My mentor confronted me and said “your peace is dependent on your perception of your own behavior, not on the grace of Jesus. You do well. You feel good about yourself. You have a tough day. You feel bad about yourself.”
He encouraged me to base my peace on the unchanging grace of Christ not the changing behavior of Brad.
The antidote for your struggling marriage
A performance-law focus sets us up for self-pride or self-pity. In Christ, we are loved, accepted, and adopted, and it is not dependent on how impressive or unimpressive we are. As one great preacher said, “what you do is not who you are.” We can be set free from insecurity and self-consciousness. In HIM, we can be secure and confident.
The antidote for your struggling marriage is living a grace-based marriage rather than a performance-based marriage.
What’s a grace-based marriage?
Practically, a grace-based marriage involves responding to sin with kindness and grace, as opposed to consequence and distance. In a grace-based marriage, if one distances himself or herself from you emotionally, you pro-actively love and bless, as opposed to holding it against them and withholding affection. Proverbs 17:9 says, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love.”
If your spouse nags at you, it is being responsive and kind, as opposed to being snappy and rebellious. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). It is resisting the pride of the flesh and loving each other as Christ has loved us. It is responding to evil with good like we read in Romans 5:8, “But God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
You may be thinking, “If I do this, it will give my spouse a ‘jerk license.’” Romans 2:4 says “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” My wife’s strength, grace, and unconditional love motivate me to do better, not worse. The kinder and more graceful she is, the more I am drawn to her. Similarly, the greater revelation I receive of the beauty of Christ, the more I want to abide in and worship Him.
Likewise, the more grace I extend my wife, the more she is helped. Marilyn comments on a difficult day as follows:
“It was one of those days where I was spent before the day began. Life and the kids had eaten my lunch and, needless to say, when Brad got home I was far from full of grace! Overwhelmed, I barked orders all evening only to crash in bed that night. Brad just jumped in helping and didn’t say a word. The next morning in my quiet time, I was convicted. His kindness lent itself to quick repentance from me. If he had pointed out my bad attitude, I would have launched into the old “you have no idea” and been frustrated with him. His lack of engaging with my frustration left me to deal with myself and allowed the Holy Spirit to work on my heart.”
In a grace-based marriage, God gets the glory. Our marriages don’t do well because we are good spouses. It does well because Jesus is the perfect spouse. We live in victory because of what He has done, not because of what we can do.
Shifting from a performance-based marriage to a grace-based marriage is liberating. No longer does the behavior of another control you. No longer are you stuck in a relational ditch. Chaos and consequence are replaced with peace and kindness.
In a grace-based marriage, you help each other into a better place, as opposed to driving each other to a worse place. Ecclesiastes 4:10 reads, “But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” In a grace-based marriage, you help each other up, you don’t kick each other when you are down. You don’t fight darkness with darkness, only the light can conquer the darkness.
Nothing helps you become a better lover than accepting the perfect love of Christ. The pressure is off. Your hope is not in getting better. Your hope is in His perfection. Take a deep breath, know you are loved, and enjoy the weekend.
Praise God, there is a permanent breakthrough available for all of us, and, thankfully, it is not in our behavior, consistency, or improvement. It is in shifting from a performance-based to a grace-based marriage.
Grace Marriage Mission
If you struggle with living under pressure and never feeling good enough, let these words from Scripture guide you and comfort you today.
2 Corinthians 5:17 > Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Romans 5:20 > Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
Romans 6:14 > For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Brad Rhoads is co-founder of Grace Marriage.