How does a wife live with a husband who is not a believer or who is a believer that has forsaken God in his life? It is heartbreaking for any Christian to know that someone they love is not a believer in Jesus Christ. This is especially true for a woman who is married to an unbelieving husband. She is naturally distressed for her husband’s eternal life but also saddened about his wasted life on earth. It is extremely difficult for her to know how to live according to God’s design when her husband is not interested in God, His Word, or living in obedience to God? I pray this article will encourage the wife of an unsaved, as well as for an unspiritual, husband of the fact that there is always hope with God.
My husband and I once hosted a dinner in our home with an unbelieving man and his Christian wife. The man sat at our table, in front of our three young children, vehemently denying Christ and declaring that the Bible was only a book of myths. Approximately two years after this incident, the man wrote to me and said that he had become a Christian! He told me that his gentle wife had been reading The Late Great Plant Earth by Hal Lindsey and that one day he picked it up to read a little (maybe thinking it was a science-fiction story). By God’s grace, upon reading that book, he became convinced that the Bible was indeed the true Word of God. He then realized that he was a sinner and personally accepted Christ as his Savior. I am not suggesting that every husband will respond to that particular book (or any other) in the same way. I am only saying that God is completely able to awaken even the most adamant unbeliever.
My husband and I are also examples of people who denied Christ until adulthood. Rick and another employee used to badger a Christian co-worker about his faith. The harassed man could not answer all their questions, but we later realized that God had used him to plant a seed which took root after a few years. About the same time, God put us in the midst of a number of Christians who greatly influenced our budding conviction that the Bible was God’s Word. One of these gave Rick a set of Basic Bible lessons that sat on a shelf for a while. Soon thereafter, my husband became so ill with the flu that he could barely get out of bed for three days. We listened to those tapes, one right after another for 21 hours, and we both became convinced of our need for salvation. Over the next several months, my husband and I accepted Christ, as did all of our children. Not only that, the other unbelieving co-worker and his entire family also became believers. Eventually, my husband and that same co-worker were instrumental in starting a Bible church in the Dallas area that faithfully taught the Word to hundreds of people.
But, what about the believing wife who was married to the unsaved man in the first example above? How was it possible for her to live according to God’s plan while her husband was an angry unbeliever? The answer was that she treated him with the same respectful and submissive attitude that she would have if he had been a spiritual husband. She didn’t judge, belittle, or attempt to force her faith on him in any way. She faithfully lived her life as a Beacon or light shining on Jesus Christ.
Much of the following section borrows heavily from my husband’s research and writing on the topic of the relationship every believer should exhibit to unbelievers. It is found in his series, Five Facets of the Balanced Christian Life, Volume II.
For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6; see also Matthew 5:13-16; Philippians 2:15; 1 Peter 3:15).
The relationship each Christian woman should have with all those outside the family of God (in other words, unbelievers) or an unspiritual husband, is to act as a Beacon. She focuses light on Jesus Christ by,
- Expressing love for the unbeliever by following God’s Commandments concerning how a Christian should treat all fellow human beings
- Living her life before him as an open testimony/witness/evidence of her confidence in God’s Promises, Wisdom, and Power
- Being always prepared (knowledgeable of God’s Word) and eager to state (but not by forcing or preaching) the reasons for her confidence in God to those who truly desire to have that information.
I am using the term Beacon as an instrument like a flashlight that focuses its beam on something in the dark. Every believer, including wives, needs to learn precisely what the Bible says about the important function of being a beacon and the proper role it should play in the Christian life.
THE BEACON PRINCIPLE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Jesus Christ—the Light of the World
The prophecy that Jesus Christ would come as a light to the Gentiles was announced in the Old Testament. The fulfillment of this prophecy became a reality after their Messiah was rejected by God’s Chosen people, the Jews.
I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6). [Comment: These verses reveal the twofold mission that God the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ to fulfill. He was not only the embodiment of the first covenant to Israel (the people); He came to bring a new covenant to both Israel and to the Gentiles.]
While Jesus lived on the earth, He was the light of the world.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light (John 1:6-8; see also 8:12; 9:5; 12:36, and 12:46).
Principle: God intends that every believer (one who is born from above, i.e., Spiritually alive) is to be a light (beacon) to reveal Jesus to the unbelieving world.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:13-15). [Comment: Believers who accept even the distasteful things in life without grumbling or complaining reflect that God is working through them. Their attitude stands in stark contrast (like a light in darkness) to those of the warped and twisted world around them.]
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8). [Comment: Believers are exhorted in this verse (and many others) to conduct their lives in a manner consistent with their position. No longer children of darkness (Ephesians 2:1-3); they are children of light (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Therefore, believers should live their lives as examples of what is good, right, moral, and beneficial.]
The purpose of this light is to act as a beacon that points the unbeliever to Jesus Christ. Of course, light is readily seen, but what is more important is that which it illuminates. How a woman conducts her life is visible to unbelievers; however, the focus should always be on God, the source of the power that energizes her. The light of Christ now shines through you. Although the light-bearer should not be the focus of the light, neither should his life discredit his testimony.
How is a Believer to be a Light to the World?
If a Christian woman is going to advertise her relationship with Christ openly, she should make sure her testimony brings glory to Him. (I might suggest that you do not intentionally draw attention to yourself, but simply live your life as a good testimony at all times.) A Christian woman should be aware that her life is an open book.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). [Comment: As a believer, your deeds are on display, but God is the one to be glorified, not you. A believer’s testimony should never focus on herself, but only on the Person and/or Work of God. Even the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus, never Himself (John 16:14).]
A Believer Demonstrates God’s Love toward all Humanity by,
- Expressing love for other people simply by following God’s Commandments about how a believer should treat all people. Believers are in debt to treat others with love by doing them no wrong. (Jesus defines who a neighbor is in Luke 10:29-37, and your husband qualifies.)
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14; see also Romans 13:10 and James 2:8).
- Believers are to pray for all mankind, especially authorities. Wives, this includes your husbands:
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4; emphasis added).
- Living her life before her husband is an open testimony, witness, and evidence of her confidence in God’s Promises, Wisdom, and Power. When an unbeliever is drawn to Christ by the testimony of God in a believer’s life, he is sometimes being directed by the believer’s beacon-like focus upon Christ.
Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever (Daniel 12:3). [Comment: Proverbs 11:30 says the same thing when correctly translated, The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls. (Incorrect translations often say, “and he who wins souls is wise.” This suggests the opposite; that Divine Wisdom comes from winning souls.)
Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one (Colossians 4:5-6).
This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men (Titus 3:8).
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:11-12). [Comment: These last two passages use the Greek word kalos to describe the type of “good” these believers are exhibiting. Kalos specifically means the type of good that is considered “right” or “moral” by normal humanity. The Greek word ethnos, translated “Gentiles” in this 1 Peter passage, refers here to pagans or unbelievers. (All people have a law code written in their conscience and know right from wrong. They quite naturally expect Christians to live by this code, whether they themselves do or not.)]
- Being always prepared to present information about Jesus Christ and Salvation to those who humbly ask a believer the reason for his confidence in God.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. (1 Peter 3:15-16).
An Important Note
A Christian wife must realize that while the Lord works to convict an unbelieving or an unspiritual husband, the family may experience extreme pressure. She must be willing to put herself in God’s hands and be prepared for that pressure. As she prays for God to reveal to her husband his need for salvation (or for his need for a committed Christian life), God will be working to capture his attention. Pressure may come to bear on her husband that are intended by God to cause him to be receptive to His Word. The loss of a job or an illness has been used in the past to bring tough guys to their knees. This testing period will be critical for both a husband and a wife.
A loving and supportive wife is perhaps even more important at this time than at any other. She must be willing to suffer the pressures that God is using to turn her husband to Him. She must endure this while also refraining from attempting to remove those pressures. If she tries to protect or rescue her husband from experiencing difficulties in his life, she may be interfering with God’s purposes for those pressures. However, if she persists in being a biblical wife, her loyalty can be the basis of a deeper relationship with her husband. God may even use her example to draw her husband to Himself.
But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands (1 Peter 3:4–5).
To God be the Glory, Great Things He Has Done. Amen!
Virginia Ruth Fugate