Religion and Relationship Advice Column

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.

Their children should see modeled loving patience, an ability to hear differing viewpoints, and gracious reception of them. This mean living the gospel without necessarily preaching it: the path of grace and invitation to the heavenly places.

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.

One thought on “Religion and Relationship Advice Column

  1. >I agree that discipleship is often very messy. This question is a very interesting question and before I would even try and come up with an answer I'd want to know more about the leadership concern the husband had and what it was that made him turn away from the church and even God.The one thing I didn't hear you say as a solution that I thought of was the possibility of the wife not attending that particular church but perhaps instead attending one that would not cause such resistance from her husband. Again without knowing the rest of the story or situation, this may or may not be a possible alternative for her.As for religion causing problems in a marriage, I too know from my own experience that religion can be a point of disagreement in a marriage. I also know the sting of having it used to justify horrible treatment of the wife by the husband. This being that the wife needs to honor the husband"s needs in the midst of being abused by that vey husband because the bible says to honor your husband. And the husband throws this in the face of the wife at every opportunity as he continues abusing her both physically and emotionally.So while I agree that we need to be careful to not cast this man as the bad guy and the woman as the noble martyr. We also need to remember that abuse does happen in marriages to both husbands and wives. And many times religion and the bible is used by the abuser to justify their actions. In such cases, it is very difficult to continue to honor God and the abuser and ones self in the midst of the abuse. I am not saying that is going on here, but if there is such resistance 24/7 by the husband to the church after being a leader in it, then something is very wrong and it is spilling over into the marriage.A cancer that if it is not cut out will destroy that marriage.I speak from personal experience on this point. If in the marriage something happens to the husband and he doesn't feel honored and supported by the wife during that time, the marriage is set up for trouble. So as you say the challenge for the wife is to Honor God and her husband. A difficult task to say the least. I will pray for this woman and for all who are in similar situations. And I will pray especially for the children of this marriage as they are caught in the middle of the whole messy situation.


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