Let it Shine

John 15:4-5 ESV

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Abide in me and I in you. These words sound pretty simple and straightforward. Most days, I go along thinking all is well. My mind and spirit says, “I’ve got this.” Then, out the blue something happens during the day that has me wondering what happened.

Those derailments happen at work, standing in line at a store, and over the phone. I can usually come home and vent a little and life quickly falls back into place. Miscommunications with a stranger rarely cause an ongoing feeling of discontent. But what happens when that miscommunication happens at home with our reluctant/resistant in faith partner? How do we find strength in the words, Abide in me and I in you?

For our brothers and sisters living with someone of shared faith, they may seek a marriage seminar, do a couples bible study, pray about their issues together, or seek counseling through their church or with a counselor at a faith based organization.

We, the married but single in faith may be living without the opportunity to find support from these areas. I believe the strength required of us forges within us a faith that is stronger than steel.

1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Miscommunications happen. We make statements to people that come out wrong, say things that are sometimes received as being judged, and hesitate when the Holy Spirit is nudging us to speak with boldness and confidence. One stumbling block is a desire to avoid being hurtful or causing someone else pain. Even with the best of intentions, we might miss the mark. It is hard to let our faith shine in the midst of a storm.

So, how do we, the married but single in faith carry on in the face of these roadblocks? We hold on. We hold on to our faith with all our might and when anger or disappointment feels overwhelming, we grip our faith even tighter. This is not said lightly.

There are many times when my choice to be married to a faith resistant partner brings me to a crossroad of decision. We disagree about something, someone, or a situation and the belief system or lack of belief system almost always impacts the way we choose to respond. There are many times when those divergent responses produce reactions that aren’t pretty or pleasant. The way I choose to resolve unproductive reactions is to remember that my goal is to bear positive fruit so that my trials are not in vain. Being married to a man resistant in faith is, and was my choice.

Now, more than ever, I daily seek to abide in Him through prayer, music, and His word. If I don’t, these trials would overwhelm me.

How do you abide in Him when trials feel overwhelming?

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Land Mines and Pit-falls

James 3:9 – 11
NIV
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

Opportunities to say the wrong thing or become ensnared in a misunderstanding lurk around every corner. They are presented to us from the news, movies, books, and everyday conversations. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, people will take something we say and twist it or interpret it in a way never intended by us.

For the married but single in faith, some of these misinterpretations result in our faith being thrown back in our faces.

We have all seen hateful speech spewed by some under the guise of being true to their beliefs. Our faith resistant loved ones (including our former partners) may use these opportunities as challenges to make us defend our faith. These conversations are painful landmines ready to explode with one misplaced word. So here are some ways to maneuver through these perilous times:

• Before responding, take a moment to think about how you want to respond. Our loved ones need us to be consistent in our responses and quick to ask forgiveness when we react out of our humanity. We will get it wrong sometimes. We will lash out, show anger and our words will come across in ways that can be misinterpreted or taken out of context.

Remember, we are made in God’s image. He loves us and knows we will mess up, but we must always strive to be the best representation of His love. Our loved ones may not see His love from anyone else. They won’t see God’s love from people who use their ‘faith’ to put down or hurt others.

• Ponder these verses because this is how we will get through the landmines and pit-falls of this world.

John 13:34-35New International Version (NIV)
34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

• When faced with a challenge to your faith; silence, a time-out, or a request for think time before responding are all ways to help diffuse the intensity of the moment. When in doubt, let words of love be your guide.

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Everlasting Hope

Sometimes, life can get us down. Cars break down, our health may not be where we want it, jobs cause stress, bills are knocking on our door, and children decide they have their own minds and opinions. It’s enough to drive a person to distraction. All of these circumstances are faced by those who have spouses who share faith and those who are married, but single in faith.

I had a conversation with a woman one day while I was donating blood. She shared her frustration with her husband’s refusal to “get up and go” with her to church. She had faith, he did not. This young woman shared her disappointment in God for not answering her prayers. She talked about how she had been praying for the past six years and her husband was still an unbeliever. This is an area of struggle and pain that plagues many believers. How do we hold on to our hope when years pass and we don’t see a positive answer to the prayers we faithfully send up?

Romans 8:24 tells us – For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he {already} sees?
– New American Standard Version (1995)

For those of us who love (or have a past relationship) with someone who does not have faith, their inability to have hope in something unseen (God) can be frustrating. How come they can’t see the glory of God in the beauty of a flower, the eyes of our child or an unexpected positive occurrence? Our spouses (and exes) believe in the here and now. They hold onto faith in the fruits of their own labor.

One thing to consider is our perception of time. Praying daily for someone we love to be open to a relationship with God without seeing evidence of a changing heart can cause us to feel sad, hopeless or discouraged as we continue to wait. I want to encourage you to keep hope alive. This life we live is training for our eternity. God is still a God who listens to the prayers of His people. Remember what He said:

2 Peter 3:8 & 9 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

We need to hold on to our hope and continue to pray for those we love. While we wait, let’s enjoy the company of those we love with an everlasting hope.

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My Choice – His Choice

As I think back over my life, it seems that I have always had a measure of faith. My mom grew up in the church because her father was a preacher. As the child of a military man, I attended all kinds of churches in different parts of the world. There would be times when I would go weeks or months without attending, but no matter what, I always found myself back in church. Then I met the man who became my best friend and husband.

My husband has never felt drawn toward a relationship with God, so you can bet, we have had some pretty interesting, and at times, heated conversations. He asked me early on why I believe in God.

Hmm. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be prepared to give an answer for the hope we hold. It also tells us to give this answer with gentleness and respect.

One thing I have learned is that any words I might say won’t mean a thing when my actions or attitude tell a different story. I have tried to give a reason for my hope in God, but my husband always has an alternative theory. So, I don’t use words any more. I choose to use every other area of my life as an example for my faith.

I have to remember that just as I made my choice, he has a right to his choice. That’s when I have to remind myself about that gentleness/respect directive from 1 Peter 3:15. My husband’s responses are responses that could come from anyone: children, siblings, parents, friends, etc…

So how do we, the single in faith, cope with rejection, especially when that rejection comes from the people we love the most?

One thing I do is to remind myself that it isn’t necessarily about me, the person. The rejection is against accepting another persons beliefs. We have to respect that choice and move on.

Some ways that help: music. I love listening to music that touches my soul. Some of my favorite artists include: Group One Crew, LeCrae, Mercy Me, Britt Nicole, and Mandisa, to name a few. When I feel my lowest, I blast music and sing and dance my heart out.

I still pray for my husband, but in the end, our marriage works because we have retained our friendship despite our different spiritual paths. Sometimes it seems like my husband has given me great training in being able to accept other people’s rights to their beliefs. Every time he challenges me, it forces me to look at situations and people from a different perspective even when I only want to see things from my point of view. Talk about aggravating! Sometimes I just grind my teeth in frustration and walk away. There are times when I stand my ground and there are other times when I choose silence. Sometimes it’s the best reply. No one likes to have beliefs shoved down their throats and my husband will come to a relationship with God in his own time, when he is ready (if he makes that choice).

Ask yourself this question: Can you give a reason for the hope you carry?

The single in faith must be confident in the hope we carry, persistent in staying the course and flexible in how our faith is shared. The single in faith can enjoy the company of our spouses even though our spiritual paths follow different roads. The single in faith are stronger than we realize.

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Welcome to Married, but Single in Faith

Many people who go to church, or not, are people who are striving to maintain faith in God while living with a spouse who doesn’t share their faith. They face struggles that may not be understood by people who married someone of like faith. Sometimes, the struggles aren’t understood by those who teach classes or preach sermons and so those married, solitary faith keepers are left without encouragement that addresses their unique situations.
I know about those struggles because I have lived this reality for 28 years.

This blog is not an opportunity to slam my husband. It is a celebration of my choice to stay married and stay faithful to the race I am running so that I can hear the words, “Well done …”
I will be sharing the struggles I have faced and worked through and my goal is to encourage you to stay on course. I can’t promise to have an answer for every struggle, but I can promise support.
I have read a lot of blogs, books, and articles on this subject. My problem with most of those is that at the end of many of them, the husband ends up accepting God and the persons life ends up happily ever after (not many of them talk to husbands). 

Many of those books, blogs, and articles spend a lot of time telling the reader (women) what they need to do differently in order to bring their spouse into a relationship of belief. Some of the things suggested to make the transformation include: keeping a clean house, showing appreciation for your spouse, having a soft nature. I have a problem with these because they don’t acknowledge the fact that people have been given free will and some people have used that free will to decide against a relationship with God.

So, I will not give you advice about keeping a clean house. I will talk about:

* ways to keep your faith even when circumstances make it difficult
* how to let go of some things for peace of mind
* the importance of praise and worship
* how to love the relationship you have with God for yourself

I hope you join me on this journey and together, we can encourage each other to hold on and keep on keeping on!

Jessie

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