When Family Conflicts Turned Us Into Enemies

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

Four years ago, I was staying with my husband’s family. I was a new mom to a baby boy, and there were many things I had to learn.

My in-laws, naturally, kept a close watch on their grandson. They would often correct me on how to carry the baby or hold his milk bottle. As a perfectionist, I hated being corrected. But at the same time, I felt pressured to perform well, even when I was tired.

This pressure, combined with lack of sleep due to the baby needing milk in the middle of the night, really put a toll on me. I snapped easily and became very temperamental. Behind closed doors, I tried to share my problems with my husband, but he suggested that I should try to be less temperamental and just go along with his parents’ suggestions. I didn’t feel very loved at that point. I tried to put up with the circumstances, but things eventually went from bad to worse.

After some time, I started shouting at my in-laws for putting pressure on me. I didn’t just lose my temper once, but very often during that time. And so I was labelled as a rude daughter-in-law. I felt like everyone in the home was against me. I walled myself in and hated talking to people, because it seemed like any talk easily led to quarrels. My in-laws were supposed to be family to me, but instead became like enemies. Home was supposed to be a place of comfort and warmth, but it felt like a war zone.

Eventually, a relative heard about my plight and shared the gospel with me, which really helped me to process what I was going through. This relative became my spiritual mentor, and when we talked about my situation, she pointed me to prayer and God’s Word. She first reminded me that God was in control in the midst of this mess, and I was not to blame my in-laws, since God was the one who allowed this mess for a greater purpose. Although I did not see the purpose at that time, I believed that God was sovereign. The family situation was messy and destructive at the time, and I knew that the only way to redeem the situation was to go to Jesus, who promises abundant life (John 10:10).

As I read more of the Bible, I realized that I was commanded to show respect to my parents and my elders (Ephesians 6:1, 1 Peter 5:5). Letting go of my bitterness, however, was not easy for me—the prolonged battle in the family had already left me drained, wounded, broken, and especially bitter. I did not marry to be wounded, to be mistreated, or to be without a voice in the family. I wanted revenge. I wanted the family to suffer like I suffered, so that they would know how I felt and so make things right for me.

But then I came across 2 Corinthians 10:5, which urges us to, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”. So I decided that each time I had bitter thoughts in my head, I would do exactly that. I made it a habit to do so as often as I needed.

I tried to apologize to my in-laws. But every time I apologized, I would soon lose my temper again. Because of how I used to treat my in-laws, they were often stern with me, and it was very stressful. I often became bitter again and would accidentally offend my in-laws with the wrong choice of words when speaking in haste, causing further misunderstanding. As hard as I tried, I was often quick to lose my temper. Each time I met my family, I had to pray for courage and strength.

But these experiences have shown me my human weakness and taught me to rely on the Lord, who promises that His grace is sufficient for me and His strength is made prefect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I reminded myself that my identity is in Christ alone, and not defined by my circumstances. God’s Word gave me strength.

Though I moved out of the house after the first year, the struggle continued for four years before I was reconciled with my husband and in-laws. The four years where God allowed our strife turned out to be my maturing years, and I experienced real spiritual growth.

When I first hear the term “spiritual battle,” it frightened me. But my experience has taught me that God’s love for us is unchanging. A spiritual battle is not necessarily about casting out demons, but a battle for our hearts and our souls. God had a great purpose in allowing me to go through those difficult four years, and I saw His purpose for me at the end of it.

Through my spiritual battle, God has taught me that victory is through Him. I was reminded that even though we may face many challenges in this life, God who began a good work in us will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). When we rely only on God—reading the Bible and seeking Him in prayer—He will bring about His will in our lives and sanctify us in the process so that we will grow more and more in Christ-likeness.

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