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What’s a Wife to Do?

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Week after week, Cathy came to church — every service, Bible study, and activity. Beside herself in a roller-coaster of up-and-down emotions, she shared her heartache of being married to an unbeliever.

Many tears were shed for her situation, both by her and church friends.

And Cathy was not alone in her struggle. Our church where my husband was pastor had a growing number of women who came, bringing their young children in tow. All were consumed with a heart of prayer for their husbands to know Christ.

For years, we prayed with our group of women and at times, it seemed like one of the husband’s heart would soften to the Gospel but then after weeks or months of looking like he would accept the Lord, he would turn back to his own ways.

It was heart wrenching to see a wife in this struggle, one where she seemed to carry the burden of responsibility, thinking that her husband’s salvation was her’s to accomplish.

There were many emotions involved from sorrow, anger, agony, unconditional love to hatred. Also, serious questions connected to forgiveness, obedience, and submission came up on a constant basis.
Questions like:

  • Does the Bible say I have to submit to him if he’s not a Christian?
  • My husband says he doesn’t want me to tithe. What should I do?
  • He told me to stop attending church, do I have to stop?
  • My husband visits strip clubs. Can I leave him?
  • He watches pornography and wants me to watch it with him. What do I do?

With these delicate and important questions, my husband and I — who were both Christians when we married — had to turn to Scripture for direction.

In 1 Corinthians 7:13, Christian wives (and husbands too) are encouraged not to leave their unbelieving spouse if he or she is content in staying. It goes on to say that a spouse’s faith may lead the husband or wife to salvation.

I’m the first to say, “Much easier said than done!”

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Not being in this situation myself, but as a wife, I know my first reaction in wanting to convince my husband of anything, or change something that he’s doing that I may not like, is to talk … and talk until he hears me! But as I’ve learned over the years, this can come across to him as “nagging” and have the opposite effect on him, to the point where he wants to do exactly the opposite of what I’ve been saying.

So once again, Scripture is where I have to look for direction as a wife with a believing husband along with my friends married to unbelievers. And 1 Peter 3 outlines it pretty clearly. In my own nutshell paraphrase it states, “To be effective in winning over my husband, my genuine submissive, respectful and loving behavior towards him will speak LOUDER and be more effective in the long-run than anything I can say!”

Because, as it coaches me, “As he experiences my chaste behavior towards him, through it, God will work to soften his heart towards Him.”

I recently heard a speaker tell of a Christian woman married to an unbeliever who was a top executive in the country and didn’t spend any time with his wife or their three children. The wife knew he was being unfaithful.

When the wife was asked what she was planning to do about the situation, she responded that she was going to pray for her husband, look for ways to bless him, and teach her children to trust God. She believed that God would honor her actions and answer her prayers.

A few years later this wife’s prayers were answered as her husband accepted the Lord, and became a faithful husband and loving father.

What Submission Looks Like

First Peter 3, too, answers the question of submission, clarifying that it relates to believing and non-believing husbands.

So does that mean if an unbelieving husband asks his wife to stop tithing, going to church, and to participate in ungodly activities such as viewing pornography with him, she has to comply?

My answer is no, also based on scriptures that instruct us to give to God, not forsake fellowshipping with other believers, and to keep ourselves holy.

It’s important to understand that submission to my husband means I still have a voice and my conduct is first submitted to God’s guidelines. In fact, submission to God is the basis for my submitting to my husband. It’s an act of obedience to God as noted in Ephesians 5:22 where wives are urged to submit to their own husband, because in doing so, they are actually submitting to God.

The Buck Stops Here

From observance, being a Christian wife married to an unbelieving husband, has to be one of the most difficult situations in life. My heart goes out to every woman in this position.

But Scripture offers encouragement that a wife’s faith lived out in front of her unbelieving husband can be the doorway to his salvation.

It’s important to remember, though, that salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit. God can work through a believing wife, but whether a husband accepts Christ or not, is not something a wife is able to achieve in her own efforts.

As Romans 14:10 reminds us, “We will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”

An unbelieving husband, like each of us, is ultimately responsible to God for his actions and decisions.

So, what’s a wife to do? Below are a few practical guidelines both from Scripture and my experience with friends and church members that are helpful.

  • Find a support group within your family, church or friends, people who will encourage, pray and be there for you through the ups and downs.
  • Pray for your husband.
  • Practice scriptural living (like 1 Corinthians 7:13, 1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5:22-24).
  • Trust the Holy Spirit to work in your husband’s life
  • Make efforts to grow in your own spiritual life through prayer, Bible study, and fasting. As you focus on your own spiritual growth rather than continually focusing on your husband’s lack of it or weaknesses, God will work in both your lives in practical, life changing ways.

[This article first appeared here at Ungrind on May 30, 2012. We’re republishing it because … well, we just love it that much. We hope you enjoy it too.]

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Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters and serves as associate editor of Ungrind. Her writing has been published in numerous publications including Focus on the Family Magazine, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, KirkCameron.com, Start Marriage Right, Growthrac, and more! She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University with experience in broadcast media and also serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.

4 Comments
  • Jennifer Crewe

    I often think that this problem would arise less frequently if Christians followed the scripture exhorting us not to be unequally yolked. If this was practiced and people looked for compatible believers life would be easier for all involved.

  • Jennifer, I agree that the struggles faced by Christian women who have married unbelievers can serve as a warning to singles who are considering marrying those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus. Scripture gives us guidelines for a reason.

    However, at the same time, I have friends who are married to unbelievers. I don’t know how some of them found themselves in this position — whether they entered the marriage unequally yoked or whether they came to know Jesus after getting married — what I do know is that they need my love and compassion, not a reminder of what they “should have done in the past.”

    I think we walk a fine line in this area. Yes, we need to encourage those who are unmarried to look to scripture in choosing a mate — definitely. We also though need to encourage those who find themselves already in a marriage with an unbeliever not be condemned by the choices they’ve made, but to seek to honor God where they are now.

    • I think we have to remember too, that Christian husbands can and do sin. Just because a man is a Christian at the altar doesn’t mean he won’t change his beliefs in the course of the marriage. I have had Christian female friends with believing husbands and these husbands have gone off the deep end. They have had affairs, some have left the faith and in one case a man suddenly abandoned his three young children and wife, begging for a divorce (that last case happened to me with my mentally ill husband who suffered greatly after the death of our son).

      Pain happens to us all. Heartache is real. Life is tough, especially for Christians. I really think we have to show compassion and the mercy of Jesus to all. “Love never fails”. I Cor. 13:8

      ~ Alice J. Wisler, author of Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Relfections of Comfort in Heartache

  • Compassionately, wisely and well written. thank you so much. I have many friends in this situation and this is so loving, so scriptural and so clear. Good call on republishing, ungrind!

Articles

When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Articles

Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

As you read, we hope you consider us friends, the kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop. You can read more about me HERE and our team of writers HERE.

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What’s a Wife to Do?

by Lynette Kittle time to read: 4 min
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