Paul writes, “Love is patient and kind” (1 Cor. 13:4). Most of us find that we can love those who are easy to love, but what about those who are hard to love or those who drive us up the wall? I used to laugh at mother-in-law jokes until I became one. Then I entered a whole new world and found this traditionally hard relationship a challenge!
Our daughter, Judy, and I have a seminar we teach together on the story of Ruth and Naomi. I tell the story of what happened when my mother-in-law came to stay with us in America for three months and while here discovered that she had cancer.
Up to that point in our relationship, I had had no intention of anything more than a truce between us for the holidays. Certainly I had no plans to love her as God wanted me to, not that visit anyway. However, the discovery of her cancer changed everything. As Mother stayed with us in America and began to undergo treatment, I knew God had to do a deep, radical work in my life if I was to be able to nurse her to the end.
I went to talk to our family doctor, who was a wonderful Christian. I was honest with him. “Try as I might, I don’t want her to stay with us,” I blurted out. “I can’t love her enough!”
He commended me for at least being honest about my fears of what was ahead, but he also challenged me to go for it and trust God. So I went home, got on my knees, and committed myself to the task.
Mother was having the same qualms about staying with us, and she was certainly wondering about me! She knew the limits I had placed on the boundaries of my love. We both threw ourselves on the Lord and prayed for a miracle! Over the terrible last eighteen months before she went home to England to die, God did what He does best. Agape love got control of my pathetic attempts to love her, fueling my human love until it burned brighter than I had ever dreamed possible. He worked the same miracle in Mother’s heart. In the end she said, “Thank you, Jill. You have taught me how to live.”
And I said, “Dear Mother, you have taught me how to die!”
It was done. God did it. There was no other way it could have happened. We had to have Jesus, and we did!
Loving people when things are good between you is a whole different ball game from loving people when things are bad. Tough times in relationships come to all of us and indicate the caliber of our relationship with God and the extent of our love for Him. We need to learn how to love even those who drive us crazy.
Who is it in your life that’s driving you crazy? Especially with Christmas around the corner, are there some relatives you are dreading seeing? Ask God to do a deep, radical work in your life and commit yourself to the task of loving those difficult people as Christ does.
Just Between Us