Home > Bible Study, C. H. Spurgeon, church life, Revelation, S. Lewis Johnson, sanctification, Sermon illustrations, Worldview > The Unbelieving Spouse: A Spurgeon Illustration, and Application

The Unbelieving Spouse: A Spurgeon Illustration, and Application


From my recent Spurgeon reading comes this interesting story: a possibly greater motive, for wives with unbelieving husbands, than the words of 1 Peter 3:1-4:

We have heard of a wife, a godly woman, who for 20 years had been persecuted by a brutal husband—a husband so excessively bad that her faith at last failed her, and she ceased to be able to believe that he would ever be converted. But all this while she was more kind to him than ever. One night, at midnight, in a drunken state, he told his friends he had such a wife as no other man had; and if they would go home with him, he would get her up, to try her temper, and she would get a supper for them all! They came and the supper was very soon ready, consisting of such things as she had prepared as well and as rapidly as the occasion would allow; and she waited at the table with as much cheerfulness as if the feast had been held at the proper time! She did not utter a word of complaint. At last, one of the company, more sober than the rest, asked how it was she could always be so kind to such a husband. Seeing that her conduct had made some little impression, she ventured to say to him, “I have done all I can to bring my husband to God, and I fear he will never be saved. Since, therefore, his portion must be in Hell forever, I will make him as happy as I can while he is here, for he has nothing to expect hereafter.”

In a later telling of this account (this sermon) Spurgeon added that the husband was saved as a result of this event.

This week I’ve also been listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s Revelation series, including Revelation 3, the church at Laodicea. The above situation involved someone who was “cold” to the things of God, one who was apart from professing Christianity, knew he was not a believer and wasn’t interested. As Dr. Johnson observed regarding Revelation 3 and the desire that the Laodiceans would be cold rather than lukewarm: Perhaps because if a person is really cold in the spiritual sense it might be possible for them to be awakened, but if a person has a kind of protecting covering of religiosity, it is most difficult to reach such people.

If the godly woman (in the above account) had given up hope of her very ungodly husband ever being saved, how much more the seeming (and perhaps actual) hopelessness for the “lukewarm” professing, nominal Christians who may well be just as lost – only they don’t realize it and are quite content with regular attendance at church but completely secular interests the rest of the week (and even while at church, only interested in secular topics of conversation), lives conformed to a non-Christian worldview. What James said (James 2:19) also comes to mind, to explain the seeming paradox of people who say they believe all the basic truths of the word of God, yet show no application of it in their lives: You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Regardless of the type of husband (cold or lukewarm) the godly woman’s actions serve as a very strong motivator for those among us unequally yoked; if anything the case is all the more true and urgent with the “luke-warm” professing husband. “I fear he will never be saved. Since, therefore, his portion must be in Hell forever, I will make him as happy as I can while he is here, for he has nothing to expect hereafter.”  Others are not guaranteed the same outcome this godly woman had (1 Cor. 7:16, “For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”), and realizing that sobering fact that this life may be the best that the unbelieving partner has, the only proper response is to “make him as happy as I can while he is here.”

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  1. August 28, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks for sharing this.

    I have particular interest in this topic since I was also an unbelieving husband married to my Christian spouse for the first 13 years of our marriage. I’m hoping I wasn’t quite as severe an example as above. However, there was every external indication I would “never” come to Christ. How I did is, as is typical in such cases, a longish-story.

    Now, my wife finds herself in the unexpected situation of being married to a believing husband who is also a seminary graduate and serving as a pastor in a local church.

    I guess it just goes to show we can never underestimate what God may do and the power of the Holy Spirit.

    My heart goes out to others who find themselves in a mixed marriage. It is certainly a challenging road to walk in. Yet, it is clear that God often uses the way the believing party walks to get the attention of the other.

    • August 28, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      Lynda, my apologies for misspelling your name in my earlier reply.

      • August 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm

        Sure, no problem, a lot of people don’t notice the name spelling at first.

    • August 28, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      That is interesting, and thanks for sharing your positive experience, good encouragement. Yes, accounts like Spurgeon’s, and your story, affirm the importance of the believer’s walk, in getting the unbelieving spouse’s attention.

  2. Neil Schoch
    August 28, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Thanks Lynda for another timely reminder of what is a very widespread problem in the world today. Having spent many years being involved in “church youth group/Bible studies” it is immensely sad to see how many young teenagers and older people enter into these relationships/marriages with non christian partners.
    No matter how long you stress the biblical truth of “not being diversely linked with an unbeliever” it is especially sad to see your own family members make that same mistake.
    Unlike the Godly women in the example given, so many of these cases end up with multiple partners outside of marriage, despite knowing the truth.
    Saddest of all is when a young eight year old boy whom we treat as a grandson, asks his grandmother, “do you know who my father is?”
    Praise God he has now accepted Christ as His Saviour and has a Heavenly Father who loves him and whom he loves.
    Whether cases like in the story told or a modern day variation of it, let us all be very prayerful and reach out in love for those who have backslidden that they may be restored to a right relationship with the Lord and their “partner” come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
    Likewise for so many wives who live with abusive husbands, and sometimes the reverse, we need to pray for them; befriend them, and help in every way we can, with the ultimate goal always that the lost may be saved and backslidden believers restored to the joy of a close loving relationship with the One who has promised that “he will never leave us or forsake us.”

    To those of us in loving marriages honoring to the Lord, let us give thanks daily, strengthening our relationship with even deeper love, but with a heartfelt desire to help those who need restoration to the Lord and their husband or wife.

    • August 30, 2014 at 1:57 pm

      Thanks, Neil. Yes, there are many issues here, the different types of marriage conflicts, including the type Spurgeon described plus many other variations.

  1. August 29, 2014 at 7:21 am

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