Do You Want to Bring Your Spouse to Jesus? Use His Weapons
We often try to solve spiritual problems with worldly methods. We see that there a temptation in the heart of our child so we get them involved in sports. We see that there is a problem in our respective country so we organize a political party in opposition. It makes sense, then, that when we see our husband or wife is an unbeliever we make the same mistake. We try to fix this spiritual issue with our human strength. We beg them to come to church. We try to argue them into submission. We may fall into shaming them in front of our church friends out of desperation. These are all temptations when dealing with the heartache and daily loss that comes with being unequally yoked. These tactics seem reasonable to a hurting heart, but only serve to push that spouse further from Jesus.
We cannot expect to win a spiritual battle fighting with human methods. It is only the weapons of the Lord working through us that will make an impact. We will never bring our spouse to Christ through just talking. No one is ever converted through browbeating, at least, not for long. The love of Christ is not shown through constant disappointment. Faith in the Lord is not displayed through discontent and anger with one’s spouse. It is only when we are radically changed by Jesus and then rest in His power that others want to join us. This is particularly true when dealing with a spouse who is not walking with Jesus. They can easily shut off the arguments and become bitter from the disappointment shown. Ignoring and resisting the joy and love of Jesus is virtually impossible.
How do I say this with any confidence? I was the unsaved spouse. The tools I will lay out are the things that redeemed life for me and my bride. They took us from unequally yoked to one in Jesus through the power of the Lord. They are Jesus’ weapons on display, not man’s and that makes all the difference. Whose weapons are you fighting with?
I was straight from the party life of college when I married my wife. I was also from a background of alcoholism, dysfunction, and chaos so I was completely unprepared for adulthood. I barely knew how to tie my shoes much less be a Christian husband and father. I caused a lifetime’s worth of pain in the early years as I pursued things that should have been left behind years before. My wife will never say as much, but I was not a good husband. I was too concerned with me, my life, my rights, and my amusement. I could not even see the need to care about others much less love my wife and family well. I was a “nice person” to the world but I was a mess and to some extent, I knew it. Repeated efforts to clean myself up and act responsibly failed miserably. When things got challenging I would revert back to dysfunction and selfishness as my coping mechanism. I was just really lost before Jesus.
Christian Fatherhood, Absent Dads, and Discipleship Interview of Tom, PastorUnlikely is a podcast interview I did covering this time and God’s change in my family.
Jesus Changed Everything
Two people changed everything, Jesus and my wife. It all started with Jesus, though. He is the beginning and the end, after all. He changed my wife and I watched the change happen in person. Though she was a believer when we were married, it was an imperfect faith. She loved the Lord but had a lot of growing to do in her faith. At some point, possibly spurred on by dealing with her husband (me), she began her journey to maturity in the Lord…and it was wonderful to watch. Though I resisted, what I saw in her was too clear and too appealing to continue to deny the truth. Though I fought it, I honestly realized that only God could cause what I was seeing with my own eyes and I wanted some of it. I was just too miserable on my own to allow her to take off like that and not go along. So Jesus changed her and she changed me leading to Jesus changing me.
Though the actual moment of transformation for me was sudden and dramatic, it was the culmination of years of faithfulness, hard work, and prayer. Not mine, I did none of those things. It was my beloved bride who was laboring. She put in long years of planting seeds with no obvious fruit. She then spent long hours of watering those seeds with patience, hope, and love…until the day they took root and grew. Praise the Lord for His patience and hers as well!
Putting up with me took a whole lot of Spirit provided patience and love.
My wife will tell you it wasn’t easy. There were many tears. I was hard to live with at times. It is also never hopeless. The most defiant or lost spouse can be transformed in a moment by Jesus. It is also worth every bit of time and effort. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you did do everything possible in His power to affect your spouse’s life for Jesus. You will also be molded into the image of Jesus in the process. He promises joy and peace even in the midst of heartache.
There will be plenty of missteps. I have walked through this challenge alongside many men and women over the years. The failures and setbacks can feel crushing. But when faced with such a great challenge, no one is going to be perfect. My wife certainly never was and readily admits she made a lot of mistakes. Jesus working through her imperfection and failure was sometimes even more impactful than when things were going perfectly. Love works really well when it is covering failure.
So what can I tell you, husband or wife, that I think can help you reach your unbelieving spouse? What reached me back in the days where my life’s goal was to own a bar and drive a BMW? A few simple but hugely powerful things:
Don’t Fight Fair – Use God’s Weapons
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled
1) Fervent Prayers are Powerful and Effective
This is listed first at my wife’s request. Prayer is what she knows changed everything. Though she was an immature believer at the time we got married, she was a follower of Jesus. She had been since she was a little girl. She loved to pray and relied on her simple prayers to Jesus to take her through the hard things in her life. Her husband’s lack of faith was no exception. She tells me she started praying for her future husband to love Jesus when she was a little girl. This kicked this into overdrive when her faith started to take off and she saw my struggles more clearly. She was constantly interceding on my behalf. The pain that was brought to the surface through my refusal to pray with her was turned into desperate appeals to the Lord. The despair that she felt when I was repeating Marx’ view on religion as an opiate to the people was turned into passionate prayers to our all-powerful Lord. She did not call me a fool, as I deserved, she asked for Gods help. Which works better? She only told me this later as she did not want to shame me or make the prayers about her. She sought the Lord’s help quietly and without telling me. She trusted God heard her and had the power to heal. He is the only One that can make a difference.
As I watched my wife grow in faith, the tension and pain that I had seen in her over this big life issue slowly began to melt away. They were replaced with a trust and acceptance. I frankly did not understand it at the time, but it was beautiful to see. The hours of prayer were reflected in her. She still was in pain and disappointed but she put those into the hands of the Lord to deal with. After a life of chaos, despair and searching for peace, it was impossible not to see it filling the woman I loved.
God offers to have us speak with Him and ask our desires in His will. Is there anything more in line with God’s will than a lost sheep coming home? So this is tip No. 1, intercede for your spouse, day and night! Ask the only One who can really fix things to do so. Pray that their heart will be softened and even their will be broken in order to bring them to Jesus. Trust that He hears you and is working. This is God’s battle to fight, not yours ultimately. Talk to Him about and hear His heart as well.
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry. Psalm 34:5
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
2) Grow in Jesus – Shine Like the Sun with the Son
My wife’s growth in the Lord made me take notice something extraordinary was going on. We were still living the extended college life when we first married. This allowed the huge deficiencies in my life to be covered by activity, friends and my immature certainty of success. When we started having kids, we started to go in opposite directions. When life got real, I tried to run away from it. I found amusements, entertainments and drinking buddies to extend my adolescence. She found Jesus. She got the way better deal.
Through her Bible study, church and godly relationships she began to grow in her faith exponentially. She would talk about God and books of the Bible with an obvious excitement and joy. I had never even heard of the books. “Who in the world is Ananais and why is he important to my watching football?” was my initial response. But the changes were so obvious that it was impossible to ignore. She also grew in a way that was unexpected. I expected “church people” to be judgmental, weird or miserable. My only example of faithful wives were the long suffering Irish wives of my Dad’s alcoholic buddies. They wore the misery of their life like a veil of grief and were often just as lost as their husbands. Yet, the strangest things happened in my eyes. I knew that my faith condition made incredibly sad. I did not really know why but I knew it hurt her. Yet, despite not getting what she wanted she grew in joy. She then increased my confusion by loving me better than before. Where once we argued about the silliest things, now I was left arguing by myself. Where once we had contended about who would change diapers or take a break with the kids, she left me struggling with myself. She tried to live in peace and bless me and left me to wrestle with God. God is way stronger than she or I. She took her hopes for me to prayer rather than try to argue or browbeat me into it. She threw her her cares on God and He was faithful to His promise. He cared for her…and it showed, even to this then very calloused New York lawyer.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
I wish I could say that I immediately agreed upon seeing the evidence of change in her life. I did not. I was actually quite a big baby about it. The change was obvious and I was like a child with his hands over his ears claiming to be unable to hear anything – “la, la, la, I can’t hear you”. There was no avoiding the fact that her persistent faith and joy was making me jealous. Contrasted with my misery, it made me want to have some of what she was having. This led to a grudging agreement to go to church. Eventually, I even understood that I needed Jesus to have the peace that surpasses understanding. It started with seeing the love of Jesus for her making changes in her. Jesus changed the life of the woman I loved. The combination was too hard to resist. For more please watch You are the Light of the World.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. Philippians 2:14-16
3) Preach the Truth Clearly and Trust Him
Before I was saved, I did not like being “preached at” when I was determined not to listen. “Preached at” meant that there was not a meaningful discussion going on, someone was just talking at me. I could tell when someone cared about me and gave a heartfelt presentation of the Gospel. But it is when the hearer understands the Gospel and has clearly announced their rejection and the speaker keeps going. The listeners do not have ears to hear as Jesus says but the speaker continues talking to try to force them into a different response. With such a huge issue, it is an understandable temptation. You try to force the issue and hope just one more word will do the trick. But the truth is doing so often has the opposite effect of what is desired. For me, each word seemed to build up another level of resistance to the message. I was (am) a stubborn person. If someone tried to push me against my will, there is no way I was going along with it even if it was good for me. I may have known the message was right, but if it wasn’t my decision to agree I would die before I would admit it. Yes, it is stupid and foolish, but I think there are many lost spouses just as stubborn. Jesus never chases after anyone who shows that they are not willing to listen and browbeats them. The Rich Young Ruler is allowed to go away in sorrow to contemplate the decision he just made. Forcing things on people is never the way to make someone a disciple of Jesus. He did not attempt to cajole, manipulate or force anyone to be His disciple and neither should any of His followers.
If you have spoken the truth of the Gospel to your spouse and are sure they understand where you stand, let that truth do its work. The Word will percolate in his or her heart. It will keep coming to the surface. The Holy Spirit will do His job and convict and convince. He is better at it than we are. While this is happening, follow Jesus’ example and serve and love them. Let your light shine so brightly the evidence of God in you is undeniable. It is light at the top of the lighthouse. For a someone on a faraway ship, it is easy to mistake what is. Someone right next to it has no choice but understanding what is going on. The Light is blinding. Rather than forcing things, trust that the opportunity to discuss God will come up again as the Holy Spirit works on them. That is His job after all.
When my wife grew in her faith, prayed more and loved me more, it forced me to shift my focus away from the power dynamic between us. When there are two opposing viewpoints, the “enemy” in a discussion on this issue of faith is the person who is pushing faith. I had been constantly pushing back against my wife and what I knew were her desires for me. Things changed dramatically when she backed off and let God work on me. No longer could I argue with sinful, imperfect wife and justify myself against her failings. I was left with sinful ugly me versus perfect powerful God. Exposed with just me on my side, I found I really did not like the me I was fighting so hard to hold onto. That guy was just miserable and bogged down in sin. Things were just much clearer when it became a question of God and me rather than who would win an intellectual argument (as I saw it).
Since like a star, like a bright lighthouse beacon unashamedly growing in your faith. Enjoy the goodness of the Lord, let Him work, and leave your spouse work it out with God. He is the only one who can really change hearts anyway.
4) Don’t Ever Compromise Jesus
Marriage involves compromise every day. Love demands even more. Christian love requires that we serve and put ourselves last. So I am not saying to not compromise. Rather, never let the pull of your spouse’s salvation tear you away from following Jesus. Being conformed to the image of Jesus is the best evidence and inducement for someone to follow you into Jesus. Being fun at parties never can do what shining like Jesus can. Trying to be cool never will show someone Jesus. Fitting in with the crowd doesn’t make us shine for Jesus. Hiding our light from Jesus only sends the message that our spouse is worth more than God. It may be what a spouse wants to hear, but it is a lie and serves to reinforce our spouse’s rejection of God. Respect and loves your spouse well but don’t join in things the Bible says are wicked. If your spouse loves going to clubs and drinking, you cannot force them to go to church instead. You can respectfully stop going to clubs yourself and love going to church. You cannot provide a safe landing spot for someone tossed about by life if you are right next to them being thrown about. Leading Others Starts with Our Holiness.
A warning is necessary here. This may cause misery in the life of your spouse. This may cause kicking and screaming. This is not a bad sign. It may be a good one. The more pure light of Jesus coming from you, the more their sins will be obvious. The more you are joyful in Christ, the more their pursuits may seem empty and meaningless. God allows people to be miserable in their sin so that they can flee from them to the Savior. Respect your spouse, love them and live life with them. But if they are choosing sin and are miserable, don’t put a bandage on it. Pray that they see the need for repentance to stop the pain. Seek Holiness First and others will follow.
5) Love Your Spouse
There are many Christians who dislike their unbelieving spouse. They are frustrated with their sinful ways. They are fed up with trying to get them to turn around. Whatever love for them they once had was lost long ago amidst the disappointment of years of being unequally yoked. This is certainly understandable. Some of you likely have burdens to bear that are staggering. But as tempting it is to stay there, Jesus calls for something different from us. He calls for us to love our spouses well regardless of whether they deserve it or not.
Jesus’ entire mission when He walked the earth involved blessing the undeserving. “For God so loved the world” is His reason for coming. It can be easy to forget that the world was filled with people who did not believe in God and would reject Jesus. God sent His one and only Son anyway. Why? Because His perfect love and sacrifice are what would make a difference. Love would break through to man and bring him to salvation. This is our plan of attack as well. Only love will cause the foundations of unbelief to shatter and destroy the fortress of the enemy in our loved one. It can be the lifeline out of the darkness of pain and rebellion.
These tools may seem hard. They may seem to be filled with submission. They may seem to put a lot of trust in God and none in man. They are all that and that is difficult for the flesh to accept. Man desires to be in control and to rely on our own merit. But, at heart, they are simply suggestions to live like Jesus did. Trust in God with all you have, love the lost with all your heart, and serve God to the utmost – this was Jesus’ plan. He changed the world with it. He can change your spouse. Jesus lived the most unequally yoked life possible when He came and threw in His lot with humanity. It was His love, kindness, and sacrifice that led to our repentance. Jesus’ style of living resulted in the conversion of billions of people over the last 2000 years. It works because the power of the Holy Spirit is behind it, not because of anything you do on your own. You can put your trust in the overwhelming evidence provided by history.
Or just listen to this formerly unbelieving spouse. Prayer, love, and faith are what changed me when all the strategies of men failed. Trust in them and you will see results. Your spouse may resist until the day they face Jesus, but at very least you will be changed and stand before Jesus knowing you used His weapons. We will be celebrating 20 years of marriage this year. We are far from perfect but we are one in Jesus. It would not have been possible without the simple faithfulness of my believing bride. She trusted in the Lord and He came through.
Will you cast your cares on the Lord today?