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Chapter 1 Don't Blame Yourself
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" - Romans 8:1.
Do you believe the above verse, or are you secretly blaming yourself because your husband isn't yet a Christian? How often do you catch yourself thinking, If only I were doing certain things better-loving, submitting, witnessing-he would already be a born-again wonder? Do you ever feel like he won't accept Christ because your failures and imperfections are a stumbling block: If I hadn't been so crabby the other day? If I weren't always yelling at the kids? If I hadn't run up the charge account? Do you ever blame yourself?
Then I have good news for you: it isn't your fault! You may never have heard anyone say that before. No one ever said it to me. In fact, everyone seemed to be saying just the opposite. Not outright, of course. That wouldn't be polite. They didn't walk up to my face and say, "It's all your fault that your husband isn't a Christian. If you would just obey the Bible and take my advice, your husband would get saved right away." No, they were a little more subtle in heaping on the guilt. They said things like:
"If you ladies with unsaved husbands would just be more sweet and loving, your husbands would get born-again in no time." (This direct quote came from a retreat leader whose husband had been a Christian since age six.)
"As soon as the Lord finishes working on you, then He will start working on your husband." (Can't He work on both of us at the same time?)
"Why don't you try being a Total Woman?" (What am I now, half man?)
"Just pray longer." (Fifteen years isn't long enough?)
"You just need to love your husband to the Lord." (What do you think I'm doing, scrubbing the toilet with his toothbrush?)
I'm sure you can supply dozens of other pat remarks made by well-intentioned Christians from the pulpit to the pew. They are usually pontificated by folks who have no idea what you are going through or how complex the situation can be. The jabs that hurt the most are the pieces of glib advice coming from a woman whose husband did get saved after they were married and who proudly takes all the credit. She never stops to think that things might not have been so easy were she married to your husband-or that her husband might have gotten saved in half the time if he had been married to you.
The Weight Of Guilt
All resentment aside, much of that glib advice may very well be true and good as far as it goes (it's never all that simple.) But after a while I began to wonder why every time I admitted, "My husband isn't a Christian," someone started pointing a finger at me. It made me feel like I had some very obvious flaws-everyone else could immediately point them out.
Such advice, piling up over the years, finally placed me under so much condemnation that I dreaded walking into church alone. I felt that my mere solitary presence flashed, "Failure! Failure! Failure!" in neon lights. At one point I came close to dropping out of church altogether, which would have been disastrous.
Christians who are quick to point out what you should be doing differently may be suffering from the delusion that they have all the answers. After all, their mate is saved; whatever worked for them will surely work for you. What they fail to realize is that no one can lead another person to Christ if his heart is not ready to surrender. Every man has his own set of barriers and misconceptions, as well as his own history of hurts and fears. And the Holy Spirit is not a computer into which you can push the correct formula to obtain the proper-programmed responses. He is wise, sensitive, and patient enough to treat each and every person as an individual.
When the church blames the wives of unbelievers, it may be out of guilt for not being able to do more. The sad truth is that no one is to blame. Your husband's relationship with God is strictly up to him. God has given him a free will that neither you nor the church can manipulate with techniques. You cannot force him, trick him, or bribe him into getting saved before he is ready. God won't violate your husband's free will, and He won't let you, either. Of course you should be as loving, devoted, and biblically submissive as you can be. But the plain truth is that your being the world's most perfect submitted wife does not guarantee that your husband will ever become a Christian. He may get saved tomorrow, or it may take fifty years for the Lord to break through his hardened heart. That is not why we are loving, devoted, and submissive - we do it all simply because that is the way the Lord wants us to be, period. No ulterior motives. No payoff. just obedience.
But whether your husband gets saved today or fifty years from now is no reflection on you. just because he is not yet saved does not mean that you are any less of a wife and Christian than the woman whose husband got saved twenty years ago. It takes more than a perfect wife to save a husband. Men get saved without perfect wives. God must save your husband. You can certainly be helpful, but not by thinking it is your job.
On judgment day your husband will not be allowed to use you as an excuse for being an unbeliever. "But, Lord, this woman you gave me . . . " didn't work for Adam, and it won't work for your husband, either. You can give your husband what he thinks are excellent excuses for not being a Christian by acting in an unbecoming manner. But if he really wanted to know the Lord, I doubt you could stop him.
So isn't it silly to think that your imperfections could stop your husband from getting saved if he were ready? How many men do you know who got saved because their wives were perfect? I don't know any. in fact, some of the most nearly perfect wives I know have the most gospel-resistant husbands. And some of the most self-centered women I know have the most dear, Christian husbands. Who can explain it? To me it's just more proof that a man's relationship with God depends more on his own heart than his wife's.
Loosing Your Husband To God
A woman should seek to please her husband more for God's sake than for the ulterior motive of getting her husband saved. God's will is to save your husband, regardless of your state of perfection. It may not happen as soon as you would like, but it will happen as soon as heavenly possible. The Lord wants you to seek Him, trust Him, and obey Him with all your heart just because you love Him-not out of guilt. Satan, not God, is the "accuser of the brethren."
Not only can you let go of all that guilt, but you must, for your sake and your husband's. In Matthew 16:19, Jesus said,
"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
When you carry around worry and guilt over your husband's spiritual condition, you are actually "binding" him. Each negative thought is like another cord wrapped tightly around his heart, making it harder for the Holy Spirit to get in there and soften it up. This spiritual principle works release him completely to the Lord, relax, and watch the Holy Spirit take over.
Worry and guilt also bind you. But when you accept God's acceptance of you just the way you are and trust that He will save your husband at the earliest possible moment, you cut away those constricting cords of guilt and worry and allow yourself to grow spiritually, too. Then you are free to begin anew, being the best wife you can be, not out of guilt but for the sheer joy of it.