Hello there and welcome to this week's Open Forum question! Just a note to our readers and commenters...we're are working through your questions in the order that the Holy Spirit leads so please don't think we've overlooked anyone. More than anything our goal is to keep God in the driver seat here at SUM. And please feel free to leave any questions today for future posts. We're here to serve you!
This week's question is from Caroline:
"Thank you for your blog which has been of great insight and inspiration to me. Would you also give some thoughts or advice to someone who is/has been in a deep relationship with someone who is not really a believer, though not yet married to this person. Congratulations on the good work that the Lord has led you both to do. I am a newcomer to the blog and I have been blessed very much these past months from your sharing."
Lynn's Answer: From time-to-time I receive emails from young men and women who are engaged or in a relationship with an nonbeliever. In fact, just last week an email arrived from - I will call her Jane. Her email was similar to Caroline's question. Jane has given me permission to share my reply.
Oh Jane, My dear sweet friend....
This is a very difficult question to answer. I can only share with you what I have experienced in my life.
For many, years I was unhappy and the loneliness seemed unbearable at times. When you are unequally yoked there is a deep need in you to share your Jesus with your husband. Mine didn't want to have anything to do with Jesus and often made me feel stupid or insecure about my faith. I shed a lot of tears.
With that said, we have now found a peace about my faith and my husband has closed the distance between him and Christ. However, he still remains uncommitted.
Where I think we struggle besides the loneliness is in raising kids. This seems to be a giant area for conflict in a mismatched marriage. With these things in mind, talk with God about your future with your fiancé. Then talk with your fiancé, ask him about how you will handle church - going or not going. How to handle raising the children to have faith... Then let the Lord direct you. If you are getting that weird feeling in your heart or stomach, please listen to it. Living unequally yoked is challenging but can be done and you can be happy. However, it often comes with a high cost. Sometimes it is worth the price and sometimes it is not.
O Lord our God, I hold up Jane before your throne with Jesus at our side. Lord, this is a critical time in this beautiful woman's life. She is desperately in love with you and with her fiancé. God, I know this place and it is hard to hear your voice. Please, Lord, make a clear path for Jane. Lead her to happiness and a long loving relationship with you and with her future spouse. Lord, I pray that if this is the man for Jane you would intervene and save this man for the Kingdom before their marriage. Lord, give Jane wisdom and courage to follow your will for her life. I know you have fantastic plans for Jane. Bigger than she can even dream up right now. Keep her in the very palm of your hand. In Jesus powerful and life-changing name, Amen
Jane, write me anytime. I hope my words here are not too painful but truly helpful to see your way clear to your future. God bless you.
Love and hugs, Lynn
Dineen's Answer: Great question, Caroline. And this is one of the hardest questions we get asked here at SUM. First, let's take a look at the Scriptural reference to the topic:
Do not be
yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and
wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with
darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What
agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the
temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and
walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." — 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 (NIV)
Paul takes a very clear stance on this issue. And this applies to all areas—business partners, marriage...people we allow to influence our lives. And there's a good reason for this. Living out our faith in this fallen world is tough enough as it is. Adding an unbelieving influence in our lives creates turmoil and can even lead us away from our faith. God is not calling us to isolate ourselves from unbelievers, otherwise we'd never get to share his grace and mercy. This refers to a relationship where two people are "yoked" by a commitment or contract.
So my answer to you, Caroline, and how I wish I could speak to you in person on this, is to really encourage you to pray for God to show you if this is a relationship you should continue. I certainly would discourage you from moving into a marriage to an unbeliever without doing this first, and exploring the questions (and future issues) Lynn suggested above.
But let me tell you that even if he takes no issue with this aspect of your life now, he could later. I've been married to my husband for 21 years, 13 of them unequally yoked. It's harder NOW than ever. Think about your relationship with God, what your faith means to who and what you are. Consider this carefully. Now think about how you feel when you can't share the essence of who you are or are becoming.
This is the true heartache of a SUM. On a spiritual level there is no connection with that other person. You can't share the moments you see God working in your life, you can't ask the person nearest and dearest to you for godly wisdom, or even to pray for you. In this sense, you wind up alone in the marriage and the relationship. The burden of this need has to fall on Christ, which, to be honest, sometimes lacks flesh, if you know what I mean. You find there's a part of yourself, a very important part, that you just can't share because he doesn't understand and can't comprehend what they don't know. It's as simple as that. There's also a lot of spiritual warfare in this kind of marriage because you, the believer, are on the front lines to an unbeliever. The battle will even overlap onto your children.
This is what I've found to be true in my own marriage. Let me be clear though. I adore my husband. People look at him and how he lives and wonder how he can't be a Christian, but he's not. He's a firm atheist.
Will I love my husband for better or for worse? For richer or poorer? Or in sickeness or in health? You bet I will! I'm totally and completely devoted to this guy, and I praise God for putting us together despite the faith disconnect we experience now. God has used my marriage and my hubby to make me more Christ-like. I've had to walk that path in particular to not only survive but to THRIVE in my marriage. It can be done, but it takes a lot of work, a lot of heartache, and a whole lot of prayers. (Our two girls are firm believers and pray for their dad too.)
Most importantly, Caroline, be obedient to God. Lynn and I can't tell you what to do. We can only share our own experiences with you and what we've learned. And if anything, we've come to learn that first and foremost, obedience to God is the key. No matter what situation you're in.
I hope this helps. My prayer is that our words are received with the intentions behind them, to speak the truth in love. Not to judge or condemn in any way.
Praying and believing, Dineen