7:39) Since marriage is a sacred arrangement, divorce is not to be taken lightly. In fact, God’s Word states that God hates a divorce that has no Scriptural basis. — Malachi 2:13-16.
The ungodly world in which we live is obsessed with sex. Every day, waves of sensual images are directed at us. We cannot ignore the effect they can have on us, especially on our dear young ones in the congregation. How should young Christians react to this unwholesome influence, which can arouse sexual desire even against their will? Some have tried to deal with it by marrying at a very early age. In that way, they hope to avoid getting involved in sexual immorality. Before long, though, a number have regretted that decision. Why? Once the novelty of being married has worn off, they have realized that they and their partner have little in common when it comes to everyday matters. Understandably, such couples are then faced with a serious challenge.
Being married to someone—even a fellow Christian—who turns out to be very different from what you expected can definitely be difficult. (1 Cor. 7:28) Still, no matter how challenging the situation is, true Christians know that an unscriptural divorce is not an acceptable solution to problems associated with an unhappy union. Hence, those who keep on working hard to preserve their marriage because they want to remain faithful to their wedding vow deserve respect and loving help from the Christian congregation.
Are you young and still unmarried? If so, how should you regard the prospect of marriage? You can avoid much heartache if you wait until you are physically, mentally, and spiritually ready for marriage before you start a romantic relationship with a Christian of the opposite sex. Of course, the Scriptures do not stipulate an age for marriage. However, the Bible does show that you do well to wait until you are past that time in life when sexual feelings are very strong. (1 Cor. 7:36) Why? Because strong sexual impulses can distort good judgment and can cause you to make unwise decisions that may result in heartache later. Remember, God’s wise counsel on marriage in the Bible is for your benefit and happiness.— Isaiah 48:17, 18.
Some couples who marry young find themselves expecting a child when they themselves are barely out of adolescence. They have not really had time to get to know each other properly before the arrival of the baby, who requires attention 24 hours a day. When the newborn quite naturally becomes the primary object of the mother’s attention, the young husband may feel jealous. Furthermore, sleepless nights can create tension and stress that put a strain on the couple’s relationship. They suddenly realize that they have lost much of their freedom. Now they cannot go places and do things as freely as they did before. How should they view their changed situation?
Just as marriage should be undertaken in a responsible manner, parenthood should be viewed as a God-given responsibility and privilege. Whatever adjustments the arrival of a baby may cause in the lives of a Christian couple, they should do their utmost to deal with these in a responsible way. Since God gave humans the ability to have children, parents need to view the newborn baby as “an inheritance from God.” (Ps. 127:3) A Christian mother and father will strive to assume their duties as “parents in union with the Lord.”—Eph. 6:1.
Raising a child involves years of self-sacrifice. It is a big investment in time and energy. A Christian husband needs to understand that for several years after a baby is born, his wife is likely to be distracted during meetings and she may have fewer opportunities for personal Bible study and meditation. This could have a debilitating effect on her spiritual health. Responsible parenthood requires that the husband does all he reasonably can to help to look after the child. He could try to compensate for what his wife may miss at the meetings by later discussing some of the program points with her at home. He may also share in caring for the baby to give his wife an opportunity to have a meaningful share in Christian preaching.— Philippians 2:3, 4.
Responsible parenthood involves much more than providing the child with food, clothing, shelter, and health care. Particularly in this perilous time of the end, young ones need to learn from a tender age the moral principles by which to live. Children should be brought up “in the discipline and mental-regulating of God.” (Eph. 6:4) This “mental-regulating” involves implanting God’s thoughts in the mind of a child from its tender infancy on through the critical years of adolescence.—2 Tim. 3:14, 15.
When Jesus told his followers that they should “make disciples of people of all the nations,” he most certainly meant that parents should help their children to become disciples. (Matt. 28:19, 20) That is a challenge because of the pressures that this world puts on young people. Therefore, parents who succeed in rearing their children to become dedicated Christians truly deserve the warm commendation of all in the congregation. They have “conquered” the world’s influence by their faith and their faithfulness as responsible parents.—1 John 5:4.
Single or Childless for a Noble Purpose
Since “the time left is reduced” and “the scene of this world is changing,” God’s Word urges us to consider the advantages of singleness. (1 Cor. 7:29-31) Hence, some Christians choose to remain single for life or they decide to remain single for some years before marrying. Commendably, they do not take advantage of the freedom that singleness brings to pursue selfish interests. Many remain single in order to serve God “without distraction.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35.) Some single Christians serve as pioneers or Bethelites. A number seek to extend their usefulness to God’s organization by qualifying to attend the Ministerial Training School. In fact, those who served as full-time ministers for some time while single and then later decided to marry often feel that their marriage is still benefiting from the valuable lessons they learned during those early years.
In some parts of the world, yet another change in family life has occurred—numerous couples have decided to remain childless. Some do so for economic reasons; others do it because they want to be free to pursue a lucrative career. Among Christians, there are also couples who refrain from having children. However, they often do so to be freer to serve God. This does not mean that such couples do not enjoy a normal married life. They do. Still, they are willing to place Christian interests above some of the privileges that go with marriage. (1 Cor. 7:3-5)
‘Tribulation in the Flesh’
The apostle Paul told married Christians that they would have “tribulation in their flesh.” (1 Cor. 7:28) This may involve health problems for the couple, their children, or their aging parents. It may also involve difficulties and heartaches connected with the rearing of their children. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Bible foretold that “the last days” would bring “critical times hard to deal with.” Among the things hard to deal with would be children who are “disobedient to parents.”—2 Tim. 3:1-3.
Rearing children is a serious challenge for Christian parents. We are not shielded from the adverse effects of the current “critical times.” Hence, Christian parents have to wage an ongoing fight against the pernicious influence that “the system of things of this world” can have on their children. (Eph. 2:2, 3) And the battle is not always won! In case a son or a daughter of a Christian family stops serving God, it is, indeed, “tribulation” for parents who have tried to raise him or her in God’s truth.—Prov. 17:25.
“There Will Be Great Tribulation”
Any “tribulation” encountered within the context of marriage and childbearing will, however, be surpassed by another tribulation of far greater magnitude. In his prophecy about his presence and the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus stated:
There will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matt. 24:21)
Jesus later revealed that a great crowd would survive this “great tribulation.” However, Satan’s system will go down fighting in an all-out final assault against God’s peaceful Witnesses. Doubtless, it will be a difficult time for all of us—adults and children alike.
Nevertheless, we should not be unduly fearful about the future. Parents who are faithful to God can hope to be protected along with their young children. (Isaiah 26:20, 21; Zeph. 2:2, 3; 1 Cor. 7:14) For now, though, may awareness of the critical days in which we live influence how we think about marriage and parenthood in this time of the end. (2 Pet. 3:10-13) In that way, our life—whether we are single or married, with or without children—will bring honor and praise to God and to the Christian congregation.