Marriage can often accentuate the differences in a husband and wife. Especially spiritual differences. Lynn Donovan, Dineen Miller and Darla Stone talk about the reality of being married to an unbeliever.
Marriage can often accentuate the differences in a husband and wife. Especially spiritual differences. Lynn Donovan, Dineen Miller and Darla Stone talk about the reality of being married to an unbeliever.
Bob: When your spouse doesn’t share your love for Jesus, there are times when your marriage can feel hopeless. Here’s Darla Stone.
Darla: We very often, as mismatched wives, begin to think of our husbands as the enemy. One of the pieces of hope that God gives us is to constantly tell us that our enemy is not flesh and blood and that we have Christ in us—the hope of glory. So, when Christ is in us, Christ is in our marriage.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. It is possible to be in a spiritually- mismatched marriage and still grow in your relationship with your spouse and your relationship with God. We’ll talk about how to do that today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You’ve shared a number of times with our listeners that when you and Barbara first got married, there were things that you valued and things that she valued. You guys weren’t necessarily on the same page with those values. You had to come together and work that out. You were both committed to Christ; and you still had a clash of values, at that point.
Imagine two people married, where one is committed to trying to live out what the Bible says about how we ought to live and somebody else is going, “No, I’ve got my own way of how I want to do it.” That values clash is going to be huge!
Dennis: It is. Frankly, one of the most heroic things I think that is taking place across our country is spouses who are in marriages where they’re spiritually-mismatched. They don’t share a common faith with their lifetime partner in marriage. Truthfully, I think there’s going to be a lot of heroes in heaven. I think one of the biggest heroes is going to be those spouses who have hung in there, and loved the one they made a covenant with, and raised their children with in the midst of unspeakable differences, and disagreements, and difficult times.
We have three ladies with us who really know what I just said from an experience standpoint. Darla Stone joins us on FamilyLife Today. Darla, welcome back.
Darla: Thank you very much.
Dennis: Also, Dineen Miller and Lynn Donovan join us. They are co-authors of Winning Him Without Words. Welcome back, ladies.
Lynn: Thank you.
Dineen: Thank you.
Lynn: Great to be here.
Dennis: I didn’t mention that Darla is the author of In Christ Alone.
Bob: Now, I think we should probably also say that, at some point in the future, we need to have three guys join us who are unequally yoked—guys who are following Christ and their wife isn’t. The fact that we’ve got three ladies here doesn’t mean that we think that it’s all men who are—
Bob: —in the back seat in this whole situation.
Dennis: Dineen, you mentioned earlier that one of the biggest issues with people who find themselves in spiritually-mismatched marriages is feeling alone—
Dennis: —feeling like they’re the only ones out there.
Dineen: Right. When my husband told me his decision, I was crushed!
Bob: His decision?
Dineen: He had chosen—he had decided he was an atheist.
Bob: Okay. Yes, to hear that, especially as the spiritual lights are coming on in your life, and your husband says, “I’ve decided I don’t believe there’s a God.” It’s kind of like, “What do we do now?”
Dineen: I was—it was hard. I will say that was probably the one time God allowed me to actually hear those groanings of the Holy Spirit that it talks about in Romans 8 because I think there was a serious grieving there. I had to let go and let God show me how to walk this path, but the other side of that was—and I realized with something my husband said—I had to reassure him that I still loved him and still accepted him.
So, you start this journey—and “How do you navigate it?” Then, I was in church. All my friends were married to men who went to church. They were Christian couples, and I felt like I was the only one. That’s what we hear a lot from our readers and our blog readers on our ministry site—that that’s the biggest issue. When they find out there are others walking that journey—that’s what makes our spiritually unequal marriage community so strong—is we’re walking this journey together. We’re supporting each other, encouraging each other because that’s the biggest lie that the enemy wants us to hear.
Think about, “You’re in this place to be an influence on someone whose eternity is in question.” The enemy is going to get in there and mess with you and make you believe that you’re alone, that you’re ineffective, that you’re a failure to keep you from being that influence on that person. When we discover there are others and we can unite together, it’s the beginning of something amazing.
Bob: As you were talking, it occurred to me that atheists and agnostics do not have a great commission. There’s nothing in them that says, “Go into all the world and make disciples of atheism and agnosticism.” Your husbands are fine with you guys living for Jesus. That’s okay with them. They don’t feel any need to try to win you to their position.
Bob: But you guys have both got a great commission ringing in your ears. You’re going, “Yes, but I want you to come to know Jesus.”
Dennis: You’re raising an issue that I was looking forward to asking all three of you ladies. I’d like each of you to just take a swipe at this.
It would seem to me, if I was in a spiritually-mismatched marriage, that it would be real easy to become totally fixated and focused on how different we are in our views of the world and just constantly be in a state of disappointment and of being negative about how the other person looks at the world, interprets data—everything from a sunrise, to beautiful music, to all kinds of things. How in the world have you ladies kept from being focused on how different you are in your beliefs?
Lynn: Well, I believe that, along with Dineen’s talking about loneliness, it’s Jesus Christ. His love comes into our life, and it is hope! We have hope for their future; we have hope for our marriage. It takes us away from focusing on all the negative and why he’s not at church with you and what—you know, the different decisions you make about raising kids and things like that. When you have the hope of Jesus Christ in you, and His love, and that vibrant relationship that you have—that changes everything! It transforms your life. It transforms your marriage. When we serve the God of hope, we can look at our husband and go, “I am praying for him. I know God. It’s in His will to come to faith, and I need to believe and trust that God is working it out within my life and in his life for salvation. I am not going to focus on everything that’s going to try and tear our marriage apart.”
I have to be realistic that we have a different worldview in how we process and make decisions, but I also know that I have God’s wisdom because I pray for that every morning. I pray for wisdom and discernment—God’s wisdom and discernment. That is immensely helpful to navigating disagreements or making decisions with my husband who may not see the world—who I know doesn’t see the world the way I do. It is hope and it’s His love that He pours into us that makes every difference in my marriage for sure.
Dineen: Right; and it’s a perspective, too. I mean, we can choose to look at our spouse as our enemy or as our partner and strive for unity. There’s no reason why we can’t do that. When we focus on the spiritual disparity, then, we’re only focusing on what’s not working.
There are challenges; but when we—first of all, when we’re keeping our eyes on Christ and looking for Him and for His leading, and how to live our faith, and putting our expectations on Him and not on our husband—and when we’re walking along that, it makes it so much easier, as Lynn said earlier, that it’s freedom. It really is freedom. It frees us to just love and enjoy our husband or wife. It gives them the freedom to know that they are accepted, and they’re loved, and to feel comfortable in the relationship, too, and that they’re not walking on eggshells.
Darla: We very often, as mismatched wives, begin to think of our husbands as the enemy. One of the pieces of hope that God gives us is to constantly tell us that our enemy is not flesh and blood and that we have Christ in us—the hope of glory. So, when Christ is in us, Christ is in our marriage. We have those promises of God that help us to make that shift—if we’re able to through the Holy Spirit—to make that shift away from thinking of our husband and the current issue at hand as the enemy, then, we’re able to shift toward a more positive reaction or positive statement to say that would bring hope into the marriage.
Bob: At the same time, you stop and think about very practical issues. Kids come along—you talked about, “How are we going to parent these kids?” Well, I’m thinking about spiritual discipleship. You’re on two different pages. Is he okay with you teaching your kids Bible stories? Is he teaching them something different at night? Then, there’s the whole moral value thing about, “That’s okay for the kids to watch these movies.” “No, it’s not!” I mean, how do you—have you had to deal with some of that kind of stuff?
Dineen: Yes, we do. When my girls were little and I had made this decision, my husband agreed that I could take them to church as long as when they were old enough to make their own decision, I would let them make it. I agreed, and we went on that basis. I took the kids to church. My daughters are now 18 and 22, and they both know Jesus. My oldest is about to get married next year. She is engaged to an amazing, godly, young man. Those prayers were heard. God is so faithful, but we dealt with the question. We dealt with it respectfully.
But there are times when we get questions in our ministry where it’s very difficult—the situation is very different and—
Dennis: Yes, that’s what I want to toss your way. What if a husband says, “No, I don’t want you to take them to church”?
Dineen: That’s where it gets really dicey. I actually have a friend who’s dealing with that right now. She and I are praying. She can’t do anything about it but pray. He’s made the decision that they can’t go to church with her. So, she faithfully goes to church still on Sundays. She and I are praying together that God will soften his heart and allow her to take them to church again. We’re holding hope, and we know God will come through.
Darla: The other thing I would say, too, is that we’re to teach our children about God when we’re sitting down, lying down—from Deuteronomy, I believe. When we do that, it can be done without formal church attendance.
Bob: You can disciple your kids, whether you are taking them to church or not.
Lynn: That’s exactly right. You can do that respectfully and very humbly. I love to tell the story about my prayer mobile. I drove my daughter to school for many years. I thrilled to do that. I know a lot of times parents think, “Oh, I don’t want to drive my kids.” If you have the chance to drive your kids and pick them up from school, take advantage of that moment that you have them in the car. I would—my daughter would get in the car. We’d be driving off to school. I would just simply reach over, put my hand on her knee, and I’d say, “Let’s pray,”—simple, everyday prayers. I was modeling prayer to her in everyday life. It wasn’t threatening to her dad. I was passing along my faith to her in a very simple moment—teachable moments.
When those come in a spiritually-mismatched marriage, you need to drop what you’re doing and grab hold of them because they only last a few moments; but they can be so powerful. You can do it very respectfully with dad—you know, and just say—they get to see faith in action in their mom. That is also part of the 1 Peter principle. It’s your actions that are going to speak loudly to your children. They see that you love Jesus. It’s contagious! They cannot help it, and my daughter has a vibrant love relationship with Jesus Christ.
Dennis: Lynn, you had a—well, I guess a point of battle with your husband around the choice of schools.
Lynn: Oh, we did. I was convinced when she was going to start kindergarten that I could put her into a private, Christian school. I’d put her into daycare, and I’d always handled that. We were sitting over the kitchen table one morning. I was talking about enrolling her. He was like, “She is not going a Christian school. I want her in public school.” To say I was devastated, well, it was an understatement; but I chose, at that moment, to be submissive. I respected my husband, and I enrolled her in public school.
Dennis: No, no, no. Let’s go back to the conversation. What did you say to him, at that point? I mean, take us to the kitchen, after you got over the stun.
Lynn: Well, I looked like a deer in headlights, I can tell you, when I am staring at him; and I’m hardly ever one without words. I don’t think I said anything, honestly. I was like, “Okay.” Then, I think I went and cried later; but I told him—I don’t know exactly when I told him—that I would respect him. This was one area he was not going to bend to what I wanted in this. I understood, and this was very early in our marriage.
I decided I needed to trust God that He would take care of my daughter, even in public school—that He would equip me to pass along to her what she needed, that she would even not only be okay there, but she would thrive and be one person that would bring faith into a public school. God has been so faithful in that. Now, here we are. We’re looking at colleges. It’s going to be really neat to see. It’s her turn to choose. We’ve been looking at both state colleges as well as private, Christian colleges. It’s her turn to choose. I hope to be able to come back in a year and let you know what she chose.
But you know what? It’s been—that’s part of the give and take in any marriage. You will have conflict; but with the spiritual component, it’s—sometimes, it’s just very gut- wrenching. That was a hard thing for me to lay down my wishes. In the book, we talk about there are times to stand up for what you believe. There are things that you cannot cross the line on—sin and some things. Then, there is the time to just love them and—“It is stand up or shut up.” Sometimes, we need to just shut up, as women, and let—and respect our husbands and be that word, “submissive”; but it’s really about respect.
Then, there are other times that—like for example, media. There is some television I will not watch. My husband knows that, and I don’t try to brow beat him about it. I will just respectfully say, “You know, this isn’t for me.” I get up, and I leave the room. Those are the same examples we set for our children. We can say, “You know, Honey, this show is not really good for you, and this is why,” even though Dad may not object—and my daughter has been so great to listen to those messages. She hears them and she’ll step out of the room, too, if there’s something that she doesn’t want to watch.
Bob: Dineen, both you and Darla referenced this as we were talking about this. Both of you talked about having somebody you could call—a prayer partner, other moms, other women, maybe people in the same situation, maybe not. A woman who is in—or a man, for that matter—in a spiritually-mismatched marriage needs community—
Bob: —to be able to make—if you try to do this solo, you’ll get drained quickly; won’t you?
Dineen: Yes, you will because you inevitably will fall back on your own power to try to do it. Plus, we can’t stand alone in our faith. We really need community. Paul was dead on when he said—you know, encouraged us to continue to meet together. It’s not because we have to do it; it’s because we need it. We need one another to stay strong in our faith.
For me, when I—we were living in Europe at the time—and I was totally shocked to be in an international church, with representations of almost 40 different countries, to find out there was already a group meeting there for the spiritually-mismatched. They were called the 1 Peter 3 group. They were very discreet. They didn’t broadcast it; but when they found out that I was there, I was approached and invited to join the group. That was the beginning of realizing that I could do this—that I could walk through my marriage in a way that would honor God and would help my husband—that I could be a helper to him still, and not hinder him, and still grow in my faith, and still raise my children to know who God is.
Just to have that—it was amazing—to either have a group or a mentor to come alongside you to walk that path with you and keep encouraging you and keeping your eyes upward because it’s easy to look down.
Darla: That is what is so fantastic about what Lynn and Dineen have done with this online ministry, where it can still be discreet because they’re anonymous. They are writing online, but they’re sharing their heart’s condition with others in this mismatched—
Bob: And we’ve got a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com so folks can find out more about what’s going on online. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get that information.
Dennis: Yes, and I just want to summarize what you ladies have highlighted here. First of all, Second Corinthians, Chapter 1, talks about comforting one another with the comfort you’ve personally received as you’ve suffered. What I’ve heard all of you say is, “Isolation is a killer.” You can’t be isolated.
Dennis: You’ve got to find some other kindred-spirit spouses—and it would be a same- sex situation.
Dennis: It would not mix them up. That would not be healthy, at all.
Secondly—and I really admire this about all three of you as you’ve shared it here—you can tell there has been and remains an attitude of respect toward your husband, even when you disagreed. You can get away with a lot if he knows that you respect him and this is not a clash of the wills—
Dennis: This is not, “My way or your way, buddy!” but, “You’re my husband. I love you. I will respect you.”
Then, third, I also heard this. I wouldn’t want any of those who are in, again, spiritually- mismatched marriages to miss this; but you are the arms of the love of God to your spouse. The Hound of Heaven must be after him or after her because you’re there—you’re in that marriage—we haven’t mentioned the word, but Paul calls it sanctifying your spouse.
Dennis: The believing spouse sanctifies the one who is the unbelieving. You bring God into that marriage; you bring God into that family. You have no idea the impact this is going to have generationally. Yet, we live in a culture today that says, “Ahh, toss the towel in,” “Trade him in,” “Trade her in,” “Get a new one,” “Get a better one.” That’s not the solution.
Dennis: Get some people around you, speak with respect, and keep on loving with the love of God. Then, pray and watch the Hound of Heaven chase him down.
Bob: Well, and get some folks around you who can support you in this and who can provide you with some wise counsel. That’s where I think the books you ladies have written can come in. They can be—they can be encouragement but, also, wise counsel for those who are living in a spiritually-mismatched marriage—particularly, for wives who are married to unbelieving husbands.
We’ve got copies of the book, Winning Him Without Words, by Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Also, Darla Stone’s book, In Christ Alone: When Your Husband Does Not Walk with Him—both of these books are available, and you can order from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Once again, if you need more information, go to the website FamilyLifeToday.com; or call if you have any questions, or if you’d like to order over the phone, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. Ask about these books when you get in touch with us, and we’ll get them sent to you.
Now, let me talk for just a minute to those of you who are friends of FamilyLife Today. You are regular listeners; and many of you have, in the past, helped support this radio ministry. As 2012 is drawing to a close, we need to ask you to consider, if you would, making a yearend contribution to FamilyLife Today to help support the radio program and all that God is doing through this ministry. There is a lot going on at FamilyLife. It’s been an exciting year for us.
In fact, I want to read to you a note we just got from a listener who wrote to us to say thanks for the broadcast recently on same-sex attraction. This listener wrote: “Your message today was timely. A lot of my struggle is rooted in childhood sexual abuse. Through counseling, God is beginning to draw me through; and I just wanted to write this to encourage you to continue discussing this subject. There are more people than you might imagine who need to hear the message that you presented with such love.”
You get a note like that from a listener, and you’re humbled. You’re grateful to God for the way He is at work through this ministry; but part of the dilemma we’re facing right now is that we have seen this year a dramatic decline in donations from radio listeners. As a result, over the last several months, we’ve had to make some cuts. We’ve had to pull back on some things that we were moving forward on and had to put some projects on hold.
The good news is, here at yearend, we’ve had some folks step forward. They’ve agreed to match every donation we receive in December on a dollar-for-dollar basis—up to a total of $3 million. We’re hearing that that number may increase in the days ahead because there are other folks who are saying, “I want to be a part of that matching-gift fund.”
So, would you consider taking a minute today, talk with your spouse, pray about whether you can make a yearend donation, knowing that that donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar. Your donation will be effectively doubled when you make a donation to FamilyLife Today, here at yearend. You can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”, to make an online donation; or you can donate by phone. Call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone.
Again, we just want to say, “Thanks,” for whatever you are able to do. Every donation matters. Every donation is important, no matter how large or how small—just to know that you are with us is significant. We just want to say how much we appreciate your partnership with us, here in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
We hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. We’re going to continue our conversation on the subject of spiritually-mismatched marriages—wives who are married to unbelieving husbands, particularly. I hope you can tune in for that.
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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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