We all have unbelief- sometimes in ourselves, in our spouse, in a child... All to varying degrees. We aren't born believers, unfortunately. God must pursue our hearts until we willingly submit to him and lay our lives at the foot of the cross.
When the root of unbelief is in our own hearts, we need only cry out to God in earnest desire to fully believe. As the father of the sick child in Mark 9:24 cries out to Jesus, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!" so too can we cry out, and he will surely answer.
The more challenging aspect can be when we live with a loved one who is shrouded in unbelief. We don't have control over that situation at all. We desperately WANT to. We see with clear, unveiled eyes every single lie that our husband or child believes, the Biblical wisdom they lack that could bring them so much freedom, and the burden that their own unbelief places on them.
My personal experience is with an unbelieving husband, so that's where I'm speaking to specifically. My childhood sweetheart and I married 16 years ago as unbelievers. I came to know Christ after we had been married for 5 years. It took a bit longer for my husband as he had become rooted in atheism. The trial in our marriage that brought me to Christ pushed him further away.
Once I was in Truth and had a passionate heart to know God fully and please him deeply, I was looking through a lens of clarity that my sweet husband did not possess. Oh, how I wanted us to be like-minded! God placed a book in my path, during this time, that changed everything for me. It's called How to be a Happy Wife to an Unsaved Husband by Linda Davis.
I didn't read it all. In fact, I only read the first quarter of it, because it was all I really needed to know at the time. I had mistakenly believed, in order not to feed the lies he was believing about all Christians being hypocrites, that I had to "live my faith out loud." I had a desire to please God in every way and had learned scripture was a firm foundation for every area of my life. I wanted my husband to SEE that I took my faith seriously enough that I was willing to build my life around it. I wanted to chase him into the arms of our Heavenly Father as hard as I could. So I talked about God. A LOT.
God. GOD. God.
What I desired to use to pierce his heart with truth, the enemy used to fill his mind with lies. He began to see me as an obsessed zealot who was infringing on his right to a God-free life. It caused more than a few run-ins and stole joy from our home left and right. What I saw as "shining a light", he saw as controlling and manipulating.
I learned 5 things during that challenging season that I believe anyone who is living with a spouse in unbelief must know.
The salvation of your loved one is NOT your responsibility. You do not have the power to save that person AND you don't have the power to ruin them either. God's sovereignty is bigger than your words or your mistakes. Release ownership over this and release the fear of failing. This is not your responsibility.
Live a life that is a living testimony of all that God is doing in YOU. Wash, soak, bathe yourself in the Word. Shore up all unbelief in yourself. Work on the log in your own eye. Pray without ceasing. LIVE- through how you love and give and choose and speak- a life that screams: I HAVE BEEN MADE COMPLETELY NEW BY THE POWER OF CHRIST. But do so with authenticity- seek God in a way that truly changes you in every way.
Stop talking about God to your spouse. (*I'm not applying this to a situation with a minor child who's still learning about God). Don't say the G-word or the B-word. Don't "Christianese" your husband. Don't talk about the sermon on Sunday, the worship service, the small group--NONE OF IT. Make sure you're in relationship with other believers who you CAN talk to those things about... But let it not be your unbelieving spouse. Take 1 Peter 3:1 to heart and LIVE IT OUT: Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives. Every time we (as wives) speak life to our husband who is in the grip of the enemy, it gives our enemy ammunition for the war. You ARE speaking about your faith to your spouse, but you're doing it through your selfless service, a changed heart, and a joyful attitude about all of life… through your HOPE- not your words. God will bring OTHER people into your spouse's life to SPEAK truth aloud to him.
Pray, pray, pray. When you think you're done, pray some more. Have every believing friend praying. Don't be ashamed to admit you have an unbelieving spouse! We are all unbelievers at one point. Make sure your husband is being SHOWERED AND SATURATED in prayer, by everyone who is willing.
Wait. You may have to wait 6 month or 6 years or 66 years. You may live most of your married life with an unbelieving husband. "For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy." (1 Corinthians 7:14) During my season of waiting and struggling to be still (and quiet), God did a number of AMAZING things in my heart and my mind, but most importantly he taught me to trust Him. He used this verse to comfort me that my sweet husband was SET APART because of my faith. He reminded me that "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12). In my waiting, he finally called me to action, and gave me the words to act, when HE had set the stage. I obeyed. But it was only the obedience when God had done his work that made the difference--then it was about what God had done, not what I had done. And thusly, he received all the glory.
My husband is now a man of strong faith. He loves more like Christ than anyone I know. I am in awe of who he is and his heart for generosity and service. That's ALL God. It didn't take me "doing something." It specifically took me NOT doing anything with my very-busy-mouth. It took me having self-control and allowing God to speak much more loudly in exactly the areas he already knew my husband needed to hear from him.
It was out of MY grasp to save my husband but never outside of God's.
I have more joy in my home than I know what to do with, and that's true in part to my husband's belief. But in the waiting season of my silence, there was also immense joy. God was with me just as much then. There was expectancy and HOPE... Always hope. You don't have to wait for __________ to have joy.
When you're word washed, abiding, and trusting God, you can count it all JOY, even in a season of waiting.