My Husband Doesn’t Share My Faith

Written by Nancy Kennedy

doesntsharefaithI’ve rehearsed this scene in my mind 10,000 times: My husband, Barry, walks through the front door and says he has a surprise for me. He asks, “What’s the one thing you want most in the world?” At first I’m confused, but when I look into his eyes, I know. He doesn’t have to say it, but he does anyway: “I’ve given my life to Christ.”

But after years of praying, waiting, and hoping, so far that’s still a daydream.

Barry and I met and married 28 years ago. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing: He liked my then-red hair and green eyes; I liked his broad shoulders and sense of humor. Plus, he was easy to talk to. As unbelievers, neither of us had a clue what our future would be. We just thought a life together would be a kick. A relationship with Christ was the last thing on our minds!

Our first three years of marriage were filled with partying, softball, and the birth of our first daughter. Then, almost without warning, God drew me into a relationship with himself. After overhearing some Christians in the office where I worked talk about heaven, I began asking questions. Although I’d attended church as a child, I knew nothing about the Bible and salvation. Then one day after a long talk with Rita, one of my coworkers, I prayed a simple prayer: “Jesus save me!” That prayer forever changed my life—and my marriage as I knew it.

I wrote the handbook on how not to win your spouse to Christ

Unfortunately for Barry, right from the start I was one of those obnoxious “Jesus freaks.” I didn’t share my new faith with my husband; I pushed, forced, and shoved. Believe me, I wrote the handbook on how not to win your spouse to Christ. I didn’t speak, I preached. I didn’t live out my faith quietly; I trumpeted my every minute change. I’d say, “See what God’s done in my life? See how loving and humble I now am?” I prayed loudly in Barry’s presence and made sure he knew he was a sinner destined for hell. I even packed gospel tracts in his lunch and added a Bible verse at the end of all my love notes to him.

To Barry’s credit, he remained incredibly patient. (Maybe he was just tuning me out.) Most of the time he avoided my religious rampages by tinkering with our car. Sometimes, though, he’d get angry and yell, “Stop with all the Jesus stuff!” Barry told me he threw the gospel tracts away because they embarrassed him in front of his friends. Once in a while he’d get a pained look on his face and say he wanted his “old wife” back—Jesus-free.

Soon we were at odds with each other. I blamed any and all our marital problems on his unsaved status. After all, if we were both Christians, life would be “happy-ever-after.” Or so I imagined. I tried even harder: blasting my Christian music and scattering opened Bibles around the house; crying and pleading with him to go to church with me. Sometimes, Barry would go. But instead of enjoying him next to me in church, I’d sit there chewing nervously on the end of my pen, praying madly that this would be The Day. Afterwards, I’d quiz him in the car, “What did you think of the sermon? Did you like the music?”

“It was okay,” he’d say. “Do we have any turkey at home for a sandwich?”

The rest of the ride home, I’d sit and fight back either tears or angry words. Why couldn’t he see his need for Christ? I’d fume. Then Barry, sensing my disappointment, would pat my shoulder and say, “Look, I believe in God, but not in the same way you do.” That was not the answer I wanted to hear.

Intercessory prayer — the right way

Then something unexpected happened. I’d been reading a book about intercessory prayer when I had a sudden flash of insight. I told myself, That’s it! I’m going to pray for Barry for the next 80 years, if that’s what it takes. And I’m going to love him. Period.

That was 25 years ago—and I’m still praying and loving. But I’m no longer pining away in self-absorbed isolation waiting desperately for my husband’s salvation to bring marital fulfillment. Instead, I’ve decided that if it takes 80 years, then I want those years to be as enjoyable as possible for the both of us, despite our spiritual differences.

When I first came to faith in Christ and Barry hadn’t, I thought God had made a huge mistake. After all, two following God together made more sense than one. But I now know God never makes mistakes. Since I’d been an unbeliever when we married, I hadn’t willfully disobeyed God by marrying Barry. My situation is by God’s sovereign design. Reminding myself of that enables me to relax my spiritual chokehold on Barry.

The way I see it, God has a plan for each life. And no matter how hard I try, I cannot transform someone else’s heart. I can’t coerce, sweet-talk, or plead my husband into being a Christian. In fact, when I do try, it only drives him away—sometimes literally. If I start nagging him, he’ll get in his truck and drive for hours.

I decided long ago to accept that it’s God’s job to change hearts. That decision frees me to pursue my relationship with God without the added burden of having to bring my husband to faith. All I have to do is love and enjoy him. That’s God’s plan for me, and he gives me all the grace I need to accomplish it.

That doesn’t mean I’m not lonely at times or that I do everything right. The other day I grabbed Barry by the shirt and yelled, “Don’t you see Christ in me?” Struck by the irony of the question, he laughed—and to my surprise, said yes. It helps to remember that Barry’s not my enemy; he’s my husband. I’m just as much a sinner as he is—maybe more so because I have the power to say no to sin and often don’t.

When your loved one doesn’t love God

Here are a few things I’ve learned over these 20-plus years

  1. Live in the now. I don’t pine for a “happy-ever-after someday.” Instead, I accept things as they are, building on what’s good (such as enjoying each other’s company and planning for our future together), and praying about what’s not so good. Sometimes that means going into a bar with Barry and having a good time drinking a soda—and letting him know I love him just as he is. It’s what Jesus would do.
  2. Live honestly. In living out my faith, I let my husband see me stumble and struggle. He knows I struggle with fear, that I can’t pass a basket in a store without buying it, and that I sin regularly and often, yet desire not to. That way, he sees that a Christian’s life is one of grace alone, rather than living by a set of rigid rules. Any changes in me aren’t by my effort, but by Christ living in me.
  3. Honor your marriage. I’m careful not to talk negatively about Barry to anyone, and when he’s home, he’s my priority. This often means passing up social events I dearly want to attend. I seek opportunities to enjoy my husband and build him up, convinced he’s God’s gift to me.
  4. Pray, pray, pray. Prayer is my link to God’s presence, power, wisdom, and comfort. My favorite Scripture to pray is Ezekiel 36:26, that God will take Barry’s heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. Another favorite is Isaiah 30:21: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'” Although it’s hard to pinpoint specific answers to prayer for Barry, I’ve seen his attitude toward spiritual things change drastically over the years. We often talk openly and freely about God.
  5. Find a support system. Surround yourself with other women who’ll pray with and for you. Also, study the Bible with a friend or small group. Attend church as often as you are able.
  6. Never give up hope. God offers everyone the same gift of salvation and eternal life. Some choose to accept it, and others don’t. But all who accept the gift do so in God’s timing, not ours. God knows what he’s doing.

I don’t understand why God does what he does. We have two daughters who don’t have the role model of a Christian husband and father. I used to worry about that. As it’s turned out, each daughter gave her life to Christ as a preschooler. Alison, now married, lives out her faith with a believing husband, while Laura’s going through a time of teenage rebellion—but even that’s in God’s hands. As evidenced throughout the Bible, God is in the habit of saving families. That gives me great hope.

Trusting God while you wait

Even so, sometimes I get discouraged. Sometimes I sit in my brown armchair and question whether God even hears my prayers. Or I sit in church and count the couples and ache because few know what my husband even looks like. Or I’ll hear yet another testimony about someone else’s husband coming to faith, and wonder why mine still seems oblivious to his need. But then there are times when Barry exhibits greater faith than I do. In fact, that’s a joke we share. I’m the one who says I have faith, while he’s the one who seems to live it.

He’s always telling me, “Why do you worry about things? God always takes care of us.” Barry almost always knows the right thing to do when it comes to leading our family. I believe that because God sees us as one flesh, my husband shares in my blessings. Because God’s promised to lead me, he leads my husband as well. I don’t have to fret. God’s in control.

The truth is, I might not ever see Barry walk a church aisle, but that’s okay. I have hope that I’ll see him walk through heaven. In the meantime, I live my life as a gift—one I never would have chosen, but one I’ve come to accept with gratitude. I know it comes from the hand of a loving God who only gives his children the best.

Related reading:
The Spirit-Filled Life: The first step to living a full Christian life is to let God’s Spirit work in you.
Talk to a mentor: If you need someone to talk to, contact us anytime. It’s free and confidential.

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359 Responses to “My Husband Doesn’t Share My Faith”

  • Mary Pinckney Mary Pinckney says:

    Cathy,
    I applaud you for seeking extra guidance from a mentor. I pray that as you do, the Lord will lead you to the answers you continually seek.

    Father, guide her and all others with your eyes upon them. In Jesus name Amen
    Blessings,
    Mary

  • Kathryn Kathryn says:

    Oh Anne! Praise the Lord. I just feel like jumping around for joy with your wonderful news. Cathy you have been a real faithful support too and how we need that all the time as our enemy, satan, is always trying to insinuate his evil ways into our hearts and minds. We must all concentrate on keeping short accounts with God by which I mean, spending time in His word and praying as well as sharing with other Christians so that we can be discipled ourselves and thus obey His command to disciple others. I am seeking to make it my goal this Christmas to reach out to those who do not yet know Christ as their Saviour, it is not easy to do that these days but if we keep looking to Jesus and relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, God willing, we shall be blessed to see Him working in and through us. Have a wonderful Christmas both of you and keep encouraging others when you can. Blessings, Kathryn

  • Anne says:

    Thank you for all your responses. I highly appreciate all of it. I just want to share that the Lord has moved amazingly these past couple of days. All the prayers and pain have paid off when God suddenly turned my situation around. It just happened that the Lord led my fiance to someone he considers as a mentor. I don’t really know how their entire conversation went but to make the long story short, I was just surprised that he finally got to accept and respect my faith regardless of the denomination I am involved in. I just feel blessed for in times like this you will really see that the Lord moves in such mysterious ways. It is true that everything that is happening has a purpose that we may never understand at first; but the Lord tells us to always be still and know that He is God. If we hold on to our faith and continue to seek His will He will surely give us the desires of our hearts. After the storm has passed, my heart screams nothing but gratitude, praise, and glory to our Father. I pray that the Lord will continue to do wonders in your lives as well. May God bless you and your families exceedingly. :)

  • Cathy says:

    Dear Anne and Kathryn, Thanks for affirming that Catholics are Christian as well. Sometimes my faith grows more when I am participating in catholic activities and sometimes more in Bible studies from our protestant brothers and sisters. While I have been in good Bible Studies in my Catholic faith, right now we are in a good one but not Catholic. I really like the people in my Bible study currently and we have become a small faith sharing group that I really like. But sometimes their view on things is very different from what I was taught and what I believe. I don’t agree with everything they believe. If your fiance is very Catholic, I could see how he would not appreciate participating in non catholic activities. For myself, going back and forth can be confusing and sometimes makes me question everything from both sides. We are all Christian but the doctrines and view on things can be very different. I like Kathryn’s suggestion that you talk to a mentor. I might do that myself because it does get confusing. I am not sure where you live Anne, but check out the different parishes and see if there is one that does help you grow spiritually. Right now our Parish is doing a Bible study on Mark and the teacher is tracing all the Biblical references why Catholics do what they do. I haven’t participated in all the sessions but it was very interesting and helps many things make sense. But as Kathryn said, the most important thing is believing and following Jesus, and listening to his Holy Spirit within us. Sharing God’s love with others. Will be praying for guidance and wisdom for both you and your fiance. You are lucky that your fiance is a believer.

  • Kathryn Kathryn says:

    Hi Anne, I felt for you so much in your first blog but I have just read the second one too and to a large extent I can agree with what Cathy has said, (Thanks Cathy). It did look in the first blog that you were saying that Roman Catholics are not Christians which is just not true. (A small doctrinal point here is that the word “catholic” means universal so in that sense all those who trust in Christ as their Lord and Saviour and seek to be His obedient disciples are part of the one catholic/universal church also known as the Bride of Christ) Of course your point is that your fiancé seems to feel that the Roman Catholic church is the true church. I can understand his point of view to some extent about protestant churches such as the one you like to go to as you feel it is building you up in your faith. However, there is no perfect church and certainly no perfect denomination. Traditions and loyalty to childhood church going can be very important to a lot of people but equally, they can almost become an idol if we put them before knowing God personally through Christ’s death and resurrection.
    There is so much more I would love to say but I think you should click the button at the top and get a personal mentor so that you can discuss this more thoroughly. I do feel though that it would be good for you to talk more together on this matter because it will have a huge impact on your married life as the writer says. Maybe you could discuss this with your fiancé and check out someone (or a Christian couple) who can see both sides. His for familiarity and tradition and yours for growth in your walk with Christ. May He grant you wisdom and discernment as you seek His will. Blessings to you both. Kathryn

  • Anne says:

    Hi Cathy, thank you for your response and prayers. I really appreciate it. Anyway, I just want to clarify that I do believe that Catholics are Christians too, and that’s what I’ve been explaining to my fiance. I have high respect with each religion or denomination for I believe that we are going to be judged not by our religion but on how we live out and share the word of the Lord. Yes, my fiance is a believer in Christ and I have no problem with that. The thing is, just like what you said, respect in the way I choose to honor and worship is important. We as human beings are different and if I feel like I am growing spiritually and as a person in a particular denomination then he should also respect that the way I respect his — what’s important is we believe in the same God and that our values are not being compromised. But he wants me to stop seeking for the Lord in a Born-again Christian faith and I just feel like I am being deprived of something that would help me grow and be a better person. I believe that all of us are brothers and sisters in Christ whatever denomination we prefer to be involved in; and it’s all good as long as we aim to improve ourselves and our faith through God’s word. I just feel like it’s unfair for my fiance or any other person to see me as becoming less of a person just because I seldom do Catholic traditions and started attending a Born-again Christian church. Thank you and will be praying for you as well. God bless you. :)

  • Cathy says:

    Anne, So you don’t believe Catholics are also Christian. I am Catholic and I am a follower and believer in Christ. If your fiance is Catholic, he is also Christian. Just because we have differences in doctrine does not make us any less Christian and any less “Saved”. You can find the same thing, Bible Studies, Be filled with the Holy Spirit and work for the Lord at your parish or one close by if you look for it. I know, because I thought I had to leave my CAtholic faith to be Christian, but my home is with the faith of my birth and with fellow believers who respect the way I choose to honor and worship Christ. There are so many lovely Christian believers in the Catholic church, just as there are in other denominations. There are also Catholics who are at the beginning of their faith journey, just as there are in other denomination. We are called to evangelize and bring the good news of the Gospel to all whether Catholic or some other denomination. I think it sometimes seems very unloving and unchristian to believe one group over another is more closer to Christ. If your fiance is a devout Catholic and is a believer in Christ, than what is your problem. Since you your self are Catholic, I urge you to to look more closely into your own faith. It all makes more sense as you study God’s word and have the Holy Spirit open your eyes to the beauty of the Catholic Church, it’s sacraments, and traditions. Check out catholicanswers.com for any question you may have about your faith. They are pretty good about giving answers to questions you have about why you think the Catholic faith is not Christian. Good Luck my sister in Christ. Will be praying for you. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are not Christian if you choose to be Catholic.

  • Anne says:

    Hi Shelley, thank you for this inspirational post. I find myself in a somewhat similar situation. I’ve been crying and pleading to God for days and nights now. My fiance is a really great man and I love him dearly. We get along very well until I decided to attend a Christian church. We were both Catholics, by the way. He feels like I am drawing us apart because of my newfound faith. That I do not practice religious traditions anymore and that always fires up arguments between us. I learned that we must not be unequally yoked but we’ve been together for 6 years and I can’t just throw it away just like that. I respect our differences but he can’t seem to respect mine. He wants me to go back to being a catholic and stop attending Christian services. I feel like I’m being deprived of the chance to grow in my faith and my relationship with the Lord. We are soon to be married yet this whole thing leaves me puzzled and afraid to take it to the next level. Please pray for me and your advice will be highly appreciated. Thank you and God bless you more.

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    To my brothers and sisters, I thank you for your comments on this issue, as I pray that all of you will seek His grace and that He will respond to your needs in Jesus name amen

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