With respect to my fellow bloggers and sisters in Christ, I have noticed a severe lack of truth when it comes to being unequally yoked in marriage. In searching for comfort, I have found time and again, feel-good blogs about how to “thrive” in a marriage where the woman is the believer and her husband is not. While this is certainly a noble topic, I have to wonder why these bloggers don’t go the extra mile and peel back the curtain to tell of what it’s truly like being married to an unbeliever?
Are they merely giving advice? Are they not unequally yoked themselves? Is this out of fear of airing dirty laundry? Is this due to the unspoken rule with our brothers and sisters not to dig in, and be real and gritty with each other? I have debated with myself on writing this piece for a long time. But I know there are a great many women who are in the same position I am, and if I can comfort them with the same comfort I have been given of God, then praise the Lord and let’s get this written.
My husband and I both confessed Christ when we married. Eighteen years later, he confessed agnosticism. Even though I had claimed Christ as well, I wasn’t truly saved by our Lord until 2011. Therefore both of us had been false professors upon our marriage, yet neither of us knew it. We have now been married for twenty three years, by the grace of God.
Since my true conversion, the only “thriving” I have come to know is an unspoken truce in my household. The only way to truly “thrive” as other bloggers have counseled is to ignore the elephant in the room. No amount of pleading or preaching will convert our husbands, as that power belongs to God alone. And so we pray fervently for Christ to save them as we try to live according to 1 Peter 3:1-2. This is walking in full trust and faith in Christ, which means the believing wife must have an abiding heart and an abundant life with the Lord Jesus on her own.
Without a spiritual head to lead her, it is absolutely vital for the believing wife to seek Christ with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. He must be for her the godly Husband, washing her with the water of His Word. She must lean upon Him; she must dig in and seek Him with every breath, every heartbeat. He must be her strength in her weakness, or she will be ill-prepared to give an account should an argument arise with her spouse about her Christianity and why she believes what she does.
The believing wife needs to come to the point where she seeks Christ apart from her husband, and she must be willing to go to church alone. She cannot lean on her husband to find a church, she must step out and do it herself. She must obey Christ when it comes to raising her children, and this also requires a great deal of faith and trust in Him to do what is right. An unequally yoked wife who does not live and breathe prayer will be a defeated woman. An unequally yoked wife who does not rest in her union with Christ shall live a life of agony.
There is no greater heartache I know than the realization that your spouse is on the road to Hell. There is no greater hungering and thirsting for righteousness than in an unequal household. There is no greater loneliness than being unable to share the deepest intimacies of your heart with the one you love.
The separation of eternity is already present in an unequally yoked marriage. The believing wife will not find joy where her husband finds joy. The unbelieving husband doesn’t want to hear of what brings his wife ultimate joy, namely Christ. For each of these there is oppression in the household, which is why I mentioned the only way to “thrive” is by truce and quietly trusting the Lord to work, should it be His will.
Even so, the believing wife will have her eyes wet with tears day in and day out. Her relationship with Christ must grow deeper, stronger, and more substantial if she is to survive. And yet, this drives the wedge of separation deeper into her marriage. To avoid acidic barbs against her faith, she learns to talk in generalizations in order to keep the peace. She can attend church, go to small groups, and find contentment in studying Scripture, yet she can share none of these with her spouse.
This brings her more and more upon the shoulder of Christ, where she trusts in Him to be for her the tenderness she needs, the holiness she needs, the man she needs. It is possible the unequally yoked woman has no familiarity with sanctified masculinity. What does Christ look like in the heart of a truly regenerate man? Sometimes upon the sadness she already experiences, she longs for what other women have – a godly marriage. But she must learn to lay down that desire for the greater purpose of Christ in her life.
Sometimes her marriage simply survives by surviving one more day, day-by-day. More often than not, it is prayer that upholds it, telling the Lord her marriage stands by His grace or falls by His will. As long as Christ extends His grace, she is willing to obey 1 Corinthians 7:13.
Because the wife and her husband don’t have much in common, they often spend leisure time apart from each other. If there are children who believe, the unbelieving spouse can become jealous or bitter toward the close relationship the kids enjoy with their mom, as she is able to share her love for Christ with them. If there are unbelieving children in the family, the believing wife will cry and lament all the harder for faith that Christ will step in where her husband has not, and lead her children into all truth.
The unbelieving husband will see the blossoming relationship his wife has with Christ, and perhaps will grow jealous of it, or perhaps become depressed, as he realizes he cannot give his wife all that she needs and therefore she seeks it in another. Of course, all godly wives, despite the spiritual health of their husbands, should seek Christ above and beyond anyone in their lives, including their spouses. Christ has made this a command for all of His disciples (Luke 14:26). But the unbelieving husband will think this is a shortcoming in himself, and perhaps seek less intimacy with his wife. Or perhaps he will try harder to connect with her in the only way he knows how, by worldly means, which ultimately falls short because his wife walks by the Spirit and thinks on heavenly things.
The believing wife will enjoy spending time with her husband and connecting with him, but he will not fulfill her, as she longs for the fragrance of Christ in her life. She will realize her husband doesn’t truly know her, he only knows the surface of her, not the depths of her. The closer she gets to Christ, the more she comes to know her life is hidden with Christ in God, that to live is Christ, and that the life she now lives is Christ in her. Due to her unbreakable union with the Lord Jesus, her unbelieving husband will never know her true identity in Christ unless he comes to know Christ for himself.
In all these things, I do not see “thriving”, I see a truce. I see broken hearts, pain, agony, lamenting, and unspeakable loneliness, not just for the believer, but for both parties involved. There is great wisdom in Scripture about avoiding this unequal yoke at all costs. If anyone is considering marriage to an unbeliever, know your life will be marked by suffering and loneliness, and the odds will be stacked against your marriage to survive. Marriage is not a way to evangelize. You will either become more carnal and worldly yourself and thus turn away from Christ to accommodate your spouse, or you will turn more fully to Christ, bringing more tension and separation into your marriage.
In light of the reality of what it’s truly like to be unequally yoked, here is my advice to my fellow sisters with unbelieving husbands.
Obey Scripture. Don’t always try to evangelize your husband. Your efforts might have the opposite effect and repel him if his heart isn’t good soil. God will draw him if it is His will. Live by 1 Corinthians 7:13 and 1 Peter 3:1-2 and continue to glorify Christ in your life. Perhaps your patient witness for God will be used by Him one day.
Read Scripture. You cannot hear from Christ if you are not constantly in His Word. As women alone on our spiritual journey, it is essential we hide God’s Word in our hearts to comfort and sustain us. His Word is a lamp unto our feet. If we do not shine that lamp into our lives, we will be walking in darkness.
Pray. A woman who isn’t in constant prayer and communion with her Savior will not have the strength and the peace she needs to get through the rough days. But don’t merely pray for your husband’s conversion, pray for your own strength, for God’s grace over you, for His peace, for perseverance, for endurance, and for wisdom in His name. You will need all of Christ’s spiritual blessings in order to equip yourself for this spiritual battle. And make no mistake, this is a spiritual battle. It is absolutely imperative we meet this battle by putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) day after day after day after day.
Seek the Lord. This might seem redundant with reading Scripture and prayer, but seeking the Lord is, in my opinion, a deeper pursuit than casual Bible reading and tossing up prayer. Seeking Christ is digging into Him, studying His Word, agonizing with Him, pouring out your heart, spending time with Him, praying without ceasing, bathing your prayers with tears, and wrestling with Him while refusing to ever let Him go. An unequally yoked wife needs to abide in the Vine, because without Him, sisters, we can do nothing.
Cling to Christ. Along with seeking Him, we must cling to Him. We must constantly edify ourselves with singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in our hearts to God. We must never be ashamed to praise Him in front of our unbelieving spouse. We must freely speak His name, for the name of Christ Jesus is polarizing and divisive, while talking about ‘God’ can often be generic and unspecific. We must stand for His truth and His doctrine, even if the cards seem stacked against us. The believing wife must be so familiar with Jesus that her first instinct in times of trouble is to pray for help, for peace, for grace, for strength. In the heat of the moment, she stands in silent prayer, knowing the Lord Himself shall fight for her. She must realize that Christ is her Savior, not only against sin and death, but in her time of need as well, and we have many examples in Scripture of our Lord defending and rescuing weakened women from angry or bitter men.
Go to church. Ladies, I cannot stress this enough. GO TO CHURCH. Find a sound church in your area, and go become a part of a church body. Get involved. Make relationships. Get to know your pastor. As Christians, we are Christ to the world, and also Christ to each other. If you are living in a “drought” of faith in your home, you must go to the oasis and drink. Christ never intended for His sheep to live alone in the pasture, but to sharpen each other, as iron sharpens iron, to do life together, to praise His name together, and to pray for each other. If you have no spiritual headship in your home, seek headship at your church and ask for the elders and pastors to pray over you often. What your husband cannot do, your brothers in Christ will do. Our brothers and sisters will help disciple us and edify us and encourage us when all hope seems lost. We are the Body of Christ, and one member of that Body cannot live by itself on a lonely hilltop, we must be connected with the others, as we are one just as Jesus and the Father are one (John 17:22-23). Regularly meeting with those who love Christ week after week is a healing balm to a weary soul and a beautiful foretaste of Heaven. Do not forsake meeting together with fellow saints of Christ.
Obey Christ above your husband. If you have a husband who does not “let” you worship Christ either at home or at church, you must obey Christ over him and let the chips fall where they may. Submission to one’s husband does not come before submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. If this costs you your marriage, so be it. Christ is greater than your marriage. Listen to me, sisters. These are hard words, I know. But are you ready and willing to give up absolutely everything to follow Christ? This is what He commands of His disciples (Luke 14:26). The believing wife must come to the point in her Christianity where she is willing to follow Christ no matter the sacrifice to her personally. This is costly; this looks like foolishness to the world. But greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. Jesus Christ is Almighty God, and choosing to follow Him is never batting for the losing team. What you lose on earth you gain in heavenly riches. We stand in victory when we stand with Christ. But this calls for tremendous faith, of which we must pray the Lord provides us. It is much easier to speak these words than to live them. But in my own experience, I have yet to be let down by my faithful God. It could be that God rewards my faithfulness to Him by holding up my marriage. If the Lord Himself fuels my devotion to Him, then He shall bless me in it; He shall be with me in it. He shall never forsake me, and He will likewise never forsake you.
Dear sisters in Christ, if you are unequally yoked, seek the things that are above and live your life of faith openly. Never be ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ in your home. He even warned us, that a man’s enemies will be those of his own household, and that a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household (Matt. 13:57). He came not to bring peace, but a sword, and this will bring a son against a father, and a daughter against a mother (Matt. 10:34-39), even spouses against each other. But He has not left us orphans. He has given us a Comforter in His Holy Spirit. Therefore seek the comfort of God and fervently ask Him again and again to supply you with all you need. Christ must be the strength that carries you through, or you will lead a life of defeat rather than a life of victory in Christ.
Remember the words of the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4:12-14:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
As hard as it is to do, we must surrender our loved ones to the will of God, and like Abraham, lay them on the altar and let God do with them as He pleases. I often remember Christ’s words to Peter when he asked our Lord about the fate of the Apostle John in John 21:21-22 – “What is that to you? You follow Me!”
Amen. What is that to me? In all things God shall be glorified, whether by His mercy or by His wrath. We should continue to pray for those we love, and beg and plead and cry out to God for His mercy. And yet, if He chooses instead to glorify His wrath, we must, sisters, we MUST be able to have faith, praise His holy name, and cry out through our tears, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven!”
O, Lord Jesus, please comfort all Your unequally yoked daughters in the tenderness of Your glorious love, and be for us our Balm of Gilead, our Precious God, and our Beloved Bridegroom.
In Your name we pray,