Raising Kids with an Unbelieving Spouse

September 08, 2022

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Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello, friends, and welcome to the Foundation Worldview Podcast, where we answer your questions so that you can get the kids in your care thinking critically about every idea they encounter so they can understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm Elizabeth Urbanowicz, your host, and I'm so excited to be here with you today. We're going to dive right into our question for the day.

This question says, "How can I faithfully disciple my children when my spouse is not following Christ?" This is a very important question because I know that many of you watching are deeply committed to your relationship with Jesus. Yet, you're in a situation where your spouse is either not a Christian or has walked away from Jesus. So, it's really important that we think through, what does family discipleship look like in a context where you are following Jesus and your spouse is not?

The first thing that I would encourage you to do is to pray. Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. Now, even for those of you watching who have a spouse who is faithfully following Jesus, I would encourage you to make that your first step in the discipleship process of your children, as well, to pray, that we need to have this daily moment by moment connection with God, recognizing that He is the vine, we are the branches, and apart from Him, we can quite literally do nothing because He is both our creator and our sustainer.

So, I would encourage you to pray, pray for your spouse, pray that God would soften his or her heart and would open their eyes to the truth and the goodness and the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray for your spouse daily, pray that you will have what you need to love your spouse well. Pray for your children. Pray that God would be softening your children's hearts, that He would show them daily, their need for a savior, and that that savior is only Jesus. Pray that God would give you wisdom in all of the situations that you daily encounter with your child and that you would be able to point him or her towards the truth of the gospel in every situation.

I encourage you to just make prayer a habit. Carve out specific times in your day to pray, whether that be early in the morning, before you go to bed, but also just challenge yourself just to be continually talking to the Lord throughout the day. Now, I don't mean that, every single moment, you have to be talking to God. Right now, I am talking to you. I am not talking to God at the same time, but just make it a natural thing, that when something happens that you're grateful for, even just to say, "Oh God, thank you for this." When something happens that's difficult, say, "God, please give me wisdom." Okay? When a need arises, to turn to God first before you turn to anyone or anything else. So, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray.

The second thing that I would encourage you to do is to be faithful in your marriage because, in Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul makes clear that marriage is a gift from God that is supposed to point to Christ and the church, that marriage here on Earth is a temporary state. It's a temporary state that was meant to paint that picture of the gospel. So, even if your spouse is not following Christ, you can still paint a picture of the gospel by faithfully fulfilling the role that God has given you to fulfill in that marriage.

If you're a husband with an unbelieving wife or if you're husband with a believing wife, your role is to love your wife as Christ loved the church. Every day on a daily basis, you are supposed to be laying down your life for her. That doesn't mean catering to her every whim, but it means doing what is best for her in any and every situation. As you do this, even if your wife does not follow Jesus and therefore does not live out the calling of a biblical wife, you can still paint the picture of the gospel by following that command, to be a husband who loves his wife as Christ loved the church. If you're a wife, follow the command to submit to your husband, so far as it's pleasing to the Lord. Obviously, you're not going to submit to something that is sinful, but as you submit to your husband, as you love him through that submission, you are painting a picture for your children, for your husband, for the watching world of the gospel of how the church is called to submit to and honor Christ.

Now, just as an addendum there, love and submission, biblical submission, is not submitting to sin. If you find yourself in an abusive situation where you and your children are in harm, the most loving thing that you can do for your children and for your spouse is to call the authorities. Submission does not mean just taking abuse. That's not what I'm saying here, but what I am saying is that, even if your spouse is not following Christ, you can still paint a picture of the gospel in your home by the way that you live out your calling as a Christian husband or a Christian wife, and you do this whether or not your spouse reciprocates, even for those of you watching who have a spouse who is following Jesus.

Scripture doesn't say, "Wives, make sure your husbands love you as Christ loves the church." As a wife, you are not called to make your husband love you in that way. It's the husband who is called to do that. Similarly, husbands are not called to make their wives submit to them. Wives are called to do that, but husbands are not called to make them do that. We are called to obey God through the way that we care for our spouse, whether or not our spouse is faithfully following Jesus.

You might be thinking right now, "Well, the question was about, how do we disciple children? It's not about, how do we build a godly marriage?" You're right, but part of the discipleship process for our children is living out the gospel, living out a biblical worldview in front of them. So, your role as a spouse is foundational there. Your children are watching you, whether you like it or not. Who knows, that through your faithfulness to your marriage that your spouse might not be drawn to Jesus.

In 1 Peter, in chapter 3, verses 1 and 2, Peter writes, "Likewise , wives be subject to your own husbands so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be one without a word by the conduct of their wives when they see your respectful and pure conduct." Now it says, "Who knows, but that they might be." It doesn't say that they will definitely be one over, but what an opportunity to live out the gospel in your home before your spouse and before your children.

Now, getting back to the part about how we're investing in our children. That's how we're modeling the gospel for our children, how we're intentionally investing in them from a biblical worldview. Be intentional and honest with your kids about your faith. Okay? Be honest with them about why you're a Christian. Why do you believe Christianity is true? Why is it your hope and your prayer that they will come to know and to love and to trust Jesus? So, as far as you are able to in your household, establish routines for reading scripture, for praying, for talking about scripture. Okay? Establish these routines as much as you are able to. If you're in a situation where your spouse makes it very, very difficult because he or she is very antagonistic towards the gospel, be intentional about creating relationships with other families where this is modeled in their home so that your children can see. Even if it's not able to be consistently seen in your home, they're able to see other homes where this is consistently modeled, and just model for them the living out of a biblical worldview.

Now, going back to your marriage, part of this will mean talking positively about your spouse. Now, this doesn't mean saying positive things that are not true. Okay? If your spouse does not do a good job of loving you or your children, you're not going to say to your children, "Oh, he's the best husband and father in the world," or, "She's the best wife and mom in the world." No, but you can choose not to speak negatively, and when you see your spouse doing something that is positive, you can choose to praise him or her before your child so that your child sees that you are genuinely seeking to love your spouse.

As far as modeling this biblical worldview, be intentional about the media that you choose to consume, show your children what it looks like to really meditate on the things of God and to only want to focus on those things found in Philippians 4:8, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is excellent, whatever is praiseworthy, that those are the things that you want to think on. Be intentional about how you choose to spend your time. How should a Christian invest his or her free time as a Christian wife, as a Christian husband, as a Christian mom, as a Christian dad? How should you choose to invest your time? Model this for your kids?

Another really big one, and this is for someone, whether you have an unbelieving spouse or a believing spouse, is thinking through how you discipline your children. Do you discipline them out of anger? Do you wait till a point until where you're just so frustrated and then you snap and you discipline them out of anger, or are you consistent with them in your discipline because you genuinely want what is best for them? After you discipline them, do you take time to then go and talk with your child? Do you take time to talk with him and ask him questions about what he did, why he did it, what she was thinking, what she was feeling, why she decided to make that decision?

The purpose of asking these questions is not so you can say, "Oh, yes, I understand. Clearly, it was right that you punched your brother." No. The point of asking those questions is to help our children reflect so that they see that it's not just that they made a little mistake. It's that their heart is sinful, that we're all sinful. We all fall short of God's perfect standard. Therefore, we need Jesus. So, be intentional at the way that you discipline your children.

Then, we are all sinful. So, whether you're a person with a believing spouse or an unbelieving spouse, we're all going to sin against our children. That's just the nature of reality. So, be intentional about when you have sinned against your child. Don't just sweep it under the rug. Don't just move on. Don't just try to repay with some form of a gift. Actually go to your child, confess what you did, ask for forgiveness, and repent of that because, when you do that, you're removing that sin that is currently separating you from your child, and you're reestablishing that relationship and showing them the gospel, showing them what it means to confess, repent, and be forgiven. So, be intentional with all of those things in your home so that you are actually modeling a biblical worldview before your child.

Now, some of those things that I mentioned may seem very overwhelming, and you may think, "Oh, my goodness, I am so far from being in a place where I actually do this consistently, where I'm careful about what I watch, where I'm really speaking positively of my spouse, where I'm disciplining my children in a place where I'm not disciplining out of anger."

That's okay. That's okay. It's not okay to stay stuck there, but it's okay to be there right now, to ask God for help, to ask other believers in your life to hold you accountable, and then to be intentional at the times when you do sin against your children or your spouse, that you're intentional at confessing and repenting and asking for forgiveness because, you know what? It is so much more valuable for a child to see the gospel lived out in that way than for a parent to try to pretend that they're perfect because maybe we could fool some people who only see us once a week or once a month. Maybe we could fool them into believing that we're perfect.

With someone who lives with us, absolutely no way. Absolutely no way could we convince that person that we're perfect because we're not and because our sin shows the most with those who we love the most, those who we are most comfortable and confident in our relationship with them. So, just start where you are, ask God for help, ask those in the body, your local body of Christ, to hold you accountable, and then be intentional at confessing and repenting and asking for forgiveness when you sin.

The final thing that I would encourage you to do, now, I know for those of you who are watching, who are in a situation where you are a believer and your spouse is not, there can be a whole variety of reasons that you ended up in that place. You could have married your spouse when he or she was professing to follow Christ, and then somewhere along the way, he or she turned away. That's completely beyond your control.

You could have gotten married when you were not a believer, and then you came to know Jesus when you were married and your spouse has not come to know Jesus yet, or you could be someone who really didn't find faith that important when you were dating and then found it important later on in your marriage, and so now you're unequally yolked. I know that there's a whole host of reasons. There may even be more that I haven't mentioned, but something that I would really encourage you how you can be a real encouragement to the body of Christ is we're alive at a time right now where relationships, all relationships, but specifically romantic relationships are just kind of a mess. There's really no great outlet for people to be able to meet one another in a place where it's really safe, where they're in the context of community, where they're surrounded by others who are speaking into their lives and guiding them towards, is this God's will for your life? Is this a wise decision to move forward in a covenantal relationship with this person?

So, we're just in a situation that's just kind of very ... It's just a mess right now in culture. So, I would really encourage you since you're walking through the day ins and day outs of life with a spouse who is not a believer, I would encourage you to just really look in your local body of Christ. Where are single people who might need encouragement to be very intentional in how they're dating and how they're building relationships? Because I'm sure you've seen this, and I've seen this so often where someone's really, really loves Jesus and is also really longing to get married. Therefore, they're willing to date someone who might just be a Christian by name, but all the fruit in their life is showing that they're not really a Christian. So, you have boots on the ground experience of how difficult it is and how heartbreaking it is to try to raise a child or children in a marriage where you're unequally yolked.

So, please reach out to those who are in your local body of Christ, and really encourage them to be very intentional at the romantic relationships that they're willing to enter into because you know when hormones are raging and romance is really high, it can be really easy to downplay some of the essential qualities that we really want in a spouse. So, would really encourage you to reach out to those in your local body of Christ.

Again, just encourage you pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. Be faithful at obeying the calling to be a Christian husband or to be a Christian wife. Even if your spouse does not reciprocate, you're being a living Bible to your children, you're being a living picture of the gospel to your children and to your spouse, and then be intentional about the routines that you're establishing in your home and how you're living out the biblical worldview in front of your children.

Well, that's the end of our episode for today. May God continue to bless you and give you wisdom as you seek to disciple the children that he has placed in your care. I'll see you next time.

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