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Torn Between Two Lovers—Part 2

More lessons on living in an unequally yoked marriage

In part 1 of this series, I shared that Brian (not his real name) and I had been married 13 when I became a Christian. That set our marriage on a road to potential disaster, as I desperately wanted him to share the newfound joy and life that I had. But he wasn't interested; he wanted his old wife back!

It brought such sadness whenever I read the apostle Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15: "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? … What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?"

For a long time I tried to save Brian myself—but with terrible results. Through many mistakes, I learned several lessons about love, respect, prayer, and wisdom when married to a spouse who doesn't share your faith.

In the previous article, I shared four of those lessons. Here are four more.

LESSON: It's okay to fly under the radar.

Prayer, personal study, worship, and fellowship are vital to cultivating an intimate relationship with God. But these are also activities that a non-Christian spouse may resent most. Tension builds as a spouse feels torn between spiritual growth and marital stability. 

There's nothing I love more than filling our home with praise music or Scripture. However, when Brian comes home, I turn off the music and close my Bible. I call it "flying under the radar." This doesn't imply a life of duplicity or deception, but rather sensitivity to a man who may feel threatened otherwise. I never want to hide my spirituality, but I've found it's better to witness through my actions than to force Christianity on him. Flying under the radar has also been an opportunity for my children to observe me worship openly, yet witness silently at home. Both our children have accepted Christ as their Savior and they understand my strong conviction for the Lord. By showing them this submitted lifestyle, I convey respect for their father while honoring God.

Thanks to a fairly flexible work schedule, I can often meet with friends or attend Bible study while Brian is at work. I realize every woman doesn't have the advantage of flexibility, but I believe by asking God for "radar space," he'll provide times for personal growth. Without a doubt there will be conflicts, but it's God's desire for us to meet with him. By prayerfully asking for pockets of time, he will provide the opportunities (Mark 11:24).

LESSON: Your spouse still needs respect.

The Bible calls us to love and respect our mates (Ephesians 5:33). Even though it's a biblical mandate, unequally yoked couples often find it difficult to respect a spouse whose morals and values don't always agree with theirs. However, loss of respect will crumble a marriage and is devastating to a mate.

As a new Christian, I displayed my spiritual awakening with a flamboyance that Brian may have seen as arrogance. Looking back, I probably made him feel inferior because he didn't know Christ as I did. Without sensitivity, I even told him he was going to hell. Ouch! This attitude undermined my own purpose of introducing him to Jesus and showed a lack of respect on my part.

People tend to become what others praise in them, and despite a spiritual chasm, it's important to accentuate positive attributes. Brian is handsome, thoughtful, an excellent provider, and a tremendous father. He has remained committed even in the hardest of times. I've seen my admiration inspire and motivate him to greater heights. It's crucial to appreciate him for who he already is and not focus on who he could become if he lived up to my expectations. I pray that by honoring Brian sexually, with my words, time, and actions, he'll be drawn closer to Jesus every day. 

LESSON: Prayer is the most powerful tool to reach an unbelieving spouse.

An unbelieving spouse can reject all his partner's efforts, but the power of faithful prayer is unstoppable, reaching husbands and wives even without their permission. God hears our concerns when we come to him honestly, with open hearts.

Perhaps the hardest prayer I've ever prayed is, "Lord, do whatever it takes to bring Brian to you," because whatever implies my complete surrender to the will of God. Hardships such as financial troubles, illness, infidelity, or death of a loved one are often means by which God grabs the attention of a non-believer. Praying "whatever" involves my willingness to also endure the consequences that may bring Brian to Christ. I must trust that God's plan is good no matter what is involved.

Obviously, I don't pray to bring bad things into Brian's life! But I ask God to use freely and powerfully anything that does come along. But most important, I never cease praying for Brian to find and experience God.

LESSON: Practice humility and submission so that our actions will lead our spouses to Christ.

The Bible tells us to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). And Peter tells us, "Wives, in the same way [as Jesus was submissive] be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives" (1 Peter 3:1). 

What tough pieces of Scripture! I found it very hard to submit to a husband who didn't share my beliefs.   

Biblical submission doesn't equal subservience. It isn't blind, thoughtless servility, but rather it requires intelligent participation. Submission is a voluntary response to relinquish one's rights for God's greater glory. Sometimes it's uncomfortable, but I understand that my every action is a testimony of my changed life in Christ. Though I still struggle, I've learned to hold my tongue when my faith is criticized. I know from experience that the Holy Spirit will give me the right words with the right attitude at the right time, and God's hand will protect me. Submission to Brian has become an outgrowth of spiritual maturity and a closer relationship with the Lord.

True godly submission will never call a spouse to do anything unbiblical or immoral. Unfortunately, in some marriages a spouse may expect his or her mate to be involved in unrighteous acts. In cases of financial fraud, child abuse, drug use, pornography, or any other sinful behavior, a mate may need to stand against the actions or requests of the unbelieving spouse. However, by siding with biblical truth, that spouse is submitting to the Lord and setting a godly example while speaking volumes about his or her character and integrity in Christ.

All this is easier said than done, and I don't trivialize any person's burden. Many Christians live in desperate situations of ridicule, alcoholism, drug abuse, or physical violence. It's perfectly clear that God's Word makes no provision for a person to abuse his or her spouse. There's help available through ministry resources, Christian friends, and counselors. Living in fear is certainly not living the abundant life Christ calls us to.

Being unequally yoked is difficult but not hopeless. Jesus tells us, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).  

God sees all the empty places and every tear. He knows the frustration, fears, loneliness, and sorrow, and he promises these trials will produce perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-4). When I finally allowed it, the yoke of Jesus relieved much of the strain from the unequal yoke of marriage.

Kathy Cordell is a writer, speaker, founder of Women of Worship (www.wow4him.org), and owner of Freedom Steps Life Coaching (www.freedomsteps.org). She lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, with her husband andtwo children.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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