Family, Relationships

Helen’s Story: Challenges with My Mother-in-Law

After we adopted our baby boy, life with two children became busier and busier. Though it was a blessing to have much-needed family leave of absence from my job, my husband and I quickly realized that we needed a family member to live with us for a time. My mother-in-law volunteered to come all the way from Africa and stay with us. Not only did she want to meet her grandkids, but she also wanted to experience life in America.

I was excited, but that initial excitement was short-lived after a month. My mother-in-law wanted to do things for me all the time and I started to feel like I was a guest in my own home. She continuously gave me advice and this made me feel inadequate. My frustrations with her continued to build. But I have found hope through the Gospel.

Submitting my frustrations to the Lord

Jesus is Lord over my life; he is also the Lord of my mother-in-law, my husband, and children. As Lord and creator, all authority is under his reign (Matthew 28:18). Because he is all-knowing, nothing surprises him. He knew before I did that my mother-in-law would stay with us. For these reasons, I know that I can trust him because his plans for me are good (Jeremiah 29:11). I desire for my relationship with my mother-in-law to change and be a more positive one, and I submit my frustrations to the Lordship of the Lord and trust that his plans would be made manifest over our lives.

Serving my selfish desires

Because of sin, I am first tempted to have my way first and foremost. I have recognized my pride and my heart’s pull to be self-seeking. My thoughts are flooded with wanting her to conform and to change — and I forget about my own sinful heart. My sin has blinded me, and the greediness of wanting control had taken over. I have judged this woman so harshly, even though she has sacrificed and served our family with grace. As a Christ follower, I am called to serve my God on high, yet I am serving my own selfish desire. I have failed to see God’s goodness through his gift of family and care. I recognize that these sins deserve eternal condemnation, but there is good news for me …

He gave it all for me

Even though I see how unwilling I was to give up control and sacrifice my comfort for my mother-in-law, I am reminded of how Christ Jesus gave up his life on the cross so you and I don’t have to be eternally condemned (1 John 3:16). What good news! We have a Savior who was willing to give it all for his people. Jesus has redeemed me — and though I still struggle daily with my frustrations, I know I can take them to him. I can trust him, and I don’t have to be overwhelmed by my sinful heart. I have reflected on Isaiah 1:18, which says, “‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'”

Relying on his grace

Through knowing these truths about Jesus, when I interact with my mother-in-law, I can rely on his abundant grace. His grace allows me to answer with love and shine his love back into her life. I have to remember that his grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9), therefore I do not have to languish in the frustrations of my own sin. My faith includes relying on Jesus to teach me to be humble, compassionate, kind, gentle, and patient (Colossians 3:12). I can rely on Christ to lead me with wisdom as I learn to communicate with her. In faith, I can be confident that he will go before my reactions that tend to elicit frustrations. Through the conviction of the Holy Spirit and his word, I will respond with humility. I will actively fight my pride and let Jesus’s righteousness reign in me.

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