Submission and Respect
About the Guest
How do you respect and submit to an unbelieving spouse? Lynn Donovan, Dineen Miller, and Darla Stone love their husbands. But loving their husbands doesn't mean there are things they wouldn't like to change about them, especially spiritually. These faithful women learned long ago that even though their spouse may not share their faith, God still expects them to submit to their husband's authority as leader of the home. Hear them tell how they honored their unbelieving husbands in the areas of finances, children, and worship.
How do you respect and submit to an unbelieving spouse?
Bob: There was a time when Darla Stone and her husband did not share a common love for Jesus. The implications were significant. It meant that their relationships with other couples were affected, decisions about how to spend their time, and whether or not to attend church. It spilled into a wide variety of areas that affected both of them.
Darla: There were a lot of issues where he was choosing worldly lifestyles. I did not want to participate in that. I truly thought—again, a baby Christian and not really even understanding the covenant aspect of marriage—thinking that, “It would be so much easier” —it’s that word, happy, again—“I would be so much happier if he would just walk away without me.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, December 5th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today about the honest emotions that are part of a spiritually-mismatched marriage. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’m not sure why you decided, right before we came on the air, to tell the guests that you are going to—you just scared them! That’s what you did.
Dennis: I did. I told them I had a tough question that I was going to ask. Let’s introduce the topic and explain to our listeners what we’re talking about.
Bob: Let’s get after it! Okay, we’ve got three ladies joining us again on FamilyLife Today: Darla, Dineen, and Lynn. Thank you, ladies, for being here.
Darla: Thanks for having us!
Dineen: Thanks for having us!
Lynn: Thanks for having us!
Bob: All three of these ladies have been or are still currently married to men who don’t share their faith in Christ. Darla, in your case, your husband has come to faith; but Lynn and Dineen, your husbands still aren’t buying it. They’re okay with you talking about your marriage and where you guys are. You’ve got a blog where you’re addressing this spiritually-mismatched situation.
Dennis, for some reason, has decided to bring out the fast ball and pitch it your way.
Dennis: So here’s the question—you’ve been married, Dineen, 25 years; 20 for Lynn; and 40 for Darla: “What was or is the most difficult situation you faced, where you had to submit to your husband?”
Bob: Are you talking about an actual event? You want to know when that was done—
Dennis: Yes. Yes, that you can share, here, on air.
: I think, for me, one of the most difficult things has been where I wanted my husband to go to church with me. He was not going to have any of it. “I don’t believe that! I don’t believe in God. I am not going to church!”
Bob: Not even the Christmas Eve service?
Darla: Not at the time. In the early years, he did not want to have anything to do with church. For me, I loved that weekly recharge just to get through my week. For me to respect him and say, “I am not going to nag you every week to go. I am not going to manipulate,” because we will try everything under the sun to get our men to go to church. It’s a lot for selfish reasons because church is couple-oriented. You feel silly walking in there by yourself. I mean, all of those things go on in your head, and you will do a lot of things to guilt him into it—to manipulate, or whatever. I tried them all to get my husband to go to church. I had to let go of that and say, “I want you to go to church when and if you ever want to go to church; but I am going to get up and go because it’s good for me and it makes me happy.”
Bob: How have you dealt with—or how would you coach somebody to deal with—that person meeting you and going, “So, are you married? Where’s your husband?” —that conversation that happens over, and over, and over again.
Darla: Yes; that’s a very difficult area where, when you’re unequally yoked, you are a married single in church. Oftentimes, the Christian community is not welcoming of that. They’ll say something, trying to be nice or helpful, and it really kind of is, “Where is your husband?” That comes back to your identity in Christ. When you are so in love with Jesus and you know who you are because you are Christ’s child, you can go to church by yourself. You can do a lot of things by yourself and handle your husband not attending with you.
Dennis: Yes, but I want you to coach those of us who are interacting with half of the marriage that is coming to church.
Bob: What should you say when somebody comes up and says, “Are you married? Where’s your husband?” How do you respond today?
Lynn: How do I respond today? I say, “I’m married. My husband, Mike, is not a believer.” I will tell them straight out, you know. “But I’m hopeful!” You know, they may ask more or may not. I think, for me, it’s nice to be asked to go to some of the other couple things and have an opportunity to be a part of that. I will tell them, “My husband is not a believer.” I think women feel shame in that—to admit that. I want to give them freedom. It’s okay. It’s okay to say, “I love Jesus, and I am praying for my husband. He is my pre-believer,” —we like to call them—a pre-believer. It’s okay. Don’t let people shame you about this situation because you shouldn’t feel shame over it.
Bob: Okay, I’m going to—if you’ll pardon the expression, I’m going to double down on Dennis’s fast ball that he threw at you here; okay? I’ll just throw this one—I would imagine—I mean, all of us, in whatever marriage we’re in, can see somebody else outside of our marriage and go, “Boy, she’s an attractive woman,” or, “She has a nice smile,” or, “He’s handsome.” When you are married to an unbeliever and you start to see some really godly guy, —
Dennis: All three of them are nodding their heads!
Lynn: That is so painful! We have to go through a part of our lives where we go, “I wanted that so badly! I wanted to be that family where—” You know, I start off in the book telling a story—I went to church, finally, by myself: I sit down; and in scoots this couple, and they’re holding hands in church. It was just like a knife going into my chest because I wanted that so badly.
Dennis: But that’s not the question Bob’s asking.
Bob: I’m asking about seeing that godly guy and just letting your mind go—
Dineen: You can’t go there.
Lynn: You really can’t!
Dineen: No, you can’t. It’s that, “Okay, Lord, Your plan. You have a plan here, and I trust that. I love my husband, and maybe he’s not following you right now; but this—”
Dennis: But you’re all in?
Dineen: I am all in!
Lynn: Right; right.
Dineen: And there is so much in my guy that I can sit there and appreciate, right there, too.
Dennis: So, you build the fence at the top of the cliff. You don’t go anywhere near the edge.
Dineen: Nope! Nope; nope; nope.
Bob: And if you’re mind starts to take you there, you have to consciously, purposefully go, “No. I’m not going there.”
Dineen: Absolutely! That’s that transforming our minds—what Romans 12:2—the capturing those thoughts—because they’re going to come. You capture it, you give it to God, and you just, “I don’t want to go there. Lord, I’m giving you that. I’m asking Your forgiveness if I need it; I’m asking for Your grace. I don’t even want to remember that I thought that. Take it out of my head.”
Bob: Darla, did you ever have to battle with that when your husband wasn’t following Christ?
Darla: No, not really. The exact same response that Lynn gave is that—what I did—was to the comparison—it would come out with sadness—that, “I’m so sad that my marriage is not like that.” That’s where the comparison goes to—not to, “Do I want that?”
Unfortunately, there are so many today who are looking to think that the defining of their marriage has to be defined by the word, happy. When it’s not happy, they blend what the world has to say—and that says, “It’s time to move on.” There might be a general thought of, “Well, I’m not happy. He’s not a believer. I belong to God. This should be something I should do—get out of this marriage and look for that Mr. Right,” —always thinking that there is someone who will be the ideal spiritual leader.
Bob: Yes. I’m thinking we referenced First Corinthians 7 where it says, “If an unbeliever leaves, let him leave.” I’m just wondering if believing spouses ever think, “Boy, if I could just get him to leave.” You know? Kind of, “If I can just manipulate the situation to where he’ll leave, then I’m free!”
Dennis: Well, Darla did.
Dennis: She baited him.
Darla: Yes. [Laughter]
Bob: You wanted that? You were hoping that would happen?
Dennis: Your husband got a job transfer to Houston.
Dennis: You just said, “You can go on down there! What would you think if you went and we didn’t?”
Darla: Yes, yes. It was with fear and trepidation, but our marriage was a lot more severe than what the girls are experiencing here. There were a lot of issues where he was choosing worldly lifestyles. I did not want to participate in that.
Darla: So I truly thought—again, a baby Christian and not really even understanding the covenant aspect of marriage—and thinking that, “It would be so much easier,” —it’s that word, happy, again—“I would be so much happier if he would just walk away without me.” Once I understood the covenant of marriage, I had made that paradigm shift from, “I need to get out of this marriage,” to, “I’m going to live a covenant marriage before God. That’s who I made this covenant with—my husband—before God. I will stay in this marriage because of Jesus Christ.”
Dennis: Let’s talk about money because values are actually expressed in how we spend our money. You ladies undoubtedly have a Kingdom mindset around your money. You think about giving and wanting giving to be a part of what you’re passing on to your kids so they see your family being a part of generosity, tithing, an offering—you know, the things that Paul exhorted Timothy to.
Bob: Yes, support the church, support the missionaries, help advance the Kingdom.
Dennis: Yes. How do you handle that when you disagree?
Dineen: There was a point in my marriage where the issue came up. I wanted to tithe. I wasn’t in a job at the time. I was staying at home with our girls, and I wanted to be at home with them. I didn’t feel right just giving to the church, without talking to my husband about it. It was an area of friction. Again, what I wanted to give, he was having trouble with. He didn’t feel comfortable giving to church. That was an issue for him. It was something he didn’t believe in and he didn’t support—so, it was a struggle for him.
At the time, I was reading The Wonderful, Spirit-Filled Life by Charles Stanley. He gave a wonderful example in that book about when you have these issues that come up in relationships—that are an issue that you need to work out. You write it on an index card, and you bring it before God. I did what he said in the book. The whole point of it was to hold this issue, and it’s like you’re putting it on the altar. You’re saying, “God, I am willing to let go of this and put it before You. Whatever Your will is, is what I want.”
I went before God and prayed about it. I felt God impress upon me to speak to my husband and ask for what amount he was comfortable with to give to the church. Whatever that was, I was to accept. I went to my husband and I said, “Okay, I would like to give something to my church each month. What amount are you comfortable with? Whatever that is, I’m fine with.” He gave me an amount that was even more than I was secretly hoping for! [Laughter]
You know, it just showed me again, if we leave it in God’s hands, He works it out. Whether or not your spouse believes, He’s in there working and will surprise you if you just let go. Let God be the one leading, and let Him do it.
Dennis: Lynn, you have a story around that whole idea of the surprise of God. Your husband Mike gave you the gift of a garden; right?
Lynn: That’s right, yes. About four years ago, we redid our backyard. We ripped out the grass. For a gift, he allowed me to put in a vegetable garden, which I never thought I would love to garden, but I do. We hired a contractor, and his name was Joe. Joe shows up. I didn’t know, at the time when we hired him—you know—he was a Christian! The first day, he gets out in the backyard and plugs in the radio. Christian radio was just blaring in the backyard. [Laughter]
I am going, “Oh boy, my husband is going to freak out over this!” I am like secretly going, “Yes! Go, Joe!” The neighbors—you know, he is blasting it out there! [Laughter] For two weeks, Joe—he cannot contain his Christian love and his Christlikeness. He even prayed with one other contractor in the backyard for him to come to Christ.
It’s the last day of the job, and Joe is packing up to leave. We head out to the front yard. We are standing out on our driveway, in the middle of our neighborhood. Joe looks at my husband Mike and he goes, “I was once like you. I didn’t believe. I didn’t need God.” He kind of tells his story about his wife praying for him. [Laughter] He said, “I was just like you!” He was staring at my husband; and he says, “Do you want to pray with me?” My husband says, “Yes!” Joe reaches out, takes my husband’s hands and leads my husband through a prayer of salvation. I was astonished!
I just was amazed that God had orchestrated this whole two-week thing, and Joe praying with my husband. He drove away, and I didn’t know what to say! The next day, I did ask my husband, “So, what did you think about Joe?” He goes, “Well, I kind of was really surprised. I’m not really sure what that all—if I really mean it.” But I have to tell you, he prayed it. He prayed it sincerely, and I have seen slow changes in my husband over time.
What is so great for us, who are unequally yoked, is we get to see God do those kind of things in our ordinary lives with our spouses to astonish us and tell us God will not give up on our husbands—to encourage us with moments like that to keep praying, to keep living out our faith, to love that man because God loves him so much more than we do. Then, we get to have that front row seat—that’s what I call it—to watch God pound on the heart of our spouse. I am astonished regularly at the lengths our God will go to pursue our men for their lives.
Bob: Darla, I’ve got to imagine there are women who are listening who are going, “Okay, so what you’re saying is that if I’m married to an unbelieving spouse, I just need to pray and shut up. Isn’t there something more I can do than pray and shut up?!”
Darla: Oh, it is so strange to hear what God has to say on this issue, which is completely against anything a woman will do—and that is to be quiet. [Laughter] It just doesn’t make sense to us because we always believe there is something practical we can do and something that, obviously, our mouths can say. But God has done this before. He has told an entire nation to march around walls and then on the seventh day, blow horns. He has told some strange instructions to other generations before us. These are our strange instructions.
Once we begin to try that, it really is something that takes time. I think that, very often in today’s generation, everything is so instantaneous that we can’t understand it might take me time to learn to be quiet. It might take me time to learn to trust God with this, “Do I trust God? Do I know God enough? Can I trust Him with this? If I’m silent, will He act?” [Laughter] You know, you might want to wake up the second day, third day, thinking, “Well, did God act last night?”
Darla: It does take a lot of time on your part to really invest in understanding who Christ is in your life and letting God now invest in your husband’s life. Very often, we’re holding up the process because we’re manipulating.
Bob: Yes; here’s the way I think a lot of us think—not just women, but a lot of us—we think, “How can God act if I’m not in control?”
Bob: And just saying it out loud exposes how silly it is.
Darla: Yes, yes.
Bob: “How can God do this if I’m not in control?” That’s the point; right?!
Darla: Yes, yes.
Dineen: Very well said.
Darla: Each of the issues that you might include with all of that would be the same—submission—“How do I submit?” Well, that’s the same concept—letting go and allowing God to give me the strength to do it. Forgiveness—same concept—“Do I trust God enough to hold me and heal me while I forgive?” The same concept of raising a child without your husband’s input, spiritually. “Do I trust God enough to give me the strength to invest in this child by myself?” It is all coming down to, “Can I trust God?” That is what takes time—learning to trust God with any of these issues.
Dennis: We’re all on that same journey. Now, I’m not going to suggest that what I’m about to recommend is as strange as marching around the walls of Jericho seven times and then blowing a horn; but I am going to suggest something that may seem almost like, “Really? You would suggest that I invite my spouse to go to a Weekend to Remember®—a marriage getaway that’s based on the Bible? You would encourage me to do that in hopes that perhaps they’ll experience more of marriage according to God’s design, maybe hear a little bit about who God is, and what the plan of salvation is, and how it all works?”
I would say, “Absolutely!” because it’s fun; it’s romantic; it’s based on the Bible. We don’t get weird. We’re no weirder there than we are, here, on FamilyLife Today.
Bob: And if they say, “No,” just say, “Okay.”
Bob: I mean, don’t make a federal case of it. Just, “Alright, that’s fine.”
Lynn: Okay, I will ask.
Dineen: Me, too.
Dennis: You, too!
Lynn: I will ask.
Bob: You know what? We’ll one-up you on that. We’ll give you a certificate you can take home. Then, you can just say, “They gave us this certificate for a free one. Now we’ve got to go!”
Lynn: Oh, I can’t wait to ask! [Laughter]
Dennis: It really is a hoot! I mean, it’s a lot of fun. I want to say to you three ladies, “Thank you for your heroism.” I mean that. Thank you for hanging in there in faith and being the arms of the love of God to unsuspecting husbands. It’s really cool!
Darla: Thank you so much!
Bob: You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, if you’d like more information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. This spring, we’ll be hosting getaways in cities all across the country. I think we’ve got about 60-plus cities this spring, where we’re going to be hosting these getaways. So, make plans now. When one of these is in a city near where you live, get away for a weekend. Enjoy yourself as a couple and be a part of the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—also, for information about the books we’ve been talking about this week—the book by Darla Stone called In Christ Alone: When Your Husband Does Not Walk with Him—and the book by Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller called Winning Him Without Words. FamilyLifeToday.com is our website. You can order from us online if you’d like or call 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
Now, I don’t know how you would respond if folks came and asked what kind of year it’s been for you; but I know how we would respond, here, at FamilyLife. We would say, “It has been amazing, and it’s been challenging.” It’s been amazing because we are seeing God at work in some really great ways. In fact, I think in 2012, it’s safe to say that we’ve had more people who have been directly impacted by the ministry of FamilyLife Today—through our events, our radio program, online—all that we’re doing. More people have been touched by this ministry than in any year of our ministry’s history.
In fact, a listener wrote to us recently and said: “I want to say how much I enjoy and am enriched by FamilyLife Today. I spend about two hours a day in the car. I listen to your show as I’m driving to work. Also, if I miss a program, my wife records it; and I can listen to it as I drive home in the evening. I must admit, I don’t like the long commute, but it’s time well-spent when I can listen to FamilyLife Today.” He also said in his letter, “We financially and prayerfully support your ministry.” We are grateful for that support. Again, it’s just amazing to us how God is using this ministry in so many ways.
The challenging part of the year has been that we have seen a dramatic drop in the donations that we receive from FamilyLife Today listeners. In the last several months, we’ve had to make some cuts to what we’re doing. We’ve had to pull back and stop some things that were moving forward—put some things on hold for the time being—all of that in response to lower-than-expected donations.
The good news is we’ve had some friends step forward. They have agreed, during the month of December, they’re going to match every donation we receive on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to a total of $3 million. There’s some indication that that number may be growing here in the next couple of weeks. So, when you make a donation during December, your donation is actually going to be doubled, up to that $3 million total. So, would you and your spouse consider making a yearend contribution and being as generous as you can be to help us make up for some of the shortfall that we’ve experienced this year?
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We hope you can join us back here again tomorrow. Barbara Rainey is going to be in, and we’re going to talk about how your home can declare the reason for Christmas every day. We’ve got some ideas on that that we’ll share with you tomorrow. I hope you can tune in.
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 will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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