What To Do When Your Spouse Doesn’t Believe

cropped-img_7845.jpgEthan and I decided to get baptized together just before marriage. It was Ethan’s idea and I was elated. He even wrote a testimony to share when it was our turn to get in the pool. It was beautiful. He talked about how we were committed to building our marriage on the rock and foundation of Jesus. It is still a joyful and precious moment in my mind.

But Ethan has really struggled in his faith for the last few years. He has such a passionate heart for justice, and in a world full of the suffering of the innocent and helpless, it makes him really question and even doubt God’s love and control simultaneously. For him, it is hard to make those two things reconcile with the world we live in. He also believes that science has started to point away from the existence of God, which makes him question further.

At first, seeing him pull away from God made me do the same, because I was praying that God would speak so clearly to him, that the scales would be removed from his eyes, that he would get revelation from the Lord for the answers to the things he couldn’t figure out or peace about the things God doesn’t want to reveal to him… but it doesn’t always happen immediately or in the time frame we think is best.

It’s God’s plan. We’ve gotta trust it.

So here are some things we can do for our spouses as they wrestle with their faith:

PRAY FOR THEM. Knew that was coming, huh? It is imperative that we do this!!! These prayers may not be answered right away, but we must persevere. Do they need a better group of friends? Pray for it! Do they need a mentor? Pray for it! Do they need to hear God’s voice? Pray for it! We also need to pray against the enemy for them, as they probably aren’t doing that for themselves. You can be fighting spiritually for them, on their behalf, helping them along the journey, as it is, ultimately, the enemy trying to keep them from joining with Christ to fulfill their God-given purpose and bring glory to His kingdom. Think “War Room” (if you haven’t seen it, it is worth renting and even purchasing – this movie is powerful). Tell the enemy he can’t have your husband. Pray against any spiritual attacks against your husband that God brings to your mind. Get your sword out and keep it bloody!!!

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up…(The Parable of the Persistent Widow)…’And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?'” – Luke 18:1,7-8

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Suppose you have a friend, an you go to him at midnight and say, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.” And suppose the one inside answers, “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Luke 11:5-10

“The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, event the demons submit to us in Your name.’ He replied, ‘I saw satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample of snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'” Luke 10:17-20

“‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.'” – Ephesians 6:10-12

See also Ephesians 1:15-23 – this really parallels how I feel praying for Ethan. This is a great place to start if you like to pray scripture!

DO NOT LET YOUR FAITH WALK SUFFER IN ANY WAY. IN FACT, KICK IT UP A NOTCH. When Ethan started to really doubt, I started to feel awkward about talking to him about God stuff and doing God stuff with him and around him, so I toned it down substantially. But then I realized that my faith walk is my own, as is his. We can play a part in each others, but with Jesus, it’s a relationship, and the only way to have a relationship with somebody is to personally pursue them, to spend time with them, to put in the effort yourselfMy relationship with Christ is mine to own, and mine alone, as is Ethan’s. That’s when I decided I would continue to pursue Christ openly, and that changed everything. I ask Ethan to pray with me when I feel led, I share my cool God stories with him, I ask him to read the Word with me when I feel led to, I talk to him about my faith, even struggles with my faith, I talk to him about his faith, I tell him I’m praying for him, I ask him if I can pray over him when God prompts me… You have to decide to be obedient to Christ first and foremost. You have to live out the command to love God first and others second. 

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'” – Matthew 22:34-40

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS – BE AN EXAMPLE OF CHRIST AND WALK THE WALK. There is nothing more inspiring than watching somebody you know truly live out their faith and seeing God’s transformation in them. Show them that your faith isn’t just words, that it is a life choice – something more than just a belief, something that is worth living for. Something that is real, tangible, and powerful. As you pursue Jesus each day, you will learn more about Him and He will continue to renew your mind to be more like His. Serve as Jesus serves. Forgive as Jesus forgives. Ask forgiveness in humility when you do wrong. Pursue joy and peace in the Lord. Be obedient. Take leaps of faith.

“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do no believe the word, they may be won over without words but by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment… Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” – 1 Peter 3: 1-6

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Event the demons believe that – and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” – James 2: 14-22

RESPECT THE JOURNEY GOD HAS THEM ON. God is not surprised by their unbelief. He made them. He knows them (Psalm 139). He knows the struggle in their hearts. He can handle the questions. He can even handle the anger. They are on their own journey, a journey God knew would be their path. We have to surrender our spouses over to the Lord and trust Him. Worrying and stressing about it will not convert your spouse, but exhaust and frustrate you both. All we need to do is be obedient to God’s nudges and love them through it. Appreciate their journey and where they are at in it.

YOU PROBABLY WON’T WIN YOUR SPOUSE OVER BY DEBATING/ARGUING. You want to keep the door open on communication about faith. Arguing is actually a way the enemy can get in to shut it, making it you against your spouse, as opposed to you walking alongside your spouse. If any of you have taken the 16 Personalities test, check this out: my husband got “The Debator” and I got “The Defender,” (according to this test, we are each other’s exact opposite in personality types). Can you imagine a heated debate between us about the most important thing in the universe? Not. Pretty. And not productive. These impassioned debates-turned-arguments created a big rift in the faith part of our relationship. I was so focused on winning him back, winning those debates, getting my points across, that I lost focus on just loving him through his questions, doubts, and fears, which again, goes back to the previous point – appreciate the journey God has them on. God kept telling me, over and over, “I don’t need you to defend Me.” But it took me forever to believe it and realize that He just wants me to continue to show him compassion. To be a good listener. And to be a good listener to Him in those situations, so He can tell me when to speak, what to say, or when to only listen.

“Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: ‘Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.'” – Luke 11:17

REMEMBER THAT THEY ARE A CHILD OF GOD. Whose are they first and foremost? God’s. And through God, how should we see them? As a potential brother or sister in Christ. How does God see them? As worthy of unconditional love and grace. We should not stop loving them or divorce them (see 1 Corinthians 7: 12-16) because they doubt or struggle or have turned their backs on God entirely, we must be an example of Christ to them and show them unconditional love. God loved us before we believed in Him, we should love our spouses whether they believe or not. This was a game changer for me, and I was finally able to let go of the idea that I had to have a Christian husband, which had really become an idol to me. I started to look at Ethan as a child of God – somebody God imagined and masterfully created for a purpose (Ephesians 1:11-12), somebody God was willing to die for. I saw him completely differently. I stopped focusing on “flaws,” which are really just wounds surfacing or differences in our preferences, pasts, and personalities, and I started focusing on his gifts and strengths. I started to see the beauty of God’s creation that is Ethan. I started to really appreciate his character. And because of this renewed perspective of my husband, grace flows much more easily, and I’m getting that much closer to learning what it looks like to love unconditionally. It’s about choosing to love them sacrificially and in spite of their short-comings. This unconditional love, I’ve found, is an essential piece to the joyful and successful marriage puzzle.

“‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.'” – John 13:34

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” – John 3:16

So, brothers and sisters, let’s continue to fight for our spouses, to love them in the middle of the mighty battle over their hearts and souls. Have a tender heart and a tough hide. Seek first the kingdom of God and He will guide you through the battlefield. The enemy cannot have our spouses or our marriages, in Jesus’ name!!!

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Fight to Follow

So I asked God what He wants me to write tonight, cause I felt a nudge to write something.  I walked over to my Bible, and said, “What do You want me to say tonight, God?” and opened to Romans 6.  Romans 6:15-23 stuck out like a sore but beautiful thumb.

The cool part is, Ethan and I have been struggling with sexual temptation, I have friends struggling with various temptations (over sex and/or substances), and I have been reading and responding to several comments from couples that are dabbling with the idea of having sex before marriage or are already doing so and don’t intend to stop, but are Christian couples that want to pursue Christ individually and/or as a couple.  I honestly believe that this is God’s response, to them and to myself.  Pray for the ears to hear and the heart to receive, and then read what He says, cause it’s pretty stinkin’ awesome.

Slaves to Righteousness

 

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

 

19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.

Let’s do this, brothers and sisters!!  I am so pumped, guys.  When God calls you out on a sin, it is a moment when He is saying, “You’ve got it wrong, child.  What I have for you is so much better, you cannot even imagine.”  Let’s commit to His ways, let’s worship Him with our bodies, with our choices, with our sacrifices (whatever they may be).  Let’s show HIM how much we love Him.  Let’s give Him the throne of our lives and take off the idols!  Let’s trust God’s will for our lives and follow His lead.  God’s way is the most fulfilling, let’s let Him prove it!!

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – Jesus (John 10:10)

Let’s let God fight with us and for us.  God can help us overcome every temptation and every struggle, but the initial choice to do so is our own.  We’ve got His Spirit in us, we can tap into His power, He will empower us to win if we choose.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:11-12)

photo credit: Adam Sally (see more art here, linkedin)

 

Getting a full healing & ending the un-forgiveness against ourselves

God is merciful and forgiving to a level we can’t comprehend, we’ve read and heard. “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). This is huge. Jesus died for this reason…

Yet WE hold grudges against ourselves. WE are still mad at ourselves, even hate ourselves for some of the things we’ve done or continue to struggle with. We are so ashamed that we don’t even want to admit it to the One who knows it inside & out, but just wants you to allow Him to help.

I remember telling somebody that I hate who I used to be, that “she” was everything I despise now that my heart has been changed, that “she” was truly an awful person, that I am ashamed of who I was and the things I used to do. I had a seriously unforgiving heart against myself. I was constantly punishing myself for the things in my past that God forgave me for the instant I said I was sorry. But I couldn’t let go of that hate and shame.

True healing, the deepest healing, comes from exposing our ugly (especially the struggles we are most ashamed of) to God and asking Him to fix it. Exposing our weaknesses to God gives Him the chance to show us His strength (and He will!!). It opens our heart, allows us to take that burden off of our own shoulders, put our trust in Him, and let Him mold us. We can then become Spirit-empowered instead of self-empowered (from Not a fan by Kyle Idleman).

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 says:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Then we read the story of Jesus and man with the crippled hand. This man constantly hid his hand from sight, because he was ashamed of it. It showed weakness, and it was ugly to most. What does Jesus do? Asks him to stand up and expose it to Him, so He can heal it, for all to see.

Mark 3:1-6 says:
“Another time when Jesus went into a synagogue, a man with a crippled hand was there. Some people watched Jesus closely to see if he would heal the man on the Sabbath day so they could accuse him.

Jesus said to the man with the crippled hand, ‘Stand up here in the middle of everyone.’

Then Jesus asked the people, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath day: to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to kill?’ But they said nothing to answer him.

Jesus was angry as he looked at the people, and he felt very sad because they were stubborn. Then he said to the man, ‘Hold out your hand.’ The man held out his hand and it was healed. Then the Pharisees left and began making plans with the Herodians about a way to kill Jesus.”

Trust that He will heal, forgive, mold, and encourage you in your moment of weakness. Trust that you will not be judged, that He already knows exactly what you’re going through, He just needs the opportunity to show you His strength.

Link

Confronting the Lie: God won’t give you more than you can handle.

Confronting the Lie: God won’t give you more than you can handle.

A pastor talks about the falsity of the common phrase “God will never give you more than you can handle” and talks about the reality of his journey with God through devastating circumstances.

He compares 1 Cor. 10:13 (“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” NIV) to 2 Cor. 1:8-9 (“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”).

He is so real and so honest.  I find this so authentic, eye opening, and insightful.

A rude awakening, an abrupt welcoming: letting the Spirit lead

So since my last post, I’ve been living life differently, or trying my best to.  My most recent goal: letting the Spirit guide me. With everything.   

Today, God gave me several abrupt welcomings and rude awakenings into this new lifestyle and new mindset I’ve vowed to live by.

First, I woke up early to workout for the first time in weeks, and I was psyched (normally I work out a few days a week, so I’ve really missed it).  But, mid-workout, God told me what He wanted me to write about for a church group.  I kept going on the elliptical for a few moments, debating with myself.  I knew what needed to be done, so I shut those other thoughts up, got off my high horse (meaning the elliptical), and wrote my post. WIN.

My daughter woke up mid-post.  She wanted me to play, immediately, as she always does (to her, eating, peeing, pooping, and bathing take away from playing, and therefore, she dislikes doing all of them).  I thought hard for a moment, and let the Spirit in.  I knew then that I needed to let my daughter know Jesus is my main priority, as I recently learned He should be over all others by far.  I told her I would play with her as soon as I was done with my post.  She asked me “why?” and I explained to her “it’s about Jesus” and she dropped it.  A God-send.  This doesn’t normally happen that she drops something she doesn’t care for. WIN.

My dad is… amazing.  I love him dearly, but he’s not yet a follower, though I think and pray that he will be soon.  He was more along the lines of “I’ll go to church every other week” and we’d talk about God on occasion throughout the week.  Each time we talk about it though, his insights are more profound and more real.  Amazing.  And so exciting.  I knew he went to church last week, so I knew asking him to go this week would make him uncomfortable and guilty, most likely.  I prayed for the right words and waited until I felt “the nudge” then blurted out “Em and I are going to the 12:15 service if you wanna join!” to which he replied “oh, okay” and walked away.  I prayed for him.  Miraculously, when it was about 11:30 I heard him in the bathroom shaving.  Shaving on a Sunday could only mean one thing.  I was jumping up and down, squealing I was so excited. WIN.

Ethan has been gone all weekend, hanging out with his friends and brothers on his first weekend off since Labor day.  A well-deserved break and much needed male-bonding/adventure time.  He’s been reading Wild at Heart by John Eldredge and explaining it to me, so I’m trying to accept and encourage this time for him, knowing now that it is crucial for his emotional and spiritual well-being, although I’d like to be by his side 24/7.  Although he was very short with me today, and didn’t show as much excitement to see me as I’d hoped, I let the Spirit guide me.  I gave him hugs and kisses when the rest of my emotions wanted to make him feel guilty, I told him I loved him first, when I wanted him to initiate it.  I resisted the urge to call him and guilt him into hanging out with me, and I am totally at peace with it, because of what’s happened from then to this moment. WIN.

During Em’s naptime, she woke up crying (hard).  She’s got a terrible cold/cough and an ear infection.  She’s behind on sleep and so am I.  It’s been a rough and awesome last few days.  I went in there, saw that she was inconsolable with words, and scooped her up into my arms like she was a newborn for the first time in… I don’t know how long.  I went and sat on the broken lazy-boy in her room and let her lay curled in my lap against my chest as she fell asleep.  That time that I spent in that chair was one of the strangest and most profound of my life.

I sat there, holding my peacefully sleeping 3 year old daughter, listening to her deep breathing, seeing her long eyelashes flutter, seeing that peaceful look on her face, holding my little angel.  All the while these thoughts kept popping into my head “Just a minute, then you have to do homework.” “Just put her down now, before she gets too comfy.”  “The longer you sit, the later you’ll be up tonight.”  “Seriously, your list of homework still-to-do is too long for this.”  “You’re wasting time.”  Then it progressed to “Alright, that’s enough.” “How much time have you spent here?”  I get so consumed in what needs to be done, what hasn’t been done, what I should do for school or chores that I put my relationship with my daughter on the back burner a lot of times.  I feel a constant nagging by that daily list of to-do’s that will only get longer if I don’t tend to it immediately.  

This is the sin tendency I’ve been trying to overcome as of…today.

And then I prayed and I told satan to back off.  Then I started thinking “I want to stay here forever.” “She hasn’t been asleep in my arms for two years.” “Look how big she’s getting, pretty soon she won’t fit on my lap.” “Look at that beautiful face.” “Thank you for her, Lord.  Thank you for this moment.”  I will never forget that time, and it will be on my list of priceless moments with my daughter forever.

Then tonight, I read a friend’s facebook status about what she wants to hear and what she doesn’t want to hear from friends and family regarding the death of her baby.  She was born with no heartbeat due to many complications in how her body grew and developed while she was in the womb.  My friend was very open, honest, and real.  She explained that she will forever be grieving the loss of her baby, and that nobody should expect her to “move on.”  She talked about the deep sadness and longing that fills her when she sees other mothers with their babies.  This broke my heart for her and quickly became one of those “no more taking this for granted” moments.  The days that my daughter throws tantrums, I will try to be loving and patient.  The days that she wants to play when I don’t feel like it, I will pray for the energy and desire to pour into her.  The days that I want the bedtime routine to be as short as possible, I’ll ask for patience.  What my friend wouldn’t give to have heard her daughter throw a tantrum or ask to be played with…

Today was crazy, and not very productive on the homework or chore end.  I do, however, think I made progress in my faith that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  I don’t think I’ve ever let the Spirit guide me as much as I did today.  I strongly encourage everybody out there to ask for the Spirit in you to be renewed and restored, then pray and listen.  Wait for Him to lead!

The Awesomesauce of Mommy/Daddy-hood

We’ve heard over and over again to trust in God.  But I just learned something else about trust with God:

It’s a two-way street.

Yep, the Creator of the Universe trusts you, too.

How do I know?  I have a great example: look at your baby!

I know that the love a parent has for their child is immeasurable, but God loves them more than we as parents EVER will.

He is sending His beloved, perfect, unique, awesome little miracle to this broken and dangerous world because he knows you are the PERFECT match for them.  He trusts you to mold, teach, discipline, encourage, and love them.  Most importantly, He trusts you to help them grow up knowing Him and to show them what it means to follow Jesus.  

Through all the mistakes and all the triumphs of parenting, you are doing God’s will raising your baby in faith and love.

That’s the Awesomesauce of Mommy/Daddy-hood.