You think you know the direction God would have you to go. You believe you have clarity about your next steps to do what God designed you to do. You may even want to leave your current job and step out in a new direction. But your spouse doesn’t see it. What do you do?
A reader actually sent me this question recently. It’s one I receive fairly frequently from Christians trying to figure out God’s best for their lives. And it is an important one.
I have been abundantly blessed to have the most supportive wife ever in the history of marriage (Ok, maybe there are others who are equally supportive, but I readily admit to being biased). So I have not had to deal with this issue directly as much as some of you.
When I stepped away from my seemingly safe and secure paycheck to put my talents as writer to use for God’s Kingdom-at-large, she supported me. She had no clue where we were headed, but she believed in me—or at least she told me she did.
I know she wondered how it was all going to work out at times, but she encouraged me endlessly and seldom raised concerns about where the money would come from. And since she has an accounting background, her silence on the topic of money was quite an accomplishment.
I truly do not know how I would have made it down this path if she and I had disagreed about the calling I believed to be from God. But we faced other barriers. Everyone does. The resistance can take different forms, but it always occurs whenever we step out before we know how it all turns out.
What Does God Say?
As I pondered these situations where a spouse was not on the same page, a few Scriptures came to mind:
“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3, NIV) The question appears in a series of rhetorical questions, all of which are obviously designed to move the reader to conclude, They can’t.
It does not mean you should leave your spouse if you’re not on the same page. It means you should work to get on the same page. Getting on the same page is critical—even if it takes some time.
Stephen Covey offered this sage advice that I have turned to again and again: When working with people, fast is slow and slow is fast.
People generally take time to change, adapt, or adjust perspectives. If you try to move too quickly, you will harm the relationship so that it takes even longer to get where you wanted to go, if you can ever get there at all.
But if we are willing to slow down, we can actually make more progress in a shorter period of time. Rushing usually damages relationships. By slowing down and giving time for communication and understanding—just letting people adjust to a new reality—we often can avoid disagreement turning into confrontation.
God’s schedule is not your schedule. As I mentioned here, one of our limiting beliefs can be that God should adjust His timetable to fit our timetable. But that’s not the way He works.
You may have the right understanding of God’s calling for your life, but the wrong assumption about God’s schedule for getting your spouse on the same page about that calling.
Another key Scripture to recall is Ephesians 5:21 which kicks off the famous marriage passage with “submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord.” Paul goes on to use the same word repeatedly, describing the essence of the marital relationship as submission to one another.
The Greek word transliterated is hupotasso, which means to intentionally put yourself in order under someone else. To place her best ahead of your best. To consider him as more important than yourself.
These discussions of life calling and direction should always occur within the context of mutual submission to one another, not in an environment where one spouse is trying to force the other to comply.
And what if one spouse is not a Christ-follower? Should a wife, for example, ignore her husband’s protests because he does not yet share her faith? Not according to Peter. Unless he is requiring you to sin, Peter says, “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1, NIV).
Yes, it takes a lot of faith to “put yourself in order under another,” especially when you don’t think he shares your faith foundation. Yet Peter reminds us that Sarah exercised great faith by honoring Abraham’s lead, even though he acted like a complete idiot at times.
Finally, a word to husbands. All this talk of submission might make it seem I am advocating for a husband to plow forward with his plans—without regard for his wife’s plans or calling. Not so.
Peter makes it abundantly clear in 3:7 that husbands are to show the same respect for wives with his use of the word likewise. He continues by calling husbands to “dwell with them with understanding.”
Listening attentively. Consider her perspective. Cultivate her strengths. So that together you can do more than you ever could apart as “heirs together of the life of grace.”
7 Reminders When Your Spouse Disagrees about Your Calling
So what advice would I give to someone who believes they know what God has called them to do, but his or her spouse doesn’t agree?
- Recognize your own natural tendency to be self-centered. At the heart of every marital struggle—and family struggle—is our own stubborn insistence on being the center of the universe. The worship of self in our culture has reached epidemic proportions. Marriage counselors I talk to cite this self-centeredness as the chief factor in family struggles. It’s all about me. Except it’s not. Not according to God. Start with getting your own heart in order before thinking about how to get your spouse to understand your calling and life direction. Practice humility. Love and care for him or her. Consider his or her needs as more important than your own.
- Realize that God is also at work within your spouse. We tend to get frustrated in marriage because we can’t figure out how to change the other person to get what we want. Aside from the selfishness at the root of that thinking, we ignore one important fact when we think that way: God is at work in your spouse just as He is at work in you. As you focus on loving and caring for the other person, give God room to work. Pray for and with your spouse, but don’t try to manipulate him or her to get what you want. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength….” (Isaiah 40:31, NIV)
- Reaffirm the oneness of your relationship. Whatever you think God may be calling you to do, know for certain that He has called you to remain faithful in your marriage. The marriage relationship is one of the clearest expressions of the image of God on earth. By splintering that relationship, you communicate something false about God. Be very careful then when pursuing something God has not clearly stated in His word, that you do not disobey what He has clearly stated in his Word.
- Remove any thought of escaping. The Apostle Paul said that even if a Christian is married to a non-Christian, the believer should not seek to escape the marriage. In fact, if shown the humble love of Christ, the unbelieving spouse may trust in Christ after seeing Christ lived out in front of them. So when we find ourselves in disagreement over life direction in a marriage, be careful not to entertain thoughts of leaving. Disagreement over calling is not biblical grounds for divorce. Not even close. Don’t go there. Take divorce off the table.
- Repeatedly pray for and with your spouse. Prayer changes things. But you should not pray that God would change your spouse so he or she agrees with you. Pray that God will cause your marriage to advance His Kingdom. Pray that your marriage will be a light of grace for others to follow. Pray that God will show you where you are wrong so that you can change. Pray that you may be one. And pray together if at all possible. Keep praying. Wait patiently and look expectantly for God’s answer.
- Rationally make your case for your calling. After you have taken the above steps, you can prepare to present your rationale for wanting to step out in this new direction. The process may be helpful in more ways than one. Not only will you be able to present a rational case to your spouse for why you want to pursue a new direction, but you will also get greater clarity for yourself by doing so. It may be that by doing your due diligence, you will discover a better way forward or uncover facts you didn’t know. You may even find out that your spouse was right about a few things when he or she raised some concerns. Do your homework. Think through your path ahead as best you can. Then present your plan to him or her at a non-stressful time and in such a way that it is clear you do not want a yes or no right then and there, just a fair hearing. News flash: you may just discover that God has been working on him or her to step out in some new way. Your careful and respectful approach may encourage your spouse to step out, as well.
- Remember that you were designed to complement one another. Those differences you have with your spouse, the ones that can drive you crazy sometimes, can also make the two of you stronger together. For example, I tend to think in a big-picture way while my wife is more naturally concerned with details of how to get it done. When we are on the same page, we can unite both perspectives to discover a better way. Likewise, your husband or wife is wired differently than you for a reason. You may be more willing to take risks, for example, but his natural tendency to serve as a guardian is a vital gift to your family, as well. You may be driven to succeed in business, but your wife’s concern for relationships at home will ensure your family stays together as you move forward. Bottom line: don’t discard his or her natural talents. Discover them and work together to make your family stronger because of your differences.
So where does that leave you right now? I’d love to hear your story or additional challenges you may be facing in this area of life.
Question: Are you struggling to get on the same page with your spouse? What other biblical reminder would you add to this list? Share your thoughts by clicking here.