Married To An Unbeliever? - You Are Blessed!
But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, let him not send her away. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her,
let her not send her husband away.
—I CORINTHIANS 7:12, 13
In the course of this ministry I have met many people married to unbelievers. A unique set of circumstances goes along with being “unequally yoked.” However, there are two primary deceptions into which a believer may fall that can make the situation nearly intolerable.
The first deception is to believe that a mistake of the past will forever taint the future. On your wedding day, perhaps you recognized you were doing something wrong, not unlike the rest of us who, in the day of our sin, knew we were wrong. Yes, it may be true that you should not have gotten married. Yes, your peace left you and in the back of your mind there was the gnawing ‘no’ of the Holy Spirit. Yes, you did disobey and you did sin. However, we must add one more yes: God does cause all things to work together for good. He is not fighting our bad decisions but using them. What I am going to say next takes a big God. If your God is little, you cannot receive what I say; if He is big, you can. Also, once the decision to have a big God is made, do not expect every Christian to agree with you! Many have a vested interest in encouraging you to believe you made a mistake of such magnitude that abundant life in Christ will be diminished your lifetime through. In the mind of the carnal believer who has not made the same mistake, you are inferior in life and situation.
“When [Peter] came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, ‘What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?’ When Peter said, ‘From strangers,’ Jesus said to him, ‘Then the sons are exempt. However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.’” [Matthew 17:25-27]
Jesus was talking to the disciples about paying taxes. Of course the sons of God would not pay tax. However, so no one was offended, Peter was instructed to go fishing! The first fish he caught would possess exactly what Peter needed. Among the millions of fish in the sea, God sent the exact fish, to the exact line, to the exact man, to meet an exact need! Do you believe God sent the exact mate to the exact place, to the exact person, to meet an exact need in you? I believe it! How big is your God? The enemy would have you in fantasy dreaming of what it would be like to have a believing mate. However, if the goal of our lives is the revelation of Christ in us, then we need experiences where His life can be manifested.
Let me illustrate. I know a woman who has continued to grow in grace, mercy, and love, all because of her husband’s sinful behavior. Many times she has wanted to leave him, and many in ministry encouraged her to do just that. However, God comes to her, reveals Himself, His love, and His safe-keeping. In the end she lives out of His strength and stays. One day I said, “Sister, when we get to heaven you will be way ahead of me. I have only told you what to do, but you have done it. You have excelled in the attributes of heaven. When you stand before God, what will you ask Him to do to your husband?” I knew the turmoil this sister had endured at the hands of her husband. Her response was beautiful. “I will ask God to bless my husband, for had it not been for his behavior, I would not be standing there!” She truly has caught on! Trouble is not in the trouble but in the heart’s attitude toward the trouble. If the goal of marriage is comfort, then believers married to unbelievers will always find themselves uncomfortable. However, if the purpose of marriage is the realization and release of the attributes of Christ in a person, the one married to an unbeliever actually has a clearer opportunity for a head start. Some would say I am teaching “sin so grace will abound.” Those who say it forget “God causes all things to work together for good,” have the goal of comfort, and enjoy seeing others suffer the consequences of their mistakes.
The second thing that can happen to believers is to fall into the deception of discouragement and hopelessness. They love and love, perform and perform, and watch every word and behavior in the hope of seeing their unbelieving spouses saved. Articles are placed conspicuously where such a spouse might read them. Situations are manipulated to bring the unbeliever in touch with a believer who might be able to say the right thing. Yet after years of work and prayer nothing happens. The enemy then comes to taunt, “Is this how you were meant to live? Is this abundant life? Do you realize how much better life would be had you married a believer? You should leave!” All of these feelings are compounded when the “perfect” couple in church stands hand in hand describing how they prayed for a child, how God made them a team, and how they confessed their faults to one another and prayed for one another. All of this breeds a deepening feeling that the consequences of a bad choice will continue to bear fruit even after the believers are dead and gone.
If you have fallen victim to this deception, get up and press on, for God is with you in a special way. You are in the most blessed of all places and in contact with the exact situation God lives with every day. You are sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings. In this exact situation you can expect all of His help, for you are only experiencing a minute measure of what God goes through every day with the unbeliever. To love an unbeliever is to live as God lives! He loves you for that, and all of His comfort is available to you. You are not an inferior believer, but you are in a superior position to receive grace and mercy. You have done so much yet done nothing compared to what God does in sticking with the unbelieving one. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16).” You have not gone that far to reach the unsaved mate. I want you to know that if your goal—the revelation of Christ in you, the knowledge of His grace and mercy, His outworking through you, and the conviction of weakness—is right, then you are in the perfect place and married to the exact person who will meet an exact need in you. Do not keep trying to avoid the unbelieving mate and all the things this unique situation brings. God does not avoid fallen man; He jumped into the very middle of the situation and became man.
Let me use a different example. David and Job both say that God blessed them because they were fathers to the fatherless. God wants to be our Father so we will not be fatherless. When David and Job adopted God’s attitude toward the fatherless, God blessed them. Since they were right in line with His heart, blessing naturally came. If you will lay down your life for an unbelieving mate, you have adopted God’s attitude, and His entire blessing will come. If the mate never gets saved, it will not matter to you; you are one of the “others” of Hebrews 11 who believed, did not receive, and kept believing! It is said that the world was not worthy of them. If you are married to an unbeliever, have this attitude in yourself. You have the perfect mate to move you perfectly in line with God’s heart, to reveal the perfect love of Christ, and to live in the glory of God.
“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy” (I Corinthians 7:14). Oneness is not two individuals trying to live together as one. Oneness is blending, like mixing milk and flour in a bowl. Once mixed it cannot be separated. Once married, you are blended together in God’s mixing bowl. If food coloring is added when the mixer is on, the whole mixture changes its color. If you allow Christ to work His goal in your life, it will spread to your unbelieving mate’s life. Again, is your goal comfort or the revelation of Christ in you? If it is the latter, you are in the most blessed of situations.