What I Learned from Marrying Someone of a Different Faith
Written by Emanuela Schmitz, Germany
I first met my husband some 14 years ago. We didn’t exactly share the same faith, but that wasn’t a problem then because I was more concerned about his personality and character. That he had a basic faith in God was good enough for me, plus my own relationship with God then was not as close as it is now.
But as life would have it, things changed, and as my relationship with God deepened, what wasn’t an issue before gradually became one.
In the early years of our marriage, we encountered a lot of significant changes involving work and family. During this time, I began to see how we coped with difficult situations differently. Where I’d go to God in prayer and seek wisdom, he didn’t see the importance of asking God for help and would rather consult his mum or other friends for advice. After our first child was born, we had to decide about her baptism and had different ideas on how it should be. These were some of the differences in our faith.
I knew I had compromised. Even though I had been looking for a man who believed wholly in the Bible, I had accepted this man who believes in God and accepts the Bible in some measure. What mattered most, I thought, was that he loved and accepted me as I am. I had believed that would be enough to deal with whatever laid ahead.
To make a long story (and journey) short, the differences between us eventually became so big that we almost divorced! But God is incredibly good and kind, and He didn’t allow our family to fall apart. Instead, He brought me a godly friend who prayed a lot with me and helped me to see things from a different perspective—that God not only loves and accepts me unconditionally, but He also loves my husband, and He can make wrong things right.
I learnt what it meant to repent of my poor choices and not remain in remorse and self-condemnation, but to move on with God. He then took me on a journey of learning how to be a wife who seeks to honour and do good to her husband (1 Peter 3:1-2). Here are some of the lessons I’ve learnt:
1. Focus on the common points of our faith, not on the differences which separate us.
In the past, when I tried to convince my husband how we ought to pray to God alone, these conversations easily turned into heated arguments. In time, I found it wiser to avoid such discussions.
Instead, my husband and I now read the Bible together with our kids and we pray together to Jesus Christ. We talk about what we read from the Bible, about Jesus and the teachings from the Bible. And we invite Him to be the centre of our family and lives.
2. Ask God for His discernment in dealing with differences and trust His leading.
Once, there was an event that my husband wanted us to attend as a family. At first, I struggled with allowing our daughter to attend because of the rituals involved, but as I asked God for His wisdom and leading in this situation, He helped me realise, through a godly friend, that our children are not mine alone.
Somewhere along the way, I also felt that God was prompting me to let go of my decision regarding attending the event myself. I found it difficult to understand at first, thinking, “Wasn’t this what He would want me to do?”
But God helped me understand that He looks at the heart—my heart—and that He doesn’t want strife in our family. He also reminded me how often He has intervened on my behalf. In the end, I was able to pray something like this: “Lord, because I love You, I will submit to my husband. I choose to trust You, Father. I let go of control over this situation and I let You take over and deal with it the way You choose.”
It was a difficult prayer for me, but in the end, God worked in such a way that I didn’t have to attend. It was a good reminder for me that He hears me and knows my needs.
3. Show genuine respect and empathy for each other, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring out gentleness and humility.
We can show respect and empathy by actively listening and not trying to find fault (even in our heads) in what people say. If we listen to their motives for their beliefs (for example, they’d been raised to believe something as a child, and not everyone can let go of what they’ve been taught), we can understand them better. At the same time, we can trust that God knows how to open doors for us to speak about Him as we learn to listen first without correcting.
1 Peter 2:15-17 says, “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God”.
Meanwhile, Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” These verses remind me that I can share the truth not just by speaking but also by living it out—to listen and do good.
4. Love them, pray for them, and bless them.
I trust that God loves my husband just as He loves me—unconditionally. I know I’m being like my Father when I choose to be loving.
I often pray for my husband’s salvation and that God would meet him where he is. Even though I feel that the outcomes of being saved don’t seem evident in his life (repentance, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, seeking God in His Word and in prayer), I trust that God sees his heart completely. And sometimes, God allows me to catch glimpses of what He’s doing in my husband’s life.
My husband and I both love listening to music. Recently, he told me that he’s had a dream where he heard wonderful music and he wondered where that music came from, because he’d never heard such a beautiful one before.
When I heard that, I knew that the music came from God, because of the prayer that I had just prayed, that he would encounter God. I believe that God wanted to minister to his heart through the piece he heard in his dream. And my husband recognised, too, that that piece of music was not of this world, as it was exceedingly beautiful.
I believe that God speaks in various ways to the human heart (Job 33:14), and I’m convinced that God is working in his heart (just like He is working in mine) even when I’m not seeing anything. And He will finish what He started (Philippians 1:6)!
If you too are in a similar situation, our challenge is to keep looking to God and to trust Him.
Allow God to change your heart first, to make it fully aligned to His. Ask the Lord to love them through you, and for the fruit of the Holy Spirit to develop more and more in you. And finally, pray for them and bless them, and trust that God can work in their hearts even if you don’t see any changes.
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