Editor’s note: Scripture tells us not to be unequally yoked. But what if you didn’t know that at the time you got married, or didn’t care? Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller are both married to men who do not share their faith. If you are in a mismatched marriage, this article will remind you that you are not alone. You may want to listen to Lynn and Dineen’s interviews on FamilyLife Today®.
It never ceases to amaze me how God consistently reveals new understanding through His Word. I can’t wait to open it up every morning and allow God to lead me to something new. Recently I had an encounter with Acts 16:1, a passage which I was familiar. But God spoke its value and meaning into my life in a brand-new way:
Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek (NLT).
I read this single sentence and felt as if God were gripping my spirit. He held my full attention, because for the first time I realized that Timothy’s parents were spiritually mismatched. His mother was a Jewish believer, and his father a Gentile, an unbeliever. Could it be that there were parents just like you and me mentioned in the Bible?
I read the verse again and thought about how the people of Greece in biblical times were considered studied and cerebral. Yep, that would describe my husband. And Timothy’s mother, she was a believer. The narrative of Timothy’s mom and dad was nearly a description of my marriage. I read the verse again, and it was as if God spoke to my heart, “See, Lynn, being spiritually mismatched is nothing new.”
Whoa. Why hadn’t I fully comprehended this passage of Scripture before now? By this point, I was completely intrigued, and I continued to read. The passage describes the young man, Timothy:
Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium (Acts 16:2, NLT).
Wow, I thought to myself, Timothy must have been raised right. And then it hit me. I had a vague recollection of a passage of Scripture somewhere in the Bible that described Timothy’s mother. So I looked it up. It’s in 2 Timothy, where Paul writes a letter to Timothy. Listen in:
I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you (2 Timothy 1:5, NLT).
My heart soared as the meaning of these words landed on my soul. Timothy had been raised in a spiritually mismatched home. His genuine faith was born out of his mother’s and his grandmother’s faith. Neat.
I used to think that being spiritually mismatched was a rare condition for married believers. For years I was of the opinion that the Bible only focused on married couples as two believers. In fact, for years I think I’ve been hung up on 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked …” (ESV).
The enemy had me completely duped, convinced that my marriage to my unbelieving spouse was a sin of insurmountable consequence and, because of my disobedience, I must bear this cross until the day I die. I allowed that single verse to overshadow every other passage that is written for people living in relationships just like yours and mine. And as a side note, I understand God’s reason for 2 Corinthians 6:14, because a spiritually mismatched marriage is a very difficult road to travel. Yet now, after more than 20 years walking in my unique marriage and walking with God, I can say with utter confidence, “God knows what He is doing, even in a spiritual mismatch.”
From the days of antiquity until the end of the age, there have been and will always be marriages between believers and unbelievers. Regardless of how we arrived in our unequally yoked marriage, we are part of God’s plans. These matches are not our misfortune. Our wise King works through us, the believers, in these unique relationships with absolute intention. There are eternities at stake, and God is relentless in His desire to reveal Himself to the unsaved.
Now think about Timothy’s mother, Eunice. Her personal name when translated from the Greek actually means “victorious.”
Did you get that, my friends? Victorious! Oh, how like God to encourage us further by shouting that this believing mom is victorious.
I think this passage especially speaks to us mothers who are raising boys. As our boys grow older, they tend to be more and more like their father. Their dad’s ideas, opinions, and beliefs gain prominence in our boys’ minds as they grow into young men. But take courage, faithful mom, because God placed this passage in His holy Word to show you that the intentional love and teaching that you pour into your young men and women make every bit of difference.
We are victorious through the power of Jesus Christ.
Pondering this passage, I marveled that God had chosen to speak to me and to all of us who are walking this path of unique motherhood. He recognizes how utterly important our calling is to our kids and even to our grandkids. God knows that it’s the believing moms who instruct and love the next generation into the saving truth of Jesus Christ. Doing this is scary at times, yet it’s the greatest honor of our entire life and the most fantastic adventure we will ever live.
I can tell you that I have read this passage of Scripture over and over in the many years of my study of God’s Word. But it wasn’t until now that I have understood its implication for my life. Tears sprang to my eyes as I pondered the depths of God’s love for me and for each of my children. His faithfulness is unrelenting, year after year.
I dabbed at my eyes, but God wasn’t finished. So, to outshine Himself, as if that is possible, God revealed more as I read further about Eunice.
At the end of the third chapter of 2 Timothy, Paul mentions Eunice and Lois, Timothy’s grandmother, once again. In this particular letter to Timothy, Paul gives the young man wise counsel as well as his life’s mission:
But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14-15, NLT).
These words are for us. This is Paul’s assurance that our years of relentlessly pouring Jesus into our kids will result in passing the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.