How do you talk to an unbelieving spouse about your faith without it becoming a thorn in your marriage?

Hi everyone,

I have a question about living with an unbelieving spouse. I have read books on praying for an unbelieving spouse that recommend that you pray for your spouse but not evangelize to them because an unwilling heart can only be changed by the Spirit, no matter how much you want them to share in your faith. I understand and believe that living a Christian life will serve as an example to others. But all the same, it feels wrong to not try. I was drawn to Ravi’s forums on Apologetics because they share how to speak to non-believers respectfully but still disagree with their premises. I am seeking guidance if there is such a path for a spouse to take without it becoming a sore spot in your relationship.

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@jkdm134 Praying that the Lord Jesus would give you wisdom to share with your spouse :slight_smile: How have conversations on this topic gone with him in the past? Would you say that he is hostile, indifferent or favorable towards discussing spiritual things?

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@SeanO - I would say indifferent. He has a atheist mentality, rooted in his scientific background, that there is no logic to believing in a creator. He isn’t hostile towards my own faith, but we typically avoid the subject.

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@jdkochendorfer Has he already been exposed to things like The Privileged Planet, Darwin’s Black Box , C. S. Lewis or John Lennox and rejected them? Or is he unaware of them?

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Unaware. He has simply made a decision based on his Catholic upbringing as a kid and found no good reason to ever pick up a Bible again as an adult.

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@jkdm134 Personally, I think you are in a fairly good position then :slight_smile: Perhaps you could find a video, talk or book that you think addresses some of his concerns and ask him to watch it with you and discuss. Be patient and listen and see how he responds. He may be surprised at the evidence that is out there… Below are some places you might start, depending on what you think would appeal to him most.

Privileged Planet

Stephen Meyer

Tim Keller

Has Science Buried God? Lennox

Devil’s Delusion

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Some great ideas here @SeanO. I just finished reading The Devil’s Delusion yesterday.

@jkdm134 perhaps you could read some of these books and then every now and then share something you learn. The sections about Galileo and evolution would be good discussion points from The Devil’s Delusion.

I will pray for your spouse now.

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@jkdm134 @SeanO has asked some great questions and provided some excellent resources to study and prepare to give a reason, when asked, for the hope that is in you I Peter 3:15. Ravi emphasizes addressing not only the question, but the questioner. In Exodus, Yahweh sent Moses after Israel asked for help. All of these expect a question to come before an answer is given.

1 Peter 3:15-16 ESV but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

To thrive in any marriage can be challenging, to be unequally yoked makes it even harder. It forces you to face things about yourself that you would not otherwise need to confront. Here are some of the questions I needed to ask myself, and some of the things I learned.

  1. You mentioned that you did not want this to be a sore spot.
    There are at least two other things which should also be avoided.
  2. There is an enormous tendency in many marriages to keep the peace at all costs. It can be so subtle that we may not even be aware that it is happening. If one feels any pressure or expectation, it can be so easy just to placate the other, to play along to keep the tension at bay. This does at least two things. First, it introduces a level of deceit into the relationship. Second, when a challenging circumstance hits, and the truth becomes obvious, a crisis of the relationship multiplies the difficulty of the challenge, and the relationship may not be able to take that double blow.
  3. In Genesis 3:6 and 17, Eve gave the fruit to Adam, he listened to her voice, rather than the voice of the Creator, and chose her will over His. You do not want to stand between him and his Savior. This can happen more easily than we think. Why does it

Do you doubt His love for your husband? Do you feel other Christians expect you to win your husband with your convincing arguments? These are hard and subtle questions which may be hidden from you initially. Think back to how the Savior drew you to Himself. As you look back, do you see Him gently bringing things to your attention, dealing with lies you believed, attitudes you held, anything that may be holding you back from Him? How do you know that this is not happening to your husband, though he may not yet put it in those words. Do you want to be in a place where you might be drawing him away from what the Savior is doing in his life so that you might have a voice? Do you feel that if you do not know that something is happening, then nothing is happening? That was one of my challenges.

For me, the heart of the matter was really knowing and trusting Him. He is omniscient, He knows all, always has, always will. He knew you would be here, in this marriage, with an unbelieving husband. He is also omnipotent. He is able to turn this for your good.
Romans 8:28 KJV And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.

To avoid the 3 pitfalls mentioned above, if your husband is not asking you questions, then 1 Peter 3:1 applies:"… they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives." I know this can be misinterpreted, but for me it meant to allow His love for my husband to flow through me, that He might draw my husband to Himself. He loved us with an everlasting love, even when we hated Him. He died for us so that we would be able to love Him, not after we loved Him. Asking our Father to have His love for my husband flow through me was one of the most powerful experiences of my life, but it was not easy. It meant laying down own will (and voice) for His. I learned how much He respects us and honors the gift of free will which He gave to us, He does not force Himself upon us.

I know you know these things, so did I. But living them out was radically different. It changed me. I knew to read and obey His Word, but through this I also learned the power of prayer, praise and thanksgiving, and to listen for His still, small voice. I learned to appreciate even more the person my husband was, just as he was, and be grateful for him, our marriage and what I was learning in it. My thankfulness and newfound love and respect for him changed us both. It built a firm foundation in me that I did not have before. Our Savior used it to teach me that He really does know all, He really is all powerful, He really can use anything to my benefit. I learned to relax my need to know and understand, to be in control, and allow Him to work His will in me and in my marriage – His will, not mine. I thought I had married a Christian; I found out I had not. He used even that to change me in ways I could not have grown otherwise. It was not something I would wish on another, but since you are already there, I encourage you to be thankful for all He has given and is about to give you in it and allow Him to teach you all He has for you.

While you are waiting for him to ask you questions, I have learned that asking questions to better understand another’s point of view can change a relationship. He has a science background. I agree with Sean and @brianlalor Brian that you study the things they have mentioned. As our Father leads, ask your husband to explain some of those scientific discoveries, like fine tuning perhaps, as he understands them. Why? Not so that you can quote the book back to him, but so that you can learn from him, appreciate his expertise, understand his point of view better, to grow to better understand and respect for the gifts the Creator has given to your husband and allow His love to flow through you. Gently open the door, build the foundation, pray and prepare to give an answer while you wait for the questions.

May He draw your husband to Himself and grant you His wisdom and peace as you walk through this.

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@Sal your words have been a mirror to me and I thank you deeply for sharing and making me see this perspective. I have re-read your message several times. I do want to be prepared for the question, if and when it is asked and I will read the resources shared by others. To answer your question to me, why I feel I ought to try is because of your point 2. I feel as though I have to live a lie in my own home. The person that I can be in small group, in the choir, at church is not the person that I can share openly with my husband. It does feel deceitful. When he makes a joke about how science and the church are not compatible, it hurts because I don’t know how to answer him in a way that would be helpful and not just inflammatory.

Your point on not being in control is well met in me. I recognize the same and realize even more so now what I have been agonizing over. Thank you for helping me to see that.

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Yes, @jkdm134, it is true we cannot be ourselves, but I learned to see it as dying to myself, sacrificing my own will for His, which is a very real battle we need to face in this dark and selfish world. I could run to Him that He might teach me more of Himself and what it cost Him to lay down His life for me. I had support in the midst of this situation, he did not. If someone was to feel this distance, it was far better that it be me rather than him.

As for control, that seems to be the core of soooo much. Yes, He created us to rule and reign, to have dominion, but we take that and run with it in ways that are so far from what He intended! It is hard to give up control of one’s life, to give it to Him. It is even harder to continue to do it, not just on a daily basis, but each moment, with each breath, to give it to Him, to trust Him with all that we are or ever hope to be. May He continue to give you all you need to continue to grow in this.

That is a relationship issue which can be addressed. Ravi has some excellent videos on youtube where, before he speaks to a likely hostile group, he sets the stage, gently explains the hypocrisy of what so frequently happens in similar situations, and asks that they respect his point of view. Does someone, perhaps @SeanO or @brianlalor know which ones would be best for this?

I just had a friend over for the weekend whose world view is similar to your husbands and who had a similar habit. At one point, she could tell that I was distant as she spoke. When there was a break in her talking, I stated clearly that I felt she was not respecting me and what I believed and explained specifically why I felt that, as gently as possible pointing out that her views were contradictory, perhaps even hypocritical. This had been going on for several years. I had studied, had time to pray and prepare, and He gave me the words to say. But, it was risky, there was no guarantee what her reaction would be. Thankfully, she immediately apologized, and we had a great conversation about the formerly divisive topic. I feel our relationship is stronger than it has ever been.

May He continue to teach you and transform you into all you were created to be.

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@Sal One of these videos might help? Ravi often starts with a joke to build rapport with the audience. While this exact same style may not apply the personal relationships, I think the same idea applies. We begin by connecting on a relational level, recognize we understand the other person’s perspective, speak the truth and then listen.

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Thanks @Sean. There is at least one more, too, but I thought there were several. (after reaching 600 open tabs, last week, I cut back to 400. Of course, the ones I am looking for are the ones that are no longer open :blush:)

@jkdm134 This one has an great historical background of how we got to the current culture, with a summary (7-10 min) beginning at about 43 min. that covers the core of the “bait and switch” I was thinking of.

This was the root I was dealing with with my friend. Although I did not use his words, it was listening to these videos and concepts that gave me the preparation I needed to address it.

It is not just the world view, but the relationship which needs to be addressed. As you address the relationship issues with His love and respect, He will build a foundation in which your words will have weight and be heard when the questions come.

And yes, Sean, humor can be a strength - one I sadly lack in these situations - so thanks for pointing that out and providing those resources :smile:

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@jkdm134 This is really tough, but it looks like you’ve been given a lot of excellent resources to help you understand your own position better and to help ask/answer question.
I wonder if there are other things that hinder your husband from coming to Jesus. Many men have preconceived ideas of what Christians are like: self-righteous, pious, judgemental, hypocrites who don’t smile or laugh and are not allowed to have fun. Church is long, boring, irrelevant and often clashes with sports! And God is angry, stern and cruel, whilst Jesus is an effeminite hippy followed by women and weak men (some who wear dresses and funny hats on a Sunday) and that’s before we address the science issues etc. There are several people in the church I work for whose spouses are not believers. Some are just indifferent and others quite hostile. It has meant that some people have not been able to engage as much as they would like in the life of the church/community as you mentioned - and feel like they’re leading a double life. I often hear the pain and frustration, and worry of those people praying for spouses. On a practical level, I don’t think that praying for and reaching out to unbelieving spouses falls on the shoulders of the believing spouse alone. I believe the whole church needs to be actively involved. I am looking at organising a few social events (BBQ’s, evening meals etc) and personally inviting couples so that non-believing spouses meet and build relationships with other Christians. Hopefully they’ll enjoy it, not feel pressured, see that Christians (although often weird) are fun to be around, and who knows, perhaps more spiritual conversations will develop naturally, which will shift some of those preconceptions. The spouses then will hopefully ask questions as they hear testimonies from other believers and this could help thwir spouse not feel so alone in this. That’s my hope. Do you having Christian friends that might connect well with your husband? Or have you tried this and how did it go? Anyone else?

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