Got a Marriage with Faith Differences?

I am all about having a happy marriage.  My parents got divorced when I was really young and though they continued to get along and actually still had a friendship, it was hard for me and my sister.  So, I made a vow to myself that the man I married would be “the one”.  And I did mean one.  Movie Star is incredible.  I know his sisters are probably laughing at that right now, but it’s totally true.  Maybe I just see a side of him that no one else gets to see.  If you are married, you probably know what I’m talking about.  It’s like he saves certain things about himself or certain thoughts or feelings only for me.  Okay, I didn’t mean for this to turn into a mush-fest over my man, but it has got me thinking about other couples I know.  I wonder, do they have what I have?  Or was “the knot” tied a little less than tight?  Don’t get me wrong, Movie Star and I have our ups and downs.  I’ve been relatively bitchy lately, overly preoccupied with this computer (which drives him up a wall) and had some issues with my side of the family that usually get us arguing.  Financially and career-wise things have not been good for sometime and we all know how that can drag any marriage through the ringer.  Regardless, I am blessed with him. I attribute it completely to our mutual and ever-growing faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit living in us and the Father who is ever-present, never changing and always working everything in our lives for good.  Without that common faith, we -individually and maritally- would be through. So, as I’ve been thinking about those who I know do not have a mutual faith relationship with their spouse (and I know plenty), I can not help but wonder how to encourage, how to help them stay the course when they feel like giving up.

Strangely enough as I have been reading through my Bible (I started a “Read Through the Bible in a Year” program 1 1/2 years ago….) I have been encountering far too many discussions from Paul in the New Testament on the subject of marriage.  Now I must confess I do have a Couple’s Devotional Bible, so I get little tidbits every few pages that further comment on what the Bible is saying.  I realized that there are some insights I wanted to share with any of you who married the man of your dreams only to wake up to someone you can’t even communicate with. And of course this can happen to any marriage, regardless if there are any faith differences.  So, if you are not having that specific problem, don’t click to another page!  Stick with me, this stuff crosses more boundaries than just this.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ and find yourself married to a non-believer who can’t seem to understand you and your way of living, causing stress and strain on your marriage and life, don’t throw in the towel (though you may be seriously considering it).  Divorce is far too rampant in today’s society because most people haven’t learned, over the generations, to fight for something even though it’s harder than you think you can bear.  Yes, God wants all His believers to marry (be yoked with) others of faith in order to build a family of faith that will strengthen each other and spread the gospel.  However, sometimes we take our own way.  That’s called free-will.  God gave that to you because he loved you. He didn’t want to force you into anything (remember this…) You get to make your own choice and then you have to live with it.  I’m sure you love this person and the kids you have with them (if you are a parent) and therefore wouldn’t want to change those choices.  But you just wish the guy (or gal) would catch on to Jesus already!  Not only do you want to share with them the gloriousness of faith but it also makes parenting and decision making soooooo much easier.

If this sounds like you, I’m sure you’ve tried to “help” them change.  You’ve had dozens of discussions (or arguments), tried to encourage them to go to church with you or placed scriptures and a bible next to their side of the bed just hoping one day they’ll say ” well, why not!” But it hasn’t worked.  When reading through 1 Corinthians 7, I found one of my tidbits from Pastor and Writer Jay Kesler.  He reminds us that Paul is saying “Be faithful to Christ. Carry out your marital responsibilities in the best way you know how, and somehow the faithfulness of your life will speak to (your spouse) in the long run”.

The Long Run? I don’t want it in The Long Run.  I want it in the Quick Sprint.  My family needs change now, not many years from now.

Trust me, I know how you feel. There are many things in life that we want right now.  Especially from God.  We know He can do anything at any time, so why must it take the long way?  I have to tell you, I do not know.  That’s (to me) one of the mysteries of God. His timing.  I love and I hate it.

So then, one would assume it’s all about patience and perseverance, eh? I know, I hate those words too.  But Galations 5:22-23 tells us that they are fruits of the Holy Spirit. And don’t you want to posses fruits of the Spirit? Yes please!  Kesler also feels that “significant character change (seems not to be) possible without pain.  And perhaps it’s not possible for us to help another person grow without pain either”. Oooooo, heavy.  I dont mind enduring pain when I’m the one who needs to change, but when I have to suffer because of someone else, now that’s just down-right cruel. However when I think about this in terms of just being myself (a faith-filled, right-doing, non-judgmental woman in Christ) it doesn’t seem so hard.  Wouldn’t you rather have your spouse decide on their own to join you in services or pick up the bible instead of being forced or guilted into it?  Isn’t the whole point for this person to actually change for the better so that your love can grow strong and your children raised right?

This reminds me of the true-story film The Prize-Winner of Defiance, Ohio where the Mother consistently lives her life, raising 12 children and a drunken husband, with a smile on her face and a positive outlook on every situation.  Now, that may seem impossible to live up to, but she was trying to get her attitude to rub off on her family in order to make life better for all (including herself).  And as Kelly, the drunken husband who’s depressed in the kitchen, said:

“You know what your problem is, Mother?”

“No Dad, I don’t.” (Mother says as she’s smiling and swaying to a commercial jingle)

“You’re too damn Happy.”

All the kids in the living room laugh with their Mother as she finishes with “Oh Kelly, how do you come up with this stuff?” You see, even he recognized her attitude and though he didn’t share her sentiment, at least he saw it.  I won’t give away the ending, but eventually, he made it up to her ….. in the end.

So, if life seems unbearable because of your faith differences in marriage, just listen to the Lord: “If a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she should not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife through her believing husband. (1 Cor. 7: 13-14) How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Cor. 7: 16)”  He is telling us that by believing we have sanctified our spouse.  Now if they are sanctified, I’m sure the Lord will be pressing into them as often as possible. But He also says that we can not save them.  Only He can do that.  Simply put your faith in Him in this matter, courageously gather up all the patience you can muster and always do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, before your spouse.  In the long run ….. the Lord will save.

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