My son and daughter-in-law live in another state so I don’t get to see them very often. They have a wonderful relationship with each other but Suzanne* has told me that she doesn’t like to talk on the phone, so it’s hard for us to develop our relationship.
I try to stay connected by texting her every couple of weeks but she very rarely replies to my text messages. I love her and long to have a closer relationship like the one I have with my own daughter, but it seems she has no interest in this. I often feel like withdrawing because her lack of response is hurtful. When she doesn’t respond to my text or only responds with an emoji, I feel belittled and like she doesn’t have time for me. When she does reply with an emoji, part of me is happy that she answered but I also feel disappointed because I yearn for more. Recently I texted good news about a significant medical result and she only replied with a little heart. I thought, “Can’t she at least say, ‘Yay!’?”
When we are together in person, we get along well, although I’ve noticed she always has her phone in her hand. This makes me think that when I send her a text she must see it. So what’s the reason she doesn’t reply to me? I sometimes think, “Doesn’t she like me?” or “What did I do to make her not want to talk to me?” I feel puzzled and imagine I’ve injured her in some way that keeps her from responding. I really want something more. I feel negative and a bit hopeless wondering if our relationship is ever going to change. At times I don’t want to keep trying because every time I do write her I wonder if I will just be slapped in the face again.
Tempted to react sinfully
When Suzanne doesn’t reply to me, I find I’m tempted to react with sinful emotions, words, and thoughts. It makes me angry revealing that I’m defensive, thinking she’s disinterested, disrespecting me, and doesn’t care about my feelings. I sinfully complain to my husband with unkind and sarcastic remarks (Philippians 4:8; Ephesians 4:29). But when I search Scripture, I’m convicted that my focus is too much on myself than on truly caring for her, and I’m reminded to humbly look beyond my own interests to those of others (Phil. 2:4-5).
His lordship brings peace
The Lordship of Christ absolutely brings me peace. Despite how much or how often Suzanne replies to my efforts to build our relationship, I have confidence that Christ is in control, that He knows and wants what’s best for both of us. As I continue to love the Lord and others first, I can rest and not be anxious or worried what others think of me because He is over it all and knows it all (Col. 1:15-16). God is sovereign over my relationship with Suzanne, and I can rest because I know He’s working all things together for my good even when it doesn’t feel good (Rom. 8:28).
Acceptance in Christ
Sensing that I am somehow inadequate as a mother-in-law, Suzanne’s lack of response misdirects my heart to value her opinion more than Christ’s for acceptance, worth, and love. I realize these are all things given to me graciously in Christ so I know that God has chosen me (Ephesians 1:4) and that I am loved so much that Jesus died for me (John 3:16).
When Suzanne doesn’t respond, and I feel unloved and insignificant, turning my thoughts to truth of Christ gives me confidence and joy (Heb. 4:16, 10:22)! It’s a reminder that I don’t get my worth from what people think of me. Christ loves me more than anyone does, and forgives my self-centeredness, self-pity, and angry responses even when I don’t show that I value my relationship with Him by living in obedience. How many times does he “text” me (through the Spirit and his Word) and I don’t answer?!
Growing love through faith
By faith, I can come to the Lord to confess my sinful reacting in anger, frustration, complaining, and speaking unkindly about Suzanne to my husband. I can ask the Lord to forgive me and gratefully thank Him for choosing me, saving me, and giving me purpose. I can also thank Him for all Suzanne’s good qualities and that she loves my son and is devoted to him.
The Lord is changing me to react in kindness, humility, meekness, patience and forgiveness when my texts go unanswered (Colossians 3:12). I don’t need to assume that she’s purposefully ignoring me; instead I can strive to be understanding of her situation, thinking the best of her. I can continue to show her love and kindness in my texts and speak and act in love when we are together. I can do this by hugging her, showing interest in her work and hobbies, listening well, and doing things that she likes to do.
I can trust God to be at work in our relationship, as He loves both of us. Giving less weight to the whole texting issue, I am growing in peace and Christ is enabling me to entrust Suzanne to Him when I don’t receive a text response. As I seek to show her the sacrificial love of Christ, my love for her grows and I can pray that He will draw her to Himself one day.
*Author’s and daughter-in-law’s names have been changed.