Single women, take note: Every married Christian woman I’ve ever met who married a non-believing man has said, emphatically, they would tell every other woman not to do it. They wouldn’t wish away the children they’ve had, but as a general rule, I’ve yet to find a woman who thinks it’s worth the risk going in.
Catherine found that out the hard way, and spent over two decades gradually wooing and praying her husband into the kingdom. As we finish off our series focusing on the content from my book Loving Him Well: Practical Advice on Influencing Your Husband, we’re going to explore the “takeaway” principles Catherine found helpful in being married to an unbelieving man (men, the same principles apply if you’re married to an unbelieving wife).
I hope you’ll check out the entire book, as this chapter in particular has a very touching story behind the teaching that makes it come alive even more. These lessons follow that story and include insights from John given after he was converted.
Catherine often wondered how two people who shared so little in common could ever make it. Sometimes she even asked John, “Are we going to make it? We have so little in common. My faith is so important to me, but you don’t even share it!”
John would say, “Catherine, where our relationship is good, it’s very good. Let’s concentrate on that.” John wanted Catherine to concentrate on the good places in her marriage rather than become consumed by her disappointments.
Catherine honestly admits she endured a trying and difficult season that went on for decades. “Being unequally yoked is extremely lonely,” she says. “You’re guiding your children by yourself. You try to stave off resentment and build a good marriage—it’s just very, very difficult.”
Most women in such a situation will, like Catherine, find themselves tempted by self-pity. Philippians 2:14 gives some help here: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” The word everything includes marriage, even marriage to a nonbeliever. Resentment and bitterness will only keep us from being spiritually productive in that relationship.
Catherine realized that since she and her husband didn’t share a faith in Christ, she would have to work extra hard to find other things to share. Unfortunately, John was most excited about things in which Catherine had little or no interest—like riding bikes, for example.
“I had to make the decision,” she says. “Would I start riding bikes with him, or would I sit home by myself and let the gap between us widen?”
Catherine’s initial attempts didn’t encourage her. She says, “It was ridiculous. I was so out of shape. But you know what, a year and a half later, I loved it more than he did! We did ‘Ride the Rockies’ together—that was 400 miles through the Rocky Mountains, a seven-day bike ride with 2,000 other people. It was a blast, and we spent hundreds of hours together training for the ride.”
Catherine just kept focusing on the positive. “We didn’t have a family together at church,” she admits, “but we did have a family together on bicycles.”
Some wives might be tempted to punish their non-Christian husband by becoming even less accommodating, thinking, If you won’t share my faith, I won’t share any of your interests. But such pettiness, while understandable, does nothing except widen the gap. Catherine adamantly counsels other women married to nonbelievers, “You must find out what he loves doing and learn to do it with him.”
That’s not a bad lesson for spouses in general.