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Dealing with a Difficult Mother-in-Law

Photo by Ghost Presenter on Unsplash

Let’s talk about this important subject together, my precious sisters. God has wisdom, healing, and direction for us even as we deal with very tough relationships.

God’s design for families:

  • Children are under the parents’ authority when they are young, but then they are no longer under their authority when they are grown adults.
  • Children are always to honor their parents, but the relationship is supposed to change once they are adults. They don’t have to obey and submit to their parents anymore.
  • Children are supposed to leave their parents and cleave to their new spouse.
  • Parents are supposed to honor the child’s new marriage covenant and should support their children leaving them and focusing on the new marriage.
  • Marriage is a life-long covenant. It is to be the first priority among all human relationships. It represents the gospel to the world.

Many people, unfortunately, don’t understand God’s order for family. Maybe they aren’t believers in Christ or maybe they are but they haven’t been properly taught. This creates many unbiblical expectations, dysfunctional relationships, and tension. We also all have our own sinful natures with which we must contend. Sometimes there is competition, jealousy, and rivalry for the attention of the man both women love. Sometimes the mother still wants control and highest allegiance from her son, expecting him to put her above his wife. Sometimes a daughter-in-law gets jealous if her son still loves his mom and gives her any attention, expecting her husband to cut his mom out of his life.

These can be tricky waters to navigate.

(How Do You Balance Leave and Cleave with Honoring Your Parents? by www.gotquestions.org – also has the scriptural references for the concepts I shared above about God’s design for families.)

 

What is a godly daughter-in-law to do?

You can’t control her – but you can control yourself. Here are a few steps that may be helpful.

Ask your husband what he believes you should do. God often leads us through our husbands in this area.

In fact, he may have been giving wise advice all along, you may just not have realized it. It may not make sense to you, because it is not how you relate to your parents. But try listening to his counsel. He is the expert on his family. If he is not asking you to clearly sin, seek to honor his way. This is honoring to the Lord.

Sometimes, if a husband has a really controlling mom, he may be rather emotionally and spiritually wounded, himself. If he has always been passive toward her and he has never stood up for himself to her, he may not know how, yet, to stand up against her for you. Even if he really should. The husband should, ideally, be the one to protect his wife from his family and to help navigate any contention between his wife and family. (Here’s a post about how you can help him with protecting you.) If he does not help you, there are times a wife may have to respectfully and prayerfully seek to handle things herself, or seek appropriate outside counsel.

Some general suggestions:

God’s wisdom is what we need! This is a spiritual battle and we need to know His battle plans. Ultimately, let’s seek the Lord’s wisdom from His Word, the leadership of our own husbands, and the discernment of His Spirit to help us navigate these difficult waters.
It definitely requires a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to do the kinds of things I am about to share. And it takes a lot of wrestling in prayer, seeking the Lord, sometimes fasting, and often, a lot of practice, too. (Most of these things would also apply to other people who are difficult to love, as well.)
Prayerfully desire to:
LOVE HER
  • Show your love for God by loving her – and all people – in a healthy way. (Mark 12:31, 1 Cor. 13:4-8)
  • Don’t love in a people pleasing kind of way, but a way that puts God’s approval first. (Gal. 1:10)
  • Do good things for her. God has put this woman in your life on purpose for you to share the love of Jesus with her. (Eph. 2:10)

FOCUS ON THE GOOD

  • Give thanks to the Lord for the woman who raised the man you love. (1 Thess. 5:18)
  • Focus on good things about her. (Phil. 4:8)

PRAY

  • Pray for her. (Matt. 5:43-48)
  • Remember that people are not the real enemy. (Eph. 6:12)
  • This is a spiritual battle and God has provided spiritual armor and weapons which you MUST use if you want to walk in the victory of Christ in tough relationships. (Eph. 6:10-20)
  • Invite God into the situation to do miracles and to pour out His provision, His glory, and His will! (James 5:16)
  • Pray God’s blessings and the truths of scripture over her. (1 Tim. 2:1)
  • Invite God to use this to help you grow spiritually and to train you in godliness. (James 1:2-4, Heb. 12:7-11)
  • Stay as close to the Lord as possible, spending time with Him in prayer, praise, thanksgiving, confession, and intercession. Rejoice in Him. (1 Thess. 5:15-17)

SET A GODLY EXAMPLE

  • Seek to do no harm to her. (Rom. 13:10)
  • Be patient with her and quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Respond with the self-control of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-23, James 1:19-20)
  • Treat her as you would like to be treated. (Matt. 7:12)
  • Respond gently, not harshly. (Prov. 15:1)
  • Smile at her, be friendly, and purposely choose to be kind. Expect nothing in return from her – knowing you will have an eternal reward in heaven. (Luke 6:35)
  • Don’t speak (or even think) hurtful words, or insults but let your thoughts and words be life-giving and edifying. (Prov. 18:21Eph. 4:31-32)
  • Don’t complain or argue so that you can shine for Christ in the family. (Phil. 2:14-16)
  • Extend grace. (Matt. 5:7, Col. 4:6)
  • Don’t try to control her – or your husband. Honor people’s free will like Jesus does. He doesn’t force his way on anyone. (Rev. 3:20)
  • Don’t play the martyr and try to manipulate her or your husband. (Gal. 5:16-25)
  • Don’t vent to her or about her. (Prov. 29:11)
  • Don’t criticize her to your husband or anyone else. When we speak evil of someone, it is a big deal to the Lord. (James 4:11)
  • Bless her, even if she curses you. (Rom. 12:14)
  • Don’t take her hurtful words personally or react in the flesh. (Gal. 5:16-25, Eccl. 7:21-22)
  • Examine what she says and reject anything that is not in line with God’s Word. Don’t absorb messages from the enemy that may be trying to reach you through her mouth. (2 Cor. 10:3-5)
  • Do what is right in God’s eyes so that she have nothing bad to say about you and so that she will glorify God for your good example in the end. (Matt. 5:16)

DEAL WITH SIN RIGHTLY

  • Carefully tear out any bitterness, hatred, contempt, self-righteousness, critical spirit, gossip, selfishness, and malice in your own heart. (Eph. 4:31, James 4:1-3)
  • Allow God to completely change and transform your heart and mind to make you more like Jesus. (Rom. 12:1-2)
  • Pour out your pain to the Lord for Him to help you hash through it rightly. (Ps. 109:2-5)
  • If she is really sinning and needs to be confronted, it can be best for your husband to do the talking, if at all possible. He has the closer relationship with her. And he is the God-ordained leader in your family. (1 Cor. 11:3)
  • If your husband can’t or won’t help and you need to approach her about sin, approach her sin God’s way – respectfully, gently, and humbly – after dealing with your own sin, first. Then you will be able to see what God desires you to do clearly about her sin. (Matt. 7:1-5, Matt. 18:15-17)
  • Know the difference between a critical spirit and a godly rebuke.
  • Forgive her because this is a command of Jesus and it is life-giving and a powerful witness for Him. Let God take care of any vengeance that may be necessary. We can’t forgive in our power, but He can give us His power to do this as we yield to Him and let Him have control. (Matt. 6:14-15, Luke 17:3)
  • Remember that forgiveness is NOT the same thing as trust. The only One we can trust unconditionally is the Lord. Trust of other people is conditional. We are not required to trust people who want to hurt us. (Jer. 17:5)

OUTDO ONE ANOTHER IN SHOWING HONOR – to our husbands and our in-laws

  • Seek the wisdom and leadership of your husband.  (Eph. 5:22-33, Col. 3:18)
  • Always try to treat your MIL with the utmost respect – in your body language, tone of voice, word choices, actions, and even in your heart. (Rom. 12:10)
  • Honor your husband’s parents as an extension of God’s command for your husband to honor his parents. (Exodus 20:12, 1 Pet. 5:5)
  • Honor your in-laws because they are your elders. This honors the Lord. You don’t have to respect or honor sin, but you can respect and honor people because they are created in the image of God and dearly loved by Jesus. (1 Pet. 5:5)
  • Show respect for the Lord, your husband, your in-laws, and yourself.

SEEK TO UNDERSTAND

  • Try to understand your MIL’s different perspective, history, filters, paradigm, and concerns. She has a different way of looking at things, but that doesn’t automatically make her “wrong” or “evil.” There are probably reasons why she thinks and feels the way she does that make sense to her. (James 1:19)
  • Give her the benefit of the doubt when possible, rather than assuming the worst. (1 Cor. 13:4-7)
  • Try to get to know her personality, her strengths, and her talents and appreciate them.
  • Bear with her weaknesses. She may be older than you are, but she may not be as spiritually mature as expect her to be yet. (You may not be as spiritually mature as you would like to be yet, either.) She may have emotional and spiritual baggage, wounds, and scars that need God’s healing. She may be going through peri-menopause. She may have medical issues that are making things much worse that you don’t know about. You may not know how deep her pain is or what lies the enemy has used to ensnare and hurt her. (Rom. 15:1-2)
  • Try to receive love the way she shows it to you, rather than being offended that it may be different from what you are used to.  (Prov. 19:11)

SET APPROPRIATE BOUNDARIES IF NECESSARY

  • It’s fine to respectfully verbalize when you feel hurt and to ask for what you need,
    • “Those words really hurt me.”
    • “Ouch.”
    • “I feel sad when you say things like…”
  • If she is being controlling, you can say things like:
    • “Thank you for caring about us and wanting to give us good advice. We will prayerfully consider what you suggested.” She can give advice. It would be ideal if the advice was asked for. But your decisions in your marriage are not her decisions to make.
    • “You have raised your son very well. He has a lot of wisdom. We will try to make the best decision we can together. And we will be praying about this. I know it is hard when we make decisions that you may not agree with. Thanks for respecting our ability as adults to make our own decisions, even when we don’t always do what you would prefer.”
    • “Thanks for loving us and caring about us. Thanks for praying for us.” But you don’t have to give her control that is not hers.
  • If your MIL is often very hurtful to you verbally, and she won’t stop when you ask her to, it may be best to only visit her with your husband, not by yourself. You may need to have him there to be a witness and to be a buffer. (Eccl. 4:12)
  • If things are extremely toxic, you may have to break contact to some degree or another, at least for a time. This should not be done from a spirit of malice, but with a heart of divine love, desiring to see repentance, eventual healing, and reconciliation. Ideally, this would be done with your husband’s help and leading. But there are times when a wife may have to set boundaries on her own if things are severe and her husband isn’t intervening. (Matt. 18:15-17, Gal. 6:1-2)
  • If she is mentally ill or very spiritually oppressed, she may need medical help or counseling.
  • There are times it can be necessary to call the police, sadly. Again, it would be ideal if your husband handles that. But if you or your children are not safe, you may have to call, depending on the situation. God puts various authorities in our lives to protect us from harm when we need it and to maintain order and safety.
  • With a very emotionally toxic MIL situation, Leslie Vernick’s resources may be helpful about how to interact with destructive people.

KEEP AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE

  • Remember that you will face many difficulties and even tragedies as a family. You may all need each other in the future. Seek to build unity and real peace as much as it depends on you. (1 Pet. 3:8)
  • Some of the things that may upset you now really won’t matter much in light of eternity. Maybe you can let some things go. Not every conflict is necessary or beneficial. “Choose your battles wisely.” (Prov. 19:11)
  • Remember that life is very short. Your MIL may not always be with you. Try to live without regrets and make the most of the time you have. (Ps. 90:12)
Your witness and godly example may be the instruments the Lord uses to win your MIL to Jesus or to help her find healing in Him!

Prayer

Lord,
We are in awe over the incredible love You have shown to us. You sent Jesus to live the perfect life none of us could live in our place. You crushed Him and allowed Him, Your beloved Son, to die a horrific death in our place. If we could just see the depth of our sin and the infinitely greater depth of Your love for us – and for all people! Our thinking would be so very different. We would see that all people are on level ground at the foot of the cross. We would be humble toward others and toward You.
Many women here are hurting in difficult family relationships. You are the Master at healing broken individuals and broken relationships. We joyfully invite Your truth, Your Spirit, and Your power into our families to work miracles, blessing, genuine reconciliation, and healing where there is pain. Heal MILs. Heal FILs. Heal husbands and wives. Heal grandchildren. Destroy the plans of the enemy to steal, kill, and destroy our families. Bring us together in the power of Christ!  
We are daughters of the Most High King! We are seated in the heavenlies with Jesus! We have access to the Holy of Holies 24/7!?!? We can pray the promises and truths of God over our MILs and over our families and extended families. We seek nothing but Your will, Your kingdom, and Your greatest glory, Lord!
In the Name and Power of Jesus,
Amen!
NOTE – Twenty days after I wrote this post, my own mother-in-law suddenly and unexpectedly passed away at the age of 75. I’m so thankful that we hadn’t had tension in many years and that we were on the best terms ever when she died. There is no greater peace when someone dies than knowing that we have no regrets! That is how I long for us all to be able to live, as God empowers us to.

SHARE

If you would like to ask for prayer, you are welcome to. (But let’s not share details about other people’s sin in a public place like a blog, out of respect for the Lord and for the privacy of others. Thanks!)
If God has helped you a lot in this area and you feel led to share some of the wisdom you have learned, we’d love to hear it!

RESOURCES

Righteous Jealousy and Anger – Godly anger hates sin and loves people. It wants to see wrongs made right. It leaves vengeance to God.

How Can I Seriously Count Painful Times As Joy?

I was planning to write this post a few hours before my father-in-law suddenly died August 4th. It is the sequel to my post from last week about Is Real Joy Possible for Me?  I am honored to share these precious spiritual treasures with you – as it so happens – from the midst of a significant trial in my own life.

We live in a fallen world and we all face many kinds of trials in our lives. None of us are exempt. I may not have much control over what trials come my way. But I do have control over my response and attitude.

I am so excited to share some amazing truths with you – truths that will radically change your life and perspective if you are willing to embrace them.

JOY IS MY CHOICE IN TIMES OF TRIAL

I can choose to depend on God’s wisdom, His strength, His sovereignty, His power, His goodness, His love, and His vision. I can choose to trust Him and His Word. I can willingly yield to His Lordship and let Him lead me.

This takes the power of the Holy Spirit. It takes close fellowship with God. It takes practice. It is a discipline we can learn as believers with God’s help. I can begin to see hard times as spiritual tests and opportunities for growth.

When I face difficulties, the Holy Spirit empowers me (if I belong to Christ) to choose to respond in:

  • Faith
    • I don’t know the answers, but I trust that God knows what to do and that He will lead me through this. (Isa. 30:21, Ps. 23)
    • I don’t have the wisdom to solve this dilemma, but I trust that God has wisdom and power in this situation. (Isa. 40:28)
    • I know God is sovereign, good, and loving even now and even over this. (Jer. 29:11-13)
  • Joy
    • I know that God promises to use this specific trial to help me grow in my faith and in spiritual maturity, and that brings me great joy. (James 1:2-4)
    • Jesus invites me to ask for things I genuinely need – according to His will – and to receive from God, that my joy might be full. (John 16:24)
    • A joyful heart is good medicine. (Prov. 17:22)
    • God calls me to rejoice in Him at all times. (Phil. 4:4)
    • I have so many reasons for joy in Christ, even in the midst of my trials (the following is excerpted from www.gotquestions.org).
      • The joy of my salvation.
      • The joy of anticipating God’s deliverance.
      • The joy of God’s presence.
      • The joy of spiritual maturity.
  • Anticipation
    • I can’t wait to see how God will use this awful situation to create something beautiful and good in my life and bring glory to Himself!
    • I want to go much deeper with the Lord! (Eph. 1:15-23)
    • God wants to use hardships to help conform me to the image of Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:29)
  • An Open Heart
    • What does God want me to learn and how does He want to help me to grow in this painful trial?
  • Spiritual Treasure Seeking
    • It is only in the dark caves where people can find diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and gems physically, it is similar spiritually. The greatest treasures are found in the darkest times, if we are willing to look.
    • I don’t want to miss any of the gifts He has for me here.
  • Prayer
    • Lord, I give this situation to You. You see all that I am going through and my suffering. I trust You are with me. I trust You are sovereign and good.
    • I invite Your provision!
    • How should I pray about this situation?
    • Not my will but Yours be done! (Luke 22:42)
    • Is there anyone I should ask to pray with me/for me about this?
    • What step do you want me to take next?
    • I only want to see Your greatest glory!
    • I want Your perfect will.
    • What miracles do You want to do here?
  • Peace
    • In the world, I will have tribulation. But Jesus promises to give me His peace. (John 16:33)
    • God will keep me in His perfect peace when I trust Him and my mind is focused on Him. (Isaiah 26:3)
    • I can lay all of my concerns, worries, and fears before God because He cares for me. (Phil. 4:6)
  • Assurance 
    • He is going to make a way for me to make it through this. (Isa. 43:16-19)
    • He is with me and He will never leave or forsake me. (Deut. 31:8)
  • Rest
    • Jesus invites me to come to Him when I am weary and He will give me rest for my soul. (Matt. 11:28-30)
  • Strength 
    • His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)
    • God promises I can do all that He calls me to do through the power of Christ in me. (Phil. 4:12-13)
    • The Lord is my strength and my song. (Ex. 15:2)
  • Thanksgiving
    • I can look for the blessings and provision of God in the midst of my trial. (1 Thess. 5:18)
    • I can give thanks to the Lord for He is good! (Ps. 107:1)
  • Focusing on Positive Things 
    • I can focus on the good things, the Philippians 4:8 things, because whatever I focus on tends to grow in my field of spiritual vision.
  • Receptivity to His promises
    • I learn about God’s promises theoretically as I read His Word. But it is during a crisis that I actually get to rest the weight of my life on God’s promises and experience them in reality.
    • I want to keep all of God’s promises in my heart and stand firmly on them and His Word.
  • Ministry
    • How does God want me to shine for Christ in the midst of this yucky situation? (Phil. 2:14-16, Matt. 5:13-16)
    • How might He want me to be an example, blessing, and witness to others? (1 Cor. 7:16, Acts 1:8)
    • How does God desire me to overcome evil with good here? (Rom. 12:17-21)
    • I can rest assured that God will use my pain – and the comfort He brings to me – to bring comfort, healing, salvation, and to strengthen the faith to others in the future when they hear about what He did for me and how I responded. (2 Cor. 1:6)

This doesn’t mean I won’t have feelings of sadness. I will! I am human, after all. I will have sadness and grief, at times. I will feel frustration and anger, at times. I will hurt. I will have emotions. It is important to feel my emotions and to identify them. But I don’t have to be a slave to my emotions. And I don’t have to be a slave to my circumstances.

Things may look hopeless from a human perspective…

Thankfully, I don’t have to see from a mere human perspective if I know Jesus!

THE BLESSINGS OF TRIALS

Scripture is full of encouragement about the spiritual benefits of our trials as followers of Christ. Here are a few of the blessings my trials can produce in my life as I trust God:

  • Lamentations 1
    • Suffering for sin may help me repent of sin and return to God if I have strayed.
    • God disciplines those who belong to Him for our good, so that we will turn from death and embrace His Life.
  • Matthew 5:10-11 and Acts 5:41
    • Suffering for my faith in Christ means I have been counted worthy to suffer in Jesus’ name.
    • I am blessed if I am insulted, punished, and/or persecuted for my faith in Jesus.
  • Romans 5:3-5
    • I can glory in my sufferings because of the good they will produce
      • perseverance
      • character
      • hope
  • James 1:2-4
    • As I trust God during suffering, He will use my trials to produce good things in me:
      • endurance
      • greater faith
      • greater spiritual maturity
      • spiritual completeness
      • I will lack nothing
  • Hebrews 12:4-12
    • I am to count hardships as discipline from God that will help me learn and grow. His discipline:
      • is verification of my adoption as a child of God
      • brings greater respect for God
      • yields peaceful fruit
      • brings about righteousness
      • is guaranteed to be for my benefit
      • allows me to share in God’s holiness

NOTE – “Counting trials as joy” does not mean that I need to try to create trials for myself, that I should be purposely combative or argumentative, or that I should try to prolong trials. It also doesn’t mean I must stay in a dangerous, abusive situation where I am being severely sinned against if I am able to get somewhere safe.  

SHARE

If you have experienced God’s supernatural joy and/or blessings in the midst of a difficult trial, or you have learned something helpful about how to “count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds,” we’d love to hear about it! I’m so thankful we can walk this road together and encourage one another.

RESOURCES

Verses about trials – Open Bible

Verses about God’s wisdom – Open Bible

A list of all of God’s promises – Bible Gateway

Verses about peace – Open Bible

Verses about suffering as a believer – Open Bible

Verses about being persecuted and hated for faith in Christ – Open Bible

Verses about God’s Sovereignty – Open Bible

Verses about finding God’s direction – Open Bible

Verses about strength – Open Bible

“The Peaceful Mom – Building a Healthy Foundation with Christ As Lord” has one chapter on counting trials as joy and one chapter on having an eternal perspective. Most of the chapters in the book would be a blessing to all women, not just moms.

6 Reasons NOT to Criticize Your In-Laws

Photo Credit – Flickr

Before we get into the issue of why not to criticize our in-laws, let’s define criticism.

When I am speaking about criticism in this post, I am talking about:

  • having a critical, judgmental, negative, condemning spirit toward others that cannot be pleased.
  • insulting other people.
  • fault-finding.
  • gossipping.
  • having a negative attitude.
  • looking down on others with a sense of spiritual superiority or self-righteousness.

The truth is that…

  • When someone criticizes a man’s parents, he often feels an instinctive loyalty to defend them, even though he knows they aren’t perfect and may even agree with the criticism.
  • When a man’s own wife criticizes his parents, she is (perhaps unknowingly) pitting herself against his family – and by extension – against him.

Of course, the same is true for us as women when someone criticizes our parents.

It can be tempting to have a critical spirit against people. I may feel completely justified to do this in my own mind. However, if I choose to dishonor, disrespect, insult, and/or criticize my husband’s parents, I need to understand the price I will pay.

  1. My husband will feel personally dishonored, disrespected, insulted, and criticized if I do these things to his parents, even if I don’t criticize them to anyone but to him. If I criticize or insult his parents to other people, he will feel even more hurt. He will likely feel like I have been disloyal to him, like I have committed a type of betrayal against his family.
  2. I will create a wall of emotional/spiritual division between myself and my husband.
  3. I will lose some of his trust.
  4. If I disrespect and criticize my husband’s parents in front of our children, I will hurt their relationship with their grandparents.
  5. Even if I just have a critical spirit about my in-laws (or anyone else) in my mind and don’t verbalize my thoughts to anyone else, this mindset will adversely impact my spiritual growth and walk with the Lord and my relationships with my husband and his parents.
  6. If I complain and have a negative attitude toward my in-laws (or anyone else), I hurt my witness for Jesus Christ.

Instead of focusing on the negative things, perhaps I can focus on something positive? The more I look for good things, the more I will probably find good things about my in-laws. When I practice thanking God for the blessings I see in others, the better my own frame of mind, and the more power I have from God to respond in His Spirit rather than in my sinful flesh. What if God wants to use the things that are so difficult to teach me something valuable and to help me find spiritual treasures? Perhaps, if I feel there is a trial with my in-laws, I can count that trial as joy (as James 1:2-4 says to do) and invite God to do His miracles in my own thinking and in my own approach. I can then also pray effectively for my in-laws, that God might richly bless them and heal any wounds they may have, as well.

The Bible has much godly wisdom about a critical spirit and how we are not justified to do this and how God calls us to change to be more like Himself by the power of His Spirit:

  • A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Prov. 29:11
  • “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matt. 7:1-5
  • Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12
  • Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Gal. 6:1
  • Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Rom. 14:4
  • And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. 2 Tim. 2:24
  • Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. Rom. 2:1
  • Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; Rom. 14:10
  • If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Cor. 13:1
  • Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Eph. 4:29
  • Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, Phil. 2:14-15

Are there times I need to respectfully share concerns with my husband about his family? Sure. There may be times I need to let my husband know that there is an important issue going on. But I can do that without condemning, bashing, insulting, attacking, criticizing, or disrespecting his parents.

Examples of a critical approach:

  • Babe, I don’t want your parents to watch our kids. Your mom is such a horrible grandmother. She lets them be around their vicious dog. I don’t think she cares if they get hurt.
  • Honey, do we have to go to your parents’ house this month? Their house is a total disaster. She is the worst housekeeper. My sinuses go completely crazy every time we go. It is torture for me to have to be there for even an hour.

Examples of a respectful approach:

  • Babe, I want your parents to get to have lots of time with our kids. I know they love them so much. I want them to have a close relationship. However, I don’t feel that our kids are safe around their dog. I have seen the dog growl at them and snap at the baby. What are your thoughts on that?
  • Honey, I know it is so important to you that we spend some time with your parents. I want us to have a great relationship with them. I do want to let you know that my allergies sometimes flare up a lot, I have noticed, when we are there. I think maybe it is a combination of the dust and perfume. I will take some medicine to try to prevent problems. Do you have any suggestions so that we can be with them but I might not have to have so many problems with allergies?

 

Lord,

Please help us to live holy lives in our thoughts, our motives, our words, and our actions. Purify us of all sin. Purify us of negativity, a critical, judgmental spirit. Cleanse us of any self-righteousness and pride. Help us to see our in-laws, our husbands, and everyone with Your eyes and Your love. Transform our thinking by the power of Your Spirit and Your Word. Help us to approach our in-laws and everyone else in ways that bring glory and honor to Your Name.

Amen!

NOTE:

In-law relationships can be some of the MOST difficult. Sometimes our own husbands have quite a bit of godly wisdom about how to handle their family wisely. If you need some outside help for a tough in-law situation, please check out the free counseling resources available at www.focusonthefamily.org. Or the counseling resources at www.biblicalcounseling.com. Or check with your pastor or a strong believer you trust for a referral to a solid, biblical counselor in your area. Be sure the counselor seeks to handle God’s Word correctly.

 

Most of all, check out what God’s Word has to say, seek the Lord’s wisdom, and the power of His Spirit so that you may respond in His goodness and overcome evil with good.

RELATED
What Does the Bible Say about Criticism? – by www.gotquestions.org

What Does the Bible Say about Complaining? – by www.gotquestions.org

What Does the Bible Say about Self-Righteousness? – by www.gotquestions.org

17 Tips to Ask for What You Desire Respectfully

 

 

 

Control Girls and Family Christmas – by Shannon Popkin

A guest post by author Shannon Popkin:

I’d like to call a pre-Christmas huddle. Calling all the women in the family please. Can we huddle up for a moment?

I’m calling this meeting because I think there are some hurting women among us. There are some mothers of adult children and mother-in-laws who feel unloved and underappreciated. Their emotions churn as they wonder, “Do my kids even notice all I’ve done for them? Do they even care about me?” And there are some adult daughters and daughter-in-laws who feel stressed out by all of the expectations that they sense coming from the matriarch of the family. Their emotions churn as they wonder, “Does she even see what she’s putting me through, here? Does she see that we’re all trying to make her happy?”

Both feel misunderstood. Both have a very clear idea of how to make things turn out “right”. And neither of them are talking about it. As the clock ticks down toward December 25, the tensions are rising, along with all of the inflated expectations.

Controlling Christmas

Many of these cross-generational tensions that we face stem from our desire for control. As women, we’re particularly interested in creating a Happy Ending for our particular family. We have this inner drive to make everything turn out right. But our heightened expectations only cause us to become more controlling—especially during the holidays.

When I was writing my book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible, I was surprised at the consistency. Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, and Miriam all lived thousands of years ago, and yet I saw them struggling with control the same way we do: they took matters into their own hands and tried to make things turn out right for their families, based on their own single-focused perspective. And they made the whole family miserable in the process. I also noticed that the only way they found what they were really looking for—abiding peace, satisfying family relationships, and deep security—is when they did the opposite of taking control. When they surrendered to God, and made their story all about Him.

I hope that you’ll consider the many, many lessons that can be learned from these Control Girls of the Bible in my upcoming book. But for now, can I offer a few suggestions? Regardless of where your branch is on the family, tree, here are some gentle suggestions for how to choose surrender, rather than control this Christmas:

  • Christmas can be perfect without being perfect. The food, the table, the decorations, the gifts. All of these things can demand an enormous amount of attention. And the greater our expectations, the greater the stress load—shared by everyone. Let’s ask ourselves this question: What is my main goal? To be a blessing to my family? Or to create a “Pinterest Perfect” Christmas? (The two might very well be mutually exclusive.)
  • Be flexible. The people who share your DNA or your last name are not your property. True hospitality considers the needs and preferences of others. Ask what time for dinner will work best for the baby’s schedule. Let your kids know that it’s fine if they want to come a few days after Christmas, since they’ll be traveling to see the other side of the family on Christmas Day. Don’t expect your parents to make a ten hour trip. Be delighted if they do, but not offended if they don’t. Let’s stop making demands or assumptions. It’s controlling, it’s rude, and it destroys peace rather than sharing it.
  • Traditions are not obligations. Sometimes the most gracious, sensitive thing to do is to break a tradition. Or at least set it aside for a while. Maybe this year your son will want his kids to wake up in their own house on Christmas morning. Or maybe this is the year that Christmas brunch becomes Christmas munch… on leftovers. Every year your family changes just a bit. Let’s ask ourselves, Which am I holding to more tightly—my traditions or my loved ones?
  • For goodness’ sake, remember to help. Holidays are a lot of work, and one person shouldn’t do it all. Not the mom or the daughter. Not the mother-in-law or the daughter-in-law. Share the planning, the cost, the kitchen prep, and the cleanup. And gratefully accept the help that others offer! If your daughter-in-law shows up with a dish, take a generous helping and compliment her on her culinary efforts! If your mom is kind enough to clean her house from top to bottom so that your kids can reverse her efforts in a matter of minutes, the least you can do is pick up before you go. Remind yourself: Be kind, one to another. Especially at Christmas.
  • You better not cry. You better not pout; I’m telling you why: Because you’re sabotaging your own Christmas. Be honest. Ask yourself, Am I sulking? Do I have a complaining heart? Is my attitude sullen? If so, is it because I’m not getting what I want? You might very well not get what you want this Christmas. Or on any But by trying to control (sulking and pouting are forms of manipulation), you only make everyone miserable—including you.

Peace at Christmas

Let’s try something different, shall we? Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. It’s the time that we celebrate our Prince of Peace, coming to earth to set up his kingdom. He wants for there to be peace on earth! And peace in families! And especially peace that extends beyond generational lines.

This sort of peace only comes when we are following Jesus and doing life the way he showed us. How did Jesus live? Toward other people, Jesus was a humble servant. He poured out his life and gave himself up on their behalf. And toward God, Jesus lived a life of deep surrender. He said, “I seek not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30)

So let those be our guardrails. Facing others, we serve. Facing God, we surrender.

Our Control Girl hearts will tempt us, this Christmas, to obsess over recipes and gifts and table décor and whether Johnny’s going to be here on Christmas Eve. But as a Jesus Girl, we’re invited to surrender control and spread peace on earth.

 

 

Bio and Book Info

Author and speaker Shannon Popkin loves to blend her gifts for storytelling and humor with her passion for God’s Word. Shannon’s book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, which is available for preorder, is releasing in January. Shannon is also a contributing blogger at TrueWoman.com.

Shannon is happy to be sharing life with Ken, who makes her laugh every single day. Together, they live the fast-paced life of parenting three teens. For more from Shannon, please go to shannonpopkin.com, or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

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Being a Peaceful In-Law

In-law relationships are some of the most notoriously difficult relationships – but we can have healthy relationships with our in-laws and we can have healthy relationships with our own parents, siblings, and adult children “as far as it depends on” us (Rom. 12:18). We don’t have to engage in toxic relationship dynamics and dysfunction. We are no longer slaves to sin and we are now daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords! We can choose to treat our extended family members with respect and honor. When Christ is in us, His character shines through rather than our old sinful nature. He can give us victory to act in ways that please Him in all of our relationships!

Note – if you have very severe issues in your relationships (major uncontrolled mental illness, abuse, violence, threats of violence, drug/alcohol abuse, etc…) and you or someone else is not safe – please reach out for appropriate help from your church, a godly counselor, the police, a doctor, etc… whomever may be appropriate for the situation. And also, always compare anything I say (or any person says) to scripture and seek to obey God. His approval is all that ultimately matters. (If you don’t have a relationship with Christ as your Savior and LORD, please check out this post.)

Some Helpful Principles to Keep in Mind with Extended Family Relationships:

  • It is not my job to “fix” other people.
  • God knows best – I do not. I need to be sure Jesus is squarely on the throne of my life, not self or anyone or anything else.
  • God is sovereign over people and circumstances, I am not. And God, in His wisdom and sovereignty, gives people free will. His sovereignty and their free will work together in ways I can’t begin to fathom. I can trust Him – even when I can’t trust other people.
  • I can’t change other people. I can’t open their eyes to spiritual things. I can’t even change myself or open my own eyes apart from the power of the Holy Spirit working in me.
  • I want to honor other people’s marriage covenants and not try to get them to put me or my opinions/advice above their marriage.
  • I need to be sure I don’t expect others to put me/my approval above Jesus in their hearts.
  • I need to make sure I don’t put others or their approval above Christ in my heart.
  • I can honor Christ on my end and make sure I allow Him to continually purify and refine my motives, thoughts, words, and actions.
  • I can be sure I am taking my thoughts captive for Christ. I can’t afford to  hold onto any sinful thoughts.
  • I need to abide and rest in Christ so that I am overflowing with His power and love in all of my relationships and circumstances.
  • God measures my love for Him by how I treat other people. (Matt. 25:40) Difficult relationships are often spiritual tests. Satan wants to use these things to destroy me and my witness for Christ. God wants to use these tests to prune and purify me.
  • I am responsible to God for how I treat others and how I think. Other people will be responsible to God for how they treat other people and how they think.
  • I can learn to respect and love others in godly, healthy ways as I allow God to regenerate and transform my heart and mind (Rom. 12:1-2).
  • Healthy boundaries and biblical thinking are critical for me to have healthy relationships with others as far as it depends on me.
  • It is not any person’s place to override another person’s free will.
  • Some relationships are not going to be healthy even if I am doing everything right. Other people may choose not to love me and not to like me. Or they may not even know how to love in a healthy way. That is going to  have to be something I can accept if I have done what God desires me to do. I can’t make other people like me or want to be with me.
  • Some relationships are so toxic and others may continue in unrepentant sin so long that my husband and I may have to prayerfully decide that we can’t fellowship with those family members until they are willing to change and rebuild trust. (Matt. 18:15-17)
  • God wants to use me to shine for Christ even in difficult situations.
  • God can and will use difficult relationships to refine me and to help me grow in spiritual maturity if I am open to Him and teachable.
  • God may use my witness for Christ to draw my family members to Himself as I allow Him to love them through me.
  • If godly love is not my motive, whatever I am doing will not count for Christ in eternity. (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
  • I have a covenant with my husband, not with my parents or in-laws. Marriage is to be the priority relationship in God’s design. (Gen. 2:24)
  • I am responsible to God for myself spiritually and emotionally, others are responsible for themselves spiritually and emotionally.
  • I can influence people but I can’t control them.
  • I want to live in total submission to Christ as Lord in all of my relationships so that I am seeking God’s will far above my own will.
  • I want to guard my own motives from sin and get rid of any bitterness, resentment, pride, self-righteousness, control, fear, selfishness, people pleasing, and any other toxic thought patterns.
  • I can seek to better understand those who think differently from me. It is much easier to avoid unnecessary conflict if I can understand their perspectives.
  • I can seek to be flexible (unless someone is asking me to participate in or condone sin) and ready to extend much grace, compassion, understanding, and mercy.
  • God promises to use everything in my life – good and bad – to accomplish His good purposes in my life and His glory if I belong to Jesus. (Rom. 8:28-29)
  • I can rest in God’s sovereignty, goodness, and love no matter what circumstances I may be facing.
  • I can take problems and other people to God in prayer and invite His Spirit to accomplish His purposes in their lives in ways I can’t even begin to imagine.
  • There are times I may need to confront sin in others – but, I need to be sure my heart is right first. And, if it is my husband’s family, I may want to allow him to handle the confrontation if possible – as God prompts us both.

A lot of the principles we learn as we seek to become godly wives carry over into other relationships, as well – like respect…

Ways I Can Respect Extended Family Members – I can choose to:

  • Speak in a respectful, pleasant tone of voice.
  • Honor any requests they make of me – i.e.: not to bring up an embarrassing story from the past that they don’t want me to share with others.
  • Have friendly facial expressions and to smile genuinely to bless others because of the joy I  have in Christ.
  • Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)
  • Accept people as they are and seek to see them as God sees them, loving them with His love.
  • Respect other people because they are created in God’s image and God loves them (that doesn’t mean I have to respect sin, of course).
  • Enjoy them and be warm and welcoming.
  • Give space to those who need more space out of respect rather than resentment.
  • Seek to understand the needs of different people with different personalities and temperments.
  • Lay down most of my expectations. (other than for things like safety, for example)
  • Accept that different people have different backgrounds, personalities, filters, and perspectives so we will not think the same way or all agree on everything. That is okay!
  • Approach others with humility rather than looking down on anyone.
  • Allow people to make their own choices without me interfering. (There may be exceptions in the case of someone truly abusing another person or doing something illegal where I may have a legal/ethical/spiritual responsibility to step in.)
  • Avoid giving unsolicited advice.
  • Avoid having a critical or judgmental spirit.
  • Immediately confess any bitterness or resentment in my heart to God and refuse to give in to Satan’s temptation to get me to give him a foothold in my life.
  • Allow God’s Spirit to speak life through me rather than allowing my sinful nature/the enemy to use my thoughts, words, and actions to destroy and speak death to my family members.
  • Listen when others are talking without interrupting.
  • Treat others like they are important and precious.
  • See other people with God’s eyes and love them with His heart.
  • Repay evil with good. (Rom. 12:17-21)
  • Not allow anyone to steal the joy, peace, and power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus has given to me.
  • Respond gently and with self-control. (Prov. 15:1, Gal. 5:22-23)
  • Extend patience, kindness, and blessing to others – not so they will approve of me or like me, but so that God is pleased with me and just to bless them.
  • Allow others to talk about the things that are important to them rather than me dominating the conversation. Although, there is balance here – I can also feel free to bring up topics at times, as well, unless God shows me I need to remain silent at a specific time.
  • Seek to be a godly influence and to use my position and relationship to pour the love, healing, and truth of Christ into my extended family members’ lives as God prompts me to by His Spirit humbly, gently, and respectfully.
  • Take up my cross, dying to my sinful nature, seeking only to honor Jesus. Some of the little issues are just not that important – where we eat, how we handle a gift exchange at Christmas, etc…
  • Be open to God’s suggestions for me about how to show His love to the particular people in my family.
  • “Win them without words” if they don’t want to hear me talk about Jesus.
  • Respect people’s decisions and choices and honor them. (If they don’t want to talk with me about God or don’t want to see me, I can choose to respect that without bitterness.)
  • Love with a 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 kind of love not with conditional, worldly love that has strings attached.
  • Speak in positive ways about my family members to them and to others.
  • Avoid gossiping (to family members and about family members), quarreling, divisiveness, and strife.
  • Be a godly example by my attitude, words, non-verbal body language, and actions.
  • Seek to promote God’s Spirit of love, peace, and unity.

RESOURCES:

Identifying the Lies We Have Embraced – about God, ourselves, others, and relationships

Healthy VS Unhealthy Relationships

25 Ways I Can Respect Myself – or “think rightly” about myself

Handling a Controlling Mother as a Team

My Disrespect and Controlling Behavior Don’t Just Hurt My Husband

Respecting Your Husband around Extended Family

What Causes a Woman to Become Controlling? – April’s video

Being Controlling VS. Being Helpful to Your Guy – April’s video, a lot of this applies to our other relationships, as well, not just to our men.

Bitterness Is Poison! – April’s video

12 Ways to Repel a Guy – April’s video, these things will repel other people in our lives, too

Some Conflict is Unavoidable

“I Must Avoid Conflict at All Costs! That’s the Godly Thing to Do”

How Can I Tell If God Is Working in My Life or If I Am Trying to Do Things in My Own Power

For those with very toxic relationships, you may need more specialized help. www.leslievernick.com may be helpful. Please weigh anything any human author says against Scripture and seek to honor Christ and God’s Word above all.

 

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