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Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
October 6, 2023 11:55 am

Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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October 6, 2023 11:55 am

Are you in a spiritually mismatched marriage? Lee Strobel describes the struggles he and his wife, Leslie, experienced when he was an atheist and she was a new Christian. In part two, Leslie joins Lee on stage to offer hope and practical suggestions for living out your faith while staying committed to an unbelieving spouse. The Strobels encourage listeners to reach out for H.E.L.P.: 1) Harness the support of others; 2) Exercise restraint; 3) Live out your faith; and 4) Pray. (Part 2 of 2)

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Charles Stanley

Hey, Jim Daly here. If you like the Focus on the Family broadcast and haven't grown tired of this voice just yet, you'll love my Refocus Podcast. On Refocus, I take a deeper dive with a respected thinker on different aspects of culture. I ask those hard questions that maybe they don't get that often, and I don't shy away from challenging topics to help you share God's grace, truth, and love with others.

So listen to Refocus with Jim Daly on your favorite streaming app today. I was jealous of Jesus, because I've always been the man in Leslie's life. And all of a sudden, there's somebody new in her life, and it's this Jesus person. And all of a sudden, she is committed to following him. Well, what am I all of a sudden?

Chopped liver? I mean, where do I fit into this? Where do I fit into this? That's a good question, and we'll have the answer to that question and many, many more as it relates to the Christian life on today's episode of Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus President, Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, in that clip, Lee said it, I was jealous of Jesus. Imagine how you would feel if you were an atheist, you know, rejecting God, and you've been married for a while, and suddenly your spouse becomes a believer in Jesus. And they start talking about him all the time and reading the Bible and going to meetings. It would be very easy to feel jealous in that situation. That seems like a pretty natural response as well as feelings of resentment and anger. You could kind of hear that in Lee in that clip. And if I were the jealous spouse, I wouldn't be interested in hearing anything about this Jesus.

I'm thinking I'd be very turned off. Well, and that's exactly the situation that developed between Lee Strobel and his wife, Leslie, when she became a Christian, and he was still, in his words, an argumentative atheist. Here now, Lee and Leslie Strobel at Willow Creek Community Church, and we're going to start with a quick rollback to kind of pick up on Lee's concluding thoughts from last time. God used this very difficult time in our marriage to mold Leslie into someone she never could have possibly become had she not gone through the pain of a spiritually mismatched marriage. In other words, it was in the depths of this marriage, in the trials, in the tribulations, that Leslie learned how to pour herself out to God in prayer in an authentic way. It's when she learned to be 100% fully dependent on him. It's when she learned to wait on his timing instead of taking things into her own hand. It's when she learned forgiveness and grace and patience and love and sacrifice, and I want to tell you something, she is a different person today, a person of deep prayer, a person of dependence on God, a person of spiritual courage.

Why? Because God took her through that valley of pain in our marriage. And friends, I want to tell you something. If you are a Christian married to someone who's not a Christian, this is not a wasted time in your life. Yes, it's difficult, but God can and he will use this experience to mold you into someone, to shape your character and values and outlooks and attitude in such a way that he never could have done had you not gone through this pain. Apostle Paul wrote about this in Romans chapter 5. He said, we rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us. Friends, there's hope.

There's hope. And if you're in a spiritually mismatched situation, God has not abandoned you at all. And you can learn from what the Bible teaches us, H-E-L-P, harness the support of others, exercise restraint, live your faith, don't just talk and pray, pray, pray.

And as you do that, God is going to use something in you to change you as he works on your spouse. So those are four things that Leslie did right. I only did one right thing that whole time.

The one right thing I did is I said the word maybe. Maybe this is true. Leslie is definitely changing for the good. Maybe, maybe God is not just a myth.

Maybe this is not the product of a self-help group or a, you know, some sort of a positive mental attitude thing. Maybe God is behind the changes in Leslie. And because I said maybe, I cracked open the door of my heart and I began to investigate the truth of Christianity. I did that for two years until November the 8th of 1981. And I realized, based on the evidence I had seen in the life of Leslie, but also in history and archaeology and so, that God is real, that Jesus is who he claimed to be. And on November the 8th of 1981, I bent my knee and I received Jesus Christ. And he began to change my life and he began to change our marriage. And I want to say something, you know, I look back on our marriage and the first years of our life when neither of us were Christians, we were happy. But it was like our marriage was a movie filmed in black and white 16 millimeter film with scratchy sound, but it's all we knew. And so we thought this is great. But now that both of us are followers of Christ and we can relate together in the most intimate spiritual level.

Now I look and I say, now our marriage is like Technicolor with Dolby stereo. We didn't know what we were missing. We were happy, but we didn't know how happy we could be. We didn't know how fulfilled we could be. We didn't know how deep our relationship could go because we didn't know God. So I just want to say as I close, if you're a seeker today and you're married to a believer or not, say the word maybe.

What have you got to lose? Crack the door to your heart open and check it out for yourself. So our mismatch had a happy ending. But I want to say it doesn't always. It doesn't always. You may be married to a person who isn't a Christian and that person is going to go to their grave never having received Jesus Christ as a forgiver of their sins and the leader of their life.

And you know what? You cannot let false guilt wear you down. You are not responsible for the spiritual decision that your spouse makes. That is his or her responsibility. All the Bible says you need to do is love God, love your spouse, live out your faith as best you can.

And as a friend of mine likes to say, if you honor God with your everyday life, that he will honor you for a lifetime, even in the midst of a spiritual mismatch. So that's sort of the picture of our situation together. We want to spend a few minutes and take some questions that you all have emailed in or maybe a few from tonight just spontaneously. So I'm going to ask, and by the way, Leslie, she's like the biggest introvert you'll ever meet in your life.

I mean, so it's really hard for her to do this. But I'm going to ask her to come up and where is she? Oh, here she is. Come on up, hun. And we're just going to do as best we can with some questions. Where is John? Oh, here he is. Hey, let's just dive right in. This is a hard question for you. So we'll start hard. Oh, fine. Well, you're a smart guy.

Leslie can take it. Is it okay to leave a marriage when one person is unwilling to consider a relationship with God? Yeah, that is a hard question. And, you know, we have to go to the Bible. What does the Bible say? If you're a Christian married to a non-Christian, in other words, is it that reason enough to abandon the marriage? Basically, that's the question. 1 Corinthians 7 verses 12 and 13 says real explicitly, if you are a Christian married to a non-believer and that non-believer wants to continue the marriage, you must continue the marriage.

Now, so that's real clear. If the only reason you're saying I'm thinking of leaving my spouse is they're not a follower of Christ, the Bible says no, don't do it. Now, the Bible does talk about other circumstances that, you know, can lead to divorce, adultery or abandonment and so forth.

And when there's abuse going on, if the children are being abused, if you're being abused, that raises a whole other can of worms you need to think about. But what I want to say, whoever sent that question in, you know, it's one thing to say, here's what the Bible says, you probably need some personal help. Well, I think we've all heard enough from Lee. So, Leslie, in this journey you're in, what gave you hope? Well, you know, during the journey, there were days when I didn't have hope.

I mean, there were just times where I thought maybe on his deathbed, if I'm lucky, he will finally recognize that there is a God. On the other hand, there is hope because God loves me, he loves Lee, and he knows what his call on our life is to be. And so I found the hope that in the midst of, like Lee had said, my growth in Christ, God was changing me and he was helping me to see Lee in different eyes, that he mattered to God. And so the hope that I had was God loved Lee more than I do, and I had to trust that he had a plan for Lee and he had a plan for me, and I just trusted in that and held on to that, knowing that ultimately it's up to Lee and God where Lee was going to go. It wasn't, as he said, my responsibility, but I found the hope in Christ that he strengthened me through the process.

I knew he did. I could see him strengthening me, giving me the words to say and the spirit that I needed in a situation, and I could tell that he was helping me through it. So there is hope in it. What role did your community play in giving that hope? The people who are around you, as Lee mentioned, that's an important part of this.

Well, it was huge because you do feel very alone. When you're under the same roof and you're feeling so different towards the most important thing in your life, Christ, you need that outside support. And so between Linda, who was my mentor, between the Bible studies I went to here at Willow, they were a safe haven for me to go to, to air my frustrations. But just like Lee said, when you're with mature Christians, they understand what you're going through, but it doesn't become a battle between you, them, and Lee.

I mean, it's an understanding of your situation and helping you navigate through those waters. So it was very important. At one point, Lee mentioned that you exercised restraint in your interactions with him. Well, he was very kind.

Is that true? Did you do that well? I made so many mistakes. And again, having Christian women around me who I was close enough to where I would say, you know what I did?

I left this book out and I underlined it and I know he'll just be helped by that. And they'd kind of look at me and, you know, I mean, they were there to say, you know, that might not be the best way to reach him. And ultimately it was Linda's advice that I just allow God to continue to grow me up as to who he wants me to be, to allow my character and my personality to change. Christ in me would show and hopefully that would reveal Christ to Lee. And that is what happened.

I don't recognize that. I mean, looking back, Lee says that's what brought him to Christ is the changes in me. And at the time I didn't see that happening. But ultimately that was the case. And so that would be one of the encouragements I'd give to anyone is to continue to grow in Christ.

Could I add something to that? You know, there are people, though, who, like Leslie, who cooperate with God and they become very godly people and their lives are really spiritually exemplary and so forth. And yet the spouse never becomes a Christian, you know, and you go and then you see people who could be poster children for hypocrisy anonymous and their husband becomes a Christian or wife comes.

You go, what's going on here? And I think, you know, ultimately, as Leslie said, it was my choice. And all she could do is love God, cooperate with God as he changed her and to love me and pray that God would use that in my life. But there is the question of free will. And, you know, I could have walked the other way.

I thank God, though. And it's very common for women, especially as new believers, you feel very responsible for your husband. And so you do feel obligated to bring them over the line of faith. And it took a while for that to really sink into me because I felt so guilty that, you know, if I only prayed more, if I was a better Christian, if I knew my Bible better, certainly he would accept Christ. But after a time of just really having that that wise council of wise women around me, I recognized Lee.

It is Lee's choice. And nothing I'm going to do is ultimately going to make that for him. He has to make it himself. Could we may actually ask you to come back and teach?

I don't know what your weekends like. We did it. We did a thing at a Valentine's Day event here years ago and a Q&A thing. And afterwards, some guy came up to me and said, now we know why the brains in the family.

It's not you, Lee. You're listening to Lee and Leslie Strobel today on Focus on the Family, and you can get a copy of their book called Spiritual Mismatch. Hope for Christians Married to Someone Who Doesn't Know God. We're making that available today, along with a free audio download of the entire presentation by Lee and Leslie. When you make a donation of any amount to support the work of Focus on the Family today, make that one time gift. Or if you can, monthly sustaining donation to the ministry at focus on the family dot com slash broadcast or call us for details. Eight hundred the letter A in the word family.

Eight hundred two three two six four five nine. All right. Let's return now to a question and answer session featuring Lee and Leslie Strobel. Well, here's another question. Some of us here in the audience tonight are not married or single. Is it OK for us to date people who are not Christians?

Boy, I would. In our book, we talk we have a whole chapter addressed to singles and just say, you know what? The Bible says do not become an equally yoke, even in a casual dating relationship.

Say no, don't do it. Can I say something? All you guys, you know, you're so sweet.

The boys, they're just adorable. But guys are kind of focused on when they fall, fall in love with a girl to get the marriage thing done. They get real focused and they know they are goal oriented. And so they'll do whatever it takes to get the marriage thing done. So they're likely not with a mean spirit, but in an attempt to win this wonderful girl over. Sure, go to church, read, do some Bible study together. And if they aren't a legitimate Christian, then after the wedding and after the honeymoon, suddenly it's time to go to church and they just would rather stay home and watch the game. So there's really there's issues that need to be discussed early on in a relationship.

That's true. I mean, we know people, personal friends who they married a guy and they thought he was a Christian. He had all the lingo down. He went to church and everything. Soon as the marriage is over, it's like, who cares about God? I mean, it was like, you know what?

You go do that. And they realized it was all a game to them. Not intentionally, maybe, but they were playing a role to win her.

And once they did, their true colors showed. So in our book, we have 15 things to look for. If you're dating somebody else to really try to test their heart to see if they are followers of Christ, because you can't really always, as Leslie said, depend on what they're saying or how they're acting. Okay. So what if both people in a relationship are believers, but have a different type of relationship with God or a different approach to their relationship with God? How should they reconcile that difference? Yeah.

Can I start with that? We find this a lot where both are Christians, but one is growing spiritually and the other one's kind of lagging behind. And one's all excited about serving in the church and giving to the church and being part, participating.

So on the other one's kind of lackadaisical. They're not really into it, but they believe they're Christian. And what we'd say, a couple of things. First of all, you have to ask the tough question, is my spouse really a Christian? Because the Bible says, when you receive Jesus Christ as the forgiver of your sins, the leader of your life, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in you, and you are going to change over time, maybe not dramatically, but you're going to change over time. And if there's no evidence of that, you have to ask the question, have you really received Christ?

And so those kind of tough conversations have to take place. Sometimes I recommend they try another church because what happens, sometimes spouses will come to church together and one of them engages with the church. This is a perfect church for them. The personality of the church fits them and they grow and grow.

And the other one, it's not a good fit. The methodology of the church isn't quite the personality. Every church is a little different. And so sometimes I say you need to find a church where both of you can flourish. Another thing I'd say is encourage your spouse when you see any steps of spiritual growth.

Cheer them on. Don't be a fault finder looking for the things they're not doing, but encourage them when they do take little steps in the direction of growing the relationship with God. And then finally I'd say it may be they haven't discovered their spiritual gift. The Bible says every Christian is given a spiritual divine enablement to be able to serve God and serve other people in a way that brings excitement and energy and joy and adventure into your life. And sometimes the spouse has not discovered that for themselves.

And if you can help them learn what their spiritual gift is, sometimes that's the trigger that helps them to want to grow and to serve and to participate at a more meaningful level. Lee, you mentioned in your message there was at one point you had an angry outburst that your daughter saw. How did the tension and the journey you were on together affect the life of your children?

Yeah, how did that affect? You could probably talk about that better. Well, it's very difficult for children. It can be very confusing and upsetting. You know, kids are worried about the family fracturing.

They want to have the security to know mom and dad are going to stay together. And so really at a point, it was clear to me, you know, Lee and I had a talk when the kids were in bed one night and I said, you know, we have to have a truce when the kids are around. We cannot talk about this.

We can't discuss it. We have to put it aside till they're asleep and leave those discussions for just between you and me because I'm afraid it's going to damage the kids. And he realized that, but he was acting out on emotion. So we both knew we had to control ourselves and leave it to another time.

And that would be what I'd say. You just really need to be very careful and protect children from that. Also, you need to keep the lines of communication open with your kids. We had a habit where Lee would go in and say good night to the kids and I would go in and read and then we could talk. And it was during those times of just talking where I made sure, particularly if I sensed there was something going on, I wanted to draw that out of them so that we could talk about it and I could reassure them that regardless of what was happening, it wasn't their fault, first of all. And second of all, it was between dad and I. And they needed to know that daddy, you know, they'd ask, well, does daddy not believe in God? And I had to be honest.

So I would say he doesn't. And that's daddy's viewpoint. I'd explain mine. And we would just openly talk about those things. So you really do have to be as honest as you can be, but as encouraging as you can to keep them secure.

And I think that's the key word, secure, because when kids feel an uncertainty, then they get really scared. You know, are mom and dad going to split up? I heard him arguing. Are they going to get divorced? Don't they love me anymore? Don't they love each other? Did they stop loving each other? And I think those conversations you had with the kids where you could just reassure them, mommy and daddy love each other very much. We're not going anywhere. We love you.

You just feel differently on this topic. Yeah, yeah. Sort of the flip side of that, Lee, when you came to a point where you wanted a relationship with God, what effect did that have on your children?

Oh, well, that was, you know, huge. I mean, after I became a Christian and we then got on the same page spiritually. And now we had a common plan to raise our kids. It wasn't Lee and his atheistic plan and Leslie and her Christian plan. It was we got a plan together through Christ to raise our children.

And that, I mean, I mean, I remember standing right here and baptizing my daughter and I remember baptizing my son here. I mean, they both became Christians. Leslie, Allison's teaching a Christian school. Kyle's a Christian philosopher, whatever that means.

I'm not quite sure. Now he's getting a second degree. And I said, oh, good, because I'm thinking, yeah, maybe what, mechanical engineering, something. He said, he said, yeah, I'm getting another.

He said, Dad, I want to get two more masters. OK, like what? Church history and Old Testament. Yeah, good. I can see a lot. So I don't know. I'm sure God's leading him. I just don't know where we want to give any of you who have a question. You'd like to stand up and yell that out.

Now would be the time. What would your opinion be on a husband going to one church and a wife going to another? You know, that's really hard. I would really encourage the couple to get together and find a church where both of them can really grow.

You know, churches, as long as they're doctrinally OK, that's a huge deal. There's a lot of different styles. Like Leslie and I, Bill Hybels used to talk about this, too. He's like, you sit down and say, let's go out to dinner. OK, great. We're both hungry. Where do you want to go? I want to go to Chinese. No, I don't want to go to Chinese. How about, how about steakhouse? I don't want to go to steakhouse. Italian? No, I hate Italian.

And it's back and forth. Seafood. Oh, yeah, we both like seafood.

Well, we'll go to a seafood restaurant. And, you know, churches are a bit like that. There are a lot of churches that are doctrinally right on, but they have a different personality, different methodology, different approach to ministry, different personality. And I would say, find a place where you both can serve together and grow together because you have a common experience. And the experiences you may have in church, say you're going to church A and he's going to church B, and you have a wonderful experience. And then you get together and you say, man, I had a great experience today.

Well, what was it? You got to explain the whole thing and, oh, you weren't there and it's hard to really explain what happened. It's better if you're both experiencing together.

It gives you commonality and something to talk about and experience together and grow together. Well, just in closing, Lee, if you had one sentence that you could say to a non-believer here, and Leslie, if you had one sentence you could say to a believer, what would those be? Say to a non-believer?

I would say, ask them maybe questions. Say maybe. Could this be true? I mean, look around you. There are people who believe to the depths of their soul that Jesus Christ is real. And they say they've met him and they know him and they grow in their relationship with him. And you know what? Either they're all nuts or something is really going on. And I would say it is worth it for you to crack open your heart and say, just maybe, let me investigate it.

Let me check it out. I have confidence. And if you do that with an open heart and open mind, you're going to find Christ. And then you're going to become to the point where you have to make the choice. I found him.

Do I say yes to him or do I say no to him? Was that more than a sentence? I'm sorry. Only a journalist would call that a sentence.

I used to get paid by the word when I was a reporter. I think that was the problem. I'll keep it short. It would be three little things real quick, and it would be continue to grow in Christ. That would be number one. Number two, build on what you had with your husband.

Like Lee had mentioned in the message, you married this guy for a reason. There's things that you have in common. Build on that commonality.

Then three, do your best to get a mentor or a support group of some kind because you need that to navigate through it. And that would be what I'd like to have people do. Leslie, would you close our time in prayer? Father, thank you so much for loving each and every one of us more than we know, for loving our spouses more than we do. Thank you for a church that has a place to come to get our questions answered, to have support that we need. Thank you, Lord, that you have made a way in your word to learn what your ideas are about this and to guide us through it. So now we just ask that you would touch the hearts of every person here and help them to be filled with your love and peace, to know how to guide them in all that they're navigating through, whether it's a good marriage or a difficult one, Lord. And we just thank you for your word and for who you are. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Amen. And with that encouragement and prayer, we come to the end of this episode of Focus on the Family featuring Lee and Leslie Strobel. They shared very honestly about the struggles they faced early on in their marriage, especially when Leslie became a Christian and Lee was not. Yes, and as Lee said, he was an argumentative atheist, but over time, about two years, he watched God change Leslie's character for the better. And he thought, wow, maybe there's something to this. And being a journalist, Lee decided to investigate the claims of Christ.

That's so awesome. And he admits that he was hoping to prove to Leslie that Christianity was based on falsehoods. But Lee actually ended up becoming convinced by the evidence he was gathering, which led to his salvation. And eventually, he was able to share his story in the bestselling book and major motion picture, The Case for Christ. And I just think it's so amazing that God could take Lee's knack for investigative journalism and use it to turn his life around. I mean, God is amazing.

And to help others see the evidence for the claims of Jesus Christ as well. From skeptic to evangelist. And as the scripture says, God works in mysterious ways.

Doesn't he? Now, I should say right here, not every marriage is going to see that kind of miraculous solution. So if you're struggling, get in touch with us. We have caring Christian counselors here who would be happy to talk to you.

And we also offer our Hope Restored intensive counseling experience, which has a success rate of over 80 percent. I'd also recommend Lee and Leslie Strobel's book called Spiritual Mismatch. Hope for Christians Married to Someone Who Doesn't Know God. It's a comprehensive resource, including insights into the thoughts of the non-Christian spouse.

Some parenting tips for this situation and a 30 day guide on how to pray for your spouse. And let me encourage you to get your copy of Spiritual Mismatch through Focus on the Family, where the proceeds go right back into helping marriages thrive. We'll send the book out to you for a monthly pledge or a one time gift of any amount. And if you can't afford to make a donation right now, call us. We'll send that out to you and trust that others will cover the cost of it. We just want to help as many marriages as we can with the Strobel's great advice. Yeah, please reach out to us.

And the link is in the episode notes for you to do that. Or you can call our toll free number 800, the letter A in the word family. Either way, donate as you can and request your copy of that book when you get in touch. And remember, when you get the book Spiritual Mismatch from us here at Focus on the Family, we'll be including a free audio download of the entire two day presentation with Lee and Leslie.

Well, have a great weekend and be sure to join us again on Monday when financial expert Deborah Pigay shares great advice for managing your money. And then when I started to give sacrificially and say, no matter what, I believe God is calling me to do this, even though it's a part of my reserve, I'm going to let this go to God because it's His anyway. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to this Focus on the Family podcast.

Take a moment if you would please and leave a rating for us and then share about this episode with a friend. I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. Your marriage can be redeemed even if the fights seem constant, even if there's been an affair, even if you haven't felt close in years. No matter how deep the wounds are, you can take a step toward healing them with a hope restored marriage intensive. Our biblically based counseling will help you find the root of your problems and face challenges together. We'll talk with you, pray with you and help you find out which program will work best. Call us at 1-866-875-2915.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-06 12:30:46 / 2023-10-06 12:43:15 / 12

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