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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:

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