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What Is Enabling?

For a few years I led a Christ-centered 12-Step group in Houston, Texas. Although I shared some past struggles with the people who attended that group, I in no way considered myself to be an expert in substance abuse.

I learned a lot from those men and women.

Now, 20 plus years later, I still at times help people get free of drug and alcohol dependency but those aren’t the only things we address. Every bit as damaging are other problems, such as the destructive thought patterns, habits and, compulsions that entrap so many.

One thing these all have in common is that they are inspired by satan, who hates God and, therefore, hates people since people are made to be restored to the image of God. ALL the sinful things that ensnare people are designed by the devil to prevent them from achieving their potentials…..from experiencing God’s plan for their lives.

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11 – NASB)

Now, I know that the context of this verse was that Israel was coming out of captivity in Babylon, so the “you” in that verse is the nation of Israel. However, I believe that one thing that Israel represents is the “people of God”. All who have received Jesus as Lord are His people and ALL people are potentially God’s people.

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14 - NKJV)

Yes, when we were “knit in our mothers’ wombs” a part of that intentional design God wove into the souls of every person was the potential someday to be one of His children and, not only that, but a HEALTHY, productive and accurate representation of His glory.

Nowhere in the Scriptures do we see angels blessed with this potential and I believe that this is one reason the devils hates us so. It’s nothing more than garden variety jealousy at work.

Every temptation to sin that any human ever experiences, then, represents an intentional move on behalf of satan and his messengers (the demons…fallen angels) to prevent that human from attaining the potential God has knit into the soul of every person.

Sadly, only a small percentage of people receive Jesus, are born again, and become children of God.

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

In the case of these satan has lost his primary battle: to keep spiritually dead people dead; however, he has a fallback position.

For them to become His children was the most important of God’s intentions for Christians but He has many other intentions for us. Some of these have to do with the restoration of our souls from the attacks satan has launched against us from our conceptions.

God also intends to place us strategically so as to work through us to advance His Kingdom into all humanity. God’s intentions for us have to do with us functioning as ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19), living stones (1 Peter 2:5), royal priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9) and in various Body of Christ roles and using various spiritual gifts.

Satan’s fallback position is to pester Christians with various temptations so as to hinder them from ever realizing God’s intentions for their lives. His hope is to keep us all from operating in our full potentials in Christ. This is the essence of the spiritual battle in which we find ourselves.

So, what does all this have to do with “enabling”?

God always provides everything we need in order to do what He would have us to do. This means that around us at any given time are other people who are chosen and are positioned by God to help us be victorious over the things satan will try in our lives to cheat us from the joy of being all we can be in Christ.

The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines “enabler” like this:

“one that enables another to achieve an end; especially one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (such as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior.”

God loves us SO MUCH that He disciplines His children (Hebrews 12:5-10) when they succumb to sin, including patterns of behavior such as passivity, learned helplessness, sexual immorality and/or perversion, irresponsibility, persistent immaturity, drug addiction, etc. That discipline can range from that miserable feeling we get when His Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin to allowing us to experience the earthly consequences of our sin to which WE HAVE MADE OURSELVES VULNERABLE by ignoring His conviction and continuing to sin. These, sadly, can include the loss of relationships, jobs, finances and possessions, homelessness, jail or prison, disease…..all sorts of sad and horrible consequences.

Satan tempts “enablers” to try to rescue people they love from GOD’S efforts to make those people healthy, whole and happy. They don’t know they are doing that; they just want the people they love to not feel the discomfort of the consequences that go with their sin.

In a sobering passage of Scripture (Romans 1:22-32) the Apostle Paul reveals the “spiritual mechanics” of pervasive sinful behavior. It is a sad passage to read but one that everyone should read so we can see the behind the scenes view of what is REALLY happening in the lives of anyone we love who is on a self-destructive track.

It starts like this: “Professing to be wise, they became fools…” (Romans 1:22).

In verses 24 and 26a we are told that God, basically, gives us what we want:

“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…” (Romans 1:24)

“For this reason God gave them up to vile passions.” (Romans 1:26a)

People who hate God and who mock Him look at these verses and proclaim that God is mean and hateful and vindictive. They do so because they do not know Him. They cherry-pick the Scriptures in ways that reveal their own lack of spiritual integrity, taking them out of context so as to give them an excuse for rejecting God. In reality, satan is just using them and making fools of them.

Were they to approach the Word of God honestly to see Who God really is and HOW God really is they would discover that our Father is the very embodiment of and standard of measurement of real love.

“…we have known and believed the love that God has for us. GOD IS LOVE, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)

Whenever I watch someone choose to remain in their self-destructive patterns and I think about that terrible but beautiful passage in Romans 1:22-32 I marvel at the love of God. I cannot imagine loving a human like He does…..loving him so much that He (God) would be willing to experience the agony of the consequences WITH that person in hopes that pain would cause him to stop refusing the Lord’s help and to cry out to God and ALLOW Him to accomplish the rescue He LONGS to do.

I’ve come to understand that enablers do what they do thinking it is love but, really, it is selfishness disguised as love.

How can I say this? I say it knowing that enablers ENABLE people “to persist in self-destructive behavior by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior" (Merriam-Webster).

REAL love….God’s love….would allow a person to experience the discomfort of their consequences so they will rise up, exert some of their God-granted initiative and stop the behaviors.

Enablers try to rescue people so as to save THEMSELVES from the discomfort of watching the people they love experience the pain of the consequences they have earned. That is why enabling is really selfishness disguised as love.

There are several reasons enabling is a bad idea:

  1. It never works. Instead, it helps people stay miserable.

  2. Consequences are God’s idea and His plan to restore people. He’s all-powerful! If you fix the fix He has for people He’ll just prepare another fix for them. He loves them! He won’t give up!

  3. It causes the people we enable to lose respect for us and see us as being weak and foolish. Then, when it IS time to step up and help them (from God’s perspective) they often will refuse the help, being suspicious of us.

  4. According to Romans 1:32 “approving of those who practice” sinful things (and enabling IS a form of approval) can earn us the same consequences to which they are making themselves vulnerable. This would delight the devil as the disorder and destruction proliferates among others.

Let’s consider, for a moment, something most people never seem to do. Can you imagine how hard it must be for an all-powerful God to resist rescuing people from the pain of the consequences they chose?

We can experience a taste of what it is like for God by allowing the people we love to ride out their consequences. Then, when the Lord says to do so, we can step in and help at just the right time.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth— Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD. Blessed is that man who makes the LORD his trust, and does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.” (Psalm 40:1-4)

Yes, if only we will resist the temptation to enable others when they truly need to repent, we can experience a taste of what the Lord experiences all the time: the holy discomfort of watching people experience the pain they earned, the thrill of watching people repent, the excitement of watching them cry out to the Lord (sometimes through us), the joy of watching them be restored, and the beauty of watching them praise the Lord.

If as you read this piece it made you think of someone that you might consider to be an enabler, please get alone with the Lord and forgive that person. They don’t do this maliciously; rather, they think they are loving another by doing it. They have, just as we all have been at times, been deceived by the devil.

If, as you read this, you have realized that you have been an enabler in the past or even might be enabling someone in your life right now you may be tempted to become angry at what I have written today and somehow malign the Lord for letting you enable people you love.

Please....be spiritually wise. The work satan has done to entrap your loved one(s), and also you through enabling, represents an investment on his behalf. He has limited time and energy and he doesn’t want to lose that investment. Nothing would please him more than for you to choose to help your loved one persist in his sin and stay miserable.

Please consider what has been written and repent.

If you read this piece and it has convicted you of the sin of being an enabler just re-read Psalm 40:1-4 and do that. The Word teaches us that we can be free of that horrible sensation when we are convicted of our sin.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16)

We don’t have to go to a “ministry professional” to do this because there are none of those in the New Testament after the resurrection of Jesus. We’re all just Christians and we have various roles. We can just turn to a trusted brother or sister in Christ and say, “I’ve just become aware that I have been an enabler and that it is sin. I want to stop and trust God instead.”

It is AMAZING how simply repenting (changing our minds and agreeing with God about something), confessing our sins and trespasses to one another and then receiving the forgiveness of the Lord can make us feel so much better. Christianity really isn’t that complicated.

May the Lord make us aware of what we do. May He make our hearts sensitive to His prompting. Me He cause us to walk in His ways. May we see His Kingdom spread through the influence He grants us. May we experience the joy of seeing spiritual healthiness ripple out in us and through us.

May we make Him glad.

Pastor Mike McInerney

Decatur, TX

© December 29, 2018

For use with permission

©2018 by Mike McInerney Ministries