An Unequal Yoke

The Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked in marriage with someone who’s not a Christian. It seems pretty obvious advice. How can someone of another faith or no faith understand the nature of a relationship we share with Jesus that by necessity for the health of our marriage should come before the relationship we have with our spouse?

It’s beyond a tricky question, and the answer is simple: don’t get involved in the first place.

But what happens when circumstances change during a marriage? What do you do when your spouse begins to question what you hold – and more importantly they hold – as the core of their being?

The picture is a bit extreme, nobody in their right mind would tether an ox and a donkey, but we run the risk of ending up in that situation every day. What unsettles one partner slightly may derail the faith of the other completely. The result is a very uneven spread of the burden of marriage.

I’m not going to pretend I can cover all aspects of marriage in one single posting here, so this will probably be one of several over the next few weeks.

Imagine a couple who have been married for several years. One day they hear that one of them has a terminal illness. How do they respond?

The “right” answer is to run to Jesus and live happily ever after.

99.99% of the time that just won’t happen.

In an equal yoke, each spouse takes on a role that supports the other, irrespective of who has the diagnosis itself. But sometimes faith is a fragile thing. Getting the diagnosis may shatter what faith one or other has. How then do we move forward?

What generally happens is that the stronger one shoulders the load while the other regains their footing. That is what partnership is about. It is what marriage is about. But for how long?

Imagine five years later one partner still cannot deal with the situation. What then? By that time the other is being weighed down. And during that time the Enemy has ample opportunity to whisper to the standing partner that they “can’t ask for more help” from outside, not even from close family members because of what they have done already. Perhaps the healthy spouse has had to stop working to care for the sick one. It was imagined to be a temporary situation, but now it’s five years later. Medical bills are piling up and income is dropping. Assets are liquidised – not always voluntarily – to pay for the mounting debt in the hope of a solution.

How do we maintain hope in this?

It’s not easy.

Depression worms its way into the daily life, robbing the sufferer of hope and shattering faith as a result. It could be the sick spouse or the healthy one who becomes despondent. It could be both.

But by the time we admit it’s there, depression has often left us with an unequal yoke. One focussed on the hope of healing and the other on the despair of the loss.

The yoke we carry often becomes unequal as a result of events in our lives. Hopefully it’s only for a short time, but that time can feel like eternity while you’re in the middle of it.

We need to hold on during those times to Hebrews 11:1 and remember that Faith is the result of hope. We need to hold fast to the hope Christ gives us even if our husband or wife loses sight of it. It takes time, but holding to that hope yokes us with Christ and allows Him to carry the load. His burden is easy and we need only focus on Him.

It sounds trite to say it. Almost a cliche in fact, but it’s true nonetheless.

Hold onto hope. It balances the yoke.

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