What can you do about unlovable inlaws? Sometimes you can do more than you may have at first thought. It truly is a Mission of Love—God’s love, as you try to do the best with those who are unlovable. Your focus is on “what would Jesus do” rather than what you want to do.
To help you in this mission we will share with you a testimony on this subject that comes from a book titled, The Best Thing I Ever Did for My Marriage: 50 Real Life Stories which contains 50 inspirational real-life stories compiled by Nancy Cobb and Connie Grigsby, published by Multnomah Publishers. We pray the following story by Diane Reilly will minister to your heart on loving the unlovable:
Dealing with Unlovable InLaws
“Mom Reilly came to live with us at the age of 79 after living alone as a widow for 15 years. We had been married for 9 years and had 4 small children. ‘Mom’ was determined to get as much attention as possible from my busy doctor husband, who was rarely home. She’d rise at 4 or 5 in the morning. Then she’d start banging a spoon on the kitchen table, announcing it was time for coffee.
“She insisted on never being alone, which meant I couldn’t even go to the bathroom alone. ‘Diaaannne,’ followed by knocks on the door, could be heard throughout the house. Carpools weren’t immune to her, either. She became a fixture in the front passenger seat. Her hand was on the horn if I walked a child inside and took too long.
“She was also a joy to shop with. When buying school clothes, I would find a comfy chair for her in the shoe department before heading out. Ten minutes later, I’d inevitably hear my name paged over the loudspeaker system!
“A ‘quiet and gentle’ spirit I did NOT have, but desperately wanted —and needed! I was in daily turmoil over the increasing demands I tried to place on myself in an effort to be the perfect wife and mother. My ‘thorn,’ Mom Reilly, was burrowing deeper and deeper into my side. Her tongue was so sharp. Nothing I said or did pleased her.”
Inner Resentment and Anger
“I became compliant on the outside, but seethed with resentment and anger on the inside. She was my ‘ball and chain.’ I took out my frustrations on my patient husband, sideswiping him time and again about being a workaholic. My tongue became as virulent as, if not worse than, Mom’s.
“One night God met me in a powerful and unexpected way. I was reading the crucifixion story in John’s Gospel. Jesus is on the cross looking down at His mother and His beloved disciples. With great tenderness and compassion, He says to John, ‘Here is your mother.’ He was giving me His mother —to love and care for —just as He had given His mother to John. Was I not also His disciple? Was I not also commanded to love others as He loved me?
“My heart changed that night. God gave me HIS heart for Mom Reilly. No longer was it an effort go love and care for her. She lived with us for 16 years, and we now see her time with us as a divine gift to bring supernatural love into our family.”
Applying God’s Blueprint
“It was the Lord who asked for a gentle and quiet spirit from me and it was this thorn of adversity that caused me to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. I fell more and more in love with Jesus, and my husband, as I practiced on ‘His mom.’ And as my heart changed toward Bob and he was no longer battling my anger and critical spirit, we began studying, applying and then teaching God’s blueprint for marriage.
“One of the best things we did was to begin praying together. Our times together with the Lord are our most intimate. It’s hard to be angry, critical, or disinterested when you go into the throne room together. We pray together daily and communion is so sweet. We also honored Mom Reilly and thank God for her, His special gift. From the bottom of my heart I can say that she gave us more than we gave her.”
That’s amazing, when you think about it! When we put our focus on God, rather than our circumstances, it’s amazing how things can go in a different direction.
The following are a few additional insights on this issue of loving unlovable inlaws. They come from the book “Toward a Growing Marriage” written by Gary Chapman. (Unfortunately, this book is no longer being published.) Dr Chapman writes:
“It’s true that not all parents live respectable lives. Their actions may not be worthy of honor, but because they’re made in the image of God, they’re worthy of honor. You can respect them for their humanity and for their position as your parents, even when you cannot respect their actions.
“It’s always right to honor your parents and those of your marriage partner. ‘Leaving’ your parents (as we’re told to, in the Bible in Genesis 2:24) doesn’t erase the responsibility to honor them. To ‘honor’ implies that we speak kindly with parents and in-laws. Paul admonishes: ‘Do not rebuke an older man harshly. But exhort him as if he were your father.‘(1 Timothy 5:1) We are to be understanding and sympathetic. Certainly we’re to speak the truth, but it must always be in love.” (See: Ephesians 4:15.)
“When we were young, our parents met our physical needs. As they grow older, we may have to do the same for them. If the need arises, we must bear the responsibility of caring for the physical needs of our parents. To fail in this responsibility is to deny our faith in Christ (see: 1 Timothy 5:8). By our actions, we must show our faith in Christ and honor for our parents.
“If I could make some other practical suggestions, I’d advise you to accept your in-laws as they are. Don’t feel that it’s your task to change them. If they’re not Christians, certainly you’ll want to pray for them. Then look for opportunities to present Christ, but don’t try to fit them into your mold. You expect them to give you independence to develop your own marriage. Give them the same.
“…The train of God’s will for marriage, must run on the parallel tracks of separation from parents and devotion to parents.”
Ask the Lord
The above thoughts given by Diane Reilly and Dr Gary Chapman are ones we hope you will prayerfully consider. We realize that many of you have in-laws that are even more difficult to love “as unto the Lord” because of the way they treat you and your family. There are others who even try to sabotage their “child’s” marriage. Truly that is disturbing.
But whatever they do, that doesn’t justify your acting toward them in ungodly ways, as well. Please ask the Lord to show you how to give grace as He would ask, and yet be able to put up boundaries to protect yourself and your marriage partnership the best way you can —as He leads, and leave the results to God. You aren’t accountable for your in laws actions, only your own.
Also, please know that we have articles concerning Dealing with In Laws & Parents posted on our web site. We encourage you to prayerfully glean through them. See if you can pick up a helpful tip here and there. It’s sure worth the look.
We pray that God will empower you to reflect the heart of Christ within your marriage,
Cindy and Steve Wright
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