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When He Doesn't Believe

Secrets to loving your unsaved spouse
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Coming home was no picnic.

"What's for lunch?" my husband, Steve, mumbled, barely looking up from the couch. He sat unshaven, still in his bathrobe, watching a ball game on TV. He looked just as disheveled as he had two hours earlier when four-year-old Lauren and I had left for church, only now he was hungry. Out to the kitchen I went, and with a loud banging of pots and pans, slapped together a colorless meal.

Without a doubt, we were miserable! Steve had no interest in my new faith in Christ; in fact, he reacted as though I'd taken a lover. As he retreated into a hostile, quiet shell, I grew increasingly hurt and resentful, casting disapproving glances at everything he did.

We sat down, and I said a stiff prayer over dinner. When Steve looked up, he asked, "How was church?"

"It was wonderful," I returned flatly. "You might have liked it if you'd been there." Another disapproving glance.

"I don't think so. I don't fit in there," he answered thoughtfully, and after a long pause he added, "You know, if I were you, I'd feel pretty guilty."

"Guilty? Guilty?!" I exploded, bringing my fist down hard on the table. Lauren darted out of the room. "Why should I feel guilty? You're the one who's rejected Christ! You're the one who refuses to believe! How can you have the nerve to say that?"

With the softest words I ever heard, Steve delivered a blow from which I'd never recover: "Because, Virelle, I'm a pagan, and I'm behaving exactly as a pagan should. But you're a Christian, and you're not loving." Silence. For once, I had no words.

Later, on my knees in our bedroom, I cried out to God, Steve can't possibly be right, can he? You know how hard I've tried to grow as a Christian. You don't think I'm unloving, too, do you? Silence again. In my heart, I knew God agreed with Steve.

I'd been a pain to live with. I'd watch my Christian friends' husbands sit with an arm around them in church, or hear them pray aloud in a group, and brim with jealousy and self-pity. I justified my growing coldness toward Steve by viewing him as incapable of being the husband I now wanted. The fact that I no longer was the wife he needed had never occurred to me. How could I possibly please God when I claimed to be spiritual, yet showed neither love, gentleness, nor grace to my husband?

The turning point came while still on my knees that miserable Sunday. I knew I had to change, and radically at that. God challenged me to love Steve as if he were already the man I prayed he would become, whether it happened now, in 30 years, or sometime after my death. If faith really was "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1), I had to believe God would answer my deepest prayers for Steve in his own way, in his own time. Tough terms—but I wasn't exactly in a bargaining position. I agreed.

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February 13, 2012  2:53pm

What a wonderful testament. I hope it will help with my wonderful husband, who is not a Christian. wanted to click 5 stars, but computer wouldnt let me.

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February 13, 2012  11:22am

I find this an interesting insight. I've never been married and wonder what the purpose is for it. I'd marry another believer, but he has to have some maturity in his walk, though single men like that seem few and far between. At any rate, I can see in this article how much God did in the author's life and the lives of others. And it's a taste of iron sharpening iron clearly shared. As a previous commenter said, "So many people tell you what to do with out ever telling you how they did it." You did tell us what steps you took, painful as it was sometimes. It's so often we can't see the destination, nor the trail that leads there; however, God lights the path in front of us and we have to walk in what we can see.

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February 13, 2012  7:19am

I must say a hearty "amen" to this article. My husband was a believer when we married, but shortly after our marriage seemed to go into a spiritual desert. We went to church together (inconsistently) still, but at home he was very angry and distant. Finally he stopped going to church altogether for a few years. Last year, health issues brought him to his knees, and we began going to church with some dear friends. A crisis around Thanksgiving brought on by one of his temper tantrums finally brought him face to face with his sin, and he has truly had "fruits of repentance". It is like having a new husband who is committed to Christ--we are praying together in a way we haven't done our whole marriage. Ladies, we are about to celebrate our silver anniversary, so it did not happen overnight. God has refined my own character by this fire. Wait on the Lord. We shall reap if we faint not.

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