On today's broadcast, Dennis Rainey answers questions from listeners regarding spiritually mismatched unions.
On today's broadcast, Dennis Rainey answers questions from listeners regarding spiritually mismatched unions.
Bob: All across the country in tens of thousands of homes, individuals are expressing a common frustration of being spiritually mismatched.
[sound of phone ringing]
Woman: I live with the consequences that I married an unsaved man eight years ago …
Man: I would love to sit in a pew next to her on Sunday morning.
Woman: My husband has been married twice before.
Woman: I don't see him seeking answers.
Woman: Every time I try to talk about anything, he gets real defensive, and he doesn't want to talk about it.
Woman: My values are placed in Christ, and in the Word of God, and his are in what's worked for him.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 28th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Today we'll tackle phone calls from listeners who are in a marriage where they are spiritually mismatched.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. This week we've been talking about couples who are married to someone who does not share their spiritual values, someone who is not a believer or a follower of Jesus Christ.
I've heard you use the illustration before, Dennis, of couples trying to build a home with two different sets of blueprints, when your basic core convictions about the meaning and purpose of life; when you don't share those as a couple, it can be a real challenge for both of you.
Dennis: In fact, I know of one person who has been in a marriage for a number of years who continues to live in the midst of a marriage that doesn't get to share this, yet this person has kept growing, has continued to apply Scriptures, and is being faithful before the Lord.
And I've got to believe, Bob, when we get to heaven, some of us who have been sailing with a spouse in the same direction and, yeah, there's been some currents and some wind that have attempted to blow us off course, we've had little challenge in our sailing compared to those who have faced a lifetime of attempting to maintain oneness with someone who isn't headed in a spiritual direction at all.
Bob: The Bible speaks to this issue in 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, where Paul says if you find yourself married to someone who is not a believer, and that other person is willing to stay in the marriage, well, stay with them. You may sanctify them in your relationship. If the other person is unwilling to stay, Paul says let them leave. But you don't do anything to prod them into leaving. In fact, it should be just the opposite – you should be the most attractive, most winsome, most joyful, most encouraging – you should make it hard for them to want to go anywhere else.
Dennis: And that's easy for you and me to say in a studio, but where life occurs in a home where there are all kinds of value issues like tithing, like reading the Bible, like going to church, like taking your children to church …
Bob: … what movies you're going to watch or what you're going to let your kids do.
Dennis: That's right, and where the kids go with that spouse who isn't a believer. I'll tell you, these are not easy or shallow issues to deal with. There's a lot of deep water surrounding this subject, and I'm glad that over the next few days we're going to take the subject and explore it through some phone calls.
Bob: Yeah, a while back, you and I had the opportunity to talk with folks who called in to share some of the details of their marriage. They used different names so that they could be as anonymous as possible, and we interacted around their circumstances, and you gave some biblical advice. Let's listen back to a couple of those phone calls here on the broadcast.
Dennis: Hi, Susan, this is Dennis Rainey. Welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Susan: Well, Dennis, thank you.
Bob: You're in a remarried situation, right?
Susan: Yeah, my husband has been married twice before, but this is my first marriage, and we've been together a little over 11 years. We have a nine-and-a-half-year-old son, and we've been married eight years.
So his 17-and-a-half-year-old daughter came to live with us a year-and-a-half ago.
My husband came to Christ four-and-a-half years ago, but in the last year he has been pretty much riding the fence the last several months. He just fell off on the other side, so to speak.
Bob: Were you a Christian when you married him?
Susan: Yes, I've been a Christian most of my life. I was raised in the church. However, I wasn't walking with the Lord at the time.
Bob: So your spiritual renewal, how long has that been a part of your relationship with him?
Susan: Probably six years, seven years.
Bob: So early on in your marriage, you will showing some spiritual vitality, and a couple of years later he came to Christ, and during that time, that three-year period were the two of you – were you going to church together and in Bible studies together and growing spiritually together?
Dennis: So you really, as a couple, do not have shared values at this point. You really have two different sets of values?
Susan: You know, that's it. Mine are placed in Christ and in the Word of God, and his are in what's worked for him.
Dennis: Susan, was there anything that occurred in the last, I don't know, 12 to 24 months in your husband's life that has caused him to give up on God and to really just bag the whole Christian life?
Susan: Dennis, I don't know. The only thing I can think of is maybe it has to do with our daughter living with us now.
Dennis: It may be that he sees your standards with his daughter, and she's putting pressure on him about those standards and what he feels like is he's left to choose between his daughter and you and, in the process, has not taken the more difficult road, which is to stand firm, stand strong, and, in the process, is siding with his daughter. This happens so many times in blended families, remarriage situations, and, really, what you and your husband are in need of doing, Susan, is getting away and somehow getting some of these issues on the table before you, and I would be jealous for both you and your husband to attend the FamilyLife Marriage Conference coming a little bit later on in the spring.
Susan: I'm planning on it.
Susan: I've been telling him that that's what I want to do for our anniversary.
Dennis: And his response to that is?
Susan: He – no, he doesn't think we need any help. We're fine. He is very unpredictable, Dennis. The only thing that has been predictable in the last six months is his anger and his rage.
Dennis: Have you ever asked him what the source of that anger and rage is?
Dennis: And his response is?
Susan: Oh, every day occurrences, or he hates his job. He doesn't know.
Bob: Well, but all he's expressing is what tripped the trigger, and what's behind the anger is pain somewhere.
Susan: I'm starting to figure out, you know, his parents were divorced when he was about eight. He had two stepdads, so …
Bob: He's in his 40s now?
Susan: He is in his late 30s.
Bob: Yeah, and he's starting to look at his life and see some of the failures in his own life. He's watching his daughter and seeing failure there as a father. And all of that pain is coming back. He's looking at the mess he's made of his life, and there's a lot of pain there.
I think what the reorientation he needs is not to look back at the pain but to look forward at a change in his legacy.
Susan: I know.
Bob: He needs somebody who can challenge him to make the second half of his life a turnaround from the first half of his life.
Dennis: Are you all members of a good church?
Susan: Yeah, we were, initially. I've even reached out to the elders, Dennis. I have cried to them and said, "Help me here." And haven't got much response.
Dennis: I think a good church is absolutely essential.
Susan: Oh, it is.
Dennis: For where you all are, and at points, Susan, you're going to need the help of a local church to step in just as you appealed to the elders of your present church to step into your marriage and to help you. That's where the church shows itself to be strong, and it can be redemptive between two people. You need someone who can come alongside you, like Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 talks about, where it says that "two are better than one." And it's the suspender principle of Scripture – if one lets go, there's still somebody else hanging on saying, "Susan, don't give up. Keep doing what's right, keep praying, keep hanging in there with your husband, with your stepdaughter, with your son. Keep living the Christian life, be patient, don't look at what he's not doing."
Susan, that's symptomatic. He has a greater need of coming to grips with who he is as a man before God and of surrendering his life to Jesus Christ. Now, maybe he made a commitment a number of years ago, maybe he didn't, I don't know that. But the reality is you can change your response to him. You can't change his response to you or his response to God.
What you need to do is you need to have your own support system to encourage you to hang in there and encourage you to keep praying and keep living. Let me encourage you to get in the Book of 1 Peter, and read chapter 2, verse 21 through chapter 3, verse 6.
Dennis: And the reason I'm going to turn you back to chapter 2:21, is that it begins by sharing how Jesus Christ suffered and left for us an example for us to follow in His footsteps. I'm just grateful that you called today. I pray that God will grant you the wisdom, the discernment, and I pray that He will enable you the ability and the favor with your husband to get him to that conference, because I think your husband needs to hear it from somebody else other than you.
Susan: He does, he does.
Bob: Susan, thanks for calling.
Susan: Thank you so much.
Bob: It's great to talk to you.
Bob: You know, that can be so difficult, Dennis, for a wife to watch her husband regress spiritually, fall back, fall into old habits, prefer the old way of life, and it feels to her like life is spinning out of control at that moment. She doesn't know how to slow it down and put it back in the right direction.
Dennis: Yeah, and at those points, she's got to resist the urge to control, to preach, to hammer her husband with the truth just one more time, thinking that that somehow will get his attention and, more than likely, all that's going to do with a guy like that is make him madder. He's already in a rage, and 1 Peter, chapter 3, I know a lot of women don't like to be pointed to this passage, because it sounds like you're in such a helpless spot when you read this. Well, the truth is, you are, you already are.
You don't control the other person's response, and that's why I think Peter, as directed by the Holy Spirit, talks to women about living in a quiet way before your husband, a winsome way that attracts him to Jesus Christ. And you've got to ask yourself the question, am I being God's wife, God's woman, in front of this man that will make him want more of my God?
Instead of pointing out to him where he's failing, how can I be the one to point out how he can get to God and do that with my life and let my life be the sermon that's preached.
Bob: That's great advice. Let's take our next call. Marie is on the line with us. Hi, Marie.
Bob: Thanks for calling.
Dennis: Hi, Marie, this is Dennis.
Marie: Hello, Dennis.
Dennis: Share with us what's going on in your marriage and family?
Marie: Well, I don't know if you have time for me to share everything, but I did come up with a couple of questions that would be helpful. My first one would be the best way that I could encourage my husband to grow in his relationship with Christ, and the second one would be in relation to children. What I have found is that because there is a real imbalance between us spiritually, is that the advice or conversations that we have with our children can be very different.
And so I want to be able to respond to them in a Christ-like manner and yet still honor and – I feel a real protection to their father to just – I don't know if "hide" is the word but just to – maybe it is hide where he's at spiritually and kind of make up for where he's not.
I know that they know that because they get different answers, and I know they get different answers from both of us. So it puts the responses that we give to our children differently, and I am concerned about the effects that that has on them.
Dennis: Let's talk about the first question, if we can, Marie. What has motivated your husband in the past? Have you seen any spiritual sparks, spiritual life in him from any involvement in church or a men's retreat or Promise Keepers, anything like that?
Marie: There was a Promise Keepers that he went to about three or four years ago, and I didn't see anything from that, but what I have seen is there is a sports activity at church that he really enjoys, and he's with godly men there, and that's probably what I feel is almost my saving grace, if I could use that term, because it's really something, it's a place where he's at that I know he's in really good hands spiritually, and I guess I look for that, at some point, to be my link that will really bring him closer to men that will encourage him, but I haven't known of conversations that he's had with them as a result of that. But it's a place that he goes that I know is good for him to be.
Dennis: How does he feel about your faith and about your own personal growth that he's observed over the years?
Marie: I don't know, because it's not something that we discuss. I feel like it's okay for me, but he's fine where he's at.
Dennis: You know, in listening to you, I really agree with you that these men that he's around at church in some type of sporting event is one of the keys to his life, and it may be that what you want to do is go to your pastor or go to two or three of these couples represented by these men.
And what you need to do is challenge them to begin to go after your husband man-to-man in either a Bible study or maybe invite you two, Marie, to a couples Bible study. We have those here at FamilyLife. It's called the Homebuilders Couples' Series. Or get one of those couples to invite you all to go to a FamilyLife Marriage Conference, and the idea is to reach out to your husband through those relationships and minister to him and help him grow spiritually.
Now, concerning the children, I've got three thoughts for you. First of all, find out what he's doing right with the children, and affirm that leadership that he's giving there.
Secondly, if you do correct him, and it sounds like you're already doing this, but if you do need to talk to him about some counsel or advice that he's giving the children, make sure that's always in private and never in front of the children. Men who feel undermined by their wives in front of their children will withdraw. We just have, like it or not, we have a very thin skin when it comes, as men, to being corrected by our wives in front of our own children.
And then, finally, third, I would see, at some point, maybe to ask him to get away for a weekend, a romantic getaway like the FamilyLife Marriage Conference. Maybe one time work on your marriage, maybe another time work on your values as a family and talk about your values, maybe discuss where your values are different as husband and wife; where those differences are going to take you as a family.
And then talk about how you can develop some shared values that you want to raise your children in, and maybe go on out to when those boys are teenagers, and when they're going to be facing issues of drinking and movies and drugs and girls and just talk about the need that young people today have for parents to hold to convictions and absolute standards and to raise them in light of those standards and to pray that through with him and ask him if he agrees with that and can embrace that with you as a couple.
Bob: I hope that's been helpful. I so appreciate you calling.
Marie: Thank you, it has been.
Dennis: Thanks, Marie.
Bob: Dennis, you could sense Marie's frustration, and you can imagine being married to someone who doesn't have the same spiritual passion as you do is a frustrating experience.
Dennis: It is. I've got a letter here in my hand from a listener who writes about their three sons, ages 6, 3, and 1. She is just writing about how her husband, just like Marie's, doesn't have a spiritual stance in life, and she just writes, she says, "My values are being totally undermined. Help!!!" Three exclamation points, and it's underlined three times. "I'm so tired and worried. What do I do? I love my husband. I'd give almost anything up for him to have a godly man to guide our children, our family, in Christ's will and His ways, but I'm looking at all the issues – TV, videos, and I'm scared."
And, you know, we should be scared, because a home that's divided is a dangerous situation, because you can't build on two foundations. There has to be a single foundation that you build off of, and I really believe if women like Marie can somehow to back just to their common ground of where they do agree and, as you said, a firm – for those beliefs – for those steps of leadership and then begin to build and seek to get joint ownership of values not in the middle of the storm, not in the middle of the battle when the values are being hammered out around a choice of what TV program.
Because you walk in, you watch your husband watching a movie with your sons that you just go, "This is wrong." And it is. How do you support him in that? Well, you don't do it at that point and cause a major clash. You do it privately, and you seek to build some agreement with an idea of where are we taking this family and where are we taking our children, long haul?
And you pray, pray, pray. You ask God for favor and victory in those situations.
Bob: And there will be some times, Dennis, when a wife may have to say to her children, "Dad and I don't necessarily see eye-to-eye in this area. Here is where my convictions are, and your dad doesn't necessarily agree with those." You don't do that in any way that degrades your husband in front of the kids but, at the same time, pray for God's protection for your children if they're being exposed to things that they shouldn't be exposed to.
God has a wonderful way of protecting the soul of our children as we pray for them, even if they're being exposed to some things that may grow up and say, "You know, I don't even remember that."
Dennis: Right. You know, over in 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, it talks about how the believing spouse sanctifies the unbelieving spouse and, Bob, I believe that sanctification process, which really means what you're talking about here, protects. It protects that marriage, and it can also protect that family from evil.
Bob: You know, I remember Nancy Kennedy who we interviewed, she wrote a book called "When He Doesn't Believe," and I remember her talking about when her children were little, one of the things she thought she'd do is train her kids to say, "Daddy go church? Daddy pray?" You know, hoping that they would somehow shame their father into embracing Christ or at least going to church, you know?
And she writes that she later realized that's not the approach you need to take, and I think a listener has got to be careful that they don't try to become manipulative in these circumstances; that they don't try to engineer an outcome but instead that they pray, they love, they are gracious, they manifest the fruit of the spirit; they are kind and compassionate and gentle and allow the Lord to do His work.
We've got copies of the book that Nancy wrote in our FamilyLife Resource Center, if any of our listeners are interested, they can find information about the book online. Again, it's entitled, "When He Doesn't Believe." And we have additional resources available in our FamilyLife Resource Center as well.
Go to our website and in the center of the home page, you'll see a red button that says "Go." You click that button, it will take you right to an area of the site where you can get more information about these resources. Our website is FamilyLife.com. Again, that's FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says "Go," and you'll be right where you need to be.
Or call 1-800-FLTODAY if you have any questions or you're looking for a recommendation on a resource – 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll see if we can't help you with information or resources or let you know about one of our Weekend to Remember conferences that's coming to a city near where you live.
Again, the information is available online at FamilyLife.com, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY.
Let me say a word of thanks to those of you who have contacted us and who are taking part in our effort during the month of March to try to get a set of Resurrection Eggs into the hands of people who need to hear the Gospel. We have partnered with our friends at Here's Life Inner City this month to help get a set of Resurrection Eggs into the hands of families who live there and who need to hear the Gospel, and we're asking you to partner with us and be a part of the distribution network.
We'd like to send you a set of Resurrection Eggs that you would pass along to someone who you know who needs to hear the Gospel – a friend or a relative or a neighbor, co-worker. Here is what we're asking you to do – if you will make a donation of any amount this month to FamilyLife Today, you will enable us to get these Resurrection Eggs into the hands of folks who live in the inner city, and we'll send a set of Resurrection Eggs to you as well to pass along to someone you know.
You can make a donation online at FamilyLife.com. If you do that, when you come to the keycode box, you need to type the word "eggs" in there, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone and just mention that you want to be a part of the Resurrection Eggs initiative, and we'll make sure to get a set of these eggs sent out to you to pass along to someone else along with our thanks for your participation and our appreciation for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Well, tomorrow we're going to meet a couple who were not spiritually mismatched. In fact, they were on the same page when it came to their walk with Christ. It was just a whole lot of other areas where they were driving one another crazy, and it almost cost them their marriage. We'll meet Doug and Patty Daily tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that interview.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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