Ethan 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 memory of mine.
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.
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 yourself. My 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!!!