Heart Keepers Ministries

Outlaw or In-law?

by Debbie on October 9, 2010

I recently heard this little joke: Do you know the difference between outlaws and in-laws? Outlaws are wanted and in-laws are not!! Kind of a cute joke unless you are an in-law, I suppose. I am an in-law! I am a sister-in-law, a daughter-in-law, a cousin-in-law....!! If that joke has any truth to it, I must not be wanted. Well I don't put any stock in that joke for myself, but I know many who do. They have in-laws that they do not want.

I have seen and heard of many people who spend so much of their time avoiding their in-laws or arguing with them. It is such a shame to see this happen in families. It seems that mother-in-laws get the brunt of the jokes and most likely they are the most unwanted in-laws.

It made me think of one mother-in-law in the Bible that was not unwanted. Her name is Naomi. She had a rough go in life for a while and became a bitter woman, but she had one daughter-in-law that stood by her and helped her overcome the pain and loss of her husband and two sons. The daughter-in-law was named Ruth. There is a whole book of the bible named after Ruth. She was definitely not unwanted by Naomi either. Let's take a little while and read part of their story:

Naomi and Ruth

Ruth 1

1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man's name was Elimelech, his wife's name Naomi, and the names of his sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
3 Now Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Noami was left without her two sons and her husband.
6 When she heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-laws she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law. "Go back, each of you, to your mothers home. May the LORD show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. 9 May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband." Then she kissed them and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, "We will go back with you to your people."
11 But Naomi said, "Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me-even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons- 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD'S hand has gone out against me!"
14 At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her.
15 "Look," said Naomi, "your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her."
16 But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn my back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death seperates you and me." 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?"
20 "Don't call me Naomi," she told them; "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me."
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

Well, that was quiet an emotional story, don't you think? There was certainly some pain, loss and some weeping in their lives. Have you had some pain, loss and weeping in your life too? What kind of person has it made you? Are you pleasant to be around or bitter? Naomi means pleasant and Mara means bitter. I really wonder what Ruth must have went through with such a bitter mother-in-law. I would say that she most likely faced many days in which she wondered why she ever decided to cling to her mother-in-law. How is your relationship with your mother-in-law? Is she a pleasant woman to be around or is she more bitter? I think we can all learn a lesson from Ruth about loving our in-laws and wanting them around us. She chose to go with a bitter woman instead of turning back like Orpah did. I believe Orpah did not want to be around such a bitter woman. What do you think? It is so much easier for us to be around pleasant people than it is to be around bitter people, but perhaps it is the bitter people that need to be wanted the most.

My mother-in-law has gone on to be with the Lord now, but I can tell you that she, at times, was not the most pleasant person to be around. She could be quiet bitter to most anyone at times. I am so glad that God helped me to see past her bitterness and love her. I would send her cards, gifts, and even gave her a Bible. No one understood why I would do such kind things for her when she could be so hard to talk to and be around. However, I loved her with God's love and prayed for her to know God and his peace. I can tell you that she found that love and peace. My sister-in-law shared with me that she never understood how I could continue to believe that her Mom would change but she was so glad that I never gave up on her mother coming to the Lord. It was certainly a challenge at times and I had to pray and forgive many things but with God's grace I was able to show her the love of God when I wanted to give up. It was God who drew my mother-in-law to himself but he used his people to do it. I am so honored that he used me as part of those who showed her his love.

Do you have any bitter in-laws? Are you able to see through that bitterness and show them the love of God? Are you willing to minister God's love to them when everyone else is giving up on them? I hope that you will learn from Ruth and cling to your in-laws with God's love and never give up on them turning to the Lord. Scripture says, 'Ruth was determined to go with her....! Are you determined to love your in-laws with the love of God? If not, I hope that the story of Ruth and Naomi will inspire you to be determined.

The story of Ruth and Naomi has such a good ending. Ruth met a Godly man named Boaz and was married. The LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. This son became Naomi's joy. The women living there said to Naomi, "Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth."
Then Naomi took the child laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, "Naomi has a son." And they named him Obed.

The name Obed means God's servant, worshipper, or follower. Do you know that you too can be an Obed in someone's life and bring them joy? As God's servants we are called to follow him and be an example of his love to those who may not be following him or who may have had some things in life that caused them to become very bitter and feel that God has turned against them, such as Naomi did. What can you do towards an in-law today that will make them feel wanted again? Perhaps they need a visit, a phone call, a card, a gift or just prayer. Ask God to help you be determined, like Ruth, to not let anything come between you and your relationship with your in-laws. Make sure they know that they are wanted!! Remember they are your in-laws not outlaws (hopefully)!!

Father in heaven,
Thank you so much for giving us family. Thank you so much for those family members that are pleasant to be around. Thank you for those that are your servants and who love others with your love. But God, thank you also for family members that are not so pleasant to be around. We ask you to show us how to love the unlovable. Show us how to be determined like Ruth to not let anything but death separate us from family members, especially our in-laws. Show us where we need to forgive them and how we can be reconciled to them. Lord we ask you to redeem our relationships with those who are bitter and who are unpleasant to be around. Show us how to love them with your love. Give us the love, strength and courage to make the visit, the call, or send a message in some way to let them know that they are loved and wanted. Give us your amazing, sustaining grace to do this act of kindness in our family. We see how you blessed Ruth for her kindness to her mother-in-law and we believe that if we exercise this same kindness that you will bless us too. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Previous post: Taste and See!

Next post: IF YOU WANT TO WAIT…