Waiting for My Spouse to Believe
A few weeks ago, Rich shared the story of his journey from skepticism to Christian faith. Susan, Rich's wife, came to faith before he did, shortly after they were married. Here, Susan writes about what those years were like from her side.
Rich and I were married on June 12, 1982. I was excited to start my new life with my husband and wanted to be the “perfect wife.” However, I quickly learned that marriage was wonderful but also hard at times, especially when there was conflict and perfection seemed impossible.
During the fall of that year, I met Debbie, the pastor’s wife of the church my mother was attending. Mom had become a Christian a few years before. Debbie encouraged me to read the Bible for myself and pointed out Scriptures I had never read before.
All of my life I had had a desire to be perfect and please God, but I had failed in my own efforts. As I read Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” I learned that trying to earn my way to God on my own was impossible because of the sin I was born with. Debbie pointed out Isaiah 59:2: “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”
It became clear to me that I needed Jesus. 1 John 3:5 said that “He appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.” God didn’t want me to try harder or act better. He wanted me to know Christ and what he had done for me by his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. I prayed to Jesus confessing my sins and asking him to become my Savior.
The change in my life became very obvious to Rich. As I began to read and understand the Bible, I hoped and prayed that Rich would join me in my new faith. I told him about my relationship with Christ and he was displeased, partly because I had changed and Christ had become first in my life.
In my earnest desire for Rich to know Jesus, I would leave my Bible and other reading material around the house hoping he would pick it up. Occasionally, we went out with couples from church. This usually left him feeling uncomfortable and angry because the conversation would often turn into one involving his spirituality. He felt as if people were trying to force their beliefs on him without really knowing him.
It was hard during those early years because we were not united in faith. On the outside, things appeared to be fine, but on the inside, I felt spiritually alone in our marriage and I doubted if Rich would ever become a Christian. Sometimes I would ask Rich to join me at church. When he came, he said he would never come again because he always felt like he was being singled out.
The days and months went on. I would get up on Sunday mornings and go to church. Rich would usually sleep in or play golf. I longed for my husband to be sitting by my side like all the other married couples there.
Our first child, Sarah, was born in April of 1984. Such joy filled our hearts. As she grew, I wanted her to know about the Bible and brought her with me to church on Sunday mornings. Rich didn’t seem to mind. I remember one specific time when Sarah was about four and singing in a duet at church. Rich came to hear her sing. It was all going fine until the pastor preached a tough message about heaven and hell. Rich was so angry and said he would never attend that church again.
One night we had a conversation about attending a different church together as a family. When we were expecting our second child, we visited Wintonbury Church, in Bloomfield, CT. Things began to change for us. The pastor taught from the Bible in a way that Rich seemed to hear. I became friends with some of the women there. Rich was invited to join different sports teams and became friends with some of the men. He noticed a peace in their lives that he didn’t have. I also learned to trust God and his plan for our lives.
I learned five important lessons during this time:
- To love and respect Rich as the head of our household and to honor him with my heart and words. Scripture has a word for women who are married to unbelievers. In 1 Peter 3:1-2, the Bible says: “They may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives where they see your respectful and pure conduct.”
- To continue to pray for Rich and to trust God, instead of trying to “help” God make it happen. Psalm 130:5 says, “I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in his word do I hope.” In my desire for Rich become a Christian, my words and actions were actually driving him away rather than leading him to Christ. Other friends were praying for Rich too and slowly I began to see changes in him and me.
- To work on my own relationship with Christ. I couldn’t control Rich’s response to God, but I could work on my own heart by giving my desires along with my fears and doubts to him. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
- To be thankful every day for all that Christ had done for me. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not of yourselves, is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
- To know that Christ was enough for me. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Then it happened. On December 16, 1993, a little more than 10 years after after my faith decision, our pastor, also named Rich, came to visit. He asked my Rich if it was time. In our home on that December morning, Rich made his own faith decision to receive Christ, a day I will never forget. The road since that day hasn’t been perfect, and never will be while living on earth, but we have found great joy each day, and we pray that all of his ways will be lived out in us.
If you are married to an unbeliever, I want to encourage you to pray for your spouse daily, to ask a close friend to join you in prayer, and to trust God for his plan for your life. He is faithful! In the words of Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”