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How do I remain faithful when my husband struggles with faith?
I find it very difficult to find security in faith when I see my spouse’s faithlessness. I love my husband and have been together with him for over 15 years. He eventually stopped coming to church. He has tried on multiple occasions to try those waters again and been discouraged each time (by his own faithlessness or by other Christians). It is so hard when I see God answer prayers and work in his life to love him and then see him resist having faith. I love God more than anything and will never give up, but struggle with fear, sadness, faithlessness and weakness. Can you give me any advice?
First of all, I appreciate your heart for God and your faithfulness through the years. Your love for your husband is apparent. You’ve already made one of the most important decisions in your marriage—that you will never give up. Certainly, God has given your husband a tremendous gift to have you beside him.
You also mention struggling with fear, sadness, faithlessness and weakness. I think any woman in similar circumstances would tell you that you are far from alone. Having any circumstance in our lives that goes completely against our fondest dreams, and hopes for the future, tests and ultimately proves the sincerity of our faith (1 Peter 1:6-8).
My biggest personal test in this area came through my husband’s sexual addiction. Although, he never walked away from his faith, there were times when he was in complete denial of how calloused his heart was becoming. And, there were countless times where I felt the insecurity of questions like… “What will others think of me? Can I risk being vulnerable with others? How can I thrive spiritually when my most important human relationship brings me pain?”
Through digging deep into God’s word, I learned that God has much to say in response. I began to see that God was calling me to…
- Entrust my losses to God, trusting him to turn my fear into faith. (2 Timothy 1:12)
- Love unconditionally and learn the true meaning of Biblical respect for another person. (Ephesians 5:33, Philippians 2:3)
- Surrender in prayer to find security in God and God alone. (Psalm 62:5-8)
- Learn a deeper compassion that allowed me to comfort others. (2 Corinthians 1:4-5)
So, how do you move past the daily pain of your circumstances to a secure walk with God? Although my losses have been different ones from yours, I have a feeling that the lessons that God would teach us are much the same. Here’s what I’ve learned…
Look for the good — Have you ever considered what good God might be bringing to you through your husband’s battle? (Romans 8:28). You might start with all the scriptures that talk about the blessings of suffering (see page 155 of Secure in Heart). In my case, God has used Dave’s struggles to bring me healing that I don’t believe would have happened any other way —everything from revealing codependent patterns to showing me my stubborn demand for a “fairy-tale Christian life.” I’d suggest making a habit of thanking God for putting your boundary lines (your circumstances) in exactly the right places (Psalm 16:6).
Persevere in prayer — One of my biggest roles as a wife is as my husband’s prayer warrior (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone down in the basement to my elliptical trainer (where I like to pray) with a heart bound up with fear, anxiety and insecurity over our circumstances. Although, I would sometimes put my head on the control panel and weep, God took me to new levels of surrender and trust. And then I could come back to my husband with peace, knowing that God had unleashed his angels on his (and our) behalf!
Even in weaker moments when I was too discouraged or insecure to pray, God showed me that the Spirit was interceding on my behalf (Romans 8:26). It’s comforting to know that God’s work extends far beyond the ups and downs of my own prayer life! With time and persistence in prayer, I saw God move in numerous ways on Dave’s behalf.
Focus on your example — I’ve found that when sin is obvious in my husband’s life, it’s easy to minimize my own calling to righteousness. In other words, I can find myself with more conviction over his sin than over my own—making room for Satan to establish a foothold in my heart through a critical spirit, pride, bitterness, self-righteousness, faithlessness and more (Ephesians 4:26-28). Perhaps that’s one reason Peter advised women with husbands who don’t believe to win them over by their personal righteousness (1 Peter 3:1). Ask God to “search and examine” your heart (Psalm 139:22-24) and show you ways that you can change and grow.
Be vulnerable with other women — As women, we have deep feelings about our closest relationships. As a result, we can carry a lot of shame, wondering whether the faithlessness of a spouse, child or other family member reflects poorly on us. I’ve found that the best way to scorn any shame I have about my circumstances is through vulnerability, first with God and then with other women. By opening up with the depths of my emotion (and with the specifics of our circumstances), I’ve learned that I’m never alone and found courage for my battles. Most of all, knowing that Jesus has gone before me, scorning the shame of the sin and heartache of all of us, gives me great hope (Hebrews 12: 1-3).
Trust your husband’s heart — Remind yourself continually that the story of your husband’s walk with God is far from over. Although it hurts to see him move towards God and then away again, those ups and downs are evidence that your husband is still battling to find his footing again spiritually. Your husband became a Christian because he fell in love with God, and that seed of faith within his heart hasn’t died.
I think of the prophecy about Jesus, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick, he will not put out” (Isaiah 42:3). Jesus certainly hasn’t given up on your husband. I’d suggest reading John Eldridge’s books, Wild at Heart and Journey of Desire, to better understand the losses and battles of a man’s heart. (You might even find opportunities to share some of your readings with your husband.)
Imitate God’s faithfulness — Sometimes those of us with unbelieving husbands or children are tempted to carry our family member’s struggles on my own shoulders, letting circumstances zap our joy and blur our focus. Indeed, the Bible reminds us that hope can be painful… “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). The good news is that God gives us a higher road to take. Even though our faithlessness hurts him (as a Father who loves us), he is still faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). Amazingly, his faithfulness doesn’t depend on the strength of our faith!
Likewise, the Bible calls those of us who have unbelievers in our households to let our faith sanctify them or set them apart as holy (1 Corinthians 7:14). In other words, clinging to your faith (even when your husband is faithless) has a huge impact, whether you currently see it or not. Biblically, this allows us to “patiently hope for what we do not yet have” (Romans 8:24-26), and to live with joy and confidence in the meantime (Romans 8:38).
Paul strengthened the disciples in Iconium and Antioch by, “encouraging them that they must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-23). Although, none of us would ask for these kind of struggles, the truth is that they are rich with mercy and ultimately help secure our entry into God’s eternal kingdom.