I realize that many women in the Kingdom are in the same position as me and that many more will decide to follow the Lord even though their husbands have chosen not to. There are so many things going on inside me for the better and I pray for him daily and many times a day. I BELIEVE that the Lord will become his Christ when God decides the time is right, but how do I live in a house divided in heart until that day comes? I know from talking to leaders and other sisters that this is not a uncommon thing in our church, so I ask on behalf of all the other sisters (and brothers) out there that are married to non believers, how do I serve the Lord and at the same time make sure that my husband feels loved and appreciated and cared for. I know that being an example in Christ is the best way in the big picture but do you have any small nuggets to help in the day to day feeling like a divided home? Thank you and God Bless.
Dear Young Sister,
It is always encouraging to hear of someone becoming a Christian. I am glad you are filled with joy and pray you will always be so.
Yes, it is a common thing for one partner in a marriage to become a disciple while the other is not willing to at the same time. Your home situation was also common in the first century. Look what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 7:12-16
If a Christian man has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a Christian woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy. (But if the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.) Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?
During the time 1st Corinthians was written Christians were a stark contrast to mainstream society and culture. It is also true of those who are sincere disciples in today’s society. Consequently, those who are not Christians do not fully understand or appreciate those differences, especially in their spouses.
The most obvious differences and change in lifestyle is the time commitment to the body of Christ and “invasion” of new friendships in your life. The time spent on body life as well as the intimacy of spiritual friendships can be very threatening to a spouse. I think it is important that he knows your general new schedule (worship services and family group meetings or Bible talks) and when something out of ordinary come up such as conferences, you let him know in advance. When schedule conflicts come up do your best to be solution oriented. I have seen some unbelievers deliberately bait their spouse trying to get them to skip Kingdom events. I have also seen some wives be indifferent to their husband’s feelings and refuse to accommodate reasonable requests. I encourage you to seek advice from mature sisters and brothers when you are unsure of the right choice in these matters.
Your new friendships may be confusing and seem intrusive to him. Please be very careful about confidentiality. You do not need to share your husband’s sins with other disciples. When you get advice do your best to convey situations without it becoming a bashing your spouse session. A close friend of mine who had a “divided” home for 10 years before her husband became a Christian realized that she used his non-disciple status to sin. She often indulged in self-pity, a critical and unsubmissive spirit, and a disrespectful attitude towards her husband. She later realized that she was just being willful in her bad attitudes. He was not easy to live with as a non-Christian but she chose to respond by not being Christlike.
Holier than thou attitudes can often come up in any of our relationships. In marriages it can be very hurtful and seldom productive. It is not a good thing to quote scriptures to your husband to criticize him or to correct his behavior. It mostly like will harden his heart.
1 Peter 2:21-3:6 (NLT) talks about the attitude you are to have:
21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.
22 He never sinned,
nor ever deceived anyone.
23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
He left his case in the hands of God,
who always judges fairly.
24 He personally carried our sins
in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
and live for what is right.
By his wounds
you are healed.
25 Once you were like sheep
who wandered away.
But now you have turned to your Shepherd,
the Guardian of your souls.
1 Peter 3:1 In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2 by observing your pure and reverent lives.
3 Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 5 This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands. 6 For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do.
Imitate Jesus, guard your tongue and do not give in to fear. That is the challenge for all of us, isn’t it?
I encourage you to read the book, A Gentle and Quiet Spirit, by Virginia Leftler. It is an excellent reading choice to get deeper into the above scripture.
Isn’t it a beautiful thing that the Bible says “you bring holiness to the marriage” and that “your husband might be saved because of you”. I am sure if that is ever before you you will be the kind of spouse God wants you to be.
Welcome to the Kingdom, Sister. Peace to you and your family.