"And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" I Corinthians 7:13-16
A topic was posted on the Latter Days Message Board asking for testimonies from individuals who had been married to an unbeliever. I wanted to share a testimony here that it may be a blessing to others.
When my husband and I got married, we had been living together for over 4 years. As to be expected, there was nothing Godly about our lives. However if you had asked, we would have said we were good people. By most accounts, our marriage was normal, but since knowing the Lord we know that it was anything but normal.
We had separate bank accounts, separate bills whenever possible, thought of ourselves first, divided chores in half, etc. We were just two people sharing a house and a bed. We were not "one" and were often too selfish to think of the other person. Everything had to be divided in half because we had to maintain "fairness" by making sure one person was not investing more than the other; we knew nothing of sacrificing for each other. We really had separate lives.
Neither of us knew what it was to be married, so we emulated what we saw around us and what we grew up with. Neither could we trust each other - largely because we each knew ourselves. A woman once said to me, "No man is going to tell me nothing!" Well then, that includes Jesus too because Jesus is both fully man and fully God.
When women make this statement, they are really saying that they don't trust men. What a sad state to be married to someone and sharing the most intimate aspects of your life with them, but not really be able to trust them (and I speak from experience). In the environment where you should be most relaxed and at ease, you still have to be on guard. This is not the way that God designed marriage to be. Also, please know, that the root of this problem is often not just an issue of the other person. There are likely very real reasons why you cannot trust that have nothing to do with your spouse.
It was almost one year after marriage when I first came to know the Lord. This knowledge was so new and life changing, that I was literally brimming over with excitement. I just knew that my husband would share my joy once he became aware of who Jesus really was. I was wrong.
First, he sure didn't like the fact that there was "someone else" in our marriage. He almost felt like I had another lover - and in a sense, I guess I did. He didn't like the idea of sharing me.
And to make matters worse, I was now changing my life to accommodate this other person. Taking time to go to church, prayer meetings, Bible study, etc. Stopping certain activities (including intimate ones) which I now knew were unGodly. Listening to praise & worship music instead of popular music. He grew very resentful,and understandably so. I was no longer the woman he had married.
This caused great tension in our marriage. So I ducked in and out of church during those years. I mistakenly thought if I left that particular church, he wouldn't be so offended. Then maybe he would be more receptive to the truth.
Again, I was wrong. I didn't understand that what offends people IS the truth. I couldn't avoid that offense without at the same time compromising the truth. So, the more I tried to "save" my marriage (by not being so 'Christian'), the more I felt myself drifting away from God.
What God began to show me was that my marriage was an idol to me. As a child of divorce, I had grown up with the image of the "perfect" family in my heart. Subconsciously, I had tied my own identity into the "image" of having a husband, 2.5 kids, a house, and a dog.
So I stopped going to church as much. Stopped praying as much. Stopped reading my Bible as much. Stopped playing my music as much...
Some might say, "Oh, look how much you loved your husband in that you were willing to walk away from God in order to save your marriage." WRONG!
Love for my husband was never the driver for me pulling away from God (although I initially thought it was). It was purely selfish reasoning. I didn't want to pull down my idol of having the "perfect" family. Keeping my idol of this family image was more important to me than honoring God.
Don't ever think that any person can ever turn someone away from God. When people claim that someone else's hypocrisy, judgments, behavior turned them from God...they are lieing. God says in John 3:19 that the reason people don't commit to Jesus Christ is because they prefer darkness rather than light. It was the same for me. Those who sincerely desire to know the Lord will not be deterred by anything or anyone.So, I drew back from the Lord in the hopes of holding on to my marriage - not out of love, but idolatry. Years later, I received a call from my old church inviting me to a women's retreat. I knew immediately that if God still wanted me, then I had to go. I could sense the Lord calling out to me and I was pricked in my heart about my unfaithfulness to Him. I determined to go.
When I told my husband about the retreat, his response was, "I don't know if our marriage is going to make it." Immediately, I knew it was the devil speaking to me.
I am not saying my husband was the devil. I am saying that the spirit behind those words he uttered was demonic. I knew the devil wanted to tap into that fear I had over losing my marriage. So I answered the devil in my heart and said, "I hear you devil and I know that is you. I am not falling for that any more. I am turning back to God."
That retreat was some needed time before the Lord. It was a time of intense prayer and searching. I came face-to-face with my idolatry and was brought to my knees in repentance. I truly felt the weight of my disobedience to God. My relationship with God also grew during that weekend. I could feel God's presence next to me and He also gave me the gift of speaking in tongues at that time. My life was changed irrevocably.
When I came back home from that retreat, I came home to a devil. Again, I am not speaking of my husband specifically here. I am speaking of the spirit operating through him. There were times when I could tangibly feel the evil around me. The devil was trying everything in his power to make me turn back...but it was too late.
God told me in no uncertain words that I could have my idol or I could have Him. I could not have both. I chose God.
I came to terms with the fact that I might lose my marriage and no longer was this thought so crippling for me. I now knew that my identity was found only in Jesus Christ. I didn't seek God's opinion when I married. This was a mess I had made. I could not hold God hostage to how it turned out.
I didn't pray that my husband would be saved because I couldn't even trust my own motivations. I knew that my prayers in that regard had been selfish. I had not been praying for him for his good, but for my own. I no longer wanted to offer soulish prayers to God about my husband, so I just prayed that God's will be done...and that His answer be quick.
To help me stay focused and battle the spiritual war occurring in my own home, I began a 1 month fast. Three weeks into that fast, my husband said he felt we needed a separation. I thank God for His wisdom in having put me on the fast because if not for that, I would likely have crumbled at this statement.
Instead, I was flat-lined. I accepted this as God's answer to my prayers. I had asked for quick resolution, and God was giving me just that.
I turned to my husband and said, "OK. Do you think you can take care of that this weekend?"
He was shocked. He replied, "You mean moving out??? I don't know if I can do it that quickly."
"OK." I said, "If we are going to do this, I just don't want to draw this out for the benefit of the children."
My husband was stunned. Again, I did not say this as some conniving, manipulating ploy to call his bluff. I had peace about however God chose to resolve the situation. Nonetheless, my husband was floored. It was clear that I was serious about serving the Lord and was not going to be deterred.
That next Sunday, my husband came with me to church and even started to attend various church functions. I never asked, because I didn't want to pressure him. But I was curious about these changes.
At one such picnic, my pastor's wife said to me, "God is working on him and soon he will be singing praises to the Lord."
I responded, "I can't EVER see him doing that!"
Her answer was quick, "You cannot say what God is going to do with that man." I understood what she meant, but I still found it hard to believe.
She was right, but I just couldn't see it. God was working on his heart, dealing with issues of which I was unaware. Two weeks later, my husband confessed to me acts of adultery he had committed. While this hurt me to the core, as he was confessing God was speaking to me at the same time.
God reminded me of my own unfaithfulness to Him and how He had forgiven me and received me back with gladness. God told me specifically that my husband had changed and was no longer the same man; that I could trust him. I could see how God had used my own life to prepare me to deal with this situation. All I could tell my husband is that if God could forgive me, how could I not forgive you?
God also revealed to me how blinded I had been by my idolatry. I was willing to walk away from God before in order to "save" a marriage that was a lie. God had wanted to give me a true marriage, where we are not just a man and woman living together, but where the two have literally become one. Yet, I could not receive that without first being willing to let go of this "image" I had in my head about what my marriage was supposed to be; an image that was far from the reality of our relationship as it turns out.
I felt that letting go of trying to control this "image" would result in me losing my marriage. But, it was my own selfish intent and idolatry that was ruining my marriage. I was holding on with both hands to filthy rags, and God wanted to give me a precious gift. But I could not receive that until I was prepared to let go.
It can be so scary to let go and let God. People say that phrase all the time, but how many people can really do it? How many people are willing to place their lives in God's hands, not trying to control what God does and how He does it in our lives? How many are willing to give control over their lives to God? This is what I had to come to terms with in God.
One week after this confession, my husband received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Since then, we have been growing and learning together under the guidance of God's Spirit. We learn more and more every day what it means to be one, understanding the value of the gift God has given us in marriage.
I'll also share this. Before my husband turned in faith to Him, God told me that I had to submit to him as his wife. This was VERY hard for me to understand because how in the world could I submit to someone who wasn't even submitted to God? This did not mean that I should do things I knew displeased God. It meant I was to give my husband the place of honor he deserved as the head of our family. God showed me that if I could not respect and submit to my husband, then I was fooling myself about thinking I was respecting and submitting to Him.
What I didn't realize at the time is that I could not fail to respect my husband or his role and at the same time claim to respect God. In other words, learning to respect my husband was teaching me proper reverence for God. Unless I had gone through this experience, my perverted thinking about men was always going to be an obstacle in how I related to God - even if I didn't realize it. How could I trust, believe, and love Jesus Christ as His Bride, when I could not love, believe, and trust my husband? It is a similar principle to what is stated in I John 4:20.
So what about obedience and submission? The blessed thing about getting married in the Lord is that it NEVER requires you to downgrade who you are. Take some time if you can and study how God refers to His Bride; it is a beautiful relationship.
This is a pattern of how men are to feel about and treat their wives. EVEN to the point of giving their lives for their wives, the way that Jesus has done for His church. By NO means does being in a submitted relationship to your husband mean you are less of who you are. It is not about domination but a working together as a Godly family unit. For more on the woman's role, please see the article: Don't Forget Deborah - Part 3.
Women also have to keep in mind that their Christian faith HAS to be more than just words. Faith must be sincere. For women who are single, there is value in this for you too. If we hold true to who we are in God - in our conversation and lifestyle - then everything else will fall into place because God is ordering our steps. When you claim Christ and then start fornicating with a man, you are only telling him that you are not for real. You want to be sure that when/if God brings you someone, your heart has been prepared to receive him. This way, you don't carry the baggage of your previous experiences with men into that relationship. It may not even be God's plan for you to get married. My point is that there are personal benefits to YOU as a woman of God in understanding your role as a woman whether you marry or not. Your relationship with the Lord will be blessed and will flourish as you better understand who He is and how He cares for you.
With all of that said, it was not an easy road. And sometimes, I felt like I was dealing with the devil himself. :) There was many a time I had to hold my tongue and take the wrong, even if I felt it was unwarranted. What got me through this time was LOTS of prayer and fasting. I cannot stress that enough.
My husband was speaking with a co-worker recently, and the woman said to him, "You know, you always tell the truth. You tell it like it is, as much as I hate it when you come around."
That tickled me to no end. I mean, it was so funny, because it is very true. When you are not ready to serve the Lord, people who do can just irk you. They get under your skin and on your nerves because the light they carry exposes darkness. But that is a sign that God is working on that person, they just don't realize it.
So, if you are in a marriage where one of you does not yet know the Lord, expect things to be hard, but don't be discouraged. Live each day as for the Lord, to be pleasing on to Him. Keep your spouse in prayer, but understand as well that your relationship with God is personal between you and God. No one but God knows whether any person will be saved.
You only have control over yourself. Whether your spouse ever gets saved or not, you are still accountable to serve the Lord with your whole heart. Do what you are supposed to before the Lord and all else will work out as He sees fit and in His timing. Remember, God desires to give us good gifts and to bless us abundantly...if we let Him.
I don't share this testimony as a blueprint for how others lives should be. This is my personal story and that only. To the extent that is blesses others, then thank God.
However, if there is any advise that I could give, it would be to keep your eyes on God and seek Him to lead and guide your life. As we learned in the Old Testament, "Don't touch the ark of God."(II Samuel 6:1-7) Let Him have HIS way, which often means us stepping out of the way. God doesn't need our help.
- There are ungodly men, just as there are ungodly women. While women may have their gripes, men would have a few of their own too. :-)
- Don't worry about trying to change a man (if married) or find a man (if single). As you obey God, He will bring to you that which He has for you.
- Respect the roles God has established for men and women. This does not diminish the woman, but providing a pattern by which we can understand who God is and how He relates to us. A Godly man will honor his wife in all things and not try to dominate her.
- Your Christ-like example can impart the life of Christ to others, drawing them to Christ as well. God can change the cold heart of a sinner; remember, He did it for you and me.
- Society is perverted all around, so don't worry about society's standards. Just live for God and let Him lead you through your life. Don't compromise what you know God has for you by trying to submit to something which is unGodly.
- Ask God to soften your heart and open it up to receive what He has for you. Acknowledge within yourself that you too have been guilty of hurting others and ask Him to set you free to forgive those who have hurt you as He forgives your faults as well. This way healing can begin and you can start to experience a more abundant life in Christ - with or without a husband.