How To Live With An Unbelieving Spouse

From time to time we have received a comment or email about a wife living with an unbelieving husband or a husband living with an unbelieving wife. This is such a difficult experience to walk through. Even though we do not have experience with this, the Bible does share on this topic, so we wanted to cover this topic and let it serve as encouragement for those who are navigating this type of situation. If you know someone this would bless please share it with them.

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– Hey we’re Aaron and Jennifer Smith with Marriage After God.

– Helping you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.

– And today we’re gonna talk about how to live with an unbelieving spouse. Hey thanks again for joining us for this week’s episode. We’d love to invite you to subscribe to our channel so that you get notified every time we upload a new video.

– Also this week’s episode came from our listeners. It’s a question that we’re answering from you guys, so we just want to encourage you to be leaving those comments, asking us those questions, or sharing your thoughts about the topic that we bring up.

– We go through them and we pick from them and we like to pull topics and ideas, so yeah, keep leaving those comments, we love them. So I know that we’re gonna be talking about how to live with an unbelieving spouse so, essentially, it’s unequally yolked marriages. And we know that many, most of our listeners are in an equally yolked marriage where both are believers. But a relevant other relationship type is a marriage where the husband or the wife is not following or obeying the word. So they may not be unbelievers, but they’re not walking it. So even if you’re not unequally yolked, you’re not married to an unbeliever, these ideas, these topics can still benefit you and your marriage in how you can be, as a husband or wife, toward a husband or wife who is not following the word of God.

– Yeah, and even for Christians who are obeying the word and are walking this out, the things that we bring up today it’s a good refresher, it’s a good reminder of how we’re supposed to be to one another. So we just want to encourage everyone to listen in, to tune in today and hopefully it will just be an encouragement for you and your marriage.

– So as Jennifer said earlier, this question came from a listener. We get questions all the time, either they’re left in the comments or they’re left on our Facebook page or Instagram. And we just, even though we haven’t personally experienced this in our marriage, both of us were raised Christians, we were married as Christians, we’ve been Christians, even though we’ve walked at different varying maturity levels, but we’ve always been Christian. So we don’t have direct experience with being unequally yolked. But the bible has experience in all of those things. The bible is good for teaching in all of these areas, and it’s pretty awesome that the bible doesn’t leave out, that God didn’t forget about spouses who are married to unbelievers. So what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna bring up some scriptures in a little bit and talk about some stories that we’ve heard to encourage you if you are in that situation where you’re a believer and your spouse is not. And we know that the word of God is good and it’s right and it’s true so hopefully we’ll do it justice and we’ll share with you what the word teaches us on how to be in an unequally yolked relationship.

– So today we thought it would be a good way to just break thought this content by sharing four points that we are gonna sift through and just walk through together. So the first point is get the right perspective. Have God’s perspective of your marriage relationship. And just going into this first one, I wanted to share a brief story of a testimony we heard years ago and when we were going to a marriage ministry at the time and this couple was sharing from the stage their testimony of what Christ did in their relationship. How God moved in their marriage. And do you want to share a little bit from what you heard from the stage that night?

– I remember that the husband was going through, on a way extreme level, of things that I’ve struggled with, pornography and then he went even further and actually having relationships with prostitutes and just a totally disgusting, destroyed, broken person married to a woman who loved God. And they both were Christians, but one just gave himself over to sin and depravity. And their testimony on how she walked with this man was not just inspirational, but it truly showed the gospel.

– It was so powerful. I remember sitting there and the pastor asking her the next question, which is, “How did you do it? “How did you endure those years of him walking “through that sin and remaining faithful to him?” And she said this, she said, “I knew in my heart that I had to see him as “a brother in Christ and I had to see him as “Christ sees him, which is he needs salvation, “he needed to believe in who God was.” And she was convinced that his heart and his salvation was more important than anything else. And that was such an impactful story, I still remember it to this day.

– So when I hear those stories of redemption and reconciliation of a totally broken marriage and you’re like, when we heard it’s like, man I don’t know how I would deal with that.

– Everybody was crying in the audience. Everybody.

– You just realize the power of God in people’s lives when they let God work, when they have a heavenly perspective. Like you were just saying that when we have God’s perspective, because in those situations, like I said, all of us are thinking, “Man, I don’t know if I could do that.” It’s because we only have one perspective and our perspective is like, “I would never want to walk in that.”

– Yeah. And I think, too, when it comes to our perspectives is I want you to love me, I want my spouse to love me, I want to be able to love them, I don’t want to suffer. But if we have God’s perspective we realize God loves our spouse more than even we do. And I think that’s really important to know that. God loves our spouse, God loves their hearts and wants their hearts and desires that a husband and wife chase after him together. And so that’s God’s perspective.

– And a wrong perspective to have, we’ve heard this time and time again, “God wants me to be happy, therefore I’m just gonna “leave my spouse.” And you know what? God does want us to have joy. But his intention for us is not our happiness, it’s our holiness. It’s our maturity, it’s our growth, it’s our obedience. And so having the perspective of, “Well God wants me happy.” You know what’s gonna happen in your life? You’re always gonna be running away from things that are hard. Because you’re like, “God doesn’t want that for me, “he wants me to only be happy.” And you know how many things there are in life that are difficult or painful and God wants those for us? And so its hard for us to, if we have that perspective of just God wants, first of all it’s not biblical, it’s wrong. But if we have that perspective we’re never gonna pursue what God wants. We’re always gonna be running to comfort. And, you know, there’s a lot of things in life that God has us walk through and desires for us that are uncomfortable, but they mature us, they grow us, they give us perseverance, they give us hope for a future, this is what the bible talks about. And so the heavenly perspective, the godly perspective is recognizing like, “Oh, God has something to be done “in our marriage, he cares about my spouse “more than I do and he wants me to walk out my life “a certain way to be a ministry in my home.” And so that’s the perspective we need to have is what does the bible say, what does God say, and how can I shift my mind off? And like that woman that decided, “I need to start seeing my husband in this way.” She changed her perspective from, “My marriage is falling apart, my husband doesn’t love me, “my husband’s cheating on me,” all things that are true.

– Every reason to walk away.

– Having every reason to walk away and she changed her perspective to like, “I’m not gonna see him as “I was before, I’m gonna see him now as a brother “who needs Jesus and the truth of the word. “And I’m gonna start praying for him, “I’m gonna start loving him in that way.” Now, I also remember she did say she set boundaries in that relationship, but she didn’t stop loving him. She didn’t stop praying for him and preaching to him and encouraging him and asking the holy spirit to change him.

– Which, one of the points that we have down for having a godly perspective is that your marriage is a ministry. So can you share a little bit about what does that look like, what does that mean that your marriage is a ministry and that, what does that mean for a husband and a wife?

– Well, the base level of what our marriages being a ministry means is that very meaning of our marriages, the why God created them, the symbol that they represent. The wife represents the church and the husband represents Christ and that’s the symbol that that marriage is. And so you have, what did Christ come to do? He came to reconcile the church to the father, right? He came to heal the church, he came to forgive the church and to be a sacrifice for the church. And so you see this relationship of Christ sacrificing himself for a cheating, lying, abusive destructive church, a body, people. And he redeems them. And you see, so instead of him leaving and divorcing them, and throwing them to the side–

– Or not walking out what the father called him to do.

– Or not walking out what the father called him to do, he comes for them, and he dies for them, and reconciles them to the father still. And that’s what he does for us, that’s the gospel. Yet when we were still sinners he died for us. That he forgave me, that he’s reconciled me, that he’s given me the holy spirit. And so you have the symbol of marriage being a symbol of the gospel. Christ and the church and what that means. And so that in itself is a ministry is that when you are walking out rightly in a mature, biblical, godly marriage you’re representing the gospel to the world.

– Yeah, and through every interaction that you have with your spouse, you are, through forgiveness, through love, through grace and sharing all of these things with your spouse, you’re actually showing them the father heart of God. Like, you are being that ministry of reconciliation where you’re drawing them closer to God through the way that you are.

– You’re practicing reconciling. And that’s the second part of this idea of ministry is, your marriage being your first ministry means the first place you minister, the first place you preach the gospel, the first place you love and protect and the first place that you–

– Serve.

– You serve is in your marriage to your spouse. You know, I serve you, I love you, I preach the gospel to you, I watch you in the word for Ephesians 5:25 tells me to do. And that’s my first ministry. I cannot neglect this ministry to my wife and go and fulfill another ministry. So when it comes to you being in a marriage with an unbelieving spouse, the first person you’re gonna be preaching the gospel, that doesn’t mean you can’t be doing ministry elsewhere. You know, serving your church, or an an orphanage, or whatever God’s given you as a ministry in your life that you’re just gifted in, but your spouse, that’s the person that God wants you to minister today, every day. With the way you are at home, with how you talk, with how you, and we’re gonna get to some scripture that talks about that, but your spouse, your unbelieving spouse is the first person that you’re called to minister to.

– That’s good. Okay so moving on to number two, you’re gonna share a little bit more about this, but it’s don’t leave.

– Yeah.

– Don’t leave.

– So we just talked about the beauty of that story of the husband and wife, the husband who was just totally broken, totally destitute, totally just running away from his wife and treating her not the way a husband should be treating her, and she took it from the holy spirit to be like, “This is my ministry.” And instead of leaving, when she probably could’ve and no one would’ve judged her, she stayed. And I just want to read this, in First Corinthians chapter seven verse 12, it’s a few scriptures and I’m gonna pull out a few things from this. It says “To the rest I say,” so I’ll step back a little bit. A few verses earlier he’s talking to Christian married that are equally yolked, but then he goes to the people that are unequally yolked and he says, “To the rest I say, I not the lord, that if any brother “has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to “live with him, he should not divorce her. “If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever “and he consents to live with her, “she should not divorce him. “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because “of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy “because of her husband. “Otherwise your children would be unclean, “but as it is they are holy. “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. “In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. “God has called you to peace. “For how do you know, wife, whether you will save “your husband? “Or how do you know, husband, whether you will “save your wife?” First of all, the fact that this is in the bible, that Paul’s like, “Hey, actually I’m gonna talk to “those believers who have a husband or a wife who “aren’t believers.” And do you know why this is here? Because up until this point there was, this wouldn’t have existed. It was a law in the Jewish culture that you would not marry outside of the Jewish culture, that you didn’t intermarry. It was a law, it was unheard of. You were unclean if you did so. But now all the sudden the holy spirit’s come into the world, Jesus Christ died on the cross, and people are getting saved left and right. And it was common at this point for a woman or a man to come to the lord apart from their husband and then they get home and their husband or wife is not a believer. It wasn’t like they were all coming together to the lord and that probably happened in a lot of cases, but you probably had this often and Paul’s saying, “Actually I’m gonna say to the rest of you who have “come to the lord and your spouse has not, “this is how you should live.” So he says if your unbelieving spouse doesn’t want to leave, meaning you’re married and they realize you’re Christian and they’re like, “You believe in Jesus? “You’re gonna follow Jesus?” And they say, “Okay, I still love you, lets do this,” and they’re still an unbeliever but they don’t want to leave you, Paul’s saying don’t leave. Stay there. Why do you feel like he’s saying stay there?

– Well I love it, it explains it at the end. Because it’s like that big old question of the future. How do you know? What if you help bring that person to the lord?

– And think about it, the marriage relationship, this binding of two bodies, the same household being in the same home under the same roof forever, right? Like every day, day after day, hour after hour, it’s the perfect environment to preach the gospel. The unbelieving spouse can’t leave, right? Especially if they want to be there. And with your life and your actions and you words, you’re preaching the gospel to them every single day. You’re loving them, you’re encouraging them, you’re praying for them, and they’re like, “This woman’s a different woman, “this man is a different man.”

– It is the perfect setup.

– I think of the movie Case for Christ.

– That was a good movie.

– Yeah, Lee Strobel. And his wife comes to the lord. And she just starts praying for him and living out the Christian life in front of him and never leaves him, even though she’s just praying out to lord, crying out to lord, “Lord, change his heart. “Why is it like this?” And he struggled and he didn’t want to leave right away, but it was like, “If you don’t change I’m out of here.” And you know what happened? He came to the lord, this is a true story. He came to the lord because of his wife and her persistence in walking out the gospel as a believer. And that’s what this is saying. Don’t leave because who knows, husband, if your unbelieving wife won’t get saved because of your life? Who knows, wife, if your unbelieving husband won’t get saved because of your life? And I just think that is so beautiful that God though it, didn’t think about it, he knew it was important to put this in here so that we weren’t floundering and we’re like, “Well, I don’t know how I’m supposed to do this.”

– So I love that you brought up that story of Lee Strobel and how his wife was praying for him ’cause our next point is pray for them and pray for yourself. So it’s really important that we have dedicated prayer time for our spouses, whether we’re unequally yolked or equally yolked, prayer is so essential for the Christian life. And so the first thing that I would say is pray for their salvation, pray for your spouse’s salvation because that is ultimately the goal. Like, we want–

– That’s the most important thing.

– That’s the most important thing, we want our spouses to know who God is. The second thing you can pray for is endurance for yourself as you live out your Christian life in front of them, that you are a consistent and just a good example of who Christ is.

– And the endurance, the other side of endurance is emotionally, we couldn’t imagine what that one wife was going through with her husband, or what any spouse is going through when they love the lord and their husband or their wife is just far from God, and that turmoil, that emotional and spiritual turmoil. So praying for endurance–

– And peace.

– And peace and joy so that you can stand up under the weight of this trial that you are in that God’s allowed you to be in so that you don’t crumble. Just ask God, “God, fill me more with your power “and your authority and your spirit and just give me “more strength to go another day, to go another day, “to go another day,” so that you don’t lose heart in your current circumstances, in your marriage. And you know, in doing that you’re praying for your spouse too, your unbelieving spouse. Because as long as you have endurance, you’re gonna last longer than your spouse will in this engagement, this interaction of a believing spouse and an unbelieving spouse. And so, yeah, what was the last one?

– The last one was just that God’s love would be so rich and deep in your relationship even though your spouse isn’t necessarily walking with God, or isn’t saved yet, just that his love would be emersed throughout your home because of what you are doing and just praying that God’s love reaches their heart. But I did want to share a little bit about how prayer kind of just has been a vital part of our life and our circumstances, especially in the beginning when I was kind of turning my heart away from God because I was so frustrated with our circumstances.

– So yeah, we prayed. I prayed a lot.

– I feel like you were more faithful to praying at that time than I was because my heart was literally hardening because of our circumstances.

– And mine was too, I felt like I was getting more and more angry at God, but I never stopped praying because I felt like that was the only way I was even connecting to God. I was like, “I don’t even know where we’re at, God, “but I need help.” And the reason I kept praying is because I realized early on, and this is just a truth for life, that no one, not a single person in the world can change a person’s heart. We just can’t. I couldn’t of changed your heart and you couldn’t have changed mine. You cannot change your spouses heart. You just can’t. We don’t have that power. And so prayer is saying, “Lord, you do it. “Lord, send your holy spirit to minister to my spouse, “to change them, to transform them, “to invite them into a relationship with you.” And yes, we can be an example to them, which we’re gonna talk about in a second, we can be a light to them, and we can be a catalyst for that to happen, we can be the evidence of what God does, but again, God is the only one who changes hearts.

– I feel like when we tell our story, prayer is such an important part of that piece of the story that kept our hearts close to God in a time when we were pulling way because of negative emotions. And so I just wanted to share that because I know that there’s a lot of couples, even if they claim to be Christians and they are equally yolked, but they’re walking in a way that is hard, circumstances are hard, whatever they’re enduring is hard, and maybe one or both of them can feel their hearts are hardening. We want to be an encouragement to you guys and urge you to pray for one another. Especially if your spouse isn’t resistant to it, if your spouse is willing to sit there and listen to a prayer that you pray out loud. I mean, when you did that for me it changed me, there was power there.

– The holy spirit changed you–

– The holy spirit was there because you presented it to him and invited him to help us. And so I just think that’s really important and I want that to be an encouragement to those listening.

– And that’s a good tip for you, listening. It might be really scary, but start offering prayer to your unbelieving spouse. Say, “Hey, do you think I could pray for you today “while you’re at work? “Whatever you’re gonna do today, can I just, “I’m gonna be praying and I’d love to pray for you.” And they might say, “No, no thank you–”

– I’m fine.

– Yeah, I’m fine. And then, but keep asking, say, “Hey today I was praying for you today, “I prayed that you’d have peace today, “did you have peace today? “That’s go cool to hear.” And start letting them know that you’re praying for them and then pray for them actually out loud. Like if they say sure, pray for them. You know, maybe take their hand if they let you, put your hand on them, do physical touch, and pray out loud. And then they can actually hear God’s heart in you for them, which is hugely powerful. And you never know what might come of that. They might say, “Actually I want what you have, “how do you keep doing this? “How do you keep having this spirit in you? “And I want it. “‘Cause you’re stable, you’re not being tossed “back and forth,” because that’s what the holy spirit does for us when we just listen and we obey and we trust in the lord, we don’t get tossed back and forth.”

– Okay that’s such a good transition to the last point which is be an example. Because in order to be an example you have to be consistent, you can’t be tossed back and forth, you have to pray, you have to walk out what the bible says in your life every day.

– So in being an example, the bible tells us to be like Christ, to follow in his example. Paul tells us, “Follow my example and what you’ve “seen me life.” Examples are our testimony when we live it out. When we say one thing and do another that’s called hypocrisy. When we say one thing and we do what we say, that’s called an example. And so if you are a believer, if you love the lord and your spouse does not, the most powerful thing you can do in their life is live out what the bible calls you to live out. Is to be a Christian in front of them, to them, for them, with them, right? And so there’s some scriptures we’re gonna read and it actually, the bible tells exactly what kind of example we can be and how powerful it is. In First Corinthians it says, “How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? “How do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” This is literally saying you being in proximity in the marriage and remaining in the marriage, that their life could potentially and your example could potentially save your spouse. So why don’t you read those scriptures, those first set of scriptures?

– Yeah< I’m gonna start with First Peter three one through two. And it says, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your “own husbands, so that if some do not obey the word, “they may be won without a word by the conduct of “their wives, when they see your respectful “and pure conduct.” So this is a really powerful verse and I just love that this verse is in here because it’s such an encouragement to the wife’s heart. Early we talked about endurance and enduring the weight of having an unbelieving spouse, and there’s power here in the way that we can conduct ourselves according to scripture, according to God’s word.

– And it says respectful and pure conduct. The pure conduct is living out what this says. ‘Cause your conduct is pure before them because you’re practicing righteousness before your spouse.

– And it says right here that they may be won without a word. Like, you don’t even need to go into explaining why you’re doing the things that you’re doing. I mean, if they ask by all means give them the answer ’cause it’s powerful. But God’s saying it’s your conduct that’s gonna reveal it.

– ‘Cause the reality is you couldn’t potentially, you couldn’t in reality, I should say, speak to your spouse 24/7 about what the word says and try and convince them to become a Christian that way.

– Actions are so powerful.

– They will see your actions all day every day. So, again, if you say one thing and do another, they’re never gonna believe you. They’re not gonna see it as real, they’re not gonna, your life isn’t gonna portray the truth of what you say is truth. But if you, when you say things to them, “The reason I believe what the bible says is ’cause “this is what God’s done in my life and this is what “I believe about Jesus.” And then when they see you act that way, when you see you walk that way, they’ll be like, “Whoa, whoa. “I can’t stop this, what’s happening? “Why is this person loving me so much, “especially when I treat them this way or when “I don’t believe what they believe?” So even though this is specifically talking to the wives in her role and the way she can walk out the gospel in her marriage to an unbelieving spouse, or a spouse that’s not obeying the word, ’cause we talked about in the beginning. So it could be an unbelieving spouse or it could be one that is totally disobedient like that one husband in the beginning of this episode. But the principle can still work that we treat our spouse the way the bible tells us to treat them when we walk out this gospel. And then actually later on in verse seven it says how a husband can treat his wife, if you want to read that real quick.

– Sure, it says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your “wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman “as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you “of the grace of life, so that your prayers “may not be hindered.”

– So again this is, some people might think this verse is controversial, but I think it’s a beautiful verse. When the husband recognizes, “Oh my gosh, “I’m gonna walk with my wife in an understanding way, “I’m gonna show her that I understand her, “I’m gonna work to learn her and love her.” And again you still, the husband still walks out Ephesians 5:25 in his marriage. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church. If you look at the gospel and the husband represents Christ, he can be Christ to her in the marriage and be sacrificial in his love for her and wash her still in the word, even though she doesn’t believe. He can still live out those biblical roles, those biblical commands as a Christian husband to an unbelieving wife. And he can walk with her in an understanding way, recognizing that she is an heir with him to the grace of life. The grace that we’ve all been given through Christ.

– That goes back to that perspective that we were talking about in the beginning, having that godly perspective of who your spouse is.

– And so even though Jennifer and I have never personally experienced this, we don’t have to. The word of God is the thing that tells us how we’re supposed to look at the world. We don’t look at it through just our own opinions, or even through just our own experiences. Because our experiences can be skewed, our experiences can make us think a certain way that’s not exactly biblical, but the bible is unchanging, is inherent, and it is the thing that tells us how to see the world. And I think it’s beautiful that God knew that we were gonna nee this guidance on how to interact within a marriage where there’s an unequally yolked relationship. And lastly the most beautiful part about this is none of this has anything to do with just having happy marriage. Right? It’s not just to be healthy and happy and joyful, and like, “Oh, if my husband got saved things would “be much better,” which they would be, but we have hardships in our marriage and we’re both believers. So the point’s not just to have a comfortable happy marriage, the point is to be holy, and the point is the salvage of your spouse’s soul is the most important thing. This is why Christ came to the world, it’s what God’s doing in the world through Christ reconciling people to himself, that we would have eternity with him.

– So as we’ve given all this encouragement to a spouse who may be married to an unbeliever or someone who isn’t walking that way, what would you say to the person listening to us right now who is that spouse who’s unbelieving or maybe isn’t walking in obedience to God’s word?

– So first of all I’d say repent and believe in the lord, Jesus. It’s the truth that Jesus came to save us and that he is reconciling us to the father so that we can have a right relationship with him, and without him there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. We need a savior, we need to be renewed and regenerated and filled with the holy spirit that he’s promised us, that will empower us to walk in freedom and in strength and in authority. So I would say if you don’t believe that you should believe today. And your spouse, who’s probably sharing this video with you, loves you so much that they would share with you the gospel. That they want you to be saved, that they want you to believe in the lord, Jesus, so that you would be in heaven with them one day. And that’s our goal is that we want to be in eternity with our father in heaven and not in eternal separation from him. And that’s the truth, that’s the gospel. And it’s a good gospel, it’s called the good news for a reason.

– And it’s full of hope and I don’t know how other people do it in this world without the saving knowledge of Christ because, with it in our lives and the hardships that we’ve endured, there is hope. There is a future and we are just, we’re excited about it and it fuels us.

– And no matter what happens in this life, like I said, it’s not just about comfortable or happily ever after, it’s about an eternal hope. Because, man, we know people that have gone through infinitely harder things than us. There are currently Christians around the world being killed for their belief in Christ and persecuted, and you know what? I bet you those Christians are rejoicing as it’s happening because we know, we hear story after story after story of martyrs and people who believe in Jesus rejoining ’cause of the hope they have. And, like I said, this gospel is not just that we would have a happy comfortable life now, but it’s that we have an eternal hope in Jesus Christ that we will spend eternity with our father in heaven and that this life is temporary and there’s gonna be hard things and it’s not gonna always be easy, but we, I’m just gonna keep repeating it, we have hope. It’s a good thing. So we thank you for joining us this week. We hope this was encouraging. We’d encourage you to go back and read those scriptures for yourself. Don’t just let us be the only ones teaching you the word of God. Don’t let us be the only ones presenting to these scriptures, go open it for yourself, pray and ask the holy spirit to reveal the truth to you and to teach you what this is saying. And do more study on this. What kind of woman, what kind of man does God want you to be, does the bible teach us to be? So you can present that to your unbelieving spouse in the way you are in your life. And it’s a beautiful thing, the word of God is complete and it teaches us all things and it tells us how to be and it gives us God’s heart for us. So again we thank you for joining us and we hope to see you next time. Did you enjoy today’s show? Find many more encouraging stories and resources at marriageaftergod.com. And let us help you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.

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