Serving an Unbelieving Spouse

By Tammy Skipper, Contributing Writer

When we start reading, writing, and discussing the picture of A Biblical Marriage our reality may have a hard time meeting our expectations. This can be especially discouraging when your spouse does not hold the same spiritual beliefs. We throw around the term ‘unequally yoked’ as if it clearly defines the problem and the solution; but often the solution eludes us.

I gained freedom when I realized that it was not my job to change my spouse.

My Journey

My husband and I were in a relationship for years before he put his trust in Jesus. After he made that decision, we attended service almost every week. However, it was another twelve years before I allowed my husband to lead in the decisions of faith in our home. During all that time, I had a list of reasons why he was not spiritual enough to be the one making those choices.

  • He didn’t read his Bible every day.
  • He didn’t attend the men’s breakfast every month.
  • He didn’t want to give to other charities or serve in homeless shelters.
  • He didn’t pray with me or lead our children in devotions.
Luke 6:42 says, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

 

I chose to focus on what I saw lacking in my husband, but God was focused on my own disobedience. God showed me that my works were the same filthy rags Isaiah described. I was just as unworthy of His grace as my husband. His Word and the wisdom of mentors to show me I was married to a man who deserved the same love and grace from me that I received as a child of God.

I began serving my husband. I looked to the scripture to see what God had called me to do for my husband.

  • God wanted me to submit to the leadership so I waited for my husband to choose our new church after moving.
  • God wanted me to quit demanding my husband attend certain church services or functions as if he were my child.
  • God wanted me to listen to my husband’s thoughts on scripture and sermons even if they were in opposition to mine.
  • God wanted me to look to Christ for my example, not to compare myself to my husband.

Ultimately, comparison will only weaken your marriage, whether your spouse is a believer or not. Live to be more like Christ by serving others without condemnation, starting with your spouse.

For further reading: start with Ephesians 5, Galatians 5:22-23, John 8:1-11, and I Peter 3.

What can you do today to serve your spouse right where he is?

Comments

  1. Great article! I’m also in an unequally yoked marriage and can so relate. I’m so happy for you that your husband came to know the Lord. Hopefully mine will someday too.

  2. Misty, I have a dear friend who has been married about 15 years and even though her husband attends services with her, he does not have a personal relationship with God. I am lifting you and your husband up in prayer right now. Hoping these are some practical steps while you wait for God. Be faithful and encouraged!

  3. Great post! When I first came to know the Lord, I compared my husband to all the Christian men at church and was always disappointed that my hubby didn’t want to go to “my” church. But the Lord showed me that I just need to love on my husband and let God work on his heart. So I did. After several years, my husband decided to come to a church service with me and the kids… he loved it and began coming to church regularly. And he started reading his Bible! It was such a blessing. But after landing a new job, his schedule has changed and he stopped coming to church and then stopped reading his Bible. I’m hopeful that he will begin going to church again (on the days his schedule allows) and reading his Bible daily. I’ve laerned to take it all in prayer and let the Lord be my (and his) guide. God bless!!

  4. These are the mistakes I have made over the years, which I share in order to help others avoid the same pitfalls:
    1. When I married, I wasn’t walking as close to the Lord as I should have, therefore, I missed out on the clues that I would have otherwise seen, telling me that he wasn’t a Christian. If you’re in a relationship that is headed toward marriage, and your fella goes to church with you, but he doesn’t read his bible, pray, show signs that the Spirit is leading him, or if he doesn’t show signs of good fruit production, or doesn’t WANT to serve God in some way, using his God-given talents to glorify HIM, then think about stepping back until you BOTH are as close to Jesus as you are to each other. If you step away from your Honey to get closer to Jesus, and he doesn’t follow, that’s a clue that he isn’t going to be the Spiritual Leader of your marriage/family anytime soon. I’m not saying leave him, but some quality prayer time over the relationship is probably in order.
    2. When my husband stopped attending church, I started substituting for the Holy Spirit. I was the convict-or, trying to lead dear hubby to the truth, bestowing guilt, and in the process, pushing him further and further away from any interest in Christianity all together! I learned that the Holy Spirit is pretty awesome at His job, and doesn’t need my help or intervention at all. Prayer works, though.
    3. Next, I learned that prayer works both ways. The Power of a Praying Wife, by Stormie OMartian, is a sneaky book! While I used it to pray for my husband, I found that I also needed to apply those prayers to myself! The first prayer being, “Lord, give my husband a NEW WIFE, and let her be ME!” Praying for my husband softened my heart toward him, too. Prayer thaws the icy heart, and makes things cook!
    4. I also discovered that submission is not a dirty bad word. Submission is ducking so that the Lord can smack your husband…not really. Submission is simply fitting pieces together. You can’t force puzzle pieces in places that don’t fit, or where the picture doesn’t match. Or, at least, you can’t complete the puzzle in this manner. Submission is the act of being meek… I didn’t say weak, I said MEEK. Imagine Superwoman not in control of her superpowers… not meek. When we harness our feminine powers and choose to use our charms for good and not evil… when we decide to consider the betterment of the whole family / marriage before we talk or act… THAT’S MEEKNESS. THAT’S SUBMISSION. And for a woman, it’s TRUE BEAUTY. If you haven’t vowed to try to let your husband have his ever last wish for a week ON PURPOSE, try it. You’ll be amazed at how much he’ll be turned on.
    5. A non-believing husband/spouse can actually be jealous of church, and resent that you spend more time there than with him. When my husband worked two jobs, and was home when I wanted to go to church… he wasn’t happy. Husband comes first. When we moved from GA to Germany, I gave up church. I didn’t give up my relationship with God, or do away with Jesus… I just didn’t go to church while Hubby was home. God provided a marvelous family of sisters, though. A women’s bible study on Wednesdays became my church. It didn’t interfere with my time at home, and during the studies, I learned from my Titus 2 spiritual “mothers” how to love my husband and how to be a keeper at home, and how to provide a “comfort zone” for my husband to come home to. I even learned how to organize and decorate! Hubby learned to appreciate that “CHURCH” can really benefit him, even when he doesn’t care to show up!
    6. I learned to compliment, and show gratitude. My EX husband once told me that I never thank him or show any gratitude when he works late, works on the cars, and other stuff. It was a real eye opener to me. Though that first marriage dissolved, due to a lack of any real council and emotional support, I took that eye opener into my second marriage, and I can tell that showing gratitude, and giving praise and making an effort to point out his accomplishments and good qualities really boost his self-esteem and pride. It’s healthy for a relationship to hear that they are loved and appreciated. One doesn’t have to ridicule and degrade in order to deflate a relationship. All you have to do is be silent. It gives the air of “i don’t really care what you have done or who you are or what you look like.” Silence is not golden when your spouse is thinking you don’t think highly of them, and you aren’t saying anything to contradict their thoughts.
    7. Reading Christian marriage counseling/help book are encouraging and motivational, but after 15 – 20 years of implementing and not seeing results, one CAN get burned out! I’ve learned that trading the old stubborn coot in for a new model is NOT the answer. When I felt I had done all I could do and could do no more, I went in for a pep talk with my pastor and his wife. I dumped all my frustrations, let them listen and ask questions, and told them all I had tried and all that I had prayed. The flood of discouraged words emptied much of my pent up burn out, and it helped that they encouraged, and reminded me of God’s promises. I tend not to vent to someone who will give me advice contrary to the Word. I know Mom means well, but “pack up the kids and move in with me,” isn’t the answer I need to hear. It’s a temptation, not a solution. You want to be led away from temptation.
    8. God is a pretty good replacement for a missing father, but He also is entitled HUSBAND in the Bible. I’ve learned that when I feel lonely, unfulfilled, miserable, and my desire is for my husband, who is our working on the cursed earth to make ends meet (or giving in to an addictive habit), I can call on my Divine Husband! Hosea Chapter 2 is great. Songs of Solomon… Pretend it’s a story about you and JESUS! it’ll make you blush, but that’s the point! God’s not just there to keep the universe in orbit and miraculously cure cancer in someone ELSE’S family… He wants to have an INTIMATE relationship with YOU! He’s the Great Romancer. I started a journal and address each day’s pages with things like, “My Sweet Husband,” and “Lover of my soul,” and “Darling Divine!” I just write to God like I was writing love notes to my high-school sweetheart, and I get just as giddy as if I just got my first kiss! Jesus doesn’t just save us from Hell…He sweeps us off our feet and rides us off into the sunset! His banner over us is LOVE! Four letters that stand for everything in 1 Corinthians 13. I love it!
    9. I learned that just because Hubby isn’t loving me in the way I understand most, he’s still loving me. His language of love may be service and mine may be quality time. I try to serve him with extra chores so that he can understand my love. Just because your spouse won’t learn your language, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love you. It means you need to learn a second language. If you take the first step in learning and speaking, you’ll see them love you more often, and they will probably reciprocate in speaking your language more often. Either way, when your love tank runs on empty and you’re just not “feeling” in love anymore… God is faithful to fill it up for you. His love is not only unconditional, and unfailing, but it is also unending. Just ask Him to give you more love for your spouse, and He is faithful to comply! This is the main reason I have celebrated 18 anniversaries with my “unsaved” husband. Though my husband hasn’t always been faithful in making me feel loved, God has ALWAYS been faithful in translating, and filling that void.
    10. Finally, I have learned to give my thoughts and emotions to God. When I give them to my husband, he tends to add his thoughts and emotions to the ball and throw it back at me. That’s not productive, and it’s NOT a fun or recreational ball game. I’ve learned to turn my thinking over to the Lord. I did a Bible word study of the words MIND, RENEW, RENEWING, THINKING, THOUGHTS, and HEART. I needed to know how to be transformed by the renewing of my mind, once the “stinking thinking” settled in. This isn’t just relying on the promises of God, though that is VERY important in marriage… it’s combating the devil’s attacks and manipulations. It’s learning how to recognize where Satan is trading God’s truths for lies, and where I was believing the lies instead of the truth. Sometimes, Satan would use the truth against me… “He’s working too many hours (I can work more, too, or eat more to drown out my sorrow)…He’s not sharing the paycheck when you work in the home just as many hours (I’ll just take out $40 and tell him tomorrow)… and so on. Interestingly enough, once I started the word studies, books and Sunday School lessons began popping up on the same subject the same week! Confirmation that renewing the mind is a God-thing, and a wise thing, and a productive thing. I started seeing my husband the way God sees him, and it gave me more compassion and motivation to keep on going.

    I am trusting the God of Hope to complete the work He has started in my husband, and that trust in God’s promise is carrying me through. Everything we experience and feel in our marriage is only a crumb in the trash compared to the relational conflicts that God gets on a moment by moment basis with every person on earth. If He can be a faithful Husband to 5 billion imperfect humans forever, I guess He can give us the ability to hang tough with one person in this short earthly life, right? Our marital struggles give us a heart for God’s heart.

    The journey is SO worth it!
    God be with you,
    Melody P

  5. Jason Balmet says:

    Melody thank you so much for your comments! Your advice is spot on. We just sent you an email about this :)