Today, I offer you an advice column with a question coming from a friend in ministry in Southeast Asia.
Question: We have a great woman at our church but her husband, formerly a church leader, has turned away from God over a leadership concern. They have two kids and she is trying to teach them the ways of God but encounters resistance from her husband 24/7.
How can we help?
Answer: He may have been wounded by church people. Whatever his part may have been in the break with the church and with God, he is now in a place of pain, anger, and possibly guilt and shame. That’s a complicated emotional meal to swallow, and his wife keeps placing it before him by her work and support of the church.
The wife’s challenge now: honor God AND honor her husband –who apparently doesn’t want her to honor God in her accustomed ways.
She must not compromise her own faith. She must also not ask her husband to compromise his current stance. I’ve often wanted to walk away from the church because of the actions of those who call themselves Christian. But then I ask myself, “How many others have wanted to walk away because of ME?” I’m not immune from doing some pretty awful things in the name of Jesus.Her husband speaks his truth: he can’t do church and God now. Truth beats a lie, the pretense of being Christian. It is a good starting place.
The wife will do best if she also speaks truth. Among other things, is she using her husband’s disregard of God as an excuse to disregard her husband and his needs? I’m not saying she should leave her love for God behind. May it never be!!!! I’m saying that living out of the love of God in this situation may have to be done in a way that she has not yet considered.
The wife can live from her love for God by loving her husband fully. That means acknowledging that he is a person of value to God, even in this time of disbelief.
You want to comfort this woman. Be careful here–and I say this out of personal experience now. Often the person who looks the most righteous in a marital spat is the root cause of the problem–a deeper issue that surfaces as a disagreement over spiritual matters.
In a situation like this, the wife may easily cast herself as the noble martyr with the unrighteous husband. But the kindest and most loving act she can do is encourage her husband to explore what it means for him to declare himself separated from God. Ask him to define what that means for him personally, and what that means for them as a couple and as parents. What does he think is right for the children’s Christian instruction? Is he willing to let them hear Bible stories and learn to pray? If not, why not? If so, within what bounds?
The wife needs to ask similar questions. What does it mean for her to continue to seek to be a woman of God, a disciple of Jesus Christ? How does that play out in the mundane tasks of caring for a household, rearing children, loving her husband, doing ministry with the church? Out of my experience, I have learned there is a fine line between living as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ and being an arrogant and hypocritical prig, looking down my nose at others who do not believe as I think they should or act in the ways I want them to.
Wish there were an easier fix. Discipleship is always messy.