This story is just one example of how God changes hearts through the love of others.
By Dave Boehi
Perhaps you’ve heard people use the phrase, “It’s a God thing.” They’re talking about experiences where they’ve seen God move in the hearts of His people … or answer specific prayers … or bring unbelievers to the point where they understand their need for salvation. I love hearing stories like that, and here’s one I found recently from Kent Hughes, now the senior pastor emeritus at College Church in Wheaton, Ill. To me it’s not only an example of a “God thing,” but it also offers a few lessons about marriage.
When Kent and his wife, Barbara, moved into a new home over 25 years ago, they met James and Debbie, who lived across the street. To Kent, they were a “very wealthy 30-something couple with very few needs—at least they looked that way to us.” Barbara began a friendship with Debbie and took her to a women’s Bible study, which was a new experience for Debbie.
James and Debbie accepted an invitation to attend an evangelistic luncheon at a local country club, and James was not open to the gospel. He later said, “I distrusted the born-again types. And besides, I had been chairman of the board of elders at my church, so wasn’t I religious enough?”
But Debbie wanted to know God. Soon after the luncheon she prayed to Him, “I’m going to go out in my yard the next day and when I go outside, I want you to have Barbara come outside so we can talk about my soul.”
Sure enough, when Debbie walked outside, and Barbara also came out. During their conversation, Debbie asked Christ to be her Savior and Lord.
So now James and Debbie found themselves mismatched spiritually. James believed as so many others do today—that if you live a basically good life, and your good deeds outweigh your bad ones, you go to heaven. Debbie had come to recognize it was impossible to earn salvation on her own; she needed to receive God’s forgiveness for her sin through Christ and give her life to Him.
As James said later, “I was trying to be understanding and patient, but I often found myself resentful and angry. I felt lonely in my own house. I had my own views about God based on I know not what.
“I figured I had a reasonable shot at heaven because I was a pretty good person. God graded on the curve, no doubt, hopefully a generous one … Debbie refuted my arguments based on Scripture. She spoke of salvation through faith and God’s grace.”
You can imagine how difficult it was for Debbie to see that her husband’s eyes were blind to this truth. But she resolved not to judge James but to pray for him and love him. And James noticed. “For all that I had resented about our new lifestyle, Debbie had changed positively in many ways,” he said. “For openers, she was at peace with our relationship. I was the one in emotional distress. She definitely was a stronger, more independent person, but she was less argumentative and more forgiving. Irony of ironies, she was somehow more romantic through this period of marital tension.”
James’ heart began to change. He met with Kent for a Bible study, and eventually his eyes were opened to the gospel and to his need for Christ. Kent says that if he’s ever discouraged about the impact of the gospel, “all I’ve got to do is pick up my head and look out the window across the street at their house, because there’s a miracle living across the street from me.”
You can hear Kent tell this story and much more in this week’s three-part “FamilyLife Today” series on “When the One You Love Doesn’t Believe.” As Kent explains, Debbie could have badgered and lectured her husband about his need for Christ, but instead she allowed God to work in and through her. God changed her life, and as a result James began to realize she had something that he didn’t.
No matter what your problem in marriage—whether you and your spouse are at different places spiritually, or whether you are experiencing any other type of conflict—a story like this reminds us that God is the One who changes hearts … and He answers prayer.
This article originally appeared in Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter, in March of 2007. To subscribe free to Marriage Memo and other FamilyLife e-newsletters, click here. For the Marriage Memo archives, click here.