Loving {Your} Mother-in-Law

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I love my mother-in-law.

In fact, I am forever in her debt.

My mother-in-law tirelessly raised her son from the ground up, to be the man I love most in the world, and that is a debt that can never be repaid.  I will always owe her honor and gratitude for the years she has invested in the man that is now ours.

The older I get and the more time I spend immersed in the raising of my own sons, the more I am uncomfortable with the manner in which mothers-in-law are culturally referenced.  The way they are criticized and dishonored.  The way they are spoken about in impatient tones by younger women who sadly, do not yet know what these older women have given to them.    It sobers me when I hear the jokes and see the eyes rolled.

Sadly, youth is arrogant.  There is no way around it.   To be young is to see only what is in the immediate, at the expense of much else.  Not enough life lies behind with which to claim humble perspective.  And too much lies ahead, which has not yet been taught.   This combination can lend itself to a pride that can too-easily become cruel.  And in my experience, mothers-in-law become the butt of too many unkind jokes, stories and girls-night tales.

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If you have a moment, click on over and Google mother-in-law.

Notice that the first several links you will find, are all negatively connoted.  Each one implying a relationship that is strained, difficult and unappealing.

Now, Google Scripture.

See what God imposes on man at the beginning of time.  Exodus 20:12 is a time-worn passage, but telling.  God commands the Israelite nation: Honor your Father and Mother, so that you may live long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.  So great was God’s desire for his people to honor their elders, that the punishment of stoning was used to discourage cursing and rebelling against parents.  And just to clarify that the New Testament reflects the Old, Ephesians 6:2 reminds us that honoring fathers and mothers, is the first commandment with a promise.  God intends us to honor our parents.  He designed the family, and in that design is the good plan of in-laws.

Too easily I fear, women forget the humanity of their mothers-in-law.  That she is a person. That she has feelings. That she responds to love.  That she desires appreciation.  And that she loves your son with every bit of fierceness with which you love him.  After all, she is his mother.

I have heard of daughters-in-law whisking their men off into the sunset of their territorialism, never allowing them to return.  It is heart-breaking.  I have heard stories of women my age who have prevented their in-laws from communicating with their sons and grand-children for months, years at a time.  So cruel.

I realize that there are exceptions to every rule, and not all of us are blessed with smooth family dynamics.  But I think we need to be careful that exceptions do not become excuses.  God’s Words are written to the rule, and His rule is that we honor.  Always, honor.

We honor the mother-in-law God gave us through the good gift of our husbands now, because that obedience is pleasing and good.  And we encourage our husbands to invest love in their mothers always, because that honors her and it honors Him.

Any of us with sons are going to be the mother-in-law one day.  And don’t you hope that when the time comes, your son chooses a girl who is kind?  One who is appreciative?  One who does not wrap herself up in a shroud of criticism, but who sees all the years that you gave for her husband?  I do.  I pray for two such women, even now.

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As Christians, we need to be careful to ever assess cultural trends through the lens of Scripture.  And God’s Word is clear on where we are to land on the issue of our in-laws.  They are our parents and as such, we are to give them honor.  Proverbs 31 :28 speaks of the response children should have to the years of sacrifice mothers make:

Her children stand up and encourage her, as does her husband, who praises her.

Your mother-in-law has spent nights and days, months and years loving and shaping your husband.  She has put in a lifetime of mothering, fulfilling endless needs, living out the very same call that you now many days find yourself drowning in.  She knows a thing or two.  Do not allow culture to tell you that she has less value, and less a place now that you have landed her son.

Love her.  Stand up for her.  Encourage her.

And by all means, give thanks for her!


This is part of a series on Loving {Your}, unpacking what the Bible says about love in varying relationships.  I wrote about Loving {Your} Husband, here.






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10 thoughts on “Loving {Your} Mother-in-Law

  1. Great post! It’s interesting because a lot of my favorite qualities in Justin are his mom’s too. He is so much like her….(of course he has great qualities of his dad’s too). There is no denying as you said, that your husband is a product of his parents raising…and all the love and energy his mom poured into him day after day! So thankful I am blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law.

  2. Thanks for writing this Maryanne. I love my mother-in-law! And I too find it sad how much disrespect there is out there for MILs. When my husband and I were courting (which implies more purpose than “dating”), his mom said if for some reason we decided we weren’t going to get married that she’d still keep me.
    My husband has remarked multiple times since we’ve been married how much he is like his mom. And I do pray for our little boy’s future wife, that she will be Christ-like, gentle and kind.

    • I should add, too, that it is sad in those situations that are the exception in which the mother-in-law is not kind and receptive to the daughter-in-law. I’ve heard of this happening as well.

  3. Such a good reminder, Maryanne! I am challenged and convicted. I have one of those exceptions as a mother-in-law relationship. Before typing that sentence, I almost typed, “Unfortunately.” But I have learned a valuable lesson in 15 years of marriage. As much of a hurtful struggle as this relationship has been in my life, God has been faithful to use it as one of his most consistent methods of showing me my own sin. Conviction hurts, but, of all the ways that God blesses us and shows his mercy and grace in our lives, when he reveals to us our sins (which I have found often happens through difficult relationships), it is one of my favorite. He loves us and saves us while we are still in our sin, but he never planned to leave us there, wallowing in the mire! He lifts us out, gently, and, oh, so patiently! So, I won’t call it, “unfortunate,” that I have a difficult relationship with my mother-in-law. Instead, I will praise God for the way he has sovereignly chosen to peel back the layers of filth in my heart, even if, at times, I do it reluctantly. And with encouragement such as this post, I will continue to strive in honoring her!

  4. So very true! Mother in laws are family and should be honored. I love my own MIL. She has taught me so much about faith and life. We went out on the town together last week, just the two of us and has a sweet time of fellowship. Loved this post and enjoyed my visit here!

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