A listener of The Naked Marriage Podcast recently sent a Facebook message to Ashley and me asking our advice. Her message echoed a frustration we have heard from many wives over the years. She said,
“Dave and Ashley, first of all, thank you for all you do to help married couples! I’ve been so encouraged by your podcast, your book, and all your resources. I’m writing to you today because I feel stuck and I’m not sure what to do. Here’s the situation. I’ve always wanted my husband to be the spiritual leader of the family, but he doesn’t seem to have any interest in going to church, praying, Bible study, serving together or any aspect of faith. He says he’s a Christian and I believe that he believes in Jesus, but he doesn’t seem to want to make any effort in things related to faith. The few times he has prayed with me or gone to church with me, I feel SO much closer to him, but those moments are very rare. How can I encourage my husband to be more of a spiritual leader? How can I help him prioritize his faith for his benefit and the benefit of our whole family without nagging him? I really feel stuck and discouraged. My faith in Christ is the most important part of my life, and right now, I don’t get to share that with my husband. Help! Thanks so much for reading this.” –Amber L.
Can YOU relate to Amber’s struggle in your marriage? Our experience over the years has revealed the sad truth that countless wives (and some husbands too) feel this friction and frustration in their marriage. If you want and need your spouse to step up and make faith more of a priority, here are some things you can do.
1. Trust in God’s Timing
“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)
Remember that you don’t have the power to change your spouse. Your primary job is to love your spouse and trust God to work through His love and your love to bring about changes. Remember that God loves your spouse even more than you do so in your prayers, keep thanking the Lord for the good in your life. Trust Him with your pain and frustration and consistently pray for your spouse. Keep praying! You might be the only person in your husband’s life who is praying for him, and your prayers have power.
2. Be an Encourager; Not a Critic
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
When you’re frustrated by your spouse’s behavior in ANY aspect of marriage (whether it’s faith-related or not), there’s a temptation to be snarky, sarcastic, cold or critical. Resist that temptation, because those negative behaviors are much more likely to cause more resentment than to create any healthy changes. When your spouse does something praiseworthy, make a BIG deal about it. Cheer on the good much more than you’re focusing on what you’d like to change. Encouragement almost always brings about more positive change than criticism or nagging.
3. Keep Prioritizing Your Faith, Even While You’re Waiting for Your Spouse to Join You
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time, we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
Don’t get stuck on autopilot while you’re waiting for your husband to step up. Remember that you have direct access to God through Christ and you can boldly approach His throne of Grace anytime. Keep praying. Keep setting the right example for your kids (and for your spouse). Keep making church attendance and involvement a priority. I know it’s more difficult when your spouse doesn’t partner with you in these things, but don’t let that stop you.
4. Keep Loving Your Spouse the Way God Loves
“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
God gives us His best when we are at our worst. He forgives us of our worst sins. He sacrifices for us when we’re in no position to repay and then we’re called to love each other the way He loves us. Don’t treat your spouse the way your spouse treats you; treat your spouse the way God treats you. Keep giving your best. Continue to be a good spouse and a good witness. Don’t lose hope or lose faith. God is only asking your faithfulness. He’ll handle the rest.