Ahhh, the Book of Ruth. There is so much that can be gleaned from this beautiful story of how God blessed the loving commitment and loyalty between the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law. These two women had, of course, grown close and been great comfort to each other when they lost their husbands in the land of Moab. I am sure that Naomi felt very grateful that Ruth insisted upon staying with her and melding her life with Naomi’s, even taking God Jehovah to be her God. They made a choice to be there for each other as though they were mother and daughter by blood. This is a great example of how we ought to think of our son’s wives today. What sweet relationship we can share if we welcome each other as family instead of in-laws. Unfortunately, some treat these new additions to their families as outlaws. I have experience that myself, sad to say. When I referred to my new sister-in-laws as sisters, I was told blatantly that we are sisters-in-law. Sadly, none of us have ever grown very close. My mother-in-law was very precious on the other hand. She lived with my husband and I while she had spinal stenosis and waited for surgery, which healed her, and then for a year after. When she was completely healed, she wanted her own independence and her own place. I would take her shopping every couple of weeks as she was afraid to drive any more, too many curb shots.She had a very sweet spirit and is with Jesus now. I promised my sweet new daughter that she will never be treated as an outlaw, nor even and in-law by us. She is part of our family now and we have gained another daughter. We are so so grateful that she loves our son as much as we do. ❤
Of course, I would be remiss if I did not touch on the sad fact that there are also some young women who act like monster daughters-in-law for whatever reason. I believe we must chalk that wrong behaviour up to their being young and immature, especially if they are immature in their walk with the Lord. Usually it is just them growing out of their insecurities as a young one. If there seems to be an issue with the young woman acting like she needs to one-up or compete with her new mother-in-law for her husband’s affections, that is definitely a problem and should lovingly and kindly be addressed. Sometimes it is best to love her and pray for God to move in her heart, for He can do all things.
There is also something to be learned from the Hebrew culture back in Bible times. Their family structure included many relationships: both those related by blood and those related by marriage. In the Hebrew society, a husband and wife were more closely associated with the groom’s parents than the bride’s. You will rarely, if ever, see this happen in today’s American society. First of all, current culture seems to want to belittle and demean the man of the home whom God placed as the head of the home. Wives run everything while the husband, when there is one, is told how things are and how they are going to be, hence one reason why the family is being torn apart in this country, leading to its eventual downfall. Unfortunately, many of these whipped men are perfectly okay with their wives running the show.
In any event, in Biblical times, the bride left her family and people to become a member of her husband’s family with all the rights and responsibilities of a daughter – Ruth 1:1-7 “Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband. Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread. Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.” So we see that the two daughters-in-law had become like daughters to Naomi.
Because people are people, those relationships in the husband’s family ranged from extremely hostile – Genesis 26:34, 35 “And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.” to lovingly helpful – Ruth 4:15 “And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him.”
God’s plan for husbands and wives in Genesis 2:24 is very specific – “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” In other words, a man is to forsake dependence upon, release, and let go of his dependence upon his parents. Jesus addressed another aspect of the issue in Matthew 19:6 “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” No one is to come between the couple. If we as parents have done our job and led our children to be independent and responsible as they grew older, trusting them to be self-sufficient and in God’s care, it is a little easier to let them go and be what God leads them to be and do what God leads them to do.
However, this does not mean that the couple is to forsake their parents like they never existed. Remember, God gave a Commandment concerning children and parents, and He did not put a time limit on it – Exodus 20:12 “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” We know this as the first Commandment with promise. So, the gist is that our loyalties will move from our parents to our spouse. This can be quite a challenge for both the parents and the couple, especially when the child had a close loving and loyal relationship with his/her parents.God knew this would be a challenge, but He also knew that the answer was for the couple to become one and still honour their parents. The key to it all is keeping the Lord first, as our focal point in the home.
Having gone through three children leaving the nest, I have learned that it is best for us parents to stay out of things unless they come and ask counsel. I try never to give un-solicited advice. Have I messed up “a time or two” in that area? Of course, and I probably will again, but I try. If I am working on my own close relationship with my Lord, I will know the Holy Spirit’s prompting to either be still or speak what He leads. The young couple needs guidance and direction as they grow in becoming one, but the first point of that guidance and direction must be God Jehovah. If they are close to Him, they will discern when He leads them to seek counsel from their parents. And who better to go to than those who know them better than anyone else and who has their best interests at heart. Needless to say, the parents have been through it themselves. It truly does also help if we parents keep the Lord as our focal point and seek His guidance in how involved we are in our adult children’s lives in this area.
Of course, the ideal in-law relationships back in Biblical times were mutually beneficial to all within the family circle, extending the supportive base of the family for helping and encouraging one another and exemplifying and teaching spiritual values to younger generations – Psalm 78:4-6 “We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:” Dare I say that it would be much easier on parents and grown children today if more of us actually lived by the teachings in God’s Word and taught Godly principles and values to our younger generations. That is sadly lacking these days.
In conclusion, it really ought to be the desire of mothers and daughters-in-law to make a loving commitment to grow to know and love each other over time. For there will be times we will need to turn to each other for loving support in one area or another. Just as in all of life, it is what we choose to make it.