2010-07-14 - Summer Questions
2006 #14 ~ Married to a non-Believer - Originally Published 2006-08-24
1 Corinthians 7:13, 14, "And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away, for the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy."
Today's Question: "I am married to a non Christian. No one said anything about uneven yoking before we married, not my pastor, not the marriage course people, no one. At times I really struggle, because it places a real and painful barrier into our marriage of 22 years. In all honesty, it drags me away from being all I can be for Christ because of the conflict that can result at home. My current pastor has commented re this, but all it does is makes me feel more of a failure and that I am being judged. I would like your thoughts on being a faithful and honouring wife whilst refusing to give up my faith in Jesus. The scripture passages often make me feel like a failure in this regard, as to follow my husband's path is not possible for me. I cannot live without my faith."
Well, I think there ought to be some sort of award for people like you. I am sure that is exactly how you thought I would respond when you wrote. It probably isn't, but let me encourage you a little, because I feel that what you are enduring by living with an unbelieving spouse is not only common, but is also something that can either impede or strengthen your faith. I will encourage you with your own words, "I cannot live without my faith." However you are dealing with your situation, it seems that even after 22 years, you have not lost perspective or steadfastness in your faith. That is very commendable. I am not saying that this is an ideal situation for anyone to be in. It has to be a struggle. However, being in your situation, you are doing exactly what I would encourage you to seek to do. You may not have followed the principle of not being unequally yoked before marriage, but finding yourself in that situation you have done, it seems to me, exactly what Scripture would admonish you to do in 1 Corinthians 7.
One of the things every Christian has to consider is the personality, level of faith, talents, gifts, capabilities, and weaknesses of the person they are married to in this life. This will, of course, differ from person to person, but it will and does affect your ability to do certain things, and may require you to not do things that for others are perfectly fine. In general the marriage relationship is the closest earthly relationship you will have in this life, and when that person does not share your views on faith issues, it is bound to have an effect in numerous areas. It will be, as you say, a painful barrier.
That said: It does not have to drag you away from being all you can be for Christ. It should not make you feel like a failure. It does not open the door for people to judge you. Your relationship with Christ is between you and Christ, and I do think that irrespective of the fact that your husband does not share your faith, there are ways you can be used of the Lord, grow in grace, and still know and experience the joy of sin forgiven. Let me suggest some ways.
The obvious suggestion is to encourage you to pray for your husband, and seek to love him into the kingdom, but it is so obvious I will not mention it here. Rather, I would like to dig a little deeper into your growth in grace and I think these apply to almost everyone, and are sound general rules for each of us. Seek to do all things to the glory of God. With this in mind, live your life with conviction, and follow your faith with all your might. Seek, in yourself, holiness - and strive toward that end. Try not to expect holiness in others who are outside the faith, but freely recognize it, and encourage it in others when you do see it.
Comfort yourself in knowing contentment with how the Lord has ordered His Providence in your life. It may be that the Lord has placed you just where you are, to use you in a work of grace in your husband. Encourage yourself with this, and live with that in view.
Lastly, flee to fellowship with Christ, and do not neglect the fellowship and benefit of other believers. Seek both and cling to both.
It is amazing, and speaks very well of you, that you have stayed for 22 years in a marriage with someone who does not share your faith. Be encouraged in that, and give thanks to the Lord for giving you the grace and sustaining fortitude until now, and pray for the same in the future. Please understand also that your situation is fairly common. It is an unspoken, but a sad and almost understood American tradition that Sunday faith is for women, and Sundays for men is for Football. Thank you for your question.
Soli Deo Gloria,