Living with your in laws (parents), or having them live with you, is a complicated situation —particularly for those of you who live in Africa and the Middle East, and other parts of the world, where this is a common cultural practice. This may work out fine in some households. However, some of you may not have a family that works together to make this an easy living arrangement.
This whole situation is a particularly perplexing one because the Bible tells you that as a married couple, you are to leave your parents and cleave to each other as husband and wife (see: Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7; and Ephesians 5:31). But when circumstances stare you in the face where you feel it is not possible to live separately from your in laws (parents), married life becomes more complicated.
How do you live out the Biblical principle to “leave and cleave” now that you are married, and yet live under the same roof in a peaceable manner with your parents (in laws)? You want to always love and “honor” your parents (in laws), because you know that is the right thing to do, but when they don’t make it easy, how do you do it?
To be quite honest, we don’t know. This may be an almost impossible situation! And yet the Bible says that with God nothing is impossible! So if there isn’t any other choice you can make in this matter, there must be a way to make this work. It may not be as peaceable or as comfortable as you want it to be, but with God’s help, you can do it.
The Bible warns us of the various tribulations we will encounter in this life. Even in married life we are told “those who marry will face many troubles in this life” (1 Corinthians 7:28). Living with your parents (in laws), may be a tribulation or a “trouble” that you will need to work through with the Lord’s guidance, and strength. This could be an “iron sharpening iron” situation that the Bible talks about (Proverbs 27:17) where you have the opportunity to allow the Lord to bring out His character within you as circumstances and people rub you in a way that causes sparks. Follow the rules for Holy living that you can read in Colossians 3.
It’s true that the ideal may seem to be that you and your in laws (parents) live in separate households. But the ideal isn’t always possible. So after you have prayed, if you see that things aren’t going to change at this time, the next wisest choice is to make the best of the circumstances you are in, rather wasting energy on complaining or wishing for that which you cannot change at this point in time. There is a time to say something and there is also a time to be quiet and let God say it. (See Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.) Other times God tells us to “be content in the circumstances we find ourselves.” (See Philippians 4:12-13.) And this may be what you are facing at this time. Ask God to show you what you are to do in this season of your life.
Keep in mind that you and your spouse can still “leave” your parents in your mindset and in your attitudes —finding ways to cleave together, even if you can’t live apart from your family in your living circumstances. You just have to be more cleaver in how you make this happen —firmly placing the boundaries that are possible. The Lord can show you how to do this.
You may even have a spouse that doesn’t fully join with you in working through this situation in a “cleaving” type of way. And that is most certainly perplexing and sad because this is definitely not how God intended for marriage to work! Our hearts go out to you. But don’t give up. God is with you as you reach out to Him for help. Cry out your circumstances to Him and ask Him for continual guidance as to how to make the best of a situation that seems to be the worst!
And don’t give up if you pray and God is silent for a period of time. His silence will not be forever. It’s not that He doesn’t hear you, but there are reasons for His silence that you need to accept. He is God and His ways are not your ways. God tells us in the Bible, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways’ declares the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8).
If you are wondering why God is not answering your prayers as quickly or in the same way you believe He should concerning this problem (or others), consider the following thoughts, which come from the teaching of Oswald Chambers from his book My Utmost for His Highest, (published by Barbour and Company). Chambers writes:
“We have the idea that God rewards us for our faith. It may be so in the initial stages; but we do not earn anything by faith. Faith brings us into right relationship with God and gives God His opportunity. God has frequently to knock the bottom board out of your experience if you are a saint in order to get you into contact with Himself. God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of sentimental enjoyment of His blessings.
“Your earlier life of faith was narrow and intense, settled around a little sun-spot of experience, full of light and sweetness; then God withdrew His conscious blessing in order to teach you to walk by faith. You are worth more to Him now than you were in your days of conscious delight and thrilling testimony.
“Faith by its very nature must be tried and the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character has to be cleared in our own minds. Faith in its actual working out has to go through spells of unsyllabled isolation. …Faith in the Bible is faith in God against everything that contradicts Him —I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do. ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him’ —this is the most sublime utterance of faith in the whole Bible.”
It may seem cruel of God to withdraw from you when you are dealing with so many problems, but we encourage you to understand that God has a reason why He allows certain things to happen in certain ways and at certain (or in uncertain) times. His silence may be a time when He is trusting you to live by faith at this time and to cooperate with Him in stretching your character beyond the limits of what you may think should happen. We encourage you to trust His silence and trust His heart. He loves you and knows what is ultimately best for all concerned.
If you have a spouse that recognizes the Biblical mandate to “leave and cleave” and yet you can’t physically live elsewhere at this time, ask God as a married couple to help you —even if it is something you feel you must do within your mind and actions within the same home as your family. God will lead you (at the proper time) as you lean upon Him, rather than upon that which you see right now. (See Proverbs 3:5-6.)
If you don’t have a spouse that at this time recognizes the “leave and cleave” mandate, then ask God how you are to proceed each day (hour, minute) under the constraints you find yourself living. God will be your guide. And what you see today in your spouse may actually change in the future. Trust God in this.
To help you further in this journey, we’ve searched for articles you can read that may give you insights into how to make your living situation work. We’ve found a few (and hopefully will find more in the future) that may help you. Even if your circumstances are not the same as in the articles we provide below for you to read, pray and then glean. Ask the Lord to show you what you can and cannot use, and what you can tailor in such a way that they will work in your situation. Open your heart and mind to all of the possibilities that God can show you.
Just make sure that what you use is not contrary to scripture. It is important that you are not allowing your own mind or a contrary spirit disguising itself as “angel of light” (that is working against God’s ways), to fool you. Be on the alert! (See 1 Peter 5:8-11.) Let the Bible, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, lead you into Truth in the decisions you make.
“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Ask the Lord to help you to be strong in doing what is best and right for all concerned —especially for the health of your marriage.
We want you to know that one or more of the articles, is not written from a Christian perspective. But we believe you will still find helpful things among all the articles that could help you. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide as to what you should and shouldn’t use. Please click onto the links provided below to read:
Posted on the web site Crosswalk.com, Sarah Haymaker writes:
From Pastor Walter Snyder, who addresses this issue:
On the web site About.com, Sheri and Bob Stritof address:
On the web site, Be About Jesus, Pat Sieler discusses:
This article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.
If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.
Filed under: Dealing with In Laws & Parents