Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s author Nancy Kennedy:

Nancy Kennedy: We tend to relate to men as if they were women, and they’re not. That is a great source of frustration, and if you’re married to an unbeliever and you’re thinking, “If my husband were a Christian, then he wouldn’t do this and this and this,” that’s not necessarily true.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Friday, July 15.

This September, Revive Our Hearts will be turning ten years old. In the twelve-month period leading up to this anniversary, we've been airing some of the classic series that our listeners have enjoyed.

One of the series that has gotten great response over the years is an interview with Nancy Kennedy. At the end of today's program, we'll get an update on Nancy's story. First, we'll hear the series she recorded with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, When He Doesn't Believe.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’re talking this week about Christian women who are married to unbelieving husbands. Yet, I want to say that most of what we’re saying would apply equally to Christian women with believing husbands, because every marriage has its issues, and in every marriage, a woman has to deal with what we’re going to talk about today, which is runaway emotions.

How do we deal with those feelings? Our guest today is Nancy Kennedy, who has written a wonderful book called When He Doesn’t Believe. The subtitle is, Help and Encouragement for Women Who Feel Alone in Their Faith.

Nancy, when you were first married, more than twenty-five years ago, neither you nor your husband were believers. Then about three years into your marriage, you came to faith in Christ. Since that time, you have lived in a marriage learning to love a man and build a good marriage with a man who doesn’t share your faith.

I so appreciate the chapter in your book on dealing with the feelings that are involved in a marriage, particularly where there’s not the shared faith.

Now, help those of us who aren’t in that kind of situation to know when we go to church and there are women there who are alone, their mate is not with them in church, he’s not sharing their faith, what are some of the feelings that a woman in that situation is going through?

Help us understand and relate, based out of your own experience in your marriage to Barry.

Nancy K: Well, probably the number one emotion is loneliness. So a woman sitting in church alone, she knows that she’s alone.

She doesn’t belong in the singles; she doesn’t belong in the divorce recovery group. You know, there’s a group for everybody at church, but where does she fit?

She’s married but not married. So she really doesn’t fit anywhere, and she’s very acutely aware of that. Also, well-meaning Christians want to give advice, and they say things like, “Well, if you are the person that God wants you to be, then He’ll work on your husband.”

Or they’ll say, “Honey, you just have to pray harder,” or they say, “Honey, you just have to have more faith.” And this woman is saying, “How much faith is enough? How many prayers are enough? I pray all day!” And, “How good do I have to be?”

All of that just adds to it. She’s feeling isolated from the people at church, so she’s isolated in her home, or lonely in her home, and she’s lonely at church, and there’s a danger in that loneliness.

Nancy: She can actually become vulnerable.

Nancy K: Actually, any Christian woman, no matter the spiritual condition of her husband is vulnerable. It seems that we women are never satisfied with the husband that God has given us.

Nancy: Isn’t that the truth?

Nancy K: It is. We always want just a little more. I think that’s our basic human nature.

Nancy: And you know, it’s important to remember that that’s not just true in your marriage, but it’s true in your pastor’s marriage. It’s true in what you think is the most wonderful, godly marriage that you look at.

If you’re thinking, as many women do, “If only my husband were more like so-and-so, then it would be so easy for me to be a happy, contented, godly wife.” What you don’t know is that that wife is having to deal with loneliness in some areas of her own marriage.

Nancy K: Some pastor’s wives are some of the loneliest people I have ever met. But the danger is when you start comparing your own marriage or your own husband to somebody else, or (and this is one of the enemy’s best tools) when you are married to an unbeliever, it’s amazing the godly men that you will run into everywhere who will offer you compassion.

Nancy: Comfort.

Nancy K: They will offer you comfort.

Nancy: Understanding.

Nancy K: Understanding, and maybe even offer to give you a man’s perspective.

Nancy: What’s the danger there?

Nancy K: The danger is a lonely heart is not a discerning heart. It only wants to be comforted. So you start depending on this relationship. Maybe it’s the man in your Sunday school class who has taken an interest in you, and at first, it’s innocent.

Even if it goes no further than your thoughts, it has the potential to become an adulterous relationship and an emotional affair.

Nancy: Right. So you’re saying, guard your heart.

Nancy K: Guard your heart. Just don’t, DON’T make another man your confidant, not even your pastor.

Nancy: So where does a woman turn? Who is her confidant?

Nancy K: God! God is her confidant. Even if my husband was the strongest Christian, I would still have needs that he couldn’t meet, and I would still need to go to the Father, because that’s what we were created for. We were created for dependency on Him, and Him alone.

Nancy: Nancy, I so appreciate your perspective on this and your sharing of your heart and the cautions. You’ve just given a very strong word of exhortation that some of our listeners right now, today, need to heed.

You’ve given a word of warning, and there are some who are listening who are lonely in their marriage for whatever reasons, and perhaps have looked outside their marriage to another man to provide comfort and companionship.

They’re playing with fire, and you’re saying, and I’m saying, “Run!” Don’t allow another man, other than your husband, to become your source, your supply, of what God wants to and can and will give in your marriage.

Sometimes it means running into the face of those emotions and choosing against what your emotions are screaming out for you to do. Disciplining our emotions is one of the hardest things we have to do as women, but we have to do it, and if we don’t, we really pay serious consequences down the road.

So thank you for that word of exhortation and caution and warning. Now, you talk about other emotions that you’ve had to deal with in your own marriage and that women in an unequally-yoked marriage have to deal with.

One of those is frustration. Talk to us about why a woman in an unequally-yoked marriage, what makes her feel frustrated?

Nancy K: Well, it’s frustrating for a woman who has prayed for her husband for ten years, twenty years, thirty years, to look around the church and see other husbands coming to faith and other family members.

And you think, “But I’ve been praying the longest. I’ve been praying the hardest. I’ve been good, God. You know I’ve done all the right things.”

It’s frustrating unless you come back to the truth that salvation is not on a first-come, first-served basis, and that it has nothing to do with how good we are, because we’re not good, and it has nothing to do with how well we pray or how hard we pray.

It has nothing to do with our spiritual disciplines. It all has to do with God and His sovereign plan.

Nancy: As you experience those kinds of emotions, whether it’s loneliness or frustration or fear—“What if he dies without Christ?”—worry about how the children are going to be affected by his unbelief, and some of that can even then be turned into anger and resentment and taking out that frustration on your husband.

But you know, the way of dealing with those emotions, as you’ve just said, Nancy, is always to take it back to the truth. What are some of the basic truths, Nancy, that you have clung to in your marriage that have helped you steady your emotions and keep you stable in that marriage?

Nancy K: Number one: my husband is not the enemy. We have an enemy of our souls, but it’s not our husbands. My husband is the one God has given me to love.

Nancy: So that truth is going to help you from taking out your emotions on that unbelieving husband.

Nancy K: Absolutely. God has given me this man to love, and love doesn’t depend on my feelings. Love is an action. Love is a decision, so even if I don’t feel love at the moment, I can still do love.

Nancy: Here’s another truth you state that I think is so helpful, and that is that your husband’s spiritual condition doesn’t make him any less deserving of your respect and honor as a wife.

Nancy K: The Scripture is clear that a wife is to respect her husband because of his position in the home, and not because he may or may not deserve it.

Nancy: And you know, regardless again of the spiritual condition of the husband, regardless of the challenges in the marriage, as women we are going to have emotions and feelings to deal with, and I think one of the most precious promises in God’s Word comes from the book of Zephaniah chapter 3, verse 17.

It tells us that God will quiet us with His love. When those emotions are raging and storming, we think, “I’m going to burst out of my skin here if this situation doesn’t get resolved or settled,” and my goodness, our emotions as women are so prone to fluctuate, and they depend on so many things—the time of the month, what’s happening around us . . .

There are times when we just start to feel out of control emotionally. Nancy, one of the things that you point out that I think is so helpful is that differences in a marriage are not always the result of spiritual differences.

It’s not always just because she’s a believer and he’s not, or he’s not as committed spiritually as she is. Sometimes it’s just she’s a woman and he’s a man, and we make jokes about, “He’s just being a man,” as if that were something derogatory.

But it really isn’t a bad thing that men are men and women are women.

Nancy K: That’s right, and we do a great disservice to our men when we try to turn them into women. We don’t do this intentionally, but we tend to relate to men as if they were women.

Nancy: And then we get frustrated when they don’t respond like the way we would.

Nancy K: That’s right. That’s a great source of frustration, and if you’re married to an unbeliever and you’re thinking, “If my husband were a Christian, then he wouldn’t do this and this and this,” that’s not necessarily true.

He does this, this, and this because he’s a man, not because of his spiritual condition.

Nancy: Let’s talk about what some of those differences are. For example, you say that guys are primarily task and goal-oriented. How is that different from us as women?

Nancy K: Well, women are relational beings, and we define ourselves by our relationships. When a man introduces himself, he’ll say, “Hi, I’m John. I work at such and such,” or “I am an engineer.” He defines himself by his career.

A woman will say, “Hi, I’m Judy, John’s wife.” She may mention where she works.

Nancy: She may mention the children.

Nancy K: Right. Women are relational, and men are task-oriented.

Nancy: And that may affect even the way men think about how you come to faith in Christ, how you come to salvation.

Nancy K: Exactly. Men, especially in North America, it’s “do it yourself, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, be self-sufficient, self-reliant, get the job done.”

And that is contrary to salvation.

Nancy: Which cannot be earned.

Nancy K: That’s right, it cannot be earned, and another man accomplished it for us.

Nancy: We can’t do it ourselves.

Nancy K: We can’t do it ourselves, and somebody else did it for us, and that runs contrary to how a man feels about himself and how he sees the world.

So, I think that it’s more difficult for a man to come to faith in Christ than for women. Is it impossible? Of course not, because nothing is impossible with God, but it’s different.

Nancy: And once they become believers, women and men tend to express their spirituality in different ways.

Nancy K: That’s right. We women are so cruel to men. We tend to think that our way is the only way, and so, we love to go to Bible studies, and we love to pray in groups, and we love to talk about our faith.

A man might love Jesus just as much as we do, but express it differently.

Nancy: Let’s talk about some of those other differences. I love this chapter in your book that’s titled, “Saved or Unsaved, He’s still a Guy.” For example, you talk about how guys need to be needed.

Men love to give advice, and if you want to build your husband’s sense of self-esteem, if you can ask his advice, be willing to take it. You might want to start small.

I often ask Barry, “How does this work?” He’s mechanical, and I’m not. I’ll ask him—he works with oil burners—“How does it work?” He loves to teach. That will endear a man to a woman if you will allow him to teach you.

Nancy: I think many men don’t feel that their wife really needs them. We women have been taught in the last half century to be self-sufficient and not to need anyone and to be independent.

It’s no wonder we’ve created a sense in men, “We can manage just fine without you, thank you.”

Nancy K: Also, coming back to the unequally-yoked marriage, as a woman, as a Christian, we take all our needs to the Lord, and we look to God to meet our needs.

So, here’s this unbelieving spouse, and his wife is taking all her needs to this unseen God, and so there’s a sense of, “What am I doing here? If Jesus is her everything, then who am I?” And that could cause difficulties in a marriage.

Nancy: A little competition could make a man feel insecure.

Nancy K: That’s right. So what do we do? Yes, we take all our needs to the Lord, ultimately, but then we trust God to allow our husband also to meet our needs.

Nancy: Just because he may not be a believer doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have wise and valuable counsel and input that he can offer into your life.

Here’s another difference you talk about that I thought was interesting. You say guys are cave-dwellers when problems strike. What do you mean by that?

Nancy K: Well, from my observation, when men are dealing with something, they tend to isolate themselves. They could be in the same room with you, but they might be fiddling with their computer, they might be sitting watching a ball game.

For my husband, he gets in his truck and he drives.

Nancy: That’s his cave?

Nancy K: That’s his cave. I’m a woman. I want to talk things out. We need to talk things out, and so we think that men are like us. So when I know that Barry’s dealing with something, and I see him pick up his keys, I may have a tendency to say, “Well, let me go with you so we can talk about it.”

He’s not ready to talk about it. He needs to process it through. He needs to be alone with his thoughts. Then he’ll come back, and when he’s done processing his thoughts, then he’ll talk about it.

Whereas for women, we speak as we process our thoughts. We talk things out, and that’s how we relieve stress; that’s how we deal with things.

Nancy: So as a wise wife, you’re not going to cling to your husband and say, “You have to process this the way I process it as a woman.”

Nancy K: Right, and when you sense that God is dealing with your husband, when you sense that maybe the Holy Spirit is working on him, my best advice is to just relax. Hold off and get out of the way.

Give your husband freedom to process, to wrestle with God if he has to.

Nancy: So as we think, Nancy, about these and other differences between men and women, whether those men are believing or not, what are some practical ways, just give us several quick things here, that a woman can do to help her husband to feel appreciated and valued as the man in her life.

Nancy K: Because a man’s work is so important to him,

  • Tell him often that what he does at work is important to you. It’s important to your family. “I appreciate what you do for our family."
  • Never belittle or trivialize his work.
  • Determine what your husband does well and give him plenty of opportunities to excel. If he is really good at fixing things around the house, I’d say give him opportunities to fix doorknobs or whatever and not to take advantage of him, not the “Honey-Do” list, but to encourage him. “You know, you can take a house apart and put it back together. That just amazes me.”
  • Ask his advice and then take it. If you’re not willing to do that, don’t ask.
  • Never, never correct your husband in public. NEVER. Be loyal. Build him up in front of the kids.
  • Even if your husband is not a believer, there are qualities in him. We are all made in God’s image. Find those qualities and tell him, and let your children hear, and build him up, and it will do wonders for your marriage.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Nancy Kennedy, author of the book When He Doesn’t Believe. That interview first aired on Revive Our Hearts in 2003. It has a big affect on our listeners then, and we’re reviewing some of these classic series as we near our ten year anniversary. Nancy Kennedy will be right back with an update on her story.

Before she comes, let me tell you how to get a copy of the book you’ve been hearing about. When you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you When He Doesn’t Believe. Ask for the book when you call 1-800-569-5959, or donate online, at

Are you prepared for the final years of your life? How would you like to cross that finish line? Next week, we’ll gain biblical perspective on how to finish well and embrace God’s will into old age. I hope you’ll be back with us. Now, we recently contacted our guest, Nancy Kennedy, to get an update on what’s been going on since 2003 when she first recorded her interview for Revive Our Hearts. And a lot has been going on. Here’s Nancy Kennedy with the update.

Nancy K: In 2006 my husband was facing open heart surgery. He needed a quadruple by-pass. This came as a total shock to us. Through the divine intervention of almighty God, the heart surgeon happened to be a member of my church.

As my husband went to his doctor appointments, as the surgery time came closer, he and his doctor started dealing on not just his physical heart, but his spiritual heart. In the days before his heart surgery, he told me that he had prayed with his doctor, and that he prayed with a friend of ours who owns a local bike shop. And he prayed with me.

I knew that the day of his open heart surgery, I knew that if he died on that table, he would go straight to heavenHe assured me. That made it so much easier to sit in the waiting room. It had been thirty-something years since I had been praying for this man. I had that absolute peace that my husband's heart was with the Lord.

In the days after his surgery, it was just a really, really good time. He looks back and he says, "It was the best thing that ever happened to me."

As long as your husband, or anybody else you are praying for, has breath, there is always hope. I like to say that God makes pigs fly.

About six months before my husband had surgery, it was on Christmas Eve, he was out of town at the time. It was the first Christmas Eve that I was going to go to church alone without at least one of my daughters. They had both moved away from home. I was feeling kind of sad, but I thought, "I'm going to make the best of it." So I signed up to be a greeter for all three services.

I did the 3:00 service, and then I started to greet for the 5:00 service, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband walk across the lobby of our church. He had never been to my church beforeeverever. I was absolutely dumbstruck. He just walked in, and I said, "What do you know? I just saw a pig fly!"

I realized that God loves to surprise us. He does things, and He moves in people's hearts. He gives His salvation to whom He chooses, in His way, in His time, and He loves to delight us and surprise us.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

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