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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When your spouse doesn't believe in God

I've been a pastor for a long time.

Over the years, one of the greatest needs that have presented themselves to Debbie and I is this question, "What do I no - my spouse doesn't believe in God?"

This week I was walking through the foyer of our church (it's also called the "narthex" or even the "lobby" depending on the part of the country that you live in) and found an article about this very situation in the Assemblies of God periodical called, "Live".

Let me summarize their thoughts and add some of my own.

If your spouse is not serving the Lord - know this:

Take the responsibility off your shoulders.

I also say (and share this quite frequently), "we are responsible to people but we are not responsible for people."

In other words, I can't change anybody.

I can't save anyone. Only God can. Only the Holy Spirit can bring people to Christ.

As the article states, "there is a (huge - my word) difference between feeling burdened for your spouse's salvation and shouldering the load for their decision. The first leaves room for joy; the second produces misery."

What then is the responsibility of the godly spouse? To live a lifestyle of holiness and to accept God's forgiveness and cleansing in their own life.

Also....Separate out the actions of your spouse from your reputation.

If you think that your reputation is somehow tarnished or ruined because your spouse is not a Christian, it might lead to anger when they resist the Gospel or act unspiritual at the worst possible moment.

Does it then become concern or pride?

Here's an interesting point.

Don't idealize Christian spouses.

In other words, realize your spouse's connection with Christ will not eliminate every problem that you have in your marriage.

Here's a great understatement: Even Christian marriages aren't perfect.

Kathy Miller writes, "When I speak on the theme of contentment at women's retreats, I often say, "If you're thinking you'll be happy if you could be married to your wonderful pastor, don't tell his wife. SHE'LL GIVE HIM TO YOU."

Even pastors (Or should I say especially pastors) can have problems in their marriage.

Understand the two biblical principles:

Submission (if you are the wife)

Treating your spouse as Christ loves the church (if you are the husband)

Being a submissive wife is not being a doormat.

Treating your wife as Christ treats the church does not mean that you are her Lord and Master.

Finally, two more thoughts:

1. Focus on the positive and pray.

It's easy to focus on the negative side of anyone in life - especially a spouse that is not connected to God.

But I have seen a lot of non-believing spouses who can still be great mates in a marriage....wonderful mothers, fathers, considerate and kind.

Here's a suggestion: try complimenting them instead of criticizing them.

2. And this is maybe the most important. Ask God to change you.

More than, "God change my spouse," the beginning point of conversation with God on this subject is the prayer, "God change me."

Here's what the author suggests.

1. Am I leading a life that representing Christ?
2. Even if my spouse forbids me from going to church services, do I continue to read the bible and pray?
3. Am I growing in my knowledge of the gospel so I'll be equipped to share?
4. Am I becoming strong enough to resist discouragement?

Some insensitive Christians might say, "If you were the Christian you should be, your spouse would be saved."

That can cause discouragement.

Know that God is working behind the scenes, and be encouraged - He has everything under control.

Ask these questions:


Anonymous said...

I’ve been in a serious relationship for about four years now and we are thinking about marriage. When we first met I normally with every man I date slightly hint if they are a believer in Christ or not. With him it was a success he went right into the conversation and said yes he was. Now after four years we have gotten closer I found out many disturbing things about his past relationship with is previous girlfriend she was very controlling, made him go to church for 3 or more hours a day and then finally left him saying God told her too. Now he is atheist after 4 years what do I do! I’m heart broken and I feel almost like I’m at a dead end road. Like I said I “thought” he believed..but he doesn’t.

Anonymous said...

same problem here, anonymous.

empowerpeace said...

Great words of Wisdom!! thank you so much!!!

Jane Morales

Chelsa Stone said...

My husband told me he believed in God and we've been married two years and attend church services all for me to find out after two years that he doesn't believe God has a plan for him, his only purpose is to work and support his family and that the bible isn't real it's just something so,some wrote. I grew up in church so I overreacted and got mad and hurt and felt betrayed. I prayed once he left the room. I don't pray much but I knew that God called me to be companionate towards my husband and show him love and mercy because of this difference. He's the man I chose to be with because of his heart which is full of love and compassion towards others. It's hard but I can't force his eyes open I have to wait on God and have faith. Even though I know that it still stings to think he only humored me by going to services which I guess is more than some people can say.
god will get me there and will help everyone who struggles with this as long as we let him be who he is. God has a plan for me and my husband wether my husband can accept that or not. Compassion and mercy and forgiveness. That's all I can do.