Perhaps you’ve heard of the idea, “When you marry a man, you marry his family, too.” His family is part of who he is; therefore, like it or not, his mother is now a part of your story as well. She was who God chose to be his mom…and your mother-in-law (MIL). Seeing her as God’s choice is foundational in learning to love her and to love her well. She is a gift.
Before I got married I devoured all the books on marriage and relationships I could find. I even went to conferences on how to be a godly wife. I “knew” a lot, but as we all know knowledge and experience are totally different. After being married for 20 years, I can honestly say I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. God has taught me a few things along the way about loving not only my husband but his family as well.
Can you see your mother-in-law as the gift of God to you that she is? He specially gift wrapped this gift and gave her to you the day you got married. I don’t presume to know the circumstances surrounding your relationship with her, whether you have a rocky relationship or if it’s been smooth sailing. You might cringe every time you hear someone call their own mother-in-law “mother-in-love.” There might even be some deep wounding that God needs to heal before you are able to love her with His love. I do know, however, that His Word has the power to change people and relationships if we let Him do what only He can do.
Our thoughts determine our actions. That’s why it is crucial that we are disciplined in our thinking toward our MILs. We are responsible for our actions AND our thoughts. Response-able: We are able to respond appropriately to any and every situation we encounter in life. He has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness (1 Peter 1:3). But when we read Scripture, we also need to have some practical applications:
- MOTHER-IN-LAW NOTEBOOK
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (ESV).
Philippians 4:8 gives us very practical ways to help focus our thinking. Get an eight-subject notebook and label it “Mother-in-Law Notebook.” This is only between you and God. No one else will see the things you write in this book. Label each subject divider according to the following:
“Whatever is true…”
What is true about your mother-in-law? What is true about her relationship with you? What is true about your relationship with her son? With your children? You don’t need to sugarcoat these things at this point. Just simply write down all the things you know to be true about her.
“Whatever is honorable…”
According to www.blueletterbible.com, the word “honorable” in this Scripture means, “something to be respected.” Now that you have a list of everything you know to be true about her, start sifting through that list, and circle or highlight everything that is honorable.
List some things you see in your MIL that are worthy of respect. If your relationship with her is rocky, it may take some time. Even if you come up with one thing that is seemingly small and insignificant, it is still something.
With gardening, there is a spiritual principle that says, “What you starve will die, and what you feed will live and grow.” So, even though you can only come up with one thing worthy of respect in your MIL, write it down. When you start focusing on the positive things about her, those things will start growing. (Okay, okay! Even if all you have to say is, “She looks good in purple,” still write that down. Your list will continue to grow as you go along. You will even look back and be amazed at how your relationship with your MIL has changed simply because your thinking has changed.)
Continue doing this with the rest of the Scripture. You may have to dig deep and find the rest of what the Scripture says we are to think about: pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. Keep adding to this notebook. It is a work in progress. One day you will look back at this time and you will be amazed at what God has done in your relationship with her all because He helped you focus on the good in who she is.
Remember: “What you feed will grow!”
- PURPOSES OF YOUR HEART
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 NIV).
One of the stereotypes of a MIL is that she is overbearing and intrusive, right? As a young wife, draw boundaries around your marriage. Protect it from outside and inside intruders. It is truly a time to leave and cleave. You are building a life together with your husband, and the enemy will use every means at his disposal to steal, kill and destroy what God has brought together.
One of the boundaries in your marriage relationship can be with giving. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 Paul is talking about giving financially, but I believe this is a scriptural principle that can be applied to a lot of different areas, including marriage. Purpose in your heart what you are willing and able to give to your relationship with your MIL. Discuss these things with your husband. If you are willing to spend every other Christmas with her, then so be it. Have the best Christmas you could possibly have with her when you are with her. If you are willing to have her over every Sunday for dinner, then prepare the best meals on Sundays. Bless her! But do these things with a cheerful and a willing heart. Always pray about these decisions with your husband, but don’t be coerced into doing something you will resent later.
Remember: “God loves a cheerful giver!”
- LOVE ALWAYS …
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
That Scripture seems daunting, doesn’t it? I look at it, and all I see is how much I fail at living up to what it says. But God…(Don’t you love those “but God” moments?)
- is patient.
- is kind.
- does not envy.
- does not boast.
- is not proud.
- does not dishonor others.
- is not self-seeking.
- is not easily angered.
- keeps no record of wrongs.
- does not delight in evil.
- rejoices with the truth.
- always protects.
- always trusts.
- always hopes.
- always perseveres.
- NEVER FAILS!
He does all these things perfectly because HE IS LOVE (1 John 4:8). So, we can rest assured that if we yield to the Holy Spirit, He can love others, including our mothers-in-law, perfectly through us. It won’t always be easy, but it will always be possible. All things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26). Loving others, no matter who they are, does not always come naturally. That is why we need the supernatural power of God to love others through us.
Remember: Love never fails! We will fail again and again. We cannot do what He’s asked us to do in our own strength. But we can love others, including our mother-in-law, with His strength. (She also may need to draw on His strength to love you as well.)
- YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW
“You will always harvest what you plant” (Galatians 6:7 NLT).
What kind of seeds are you planting in your relationship with your MIL? Are you prepared for the harvest of those seeds? Are you sowing seeds of discord or harmony? Are you sowing seeds of gratitude or selfishness? Are you sowing seeds of contentment in what God has given you, or are you sowing seeds of discontentment?
We deceive ourselves if we think we can mock God by not taking His Word seriously! The question is not will we or will we not reap a harvest. The question is: What kind of harvest do we want to reap?
Sow seeds of blessing. It has far-reaching effects. When you bless your MIL, you are in essence blessing your entire family. You are sowing seeds of harmony and unity.
Remember: We reap what we sow, so sow good seeds!
As you have probably already figured out, these principles can be applied to any relationship. That is precisely the point. Your mother-in-law is a person just like you.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30). And what closer neighbor do you have than your mother-in-law?