Empower Your Marriage with Grace

by G. Corey Carlisle, PhD

It can be difficult to know how to respond when our spouse’s actions negatively affect us. We want to be gracious people, as God has been gracious to us, but we also don’t want our grace to be taken advantage of and used as an excuse for our spouse to continue sinning.

How do we offer grace that empowers while still allowing our spouse to be responsible for any wrong or sinful habits? This is the challenge for many.

Grace that empowers gives us the strength to face and accomplish the tasks of life. We are freed to move toward our fullest potential without the fear of hang-ups holding us back.

On the other hand, when we enable we interrupt God’s basic law of sowing and reaping and prevent the natural cause and effect consequences he has in place. For example, when our spouse’s actions are damaging to our marriage but we pretend everything is “okay” just to keep the peace.

Placating difficult situations prevents our spouse from facing the hurt and pain of their decisions, and without experiencing certain consequences, their behavior is likely to continue. 

Enabling has the appearance of grace, but is not grace at all.

To be clear, having a grace-filled marriage does not we excuse the irresponsible or sinful behaviors of our spouse. Protecting them from the natural consequences of any poor decisions does not empower them to live well and face the circumstances of life. 

Grace that empowers offers unmerited favor, goodness, and joy for the well being of the other. 

Grace can be offered in many ways. And remember, as a true grace, it is unmerited. This means it is not given as a reward or withheld as a punishment. 

Recognizing whether our actions are empowering or enabling can be difficult. The same act can be viewed both ways and it is our heart attitudes that make the determination. 

For example, a sexual encounter might either empower or enable depending on how we offer ourselves.

As a means of empowerment, sex offers unmerited favor in the form of intimacy, play, and pleasure. This gift allows our spouse to be refreshed and better able to face the various demands of life.

However, if we simply go along with sexual encounters that are objectifying and unloving, this can be a form of enabling. We interrupt the law of cause and effect by preventing our spouse from paying the cost of their unloving actions.

Grace in marriage empowers. Merely keeping the peace and going along with irresponsible or unloving behaviors is enabling, and this is not grace.

It takes much prayerful wisdom to know how to offer grace without excusing sin.

As we lovingly let our spouse face the natural consequences of their behaviors, let us also empower them with gifts of unmerited favor.

What unmerited favor can you extend your spouse today that empowers them to live life more fully? Where might you be preventing God’s basic law of sowing and reaping from taking place?