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.

EmailPrint

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

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    Dear Father God.

    Lord I lift up my sisters to You and encourage them to seek You for guidance in this area of there lives. I pray that anyone who is struggling with one a believer and one not a believer in the family that they will eventually come to know You as there personal saviour. In Jesus Name amen

  • Martha says:

    I thoroughly loved reading about your patience and dedication. I’m currently struggling with the same frustrations as I can’t see myself being with a partner who isn’t as devoted to God as I try to be. I just imagine that it would be a tad difficult trying to do everything God wants me to do while having to convince my partner of every single step instead of just having the luxury and support I need to just take every leap of faith. But alas, God is indeed in charge and I’m learning everyday that we ought to just keep loving and praying for people. This task isn’t really all about our partners but more of God’s way of teaching us how to love others like He loves all of His imperfect children; to mold us into the person He wants us to be. I would surely love to have this task be a lot easier though as I feel like rejecting God is in essence like rejecting me.

  • Nora says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s encouraging to me.

  • Nikkip says:

    My story is a lot like yours we married as two unbelievers and then God found me. At first I batted my husband. He gets drunk and I don’t nag at him anymore :-) but, I try to remind him getting drunk is a sin and that he does need to repent. I believe he does repent. Try to remind him God will not keep showing grace if he doesn’t try if he wilfully sins God will leave him in it. I tell him Gods laws are not just a set of rules their guidelines to make our lives better and, that I’m not judging him. He will go to church or any other place and, even pray with me, sometimes he even suggest it. He still doesn’t walk the walk he curses (yap that’s in there you should not offend in word or deed), drinks, plays video games he shouldn’t and, watches TV shows he shouldn’t. Its like he’s right at the door of being a true Christian but, he doesn’t cross the threshold. He’s also a big follower he doesn’t think he is but, I see it big time when he gets around someone who’s getting drunk he falls right in line cursing same way. Granted when I’m extremely and I mean fighting mad I will say a curse word and repent immediately so I’m not perfect. I point it out to let him see I mess up too. When I see him trying I praise him for it. I tell him to pray all the time about everything and see how God changes things to watch Gods love in action. I keep wondering is it enough where he is? If the rapture happened would he be left? Some times I wonder that about myself too after all if we are caught in our sin we are dead in it. He wants to go to NA, for those of you who don’t know that’s a 12 step program. We used to go together but there are a lot of hypocrites among the older members (that should if their honest picking up a white chip) and, I really don’t want to go. I think I should for him I don’t know. He wants me to do more than sit there though I don’t know if I can do anything more than sit there what am I to say hey your program helped me get clean but, I found God and I follow his rules now so I really don’t need your program? I will drink a glass of wine (wine only) every very blue moon in a social setting not alone but, I never get drunk. I’m going to go I just made up my mind. Maybe that will help him in other areas and, bring him to Christ completely. For the poor lady who’s husband is an atheist I will keep you in my prayers from now on. That has got to be the worst living with someone who totally doesn’t believe and maybe even hates God uuummm. She must be very strong for God to put her in that situation. I can’t even imagine it. Anyway I was totally honest on here maybe a little to honest no one else aired out their dirty laundry but, maybe I’m just venting trying to figure this all out. God bless you all.

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Dear A, glad that the article was of great help to you. May God’s blessings of increased wisdom and knowledge be with you as you seek to no Him more fully.

  • A says:

    You spoke straight to my heart. Although we are a different religion (I’m muslim), we believe in the same God (and His prophets), respect Jesus and his teachings and share the same marital situation. You’ve given me a wonderful, positive perspective on our situation. Thank you for giving me guidance. I see your article as a mercy from God. May you be blessed in your life. As’salamualaykum (peace be upon you).

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    Dear Father God.

    Lord I lift up anyone who is struggling with the other person faithful and the other one is not in there relationship with God. Lord I pray for healing in Jesus Mighty name Amen

  • Thomas says:

    Catherine,

    I deeply admire your husband for not leaving you… my wife is far from trying to convince me to be a Christstian, but even her believe as it is is sometimes hard to stand, being so irrational at times.

  • Cathy says:

    Jennifer, thanks for sharing your story. How wonderful that you still persist despite your husband’s feelings about faith. You remind me of St. Monica, who was faithful and continues to pray for her alcoholic husband and wayward son. Her persistence of storming heaven and modeling the Christian faith paid off. Her husband accepted Christ near the end of his life and the wayward son went on to be one of the greatest Saints. Saint Augustine. God loves your husband more than you do and has a plan for his life. My husband has been going to church and helped me raise our 4 children in the faith. We attend Bible Studies and Bible home groups. He has a deep spirituality, knows all about Jesus and the Bible but does not wish to give up his Hindu faith. So I can relate a bit to your frustration. Let’s keep praying for each other’s husband.

  • Jennifer says:

    I have a really tricky problem. My husband is an Atheist and he has always been very hateful about my Christianity. We have been together for 21 years and we have a beautiful 4 year old daughter. It took 3 years of fighting to get him to agree to let me take her church and every week he picks a fight about how ignorant and weak it is to have to believe in “zombies and spirits”. It hurts so bad and he has an extremely dangerous job in law enforcement working vice and narcotics. I would be on top of the world if he would turn to the Lord. I pray for him constantly but I just do not know what it will take to change his mind about Christianity and more importantly his salvation. Thanks for letting vent!

  • Erin Gage Pitt says:

    This article was very,very inspiring…thx so much..hit home in a major way.

  • Michael Jantzen Michael Jantzen says:

    Hello Catherine,

    Thank you for sharing your story here. Of course I don’t know where you’re husband is at spiritually: whether he is just immature in his faith or never really experienced authentic conversion, or whether he has grown content to go through certain religious rituals to feel right with God. But I do not that God’s desire for all of us is the unqualified total commitment of our lives. I want to share a prayer with you that we use a lot around this ministry. It goes like this:

    “Dear Jesus, I want you at the center of my life and commit, through your power, to serve and obey you, anytime, any where, at any cost, to do anything.”

    What could happen if you prayed this each morning, really meant it and started to model for your husband the joy of being a 100% fully committed follower of Jesus? Please consider this challenge. For help living out this kind of commitment, you could visit http://www.thelife.com That’s why we’ve put that website together. Take care, Catherine.

  • Catherine says:

    How about religion. My husband is religious from upbringing, became born again was baptised on faith at age 50 and still lives in a way that I do not see as spirit filled…..so confusing.
    We have a total different way of living out our faith. I know he thinks a lot about God and prays for himself but does not want to pray with me or has any desire to have more contact with fellow christians.
    I love your article. Can learn a lot from it but feel a slight differnce with an unbelieving husband and one that does go to church but seems so untouched by it all….
    Help.?!

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    Dear Father God.

    Lord I lift up anyone who is struggling with a spouse that dose not know the Lord but you do. I pray that You oh Lord will touch that person’s heart and I plant a seed of salvation. In Jesus Mighty name /amnen

Leave a Reply