Or, we can choose acceptance, love and forgiveness. We can choose to overlook the rude comments, the annoying habits, the cold shoulder that is directed toward us.
Forgiveness does not mean that we make ourselves vulnerable to repeated offenses. Forgiveness means that we relinquish our right to bitterly cling to the past. Instead, we acknowledge the hurt within our hearts and then we take this hurt to God for healing.
We look to God to fix the broken and hurting places in our hearts. We let go of the offense until we can say, like Joseph, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20)
The irony of forgiveness is that, as we release our right to cling to the offense, we also let go of the power that person had in our life to continue hurting us. Instead, we open our hearts and allow God to heal us.
4. Celebrate the good relationships.
We need to intentionally cultivate, grow, and celebrate the good relationships that God has given us.
Maybe you have a strained relationship with your own extended family, but you have found love and acceptance with your husband’s family. Rather than wasting energy regretting that you are not closer to your own family, look for ways to invite your in-laws into your life.
Celebrate the good relationships that you do have.
5. Be intentional about second chances.
God often gives us two chances at every family relationship in life, except the husband/wife relationship. You experienced the mother/child relationship with your own mother, and you will experience this same relationship with your children. You experience the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship with your husband’s mom. Someday, you will experience this same relationship with your son’s wife.
Be intentional to make the most of these second chances. If your mother-in-law is difficult and the relationship is hurtful, learn from it and choose to do things differently with your son’s future wife.
These second chances don’t have to be confined to “family”. If you rarely get to see your own grandchildren, look for some children in your church that need a grandma and “adopt” them as your own. If you are a young mom, far from your own mother, look for an older woman in the church who might be willing to mentor you through these difficult years. Be intentional about second chances.
Christmas is past, and I know that some of you are discouraged, frustrated, and embittered by family relationships that have gone sour. I pray that you might find healing and the grace that only God can give to forgive, look past offenses, and grow to be more like Christ – even in your most difficult family relationships.
This article originally appeared at Path Through the Narrow Gate.