How to Go to Church with an Unbelieving Spouse

by Jeri Odell

“I think I’ll go with you today,” Ted informed Krista as she started out the door one Sunday morning.

Her stomach knotted. She glanced at him, wondering what brought this on. “Sure.”

“I’ll change my shirt and be right out.”

Joy and dread warred within her. Every time Ted attended church her hopes soared. Is this the day he’ll ask Jesus into his life? Will this be the first of many weeks we’ll sit in church together? Will anyone talk to him? Will he hate the sermon? The music? At best, the experience was bittersweet.

On the drive, Krista rubbed sweaty palms against her cotton skirt, praying fervently in silence. God, please help him feel comfortable, and send men to shake his hand. Let the pastor’s message pierce his heart with truth. Open his eyes to see his need for You. Her endless, noiseless begging continued as she walked toward the double doors.

“Where would you like to sit?” she whispered. No use dragging him up to the front, where she normally settled into one of the first five rows. He would definitely be intimidated then.

Ted pointed to the last row. Krista nodded and slipped into the second chair, leaving him the seat on the end. Her hands, balled tightly into fists, rested in her lap. Her tension mounted as the praise team took the stage.

“I was a wreck, scrutinizing everything,” Krista commented afterward. “Every word the pastor uttered—I wondered how Ted interpreted it. I left with a headache, a stomach ache, and wondered if my life would be easier if he just stayed home. His coming along put me on an emotional roller coaster that left me exhausted and depressed.

“I wished the pastor had said this instead of that, wished the man sitting in front of us was friendlier, and wished the associate minister who prayed for the offering had foregone his mini-sermon about tithing. I already knew how Ted felt about church and money issues.

“Anyway,” Krista continued, catching her breath, “one day the truth hit me. I wasn’t trusting God! Startled by the revelation, I cried. I needed to relax and not worry about all the details. God is sovereign, and He’s big enough to handle the particulars. This concept brought freedom. I still pray for God to take charge of everything said and done, but then I just enjoy the service. God can and will do the rest.”

I resided at the opposite end of the spectrum from Krista. In the early years I invited Dean to church often. If he went, I usually ended up regretting I had asked, because he was miserable. When he said no, disappointment and sorrow nearly did me in. Either way, I lost, so I quit mentioning it.

I adopted a new policy: I would invite him only for special events and programs the kids were involved in unless the Holy Spirit directed otherwise. I would ask without pressure or expectation and pray for sensitivity to accept Dean’s answer graciously and trust the Lord for His timing. My spouse’s church attendance and salvation are God’s work, not mine.

Whether your life is filled to overflowing with people or you are in a season of isolation, choose to fill your voids with God alone. I’ve made both choices, having searched for answers in the things of this world and letting God be my all in all. Only in Him did I find peace, contentment, and joy—even in my empty pew.



Please be with me in those lonely times that naturally arise out of an unequally yoked relationship. Make me aware of my limitations, and give me the wisdom to choose wisely the activities that will enhance my growth and not cause me to stumble. And God, please reveal where You want me to serve in Your Body of Believers. On the occasions my husband does attend church, I invite You to be in charge instead of me. Teach me to rest, knowing You are there with me.

Open my spouse’s ears to hear what You know he’s ready to hear. Lay upon the hearts of men to reach out to him, and, Father, flood me with Your peace, that I may rest in You. I long to follow where You lead, so don’t let fear or lack of understanding paralyze me. May my trust be in You alone, knowing that You’re completely trustworthy. The plans You have for me are for my best, even when it doesn’t seem that way at the time. I thank You, my dearest and most faithful companion, for Your promise to never leave me. I love You, Lord.

In Your name I pray. Amen.

Spiritually Single: Living with an Unbelieving Husband. Used by permission. 

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