When Your Mother-In-Law Tests Your Ability to Forgive

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My husband and I have been traveling back and forth to Pennsylvania to visit my mother-in-law who has been seriously ill. At 90 years of age, Nadine went into the hospital to get a pacemaker. Up until that time, she was a healthy, strong-willed person with a sound and alert mind, still able to drive her own car. Complications set in and she was eventually placed in a rehabilitation center.

Despite the fact that I did everything I could to please her, and to be the daughter that she never had, Nadine never accepted me. Her only son Michael, now my husband, entered the Navy when he was just 17 years old. When he was discharged, he decided to stay in Virginia rather than to return to his hometown. I met him two months later. Despite the timing, Michael’s mother blamed me for his decision, saying that I wanted to keep him away from her.

I liked Nadine immediately when I first met her!

She was very friendly and outspoken. However, she kept calling me Barbara. This lasted for approximately six months. Whenever I asked Michael why she called me that he would respond, “Oh don’t mind her, she’s just getting old.”  I found out later that Barbara was Michael’s distant cousin and high school sweetheart, whom Nadine had wanted Michael to marry. Nadine told me that she thought the reason that Michael didn’t move back home was because of Barbara. Ok, so which is it?  Is it my fault or Barbara’s? 

When Michael and I became engaged, I showed Nadine my ring. She responded, “Why, that’s bigger than mine!” Her comment surprised me because it sounded like jealousy. This bothered me; I had a problem ignoring it.

Michael and I were engaged for about eight months when, one night, Michael said, “That’s it, we’re getting married tomorrow!”  We eloped without telling anyone. When we arrived back home, we shared the good news with our parents. At a time when family was supposed to be happy for us, Nadine was devastated. She once again blamed me, this time for robbing her of seeing her only child walk down the wedding aisle in church.

It seemed Nadine didn’t like anything I did.

She didn’t like me having a job. Then, when I quit, she didn’t like me being at home. She didn’t like me teaching my children responsibilities (chores) around the house and she certainly didn’t like me raising my children in my newfound faith. She once shouted at me, “I don’t care what the Bible says!  I only care what my church says!”

Nadine didn’t like the way I cooked food or cleaned the house. She certainly didn’t like the car I drove. She even stood in the hallway of her home, shaking her finger in my face, and told me that she didn’t care anything about me; she only cared about Michael. I had gotten to the point where I would become physically sick whenever we would make a trip to visit with her. I would try to talk my husband into leaving me at home, but he wouldn’t hear of it.

I prayed, “How long do I have to turn the other cheek Lord? How many times do I have to keep on forgiving her?”

Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV) says "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.". That means that when the enemy of our soul comes to us and replays all of the horrible things that another person has done to hurt us, we are called to forgive them.

Forgiveness is a choice that each one of us has to make.

Over the years, I had developed the mentality that this woman was too big for even God to do anything with. But after spending time in prayer for her, I could see that she was hurting inside and desperately needed the unconditional love that many of us search for in life. God loves her and cares about her just as much as he cares about me. God gave me a compassion for her that enabled me to look at her through His eyes.

I made the choice to let go of all bitterness, resentment, and un-forgiveness that I had developed toward my mother-in-law over the years.

It was only when I began to pray for God’s mercy and forgiveness to be upon her that I started to see a change in her attitude toward me. By the time Nadine became sick, I was able to look at her and repeatedly think to myself, she’s not bigger than God, she’s just flesh and blood.

For the last six months, Nadine has allowed me to pray for her and she has even said the prayer of salvation with Michael and me. On a recent visit, she told me, “It’s nice that you pray for me like you do.”  When I kissed her on the cheek and said, "I love you." she replied, "I know you do." On another visit Nadine turned to me and said, “I have accused you of many things these past years, but I was wrong.”My first thought at her statement was that of astonishment.My second thought was, “Why couldn’t this moment have come years ago?

If you’re having difficulty with your mother-in-law, begin praying for her today.  Take the promises of God from the Bible and claim them for her. Remember, she’s YOUR mother-in-law.  Don’t let the devil steal what belongs to you!

Post script:At 91 years old, Nadine died on February 25th, 2013.She will be missed by many people but especially by me.However, I know that I will see her again when I leave this earth to be with our Lord and Savior.


Martha has been married for 41 years and is a mother of 2 grown children, grandmother of 3. She has ministerd to children, ages 7-9, for 18 years. She also ministered for 9 years in Victorious Overcomers Support Group. Her body was healed of cancer and her marriage saved from divorce by the power & mercy of the One True Living God! She is the author of Unforgiveness, Cancer, and Healing coming out soon. Click here to follow her on Twitter.

photo credit: ny156uk via photopincc

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