The Arduous Journey of Being Married to a Non-Believing Man

Being Realistic

Catherine warns, “Wives can be so dominated by thoughts of ‘This won’t work; we’re too different. We have different ideologies, different passions, even different ways of looking at things.’ Ultimately, we have to learn that we’ll never have some of the things we’ve yearned for, but God will give us ways to develop strengths already there—strengths we may not be recognizing. Along the way, we slowly mature and figure out that Jesus is the one we delight in. My greatest pleasure is my relationship with God.”

Catherine had to realize that God never intended John to meet all of her needs. Even if John had been a Christian for their entire marriage, some needs would still go unmet. No husband, Christian or not, is God.

How will you face disappointment with your husband? Will you allow bitterness, resentment and anger to slowly poison your home, or will you learn to delight in what you already have? Consider this. As a Christian married to a non-Christian, you are much better off than being a non-Christian married to a Christian. You have your faith, the Holy Spirit, the hope of salvation, God’s grace, your ability to worship and a love of Scripture to fill your soul and season your mind. Realizing how rich you are spiritually can help ease the frustration you’re enduring relationally.

Changing With John

Catherine eventually realized that, as she puts it, “this waiting period for John to become a Christian was about me too.” She wasn’t waiting just for John. “The whole process was as integral to my growth in Jesus as it was for him. God made it very clear that I was not to consider myself a spectator or a martyr or someone who was just waiting. God had lessons for me to learn too.”

Even if you’re further along than your husband, spiritually speaking, you still haven’t fully arrived. None of us have. Your own character and maturity must continue to grow. Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress” (1 Timothy 4:15, emphasis added). Perfection lies beyond us in this world, but every maturing believer should be showing some positive spiritual movement.

God used Catherine’s marriage to teach her how to better handle fear—in her case, the fear of a failed marriage—and how to be less controlling. As Catherine grew in these areas, God did something wonderful not only in her life but in her family as well.

When your husband isn’t a believer, one of the biggest spiritual traps you will face is being more concerned about his conversion than your maturity. Why is that a trap? Because your increasing spiritual maturity can help foster his conversion (1 Peter 3:1)! Whenever you find yourself obsessing over your husband’s spiritual state, say a prayer for him but then pivot into this: “And Lord, please show me where I need to grow to be the kind of person who makes faith attractive to her husband.”

Being Honest

Catherine found it extremely difficult to learn how to, in her words, “live two lives”: “You have two things that are passionately important to you—your relationship with God and your deep desire that your marriage be viable and strong. It’s very difficult when you can’t merge the two. You feel divided.”

Financial giving to the church presented a particularly thorny issue. Catherine wanted to give money to her church, but she didn’t work outside the home, and initially she feared what John might say. So she began saving the change from the grocery money and giving that as a contribution—something she now regrets.

“Finally, I just had to tell John how important giving was for me,” she says. “I’d tell young wives to be honest about the things that are important to you instead of hiding them.” Once Catherine explained why she wanted to give and how much it meant to her to be able to do so, he agreed that she could donate a hundred dollars a month. Catherine wishes she had been more up-front all along.

Being Patient

Some foolish women greatly wounded Catherine when they told her, “Your husband should have been saved long ago. What are you doing wrong?”

Yet when you talk to John, he keeps coming back to how much he appreciates Catherine’s patient spirit. If she had tried too hard, if she had kept pushing, she most likely would have moved John further away from the faith rather than closer to it.

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Gary Thomas
Gary Thomas is writer-in-residence (and serves on the teaching team) at Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas and author of 18 books that have sold over a million copies worldwide and have been translated into a dozen languages. He and his wife Lisa have been married for 30 years. Please visit his amazon link - https://www.amazon.com/Cherish-Word-Changes-Everything-Marriage/dp/0310347262/