Dear Dottie: My Husband Won’t Let Me Go to Church
I came to Christ a little over a year ago. Since then, I found a strong church family, was baptized, and started attending the worship service along with a women’s Bible study. My husband, who is not a believer, has been uninterested in hearing much about my spiritual life but still understanding of my attending church – until recently. Lately, he has become more and more irritated by my involvement with our women’s ministry and wants me to spend all of the weekends and evenings at home with him. I know 1 Peter 3:1-7 says not to nag your husband about my faith, but must I stop going to church if it’s causing a strain on our marriage? Thank you for your help!
How wonderful that you have embraced the Lord Jesus as your Savior, for that means He is preparing the way before you, walking alongside you on this difficult path, and standing as your rear guard to use your testimony to accomplish kingdom purposes! You can also rejoice to know that indeed the Lord has in His Word the principles needed for the most difficult decisions and to offer comfort in the suffering accompany the Christian life (1 Pet 4:13-16). You as a believer have the same privilege given to the Lord Jesus Himself, i.e., to suffer in order to bring healing to another. Unjust suffering endured with patience and purpose is precious to God the Father because you thus drink the cup of His suffering.
Even a gentle and quiet spirit, which is the most effective tool a wife has to draw her husband to Christ, will not prohibit suffering and difficulty (Matt 5:44-45).
Yet there is a spiritual strength that comes from within so that the God-control accompanying a gentle and quiet spirit goes beyond self-control for your response to challenges (1 Pet 3:6). A believing wife dare not run from the adversity in her life; rather, as my husband says, they must become her university.
Is there a short general answer?
A believing wife is the best tool for bringing her husband to saving faith according to 1 Peter 3. God can change the thinking of a believing wife so that the frustration and hurt she feels in her relationship to her husband is covered with the Father’s tender love. Peter suggests that a godly wife “be submissive to [her] own husband . . . even if [he does] not obey the word” (1 Pet 3:1). The focus becomes a believing wife’s commitment to the Lord, and the question is actually whether or not she is willing to trust God’s providence as being sufficient in the midst of this trial.
Is there an example of a godly wife married to an unbelieving husband in the Bible:
Abigail’s husband Nabal was not only ungodly but also a fool. When the lives of her husband and household were endangered, she realized that her first responsibility was to God. She made a bold personal appeal to David, the future king, in order to save lives (1 Sam 25:23-35). She returned home and told her husband what she had done in a respectful way (1 Sam 25:39-42). Abigail’s boldness was tempered with her servant’s heart as well as restraint and discretion, which gave her great influence over David as she made the best out of a difficult situation (1 Sam 25:35).
When the wife of an unbelieving husband submits to his authority even in her personal activities, she can rest in knowing that this submission is not merely to her husband but to God Himself (1 Pet 3:1-2). Scripture does not call for wives to obey their husbands blindly regardless of what they are asked to do. Submission to a husband is never the same as or equal to submission to Christ. Nevertheless, a wife’s submission to her husband is a command from the Lord.
What exactly does submission entail?
- It is resting, leaning, trusting, even abandoning yourself to another.
- It is an attitude of your will that bends willingly, looking for ways to submit.
- It is not based on what kind of husband you have but on what kind of God you serve.
- It is not a fringe benefit for some elect husbands but a responsibility for all godly wives.
How does submission work?
- A husband cannot require or demand this submission; a wife chooses to stand under the authority of her own husband because it is a divine mandate.
- Biblical submission demands putting all of yourself—energies, wisdom, feelings—at the disposal of your husband. It is not submitting only to reasonable requests. To choose when to submit is not submission. A wife is not forbidden to have personal opinions; she is not coerced into changing her personal convictions. Yet only when her submission blatantly violates God’s moral law does a wife find a biblical reason for refusal (Acts 5:29).
- To submit in God’s way is to make an intelligent choice to line up under God-assigned authority, learning submission to the Lord in His classroom.
- Gaining God-control in your life means losing self-control! Every wife does have “rights” by virtue of her worth as being created in the image of God. Yes she can choose to give up “rights” for Christ’s sake.
Is there a modern example?
Let’s suppose that when your husband becomes irritated and demands that you stay with him through the weekend and in the evenings, you say gently and humbly, “OK, I will defer to your wishes. You know how much I love going to the Lord’s house. Hearing His Word and being with believers actually makes me a better wife to you. But I know that Christ is in my heart, and I can gain my spiritual nurture at other times. Christ has set forth the pattern that above all I am to devote myself to meeting your needs as my most important responsibility.” He may respond in a gruff way. However, he will be shocked, and he may feel a burden of guilt himself.
He will know that he has hurt you deeply, but he will also know that you love him more than the church and the people you have brought into your circle of friends there.
Immediately the wall will begin to come down because he can no longer blame the church or the pastor or any of your church friends for denying him the fellowship of his wife! A lost man is looking for somewhere to put the blame. Until you remove as much of that as possible, you cannot deliver your most effective witness. Then you focus on meeting his needs, especially on the weekends and in the evenings. After a few weeks, you gently extend an invitation to him to go with you to church—perhaps a special program of some kind or you ask if he would mind your turning on some program that you might watch together in which the gospel is preached or you try playing some Christian music softly in the home or you ask your husband if he would mind your listening to a sermon on radio or CD. If he reacts with hostility, you pull back and wait.
Meantime throughout this very challenging situation in which you are spiritually deprived of what means so much to you, redouble your prayer and devotional time; read your Bible with passion; pray for your husband with all the compassion of your heart. Seek a Bible Study that meets while your husband is at work; nurture your relationships with Christian friends when it does not conflict with time you can spend with your husband.
Show no resentment or bitterness but pour yourself into meeting your husband’s needs and even showering him with added lovingkindness as if his life depended on it BECAUSE it may.
You may be the tool the Lord has chosen to use in drawing your husband to Christ! When a soul hangs in the balance, extraordinary sacrifices, even suffering and pain, may be part of the ultimate solution.
A word from my heart specifically to you . . .
Peter does not say that you are to become a flaming evangelist, preaching and witnessing, arguing and begging your husband to join you in your new faith. Rather, he simply says: Be a good wife. Avoid appearing self-righteous; do not focus on what pleases and edifies you most (i.e., the fellowship with God’s people); work toward developing a perfect love for your unbelieving husband—a love that covers a multitude of sins and hurt, a consuming love that on the human level will draw him to Christ. God’s promise is that even the hardest heart can be won by the conduct or lifestyle of a godly wife. When your husband refuses to read the Bible or listen to the preacher or intermingle with God’s people, you alone can bear the effective testimony. God is always fair and just—it is part of His character, Who He is! You must make your decision based on your trust in God’s providence rather than on the circumstances in which you are living and your own expectations of what good life you expect and desire. The rewards for obedience in this challenging task of submission make this journey worth the effort. God will honor your faithfulness.
I remain yours in the journey,
Dorothy Kelley Patterson serves as the First Lady and Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies at Southwestern Seminary. She has authored numerous books and articles including, Where’s Mom: The High Calling of Wives and Mothers, and A Woman Seeking God: Discover God in the Places of Your Life. One of Mrs. Patterson’s greatest joys is hospitality! She loves to cook and is known for her family’s famous “Kelley biscuits.”
*”Dear Dottie” is a featured, monthly column from Dorothy Kelley Patterson (aka – Dottie!). If you have a question for Dottie, please email us at email@example.com!