We are engaged and getting married in nine months time. Both of us are Christians and know we are the right ones for each other. We have been praying and asking God if we should wait until we get married before we have sex, but are beginning to feel that since we are getting married soon anyway it should be OK. What do you think?


"Your argument not to wait makes perfect sense if you have a shallow understanding of what sexual unity is all about. Of course your body and your God given desire for each other urge you on and you taste how wonderful it is to feel close and sexual. However, I would be selling you short if I didn’t put to you a few things to consider.


Firstly, there is a potential psychological danger in starting your experience of sexual intercourse together in a different emotional context to the one in which you want it to thrive and be sustained. You will start enjoying sex with the hint of pre-marital excitement: there may be a sense of the illicit or some other feeling that will go, once you are married. Once these feelings are removed and you are ‘allowed’, this can leave some people (mostly women) struggling to enjoy sex after marriage. Sexual arousal is a less robust flower than we might think on first acquaintance and needs careful handling if we want the best over the years.


Another complication of not waiting, is that it can cause a sense of guilt to become linked to being sexual together, which can get you off to a bad start, bringing a shadow into your married sexual relationship.


On the positive front, I would also want to put to you that engagement is a unique time with its own distinctions that should not be wasted. This season offers you the opportunity to dwell on learning how to caress each other and enjoying each other’s bodies without intercourse. This is actually fundamentally important for you, as this will be the foundation of happy sexual intimacy once married. I appreciate our bodies focus on completing, but if you can pull back into the shallower waters where the pull of the current is less strong and control these urges, there are some great experiences to be had at this stage. You won’t ever be able to go back to this stage and my experience is that it is a vital place that can give you wonderful foundations to build from.


I appreciate deeply that self-control is truly hard to master, but is this really an adequate argument to give up? Our generation is very orientated to quick results and response to demand. There are strengths of character that we miss out on as a result, which would equip us better for the deeper challenges that life will inevitably bring us all. 2 Peter 1:6-8 urges us to ‘make every effort to add to your faith… self-control; and to self-control perseverance; and to perseverance godliness. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Learning to control our sexual urges is a life skill that will add to the happiness and safety of our marriages, let alone to our wider effectiveness as agents of God’s Kingdom.


Crucially and most importantly there is also the simple benefit of being obedient, out of knowledge that this is what God has said. Matthew 19.5 states clearly God’s wisdom: ‘a man will leave...and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ We can be so full of our own wisdom, that we forget that sex is a profound mystery to put it in theological terms, or to put it in humanistic language, it is an intricately complex mix of physiological, psychological and relational factors.


When Adam and Eve were given a garden full of fruit and told that only one was not allowed, it was easy for them to reason that the fruit was actually good and God had gone over the top this time. They were right in that there was nothing poisonous about the fruit. What they missed was something beyond the physicality of the fruit that was to do with trusting God that He holds together a much bigger picture of what will lead to good and not harm. We benefit from submitting ourselves to trusting that God knows more than us and learning to believe His deeper wisdom.


At the end of the day, the hard option is not to wait; if you truly want the easy option, you’ll find it in waiting."