So if you’re pondering the all-important decision of whether to become engaged, premarital counseling is definitely the place to do it.

Second, once you are engaged, be sure to set a wedding date that will allow you plenty of time to invest in your relationship – ideally, a year or more.

Not surprisingly, Christians tend to be the worst offenders when it comes to short engagements.  Couples heeding the Scriptural injunction against premarital sex are definitely doing it right, but they also tend to be very impatient about getting into the conjugal bed of legitimacy.  They’ve kept themselves pure, and now that they see the goal line, they want to make a dash for it.  Besides, they’ve found their soul mate.  Why wait?

Well, several reasons.  First, you have the rest of your life to be married, but you have only now to be engaged. 

“There is a time for everything,” wrote the Psalmist, and that includes your engagement.  Like other seasons of our lives, it cannot and should not be rushed, lest we suffer the consequences.  As with childhood, when we’re preparing to face the world as adults, the engagement is a time of intense preparation for marriage.  You’re getting ready to take on the world as a couple, rather than two separate and distinct individuals.  And that’s not something that happens overnight – or in a few months.  Especially if you’re busy planning the biggest party of your life.

Second, there are required periods of abstinence in every union, which include everything from  high-risk pregnancies and the postpartum months to illnesses and separations.  My husband and I have been celibate for more than five months now.  Why?  Because like thousands of other troops, he’s been deployed to the Middle East.

Third, after the initial excitement of marriage wears off, you will probably experience attraction, however occasional, toward people other than your spouse.  Shocking, but true.  You’ll then need to practice the exact same discipline God wants you to practice now.

Bottom line: we all experience sexual temptation, whether married or single.  It’s Satan’s way of trying to wreck the many gifts that God has given us – and he doesn’t give up after we’ve walked down that aisle.  So if you don’t resist now, you may not later.  It doesn’t get any easier. 

On the other side of the equation are engaged Christians who are already sleeping together.  Because they know they’re outside of God’s plan for marriage, they feel guilty.  By hastening their marital legitimacy with a quick wedding, they hope that they can “cover up” the sin.  But the long-term ramifications of premarital sex – which include everything from role reversals between husband and wife to intense guilt and shame, which will affect every area of a marriage – can’t be fully understood until a couple is mired in the consequences.

So, if you are sleeping together (or tempting yourselves by going too far), then stop, repent and confess your sins to God and a trusted mentor.  Immediately.  It’s never too late to follow God’s will for your marriage – and even a short period of abstinence before your wedding, if it is guided by heartfelt repentance, will allow the Holy Spirit to restore your ruptured relationship with God.

Remind yourselves that this act of obedience is like any other area of our life that requires discipline.  Whatever you’ve accomplished, whether athletic, artistic or scholastic, has required discipline.  Staying out of bed is no different.  So put your trust in the power of the Holy Spirit for your sexuality by setting good boundaries.  Practice patience, one of the Scriptural definitions of love (1 Corinthians 3).  Know that God can and will give you the necessary discipline to hold out a few more months – to love your beloved, without sex – especially if you’re using that time in godly ways.  Like any accomplishment you’ve ever made, it just takes some self-control and common sense.