My girlfriend and I have a very serious problem. But first, a little history. When we met, I was not a Christian. She has been one for her entire life. In meeting her, she showed me the way to God, and I was baptized a few months ago. Together we have grown immensely in each other and in God. We plan to marry but must wait for a few reasons. One, she is in an extremely difficult school program, and a wedding would take too much time to do at this time. Two, her family means too much to her to marry at any time when they could not all be present. Three, doing a "JP" (Justice of the Peace) wedding and then having the traditional wedding at a later date would ruin the specialty of the traditional ceremony.
Now, here is our dilemma. We consistently engage in sexual acts. We have not, nor will we ever actually have sex until marriage, but we constantly struggle to keep ourselves out of sin and go as far as oral activities. We both understand it is wrong. We both feel very guilty and are really trying to stop. We have been trying, and failing, for the past few months. We pray about it constantly. We set punishments for ourselves, and follow through with them if we are bad. We fully understand and realize that we are putting our souls in jeopardy. We just get so weak at times. One of us will be strong, but the other fails, and we both fall. It's even more distressing to me since I am supposed to be her protector, both physically and spiritually, and we constantly fail at this. We know we plan on being married if God wills it, and sometimes that makes it hard too. There was even a slight time period where we stopped feeling guilty about this.
So I guess my point in all this, is we understand 100% what we are doing is wrong, and we have tried many things to fix it, but we keep failing. If you have any suggestions to help, we would both be very gracious.
The real problem isn't that God's teachings are hard to follow. The real problem is that you have been putting personal preferences in front of God's Will.
God has told you two very clearly what needs to happen:
"If they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (I Corinthians 7:9).
The reasons you are giving are excuses why you rather commit fornication than being committed to each other in marriage. Let's look at each one:
Too Busy Right Now for a Fancy Wedding
Who is it that wants the big wedding, you or God? There is nothing wrong with wanting family and friends to join you in celebrating your union, but the problem is that you've made the wedding so big in your dreams that you can't practically get it done -- so it gets put off. Thus, because of your pride, you choose to live in fornication and guilt. There is a reason why God says Christianity takes a big dose of humility. "A man's pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor" (Proverbs 29:23).
Can't Find a Time When Everyone Can Be There
Here is an excellent illustration of what Solomon warned against: "He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap" (Ecclesiastes 11:4). If a farmer waits for the absolutely perfect time to plant, the seed will never get into the ground. If he waits until the absolutely perfect conditions to harvest, he'll never bring in his crop. You are doing the exact same thing. You are waiting for the perfect time when who knows how many people's schedules can all line up to attend your wedding. You have it backward. You can find a good time to have the wedding that you know most of your family and friends should be able to attend and then shout out "Y'all come!" For those who really want to be there, they will make it happen, even if it isn't perfectly convenient for them. Others just won't be able to make it, but it won't make them less happy for you.
We Don't Want Two Ceremonies
I don't blame you. But right now you are settling for no ceremony -- in that, I do blame you.
Why the Stop-Gap Measures Are Failing
First, you placed limits on yourself that are less than God's limits. You figure that so long as you don't engage in actual intercourse, then you are not completely bad. The problem is that you're weighing sins. In many ways, you are like the Jews Jesus scolded. "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28). They had convinced themselves that since they weren't actually jumping into bed with a woman, there was no harm in drooling over women in their minds. In truth, as far as sin goes, the one was just as bad as the other.
You are committing fornication. It doesn't matter that your penis isn't in her vagina yet. You are still doing everything else but intercourse. And you still risk the possibility of getting her pregnant. And I'm sure that what is going on in your minds isn't stopping where you are physically stopping.
Second, you are praying but as I mentioned earlier, your own will is more important to you than God's at the moment. "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:1-4). You are in a battle with yourselves and physical pleasure is winning. You ask, but you don't get because you are asking for other personal pleasures (a big, perfect wedding with everyone there). Meanwhile, you commit fornication and don't get your wedding.
Third, you punish yourself, but you go right back to fornication. People get odd ideas regarding punishment. Punishment is to get someone to see that they are in the wrong and need to change. You already know you are in the wrong. Besides this, you are functioning as prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner in your own crimes. It doesn't work in court and it doesn't work in a person's life. It sounds good on the surface, but it doesn't work, as you have discovered. "These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh" (Colossians 2:23).
Fourth, you can't resist because you have no plans. If I told you that tomorrow you were going to get married, do you think you could manage to keep your clothes on and your hands off each other? How about next week? It might be a bit harder, but it could be done because you know where the end of the tunnel was at. The same for a month out, and so on. But what you have right now is no definite plan for an endpoint, so you give in.
There is a proverb that deals with gain that I think illustrates this point. "The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty" (Proverbs 21:5). If you worked hard and planned to marry, you would gain spiritual strength to reach that goal. But because you have no definite plan, impulsive choices rule your lives and you have become spiritually impoverished.
Finally, it is because you keep telling yourself that you're going to get married anyway that you give yourself an excuse. You know it isn't right, but you have plans to make it right, just later. In essence, you are lowering your restraint because you ultimately have "good" intentions. The problem is that what you are doing is wrong. Getting married later won't change the fact that you are currently committing fornication. What you've noticed is that you are becoming numb to sin. Guilt doesn't always and totally affect you as it should. As this continues, you'll slip further as you continue to scar your souls. "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:26-27).
You both need to grow up and take responsibility. You need to face the fact that this world isn't perfect and you can't have a perfect life. You have someone special in each other but right now you tearing each other down spiritually and using each other for personal physical pleasure. This isn't what marriage is about, but you are establishing poor habits before you enter marriage.
Drop the pride and face the truth: You aren't able to exercise self-control. There are other couples in the same boat. God understands; that is, "If they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (I Corinthians 7:9). You two are the ones making this hard, not God.
Thank you for answering. We went over what you had to say and pretty much discussed all day what we are going to do. We still feel it is impossible to marry right now but are going to be making some very severe changes to our relationship to not even allow the opportunity of doing what is wrong. Some examples would be watching movies in the living room instead of the bedroom, not staying together with no one else around, and changing how late we stay with each other each night.
Good for you! When I wrote, I took you at your word that you were not able to restrain yourselves. If you are serious about following God, then you going in the right direction. You are now looking at why you were making it easy on yourselves to sin and beginning to act like true Christians who abhor evil.