The panic sets in right around the time you’re putting sixteen candles on the birthday cake. You never experienced it before, but it hits you like a ton of bricks. Who is my child going to marry?

When children are small, we just assume everything will turn out well. But when they get old enough that we start to realize they just may be meeting that “special someone” any day now, we look around their social circle and realize the pickings are slim indeed.

Whether it’s because teenage boys don’t have goals in life, or because teenage girls are too pushy and—how shall I say this delicately—provocative, we begin to worry that there is no one out there for our little angel.

When you meet new people who impress you, you begin to ask if they have teenagers, too, just in case. When I was speaking recently, I found out that the woman doing the special music that day had an 18-year-old teenage boy who was very committed to God. Without thinking about it, we both whipped out pictures of our kids. We moms have that instinct. And we’re worried about their marriage prospects.

Relying on God for the future

But as I’ve been driven to my knees lately praying for my teen girls, God spoke to my heart about my attitude. I’ve been praying that my girls will find good husbands, because that’s the desire of my heart. But what I’ve realized is that it’s more important for them to learn to rely on God. If He has a plan for them that involves singleness, they’re still going to have an amazing life serving Him! So instead, I gave over my dream of them marrying, and I said, “Lord, help prepare my girls for whatever way they can best serve you. And if that involves marriage, then please please please keep that young man from porn and bad decisions right now, and help him learn to lean on you!”

I’ve been reading and memorizing more and more the prayers that Paul prayed for his spiritual children, which are grounded in their relationship with Christ. Here’s the one from Ephesians 3:14-19, for instance:

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Notice what this prayer focuses on. Everything about knowing God! Nothing about happiness or safety.

It’s the relationship with God that’s central.

Now, if you’re a mom, then you’re by definition someone who has had a romantic relationship, even if it didn’t last. And chances are you want that for your child. But the most important thing to point them towards is God, because if they’re safe in God’s hands, and if they learn to trust Him, even in disappointments, they’re going to be fine. Getting married is not a guarantee of a good life. Leaning on God is.

And recent rather depressing research has born this out. Take the rate of pre-marital sex, for instance. According to the DCR Report of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, church attendance does not inoculate a teen or young adult against pre-marital sex. If you attend church three times a month, you’re about as likely to jump into bed with someone as if you don’t attend at all. But if you attend weekly, then the rate of sexual activity plummets. What’s the difference? Someone who goes every week is really committed to God.

What that tells me is that I’ve had the wrong priority when it comes to my girls. I’ve been focusing on their future mate instead of focusing on their hearts. If they’re committed to God, things will fall into place. If they’re not, they’re opening themselves up for a world of heartache.

In my surveys for A Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I found that the women with the happiest marriages and the best sex lives are those who waited for marriage to have sex. And yet who does that? With the website AshleyMadison.com offering $1,000,000 to anyone who can prove they’ve taken Tim Tebow’s virginity, the world is stacked against us. Yet 40% of Christians still reported waiting.

I still hope and pray my kids get married, because the biggest joys in my life have come from my family. But I also know that this kind of joy is first and foremost dependent on their relationship with God. My marriage is strong because God is at the center. My sex life is strong because God is at the center—and He helped keep me pure. So if you want your kids to be happy, certainly pray for their future spouses. But more importantly, pray that they will learn to rely on God. Because that’s what matters more than anything.

Written by Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire, a born entrepreneur, writes for numerous magazines and speaks to a variety of audiences across North America, combining the realities of a family with Scripture for real-world, real-biblical answers. In addition, she and her husband, Keith, “tag team” homeschool their kids. Sheila is the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (Zondervan, 2012). To visit her blog go to tolovehonorandvacuum.blogspot.com/