Writer’s Note: The following blog is written for spouses who both follow Jesus. If you are married to a spouse that does not know Jesus, we join you in prayer as you pray for their salvation. We pray for your spouse just as Jesus did for unbelievers in John 17:3, "that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent—Jesus Christ."
When my husband was in seminary, I remember how excited he was when he came home from classes. It was as though he was sitting under a fire hydrant of biblical knowledge. He grew in leaps in bounds in his walk with the Lord during that time.
And then there was me—trying to grow from what seemed like a dripping faucet.
I felt like I was missing out and did not know what to do. Now, flash forward ten years. My husband faced some health problems that led him to question what God was doing in that season of life. His walk was struggling while mine was flourishing in new and exciting ways.
Once again, we found ourselves in different places spiritually.
Why do I tell you these two stories from my past? Well, if you are married, or plan to be one day, you will face some version of these accounts. The details will likely be different, but the issue of being in a different place spiritually will happen in your marriage. This does not mean you are unequally yoked—meaning one spouse is a believer and one spouse is not a believer. This means that you are both saved by grace, your growth is just at different speeds in different seasons. As we think through this, we will look at the response we should have from both sides.
When my husband was growing rapidly, and I felt left behind, the last thing I wanted to hear was, “try harder” or “try this” or “let me tell you everything I am learning.” Those statements, or ones similar to them, only made me feel worse and even more convicted that something was not right.
What helped me the most was when my husband asked me gentle, probing questions to help me diagnose what was going on in my heart and what barriers were blocking my growth. He made sure to encourage me, point me to Scripture, and give me time to wrestle with my feelings and the Lord. And while he continued to grow and remained excited about all he was learning, he did not continually throw it in my face. With time and prayer, we both realized I lacked community and accountability. Once I found a Bible study group that enabled my walk to flourish, my husband ensured our schedules supported my attendance and participation.
On the flip side, when my husband went through a difficult, dry season, these same principles applied. He needed patience, encouragement, and intentionality from me while he was in a hard season. One of the most important things we can remember in our marriages is that our spouse is also our brother in Christ (or sister for any men reading along). The Apostle Paul clearly tells brothers and sisters in Christ how to treat each other in Romans 12:10–16 when he says,
Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Take the lead in honoring one another. Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
As brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the baseline from which we begin. But the beautiful thing about marriage is that we are also one flesh—we are a team on mission for the gospel. In Mark 10:7–8, Jesus quotes from the Genesis account as he teaches the Pharisees who are trying to trap him. He says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” In those verses, He affirms His Father’s mandate for marriage. And then, in verse nine, He adds, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” God has joined you and your spouse together, and He wants nothing to separate you. That includes seasons when you may not be on the same page spiritually. Satan wants to cause division within Christian marriages, even by using our spiritual growth or lack of spiritual growth against each other. When we realize these seasons will come, and we have a plan in place to combat them, our marriages can survive and even thrive through it.
Below are some practical steps to implement as you encourage and spur your spouse on in their walk with the Lord. Your spouse is your God-given partner with whom you display the beauty of Christ and His bride, the Church, to a watching world. Love each other well, serve each other wholeheartedly, and give all praise to the Lord who sees you through!
- Choose a Scripture passage to pray over one another based on the season you find yourselves in.
- Encourage one another through notes, texts, and verses.
- Remember that it is the Holy Spirit who brings conviction—share the truth of God’s Word in love not in condemnation.
- Look for tangible ways to help your spouse grow. That may be opening up space and time for them to seek accountability, attend a Bible Study, or take over a task around your home to give them more time in the Word.
- Be patient! Whether you are the one who feels stuck or you are the one who is praying for your spouse who is stuck, be patient as the Lord works and seek Him through this season.
“Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.” — Galatians 6:9–10