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When He Doesn't Believe

Secrets to loving your unsaved spouse

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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