Written By Deborah Lee, Singapore
“Don’t you ever dare think of taking Jack away! You need to prove yourself as a mother first.” Those were the harsh words of my mother-in-law, trying to stop me from taking my son home for the weekend.
My husband and I had just bought a new home. Friday after work, I arrived at my in-laws’ to bring my 6-year-old son home to stay for the first weekend after unpacking. My mother-in-law has a strong emotional bond with Jack since she has played a vital role in taking care of him since he was born. She was the voice of the home, and everyone in the family was afraid to defy her. My attempts to reason with her eventually led me to raise my voice, and she slammed the door at me.
I left her home in tears, and without Jack. I had spoken to my husband the day before about fetching our son back to stay for the weekends, but he did not want to do the work of talking to his mom. He left me to speak to her about it, despite knowing her unwillingness and the possibility of a disagreement.
This again led to our quarrel when we were home. Why wouldn’t my husband be responsible and talk to his mom about reasonable expectations? How could he leave me alone to deal with his own mom? Because I lost my cool and raised my voice, I was labeled as the bad daughter-in-law and bad wife, but could anyone understand my feelings?
I went to bed feeling bitter that night, and cried myself to sleep. I felt like I had married someone who refused to shield me, and that I was a daughter-in-law who had the support of no one.
When I woke up to read the Bible the next day, I still felt bitter and angry and could hardly concentrate. Determined not to let my emotions overcome me, I continued reading, and Psalm 73 caught my attention. It is the Psalm of Asaph, and it describes a time when Asaph’s spirit was grieved and embittered—he saw that people who did not follow God had no struggles, while he himself was afflicted.
Like Asaph, I was grieved and embittered at how I was treated in this whole affair. Why could I not bring my son home after such a long wait? Why would my husband not support me?
Asaph’s turning point came in verse 17. He entered the sanctuary of God, and came to understand that the wicked people’s earthly comfort would not last for long unless they repented. In the final verses, Asaph affirms that God is righteous, and that his own suffering would not be in vain. Though his flesh and his heart may fail, God will be his strength and his portion forever.
In reading Psalm 73, I was reminded not to see things only from an earthly perspective. Instead, like Asaph, I should see things from a kingdom perspective—the things that are unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18). When I applied that to my own experiences, I was lifted up.
Earlier, I had felt bitter, upset, and burdened. I had found it hard to communicate with my husband without feeling angry. But as I fixed my eyes on Jesus, I knew I had to respond in faith. God is all-knowing, and He has allowed all these to happen so that I may find a solid anchor in Him and marvel at His light. With God’s truth in mind, I reconciled with my husband by apologizing to him.
However, it was not easy facing my mother-in-law. Her unreasonable words tempted me to be bitter again. I realized that while I cannot control her response towards me, I can control my own response towards her. I can choose to surrender my bitterness and follow Christ. I saw the need to guard my heart with the Word of God—which leads me out of darkness and sets me free from bitterness.
When I was bitter, I felt like a prisoner chained in the darkness of anger. By following Christ and choosing to surrender my bitterness, I felt like a prisoner set free. I was able to walk with Christ unhindered. Though my flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26). The Bible reminds me that as a servant of God, I must be compassionate, kind, humble, meek and patient to others. I can choose to respond in kindness to my mother-in-law even though her heart might still be hardened, and my efforts to show kindness may not yield any remorse. As I fix my eyes on the unseen, God reminds me not to waver—because He sees our deeds and rewards us (1 Corinthians 15:58).
When I turn my thoughts to God’s truth, bitterness can no longer destroy my faith in Christ. Had I remained bitter, I would have gotten into more quarrels and missed out on the power of God. As I surrendered my bitterness, God took my bitterness and turned it into forgiveness, power and courage to love again. Through it all, God has shown me that His love surpasses all bitterness, and forgiveness is made possible by His strength, especially when the hurt is deep.
The Bible tells us to love our enemies and to pray for them (Matthew 5:44), which I found hard to do until I remembered that my struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the authorities, against the powers of the dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). Knowing that God is sovereign over all events and that He wills all things for our good (Romans 8:28), I prayed to surrender my situation to Him in repentance and committed my thoughts to obey Him. Just like Asaph, I saw the goodness of God only when I turned my eyes to Him. And now I can say as he did that it is good to be near God, I have made the sovereign Lord my refuge (Psalm 73:28).