Going It Alone (Part 1)

June 3, 2016

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Jennifer McGehee

Is it Possible to have a Gospel Centered Marriage If I’m Married to a Non-Christian?

This is the first of three posts highlighting the difficulties, responsibilities, and encouragements to Christians who are in “unequally yoked” marriages. Today’s post examines challenges unique to these marriages.

Many Christians are in “unequally yoked” marriages, whether by choice (a believer knowingly married an unbeliever) or by providence (one spouse is saved after marriage). Marriage to an unbeliever can be challenging, but it can also be a rich environment for the Christian to experience God’s help and mercy in personal and profound ways, so take heart. You are a child of God, and as such, it is possible for you to experience the gospel in the center your marriage.

Why It’s Hard

Though it might be difficult to admit to yourself or to others, marriage to a non-believer presents challenges and disappointments that only you can truly understand. You are not crazy, weak, or sinful for struggling to stay joyful and hopeful when:

  1. You cannot share with the person who is supposed to be closest to you the greatest joys, hopes, and concerns of your heart, because they are spiritually understood and she does not have the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).
  2. As a Christian, you want to obey Jesus’ command to share the gospel (Matt 28:19), but you are not able to do so with the help and cooperation of your life-mate, who would ideally be with you “striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). Instead, he is your mission field (Jude 22-23).
  3. You long to love someone who the Bible indicates is foolish, hard-hearted, and condemned, though we are commanded and encouraged to do so (Psalm 14:1; John 3:18; Matthew 5:44-48; Jude 22).
  4. You are permanently joined with a person who — depending upon your spouse’s character and temperament— might have completely different values with regard to children and child-rearing, finances, the use of time, the meaning and purpose of sex, the meaning and purpose of leisure pursuits/hobbies, or how to negotiate decisions. The two of you together cannot use Scripture or corporate prayer as your “go-to” for “third-party” input as two Christians could do (Matthew 18:19-20).
  5. You as a Christian are literally a completely different “animal” from a non-Christian (2 Corinthians 5:17). Everything about you is different from your unbelieving spouse: your values (John 15:18-19), your destiny (John 3:16-18), the way you think (1 Corinthians 2:16), and even the use and evaluation of your physical body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 15:42-44), yet you are ONE with him (Mark 10:8-9). How is that supposed to work?

If you are married to a non-believer, you can doubtlessly identify other challenges. Hopefully this post encourages you by acknowledging the reality of your struggle. You might feel alone in it, but the Lord is with you to comfort and strengthen you. In our next post we will examine your responsibilities as a believer married to a non-believer.

Join the Conversation

How does it help to know that the struggles of marriage to a non-believer are struggles that the Lord will help you with?