This is Part 3 of a series. You can find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.
There are, of course, problems with marrying young, just as there are problems with marrying late. When you marry young, money is often scarce. Couples who do marry young tend to never have the same level of financial security as couples who marry later on do. The difference is even wider if the couple goes on to have children immediately vs. waiting several years to have children. Statistics for divorce cite marrying young, having financial problems, and having children early on in the marriage as factors that raise the probability of divorce. Couples who marry young are also less likely to go on to higher education and to complete their degrees.
There isn't a set solution for this problem. I think that the question of higher education should be answered on a case-by-case basis. Some parents might be willing to assist their newlywed children. If the couple doesn't have a conviction against loans, most young marrieds are so poor that they qualify for all types of financial aid. ;) My parents were generous enough to pay my tuition my last year of college, while DH received financial assistance for all of his college.
Some couples may want to do as we did, taking turns working and going to school. This does make the odds of both people finishing college less likely, though, especially if the couple has children. The woman in particular is more likely to never receive her degree. However, if the couple intends for the woman to be a SAHM, then the issue of her obtaining her degree might not be a problem. While I believe in women going to college and receiving their education, I understand that not everyone desires that.
I know that some of you out there might read this and decide that I am advocating women staying home barefoot and pregnant. That is not the case. I believe that college and other forms of higher education benefit every aspect of life. Parents who have higher education can often enrich their own child's education. What I am advocating is purity in dating and marriage. The institute of marriage is crumbling at an alarming rate, even within the church. I believe that the shaky foundations laid while dating are the cause of many marriages failing.
If you're skeptical, consider this: there are estimates that up to 80% of Christians have sex before marriage. I believe one of the reasons for this can be that while the average age of puberty is 12 or 13, the average age for marriage is 25 or 27 (U.S. Census). That's 13 or so years dealing with a God-given desire. This doesn't mean that 12 and 13 year-olds are wanting to go out and have sex, but they are beginning to have that idea. The idea is only going to increase as the child grows up, which is how God designed it to be. Many young Christians are able to withstand the temptations, but many don't.
I have known several couples who dated, only to break up when the feelings became too intense. I commend these people for having the courage to stand up for their purity, even though it meant their heartbreak. But I wonder how things would have been different if they had felt the freedom to marry? What would have happened if they had the knowledge that they could go ahead and marry at 20, instead of waiting another 5 years?
Yes, I know that God will equip the believer with the strength to resist temptation if the believer seeks Him. And yes, I know that Jesus lived 30-some years without ever sinning. But is the emotional and physical distress worth it? Humans are, by their very nature, sinful creatures. Knowing that you can marry the person you love at 20 as opposed to 25 can be a huge relief to couples who are burdened with their God-given desires for each other, yet desiring to please God.
The time spent being single is a wonderful, God-appointed time to spend growing closer to Him before marriage and family distract. There is nothing wrong with waiting to marry. But there shouldn't be condemnation of couples who do marry young. Rather, the church should surround the couple and provide mentoring and discipleship, things that are missing on nearly every level in the modern church.