The Bible is clear about not being "unequally yoked," but what if you become a Christian once married and your spouse doesn't follow suit?
Christian authors Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller spoke about being married to nonbelieving husbands today on Focus on the Family radio.
In their co-authored book, Winning Him Without Words, they highlight the struggles of being in a marriage where their spouse doesn't share their spiritual beliefs, and also how to overcome and thrive regardless of the situation.
Both Donovan and Miller went to church as children, but walked away from it in their early 20s and throughout college. During those years they both met their husbands and were married, and said Christianity didn't play a pivotal role in their lives.
But three years into Donavan's marriage she came back to her faith, even though her spouse wanted nothing to do with it. It was then, she said, that they "stepped off into the journey of being unequally yoked."
She explained that this caused some resentment and fear on her husband's part. "This isn't the girl I married," he thought.
It made for a rocky road at the beginning, and Donovan noted that in many "unequal" marriages this tension often leads to jealousy because the wife's attention is more focused on another man – pursuing Christ – rather than him.
Miller said she struggled with the same thing after she became the Christian in her marriage. She said she would take the children to church and was actively reading the Bible and pursuing her faith. Meanwhile, her husband decided he was an atheist.
She said this inequality is hard, but she learned not to put her husband in a situation where he felt like he was competing with her faith. "When God is the number one priority, then the husband is next, God works in us to take care of our spouse," Miller said.
Both women stressed that being a Christian in the marriage isn't about proving yourself so that your husband will come to Christ.
Donovan noted that in the early years of her faith she felt like she had to be just like Jesus and defend him and couldn't do anything wrong. But she soon realized it wasn't a sustainable way to live. She told her husband; "I'm a work in progress. There is so much pressure a wife puts on herself in an unequally yoked marriage – you have to give yourself forgiveness."
Both women emphasized that it's often more powerful to represent Christ in your actions rather than trying to nag or pressure your spouse into coming to church or becoming a Christian.
Miller had this problem in the early years of her marriage. She said she tried everything to get her husband to come to Christ; it became her personal mission. But she realized, "Jesus doesn't need my help," and that helped her come to a place where she could trust God and also love her husband.
"Forcing it on him backfires," she said. "I was creating problems trying to force it."
Agreeing, Donovan said, "You cannot save them, Jesus is going to save them. You live your life, love Jesus and that's what winning him without words is all about. You let him see how much your life is a model of Christ's love." She said she finally learned that "a man can ignore a nagging wife but he cannot ignore a transformed life."