An anonymous woman writes to ask: “My life as a Christian seems to be causing a greater and greater divide with my unsaved husband and young adult children. How do I stay faithful to God and live peacefully with my family? I've been praying for their salvation for years.” What would you say Pastor John?
Well, there aren’t going to be pains in life greater than the pain of family pain and children pain and marriage pain. I have often said in the ministry to Noel, “If you are happy at home, Noel, I can endure anything at church.”
And I think that is the way a lot of spouses feel, like if work or society is bringing them misery and they have a place to go at home where there is peace and harmony, they can almost stand anything, but if the home is broken, then where do you turn? So I totally resonate with the urgency and the pain of these kinds of situations.
Not Peace, but a Sword
The first thing that comes to my mind is that Jesus said it is going to be this way for some of us: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). And then he illustrated that by saying, “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:35–36).
Jesus foresaw the pain of gospel division.
So what this woman is experiencing was totally foreseen by Jesus, and he says it is just going to happen. As the gospel enters into the world, it doesn’t always neatly save couples. It saves one half of the couple. It saves a son, or it saves an uncle. And then there is pain, and there is division as tension begins to happen.
Adorned With Hope and Peace
The text that addresses her situation most clearly, of course, is 1 Peter 3:1-3, where you have Peter very concerned to help a wife who has been saved and her husband is not with her in this. And as I have reflected on that text, the center of it seems to be that the holy women of old, hoped in God. And he was contrasting it with hoping in flirting or hoping in fixing your hair a certain way or hoping in being sexy enough for a husband. It is saying that a woman who wants to win her husband should not put your eggs in that basket.
Christian wives in unbelieving families: “Hope in God, do not be anxious, do good, do not fear.”
And I don’t think that means she should let herself go and not be pretty and not be attractive, but rather it says focus your attention on hoping in God. And for a woman who is in that situation, her hope — her rest in the great sovereign goodness and grace and omnipotence and wisdom of God — will produce the fruit of a quiet spirit.
She will be still and know that he is God. She won’t be anxious. She will have a gentle spirit. I don’t think she will be panicked, or become manipulative or forceful or demanding. The family won’t experience her as a tyrant. They will think, “Mom seems quietly content in her spirit. She seems to have a sweet peace over her.”
Good and Fearless
The third thing it says is that she will do good (1 Peter 3:6). That means she will be a servant, and, I think, in the home you get an example of “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works” (Matthew 5:16). So this is an application to a believing wife’s conduct toward an unbelieving family. Let them see your good deeds. Serve them faithfully in all the ways that a wife and a mom can.
And the last thing Peter says is, “Do not be afraid of anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:6). So they are going to see mom as unbelievably strong. She has got a fearlessness about her. She can laugh at the future like Proverbs 31 says about the godly woman. And it struck me as remarkable that in 1 Peter 3:15, a little bit later, Peter says, “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
Well, why would they even ask a mom about the hope that is in her? And the answer is because they have seen a kind of quiet, gentle, serving, fearless, strength in this mom. She is broken-hearted in one sense, and yet, God the Holy Spirit is giving her grace through the hope of the gospel to press on in all these attractive ways.
Trust God to Fulfill Your Ultimate Desire
So my counsel to her would be to trust God. Trust the Lord Jesus to give you your heart’s desire as you make him your heart’s desire.
“Trust Jesus to grant your heart’s desire — the salvation of family — as you make him your heart’s desire.”
Now I know that is a little tricky, because the Bible says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). And so I am saying trust him to give you the desires of your heart as you more and more make him the desire of your heart.
I know the desire of her heart is the conversion of her husband and the conversion of her kids. And I am saying trust Jesus to give you the desire of your heart as you make him more and more the desire of your heart. And then look to Jesus as he says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)