Marriage today is in a sad state. The prospect for any new marriage to endure thirty or forty or fifty years is exceedingly slim. These dreadful societal shifts away from the biblical standards of faithfulness and permanency ought to alarm us. Yet as we have seen, Christians generally accept them with a shrug, and when the specifics of these trends intrude upon their own lives and families, hope for the best.

As a result, even what we call "Christian marriages" are more tenuous all the time. Every day beaming Christian brides walk down the aisle while family and friends watch the happy ceremony, and those most aware of the dangers sit with their fingers crossed and their lips moving in silent prayer, wondering how long the bliss will last.

Is that all we can do-depend on luck, throw in a little last-minute prayer, and hope for the best?

That is hardly a forceful and biblical strategy for meeting the enemy's attack on marriage and family-hoping for the best. Yet that is the first-and only-line of defense many families have.

A Partnership Response
We happen to think Christian parents and young people can combat the decay of marital permanency more vigorously than simply "hoping for the best." We believe that concerned and serious Christian parents and their sons and daughters can stem this rising tide of marriage failure.

The odds are against those embarking on marriage today. It is time we who are their parents, and you young people who are directly involved in marital decisions and who are the Christian parents of the future, do something about it.

We need to help our sons and daughters. And you young adults need to help yourselves!

How?

By attacking the problem at the root-before marriage. We need to look at the foundation. We need to look at how we prepare for marriage.

We need to rethink the entire process of selecting future husbands and wives.
We need to address the epidemic of marriage impermanence by doing a better job beforehand. It is an assignment that involves both young people and their parents.

To accomplish these things, therefore, we need to form a partnership between parents and young people.

It is our conviction that there are ways to establish wise, sensible, and lasting marriages-marriages that will stand the test of time, marriages that will endure.

We call them best-friend marriages. We think the prospects are exciting.

But building strong foundations will go against everything society teaches, against every trend promoted on television. It will probably be laughed at by your Christian friends as well. It will not even be widely accepted in many churches.

We are not deterred. We hope you will not be either.

So let's get to the business at hand. Let's see if those of us who take the principles of the Bible seriously cannot do something to stop the flood of marital failure that is engulfing Christian families along with all the others.

And if we cannot change the direction society is moving, at least we can do something to help your marriage be a best-friend marriage.
Establishing the Partnership-It Might Not Be Easy!
What will it take to succeed?

We might as well tell you right from the start that it won't be easy. To succeed you may have to make sacrifices and learn to conduct your social life differently. It may not be comfortable at first.
It will take young people working together with their parents-standing in unity against the subtle infiltration of secularism that is growing like a cancer within the Church.

It will take trust on the part of young people toward their parents, greater trust than perhaps they have ever given their mothers and fathers before.

It will take involvement on the part of parents in the lives of their sons and daughters to a greater and more sacrificial degree than perhaps they have ever exercised.

It will take parents and young people rising above whatever petty squabbles may have separated them through the years.

It will take young people putting behind them the independence of the teenage point of view and saying, "I am going to trust my parents to see things I cannot see. Even when we disagree I am going to listen to them and try to hear what they are really saying."

It will take parents recognizing their sons and daughters as no longer children but adults, and saying, "I determine to view my sons and daughters as mature and equal beings in their own right. I will listen to them and try to hear what is genuinely on their heart."

It will take all those involved sitting down together-relinquishing pride, independence, self-centeredness ... forgetting the past, old arguments and grievances ... laying aside the desire to have one's own way ... listening to one another and praying together to seek God's will-and saying with mutual resolve, "How can we best make this work?" In a partnership of this kind there are no "sides." Either both win or both lose. Whatever the outcome, it will have a lifelong effect on both parents and young people. "For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure" (Proverbs 11:14).

In short, it will take mothers and fathers and sons and daughters joining hands and committing themselves together to the truth that a solid marriage is worth fighting for before the fact.

Let us warn you, however, that some of the things we will propose may seem so outrageous that you may laugh out loud. When we first began home schooling seventeen years ago, many scoffed at what we were trying to do. But in the years since, hundreds of thousands of families have come to see the wisdom and necessity of wholly revamped educational priorities. Similarly, however outlandish some of the ideas of this book may strike you now, we believe these new priorities for marriage foundations will become the standard within the Christian church in the next decade.

We are in earnest here. We believe drastic measures are called for if we Christians who understand the biblical pattern are going to take a determinative leadership role in establishing strong marital foundations.

The Christian norms of our society are disappearing. Marriage as formerly defined is disappearing along with them. Therefore, unusual and nonconformist as some of these ideas may sound, we don't see hope for meeting this threat other than to attack it head on.

So we encourage you-young people and old, parents, sons, daughters, grandparents, singles-to put on your fighting gear and join us in the battle. We challenge you to be part of the attempt to win back the sanctity, the strength, the purity, and the longevity of marriage as God intended it.

Most of all, we want your marriage, or the marriage of your son or daughter, to be a great marriage. As we said, we are not trying to save society as much as we hope to give you the tools to establish a best-friend marriage for life. Of course, whenever enough young people make a like commitment, society does change. But it has to start with you.

Excerpted by permission from Best Friends for Life, copyright 1997 by Michael & Judy Phillips. All rights reserved. Published by Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minn., www.bethanyhouse.com, 1-800-328-6109.

Michael Phillips has authored more than fifty books. He's also the editor of the George MacDonald Classics series. Judy Phillips is a longtime leader in the home-schooling movement. She and Michael live in California, where they own and operate a Christian bookstore. They have three grown sons.

How did you prepare for marriage? How have you helped your married son or daughter prepare for marriage? What do you wish you had done differently, and why? What are you glad you did, and why? Visit the Books Forum to discuss this topic. Just click on the link below.