Last week, I penned a piece for Mother’s Day, “God Makes a Mom“, reminding women that no matter their marital status, if they have children, they are mothers. With motherhood comes beautiful opportunities to cherish and disciple those God has ordained to our care, regardless of what dads are or are not doing from a spiritual standpoint. After fleshing out and sharing many of my thoughts, I looked back to see one situation in particular that I felt needed to be addressed more prominently. And that is those who are married but are spiritually single. This is a status I believe many Christian men and women hold but few share because it is too painful, and perhaps because they feel the need to wear a mask in order to somehow protect their Christian witness. I can tell you this: God did not intend for you to walk this road alone! He made you for relationship, and if your spouse is not providing that iron sharpening iron, Ephesians 5, self-sacrifice, lead you to look first to Christ kind of marriage, God always provides, and He will sustain you in all things!
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book. (Psalm 56:8)
To the Church: you never know what goes on behind closed doors. Just as we are not to set expectations our spouses cannot meet, neither should we make assumptions about those who appear to be in a believing marriage. Many people live in glass houses with walls so fragile, they feel they may shatter at any time. If this were not the case, there would not be a high demand for marriage counselors, conferences, retreats, and even MarriageCore (available every Tuesday night at Stonebriar) for those needing to get some better traction. Here is the thing to remember. While these resources are all incredible, they come with the notion that both the husband and wife will seek to better themselves and their union by drawing closer to Christ. The fact of the matter is, not everyone is in a situation where their spouse is matching their walk with their talk. Maybe here and there—when the mood strikes—but not as a permanent reflection of a life devoted to Jesus. For parents in this “spiritually single” marriage, the added weight of “What will our children think of marriage?” can become a heavy load to bear. For those of you (and I believe there are many) who find yourselves in such a place, I would like to help dry the tears that only God and your pillow know about and offer you some encouragement. Are you ready? Here we go.
1) Trust the God who sees and hears! God knew every day of your life (and your children’s) before it came to be—including the relationship you would have with your spouse. Take comfort that He loves you, your spouse, and your children dearly. He is the author of our stories and uses every situation for our good and His glory.
You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. (Psalm 139:16)
2) God is able! Even if your children do not have a godly example set before them of what a Christian marriage should look like, God can provide people to fill those gaps. Ask God to put men and women in your life who will bear a powerful testimony to your spouse and your children about what He desires for the couple who both claim His name. If the church is a body and every member has a unique role, then trust that God will use many members of His Body to press into the lives of your children. You do not have to tell people your situation; just seek the communities where you know those people will likely be. (Vacation Bible School, Awana, Sports Ministry, etc.)
3) Do not fear the future! Did you read the first two points? If you listen to enough radio shows, read enough devotionals, or attend too many marriage conferences, you may decide your children (and your marriage) are doomed. God is not the author of fear, and you need to keep your faith in what God can do rather than focus on what fear would cause you to feel. Remember: feelings are fickle—God is unchanging.
God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through? (Numbers 23:19)
4) You are never alone! Yes, you have Jesus. Because of this, you also have people who are praying for you. I am not talking about those who know you or your situation personally. I am talking about those who have faithfully pursued the Lord and silently get on their knees to lift up even unknown needs. Yours included. Take comfort that while you may not ever be told so, you are covered in prayer.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7)
5) Your love is a testimony! Those things that are hidden to others but known to God bear a powerful testimony about the truth you choose to live by day in and day out. As your children grow, hopefully they will have a testimony about how their mom and dad beautifully exemplified a Christ-centered marriage. But if this never becomes their reality, their story will still include the testimony birthed by one parent who kept the family’s focus on the Lord and showed the children that their relationship with Jesus was not dependent upon whether or not their spouse was pointing them to Him.
Good will come to the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord. He will be like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the river. It will not be afraid when the heat comes but its leaves will be green. It will not be troubled in a dry year, or stop giving fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
We tend to get caught up in seeing the successes of others while not having any clue as to their struggles. When we go through challenging situations, though, it’s not only for us—it can be used to encourage those who will come after us. We can trust God to never let go and to provide for our every need. And when we are willing and able to see the needs of others, we have the unique opportunity to encourage those who may need a firsthand account of what it looks like to walk by faith and not by sight—and to be reminded that most stories in the Bible are of the underdog succeeding in spite of trials and tribulation.
So, for those of you who are married—especially to one who professes to know the Lord though you find yourself spiritually single—have hope. Your journey is not through. God has a plan for you, your spouse, and your children. And while the prayer is most certainly that your spouse would come to love you and help lead your family in a powerful way, even if he or she does not, you still have all you need, because God can use all things to draw your children to Him. He loves you, and you are never alone or unknown to the One who made you!
Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni loves Jesus and is passionate about serving him through the arts by leading worship and writing for various ministries. She is married to Greg, her hard-working, iron-sharpening-iron spouse. They are opposite in personality but equal in dedication to their marriage and family. Gabbie and Greg are the proud and sleep-deprived parents of two active, sweet, and fun boys and one gentle, joy-filled, little girl. An Aggie and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Gabbie is a small-town country girl trapped in the city. She loves getting to know people and encouraging them as they seek to know Jesus and make him known.
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