What do you think of when you read that term? Our culture has given it a mostly negative connotation, but is it deserved? Each of you reading this may have a different answer to that question, but all will fall along a continuum: Some of you have great relationships with your daughters-in-law; others, not so much. Regardless of where you fall, your daughter-in-law is now a part of your family for life, Lord willing, and you must learn to get along with her.
Now, if your in-law relationship is great, and you have no problems, maybe you don’t need to continue reading. But if it isn’t, I hope you’ll find some help here. My sons are not married, so I’m not speaking from experience. I do have a number of friends who have daughters-in-law, and some of those relationships are pretty rocky. I’m not really drawing on any of those things to help you today though. I prefer to look to the only source of truth about all of life, and that is God’s Word.
Love One Another
What does the Bible say about in-laws? The same thing it says about all relationships: Love one another. But what does that look like in this particular relationship? The book of First John is full of advice and exhortations about love, so let’s go there and see how these things can apply to the MIL/DIL relationship:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. ~First John 4:7-11
If you are not getting along with your Daughter-In-Law, perhaps you can see right away what part of the reason may be. The very first line of this passage tells us why we are to love her. Not because she is lovable or a great gal, but because love is from God, and if we know God and are born of Him, we will love. The object of that love is not the determiner of its outworking—Our love for God is. We love our daughters-in-law because we love God, and He loves us.
God’s Love for Us
What was the manifestation, or fruit of God’s love for us? He sacrificed His Son so that we might be saved. What have you sacrificed for your daughter-in-law? Your pride? Your right to express your opinion? Your right to have a say in how your grandchildren are mothered? If so, I have news for you, dear friend. These are not sacrifices at all, because they were never yours in the first place! Even though you may think that your ways are better, is it possible that they are just different? Remember, God gave your son and your grandchildren this particular wife and mother for His own good purposes. Who are you to say she is not good enough? Unless she is persisting in a pattern of unrepentant sin, you need to trust God with her performance in the role of wife, and with the outcome of her parenting.
Perhaps you feel like you have sacrificed your own son. Maybe your relationship with him has suffered because of tension or quarreling between you and his wife. If this is the case, the remedy is the same: Love. How are you loving your son as you argue with his wife? How are you loving your son as you complain (either verbally or in your head) about how impossible she is? How are you loving your son as you critique his wife’s mothering skills? These are rhetorical questions, but I’ll answer them anyway, just in case: You are not.
Looking at the Big Picture
My dear friend, I don’t mean to be harsh, but I want to help you step back from your own hurt feelings and look at the big picture here. You were created to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7). How are you doing right now, in this relationship with your daughter-in-law? If you sense conviction that you have been sinning in this relationship, repent and ask the Lord to help you love her. If this is a struggle, meditate on all that God has forgiven in your life, and the ways that He has loved you, even in your sin and rebellion. Memorize 1 John 4:11:
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
You are commanded to love your daughter-in-law. Even if she is doing many things wrong in your opinion, I am certain that you can find some things that she is doing right. God can make you extra aware of the good she is doing for her family, and when He does, praise her (and Him) for those things! By the same token, learn to hold your tongue about things that are simply a matter of opinion or taste. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether what you’d like to say reflects a heart of love for her, or a critical spirit. The Spirit of God can help you to discern the difference. And never share publicly your frustrations with her in a gossipy way, or as a veiled “prayer request.” The Lord knows your challenges. Your prayer partners don’t need specifics.
Be Counter Cultural
While our culture often expects, or even encourages strife between in-laws, Christians are called to rise above cultural stereotypes. If this post has brought up areas you need to work on, take this opportunity to follow Christ as you make changes in your approach to your daughter-in-law. You may be pleasantly surprised to see that, as you love her with the love of Christ, her heart is softened toward you. Imagine the relationship you might have, as you persevere in love for her. If you set a goal of love, God will faithfully help you meet it!