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Dr. Julie Barrier Christian Blog and Commentary

Julie Barrier

Preach It Teach It

Loving your mother-in-law can be a mixed bag. My mother-in-law made it abundantly clear that she didn’t approve of me from Day One. Her son, an angelic boy scout who surrendered to preach at the age of seven, could do no wrong. Helen had already handpicked Allison, her best friend’s daughter and childhood playmate, as an appropriate match for her perfect child.


Roger and I fell in love at first sight when I began my freshman year at Baylor University. He was a fiery young preacher who needed a pianist/singer to lead worship for his church services. I fit the bill. But I had not come across Mama Helen’s radar yet. When she heard of her son’s evil plot to thwart her arranged marriage, all hell broke loose. Although my future husband and I had been dating seriously for a year, his mom would not permit me to be photographed with him at his ordination.

Her reasons?  I talked too much. I wasn’t from his home church. I was too charismatic. And he only wanted me for my body. Are you serious?

Finally, fifteen years and two children later, she decided I was going to stick around. We learned to love each other.

The Bible has much to say about mother-in-laws. Naomi, Moabitess Ruth’s mother-in-law, loved and cherished her widowed daughter-in-law. She was instrumental in helping Ruth to find a godly husband. Manipulative Rebekah caused her son Jacob to deceive her husband Isaac while he lay gasping on his deathbed. I imagine the integrity or lack thereof really influenced Jacob’s treatment of his wives, Leah and Rachel. The melodramatic story would top the ratings charts on daytime television. Lot’s wife’s worldliness almost got her daughters-in-law killed when she refused to leave Sodom under siege. And, Eve, well…how many mother-in-laws do you know who caused the fall of all mankind? Bummer.

Like it or not, if you have a husband, you married the kit and caboodle. You married a family. Whether parents-in-law or adult children realize it or not, the choices that are made are life altering for the entire clan.

For many parents, the grace to love and enfold these new family-members-by-law is a mere continuum of the parental love they enjoy with their own kids. However, some situations may require an attitude adjustment. Inevitably, embarrassing moments and even outright conflicts occur in in-law relationships. Sometime the problem happens not out of a vindictive, hateful motive, but simply out of ignorance or insensitivity.

Many women (and some men) complain that their mothers-in-law are meddling, over-bearing, critical, demanding and possessive.

Now I have walked in their shoes. And I have decided that “mother-in-lawing” is not easy. When I look at my daughters, I see them as little chicks protected under my wings. I can suffocate them and be driven by the fear that their husbands cannot take care of them. My daughters are wonderful! But I always walk the tightrope of watching my words and keeping my expectations in check. Plus I have learned to encourage, encourage, encourage. I also need to trust them to be grownups, to have their own families and to make their own decisions.

What does the Bible teach us about in-law relationships? Here are a few verses:

1. God commands spouses to “leave and cleave.” (Genesis 2:23-24).

A man and woman must leave their birth families and begin a new family, and they are to love and protect each other. A husband who allows his mother or his mother-in-law to interfere with his marriage is not living up to the commandment given to husbands in Ephesians 5:25-33. Husbands, love your wives by setting appropriate boundaries when necessary. Lead your family and mediate conflict.

2. God wants children to honor their parents.“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12.  Honor may look like caring for them in old age, respecting them, listening to their wisdom and spending time with them when possible. Many extended families throughout the world often live together in the same house. Grandmothers and mothers-in-law often assist in the care of newborn infants. Share your kids with your parents and in-laws when possible. Don’t rob your children of half the toys; attention and hugs grandparents want to give!

3. Your mother-in-law has needs. “Jesus got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon's home Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her.” Luke 4:38. Aging parents will need more and more care. Pray for them as well.

4. Be forgiving. Cut each other some slack. Try to walk in the shoes of the other person. My mother-in-law Helen cowered under her bed every night of her childhood, hiding from an alcoholic, abusive dad. She lost her pilot-husband in a fatal plane crash during World War II. She had an anxiety disorder. I should have seen how hard it was for her to live her daily life battling fear and depression. Christians can always give the grace of forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32).

If you can’t love your mother-in-law as a mom, befriend her. If you can’t befriend her, love her as your neighbor. If you can’t love her as your neighbor, love her as your enemy!








Forget eHarmony or any other online matchmaking site. If you need some tips on finding love, perhaps these weird and wonderful Old Testament tales will inspire you. We will also examine four passionate Bible love stories to help you win a heart.

But just for fun…hilarious Bible dating advice:

Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her a new wardrobe. Then she’s yours: Any old Hebrew guy (Deuteronomy 21:11-13).

Even if no one is out there, just wander around a bit and you’ll definitely find someone: Cain (Genesis 4:16-17).

Don’t be picky. Collect as many girls as you can get. Surely one will make you happy: Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-3).

Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his daughter as your prize: David (I Samuel 18:27).

Go to a party and hide. When the women come outside to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife: Benjaminites…those party animals! (Judges 21:19-2).


Just kidding. But God gives some advice that could change your love life.


Unconditional acceptance, passion and perseverance, wisdom and discretion, fearlessness and faithfulness are irresistible qualities any man or woman desires.


No one showed unconditional acceptance like Hosea. God commanded Hosea, his prophet, to wed and bed a prostitute. Beautiful Gomer wandered away from her husband and family, repeatedly deserting them to return to her sordid life as a whore. But Hosea rescued his bride, filthy and frail, from the slave-trader’s auction block. Hosea redeemed his unfaithful wife for an exorbitant amount, swept her up into his forgiving arms and brought her home. The amazing love story of Hosea and Gomer demonstrates God’s unfailing love for an unfaithful, idolatrous people.

If you are a Gomer, it’s never to late to repent and return to God. His compassion will renew and restore you. No matter what your past may be, God will help you experience real love.

If you are a Hosea, don’t give up. The great heart of God can teach you unconditional acceptance. No perfect person exists, but a great heart attracts great love.


Persistence and perseverance was demonstrated by the most unlikely of Bible characters. Jacob was no candidate for man of the year. Sneaky and selfish, he fled his father’s house because he deceived his elderly father and stole his older brother’s birthright and blessing. However, this con man learned persevering love for a woman, and his devotion shows us how we can win a heart. Jacob stole one glance at stunning Rachel and it was love at first sight. But God gave Jacob a taste of his own medicine. His uncle Laban cheated him. As Laban’s nephew, Jacob agreed to work seven years with smelly sheep to win Rachel’s hand. The wedding night was a disaster. Laban replaced Rachel with her older sister Leah while Jacob snored in a drunken stupor. The foggy bridegroom awoke to find homely Leah in his bed. (There’s more to this story…) But Jacob persevered. He promised to work another seven years for his beloved Rachel. The Bible said Jacob was so smitten the time flew by. Do you know anyone who would tirelessly toil for fourteen years to win the woman of his dreams? Jacob worked and waited. And Rachel was worth the wait!

Nowadays, most of us display the patience of a gnat. We pitch a fit if our internet is too slow. Speed dating is the order of the day, and nobody waits for marriage to hook up with a potential partner. Shame on us! Love is hard work. If you want to truly, deeply love someone, you have to be persistent and patient.


Wisdom and discretion can be winning qualities to attract a good husband or wife. Abigail was married to a jerk and a drunkard. Her fat, rich, lazy husband Nabal refused to show hospitality to David’s mighty men. Dumb decision! But Abigail was one savvy woman. When she discovered the devastating news and impending destruction of her family, she hurriedly prepared a sumptuous feast, bowed low and apologized to David for Nabal’s rudeness. When foolish Nabal sobered up and found out what might have happened to him, he keeled over with a massive coronary. David remembered the widow’s gracious wisdom, and took her as his wife.

Do you feel trapped, surrounded by losers? Hold your ground. Immerse yourself in God’s Word. Find a church. Serve God well. Be a catch and God will reward your spiritual maturity and discreet behavior.


The romance of Ruth and Boaz is remarkable glimpse into a love built on fearlessness and faithfulness. Ruth came to Israel a poor widow in a foreign land. She devoted her life to the care of her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi was a sad, bitter old woman. (Naomi cried, “call me Marah” which means “bitter.” The lovely Moabitess, undaunted by setbacks and heartache, faithfully gleaned in a rich relative’s field to survive. Boaz noticed the young woman’s loyalty and integrity. He admired her and showed her favor by generously providing for this sweet young woman. Following her mother-in-law’s advice, Ruth made a daring robe-proposal. She slept at the feet of her benefactor, a near-kinsman of Naomi. In doing so, Ruth asked Boaz to marry her. This was no sexually-charged proposition. In fact, she demonstrated the true qualities of holiness and loyalty to her family. Boaz was delighted. Ruth walked a hard road of grief, pain and isolation. Her Heavenly Father rewarded her with a devoted husband, a son, and the honor of being the great-great-grandmother of Jesus.

Be a godly man or woman. But be gutsy too. Follow where He leads and you may find your Boaz or Ruth just around the corner!



Can one book/movie like Fifty Shades of Grey set us back decades by degrading women and advocating masochism and bondage? Debbie Holloway of Crosswalk writes:

"It takes very little research to realize that this glorified erotica is little more than a treatise on misogyny, manipulation, and abuse masquerading as a romance."

Here are just a few instances of cruel and inhuman punishment of women:

  • A Muslim man in Iran cut off his 7-year-old daughter’s head because he suspected she had been raped by her uncle?
  • Over 90 percent of Pakistani wives, for instance, have been struck, beaten, or abused sexually for offenses like cooking an unsatisfactory meal or failing to give birth to a male child?
  • In Iran the legal age for marriage is nine years old, and in an Afghan refugee camp virtually all the girls over second grade were married?
  • Women who are raped in Muslim countries often end up being punished while the rapist gets off free?
  • All a man has to do to divorce his wife is say, “I divorce you” three times – and then she is a single woman without support and without her children, who are usually taken by the father?
  • In many countries (primarily Muslim nations in Africa), one powerful and gruesome cultural manifestation of the devaluation of women is female genital mutilation (FGM).

The National Research Center on Domestic Violence says that:

Nearly 60 percent of all young women have experienced abuse:

29 percent of women surveyed said they'd been in an abusive relationship.

  • 62 percent of those women have been hit, shoved, or slapped.
  • 33 percent have been choked or strangled.
  • 11 percent of those who say their partner is currently abusive predict he "will seriously hurt or kill me."

Another 30 percent of all women polled said they'd never been in an abusive relationship but then reported experiencing abusive behavior.

  • 23 percent of those women said they'd suffered physical violence, such as being slapped or punched.
  • 94 percent cited emotional abuse. "Emotional abuse almost always escalates to physical violence," says Diane Lass, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Family Justice Center in San Diego.

The cycle of abuse and control is often hidden. Ordinary people in developed countries also fall into destructive relational patterns. Jesus gave us a powerful plan in Matthew 5:4: Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:5: “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”


Here’s the question: Why do women allow themselves to be victimized by abusive men? The pattern can be reversed, of course. However, to help us see the damaging pattern of abuse and fear, let’s look at the common example of a passive wife and a bullying husband.


Many women are “pleasers.”


A pleaser has certain weaknesses. Do you fit this pattern? Pleasers always have the misguided belief that they can keep everyone happy. Female pleasers usually feel inferior to men, or at least have as strong need to be "good girls" so men will approve of them. These women learned to be pleasers when they were little girls. Pleasers sometimes come from unhappy homes where fathers gave them very little attention, support, or love. Pleasers are willing to settle for small favors.


And that brings us to perhaps the key characteristic in almost all pleasers:  low self-esteem.


What are the telltale signs of a male controller? If you are a woman and you believe you’re you are being abused by your husband, look for these telltale signs:


Abusers have low self esteem. An abusive spouse often blames circumstances for his problems and does not assume personal responsibility for his actions. He is pathologically jealous, and often exhibits a dual personality. He has severe stress reactions, during which he uses drinking and wife-battering to cope. He frequently uses sex as an act of aggression to enhance his self-esteem in view of waning virility. The abusive husband demonstrates unpredictable behavior, belittles his partner, rages with uncontrolled anger and later often asks for a second chance.


Abusive husbands are chameleons. They say they will change and will not hit again. They play on their wives' guilt (If you loved me, you would….) They are closed-minded and believe their way is the only way. Outwardly, the abuser may seem charming, gregarious and even gentle to family members. But beneath the surface they dislike women and believe that “a woman’s place is in the home and that men have the right to control women.” They often witnessed abuse in their home growing up, and frequently abuse their children as well.


The relationship between a pleaser and a controller is a toxic one. The cycle of abuse in a relationship is deadly. Often partners need to separate and deal with their individual issues, both emotional and spiritual, before they can reunite and have a healthy home.


Controllers are miserable, and make those around them miserable. Control is the antithesis of meekness.  What does Jesus say about manipulative control?


Matthew 5:5 states “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” NIV


Meekness has absolutely nothing to do with weakness. Meekness has everything to do with the power that's available to the one who has a controlled spirit. The Greek word praus is so rich in meaning, one English word doesn’t capture the concept.


Who is a prause person? A meek person is like a domesticated stallion. This incredibly strong, spirited, untamed steed is worthless to humans. But take that horse and break him, saddle him up and ride him, then he is prause, an enormously powerful animal under the control of his master.


God loves to take us and train us to be powerfully harnessed to do His bidding. When we are yoked to Christ, we come under His control, guidance, and pacing. We will be submissive, and repent of our sinful, exploitive behaviors.


“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”


But what about the pleaser, the victim who just takes mistreatment and continues to suffer?


In her book Stopping Wife Abuse, Jennifer Baker Felming says the following attitudes are positive and useful. God’s Word tells us we are loved and valued by Him, but the abused wife often believes lies and is deceived by Satan.


Here are some truths to bring emotional healing to the battered wife. She is not to blame for being beaten and abused. She is not the cause of another’s behavior. She should not like or want the abuse. She does not, I repeat, does not have to take it. She is a worthy woman, precious to God, and deserves to be treated with respect. She does have Divine power to take charge of her life. She can use that power and the grace of God to take care of herself, to decide what is best for her and her children, and can make changes in her life. She is never alone. Jesus promised not to leave her or forsake her.


Jesus coupled the “meekness” beatitude with the “mourning” one.


Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” NIV

At some point, the abused person has to forgive the cruel abuser. The second beatitude is Jesus’ model for forgiveness. He mourned the hurt He had experienced. Hear His painful cry in the Garden. First, Jesus mourned and received comfort: Matthew 26:37-38: “He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.’”


If you have been abused, you need comfort. You need to express your hurt to God and trusted friends. And you need counseling. Abuse is an injury that doesn’t disappear overnight. Take time to get healed.


Jesus was able to mourn His hurt. Second, He understood the truth of what was happening. Luke 23:34: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Often we are the victims of people who just “don’t know what they are doing.” That does not mean that they are not responsible for their actions. However, the abuser is obviously deeply troubled and wounded. No one in his right mind would ruin wife or child’s life by a conscious choice if he had any sense whatsoever. Often abusers are simply acting out their own pain and rejection—and sin.


Remember, hurting people hurt people. While this in no way excuses them for their sin, at least it helps us put in perspective that those who exploit others are often sick—mentally, emotionally, and sinfully.


Third, Jesus forgave those who were murdering Him: Luke 23:34: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." He looked at the soldiers nailing His hands and feet and forgave them. Notice all three steps are important; and the order is important. We must mourn our hurts, understand the truth and forgive our offender. While these three steps often occur in a linear fashion, they more often occur concurrently until final healing is accomplished.


Finally, victims, by a choice of your will, forgive your abuser. This will not be as hard if you have successfully completed the first two steps mentioned above. Forgiving is a process which may take months or years to properly mourn the loss and be comforted until the pain no longer hurts. It may take a long time to sort out the issues; but the day will come. You will finally be free from the clutches of your brutal oppressor.


Both of my daughters have been abused-one by a violent husband and one raped by a stranger. Neither admitted to the horrific experiences until years later.


Stop the madness. If you are controlling and abusive, repent and surrender to God. Become “meek” so God can transform you.


If you are a victim, mourn your hurt. Reveal your secret to trusted friends, family and counselors. Receive the comfort, counseling and healing God longs to give you. Begin the difficult process of choosing to forgive those who have stepped on your life, crossed your boundaries and brutalized your self-esteem.


Jesus spoke these two verses for a reason. They can heal your heart and change your life!


Debbie Holloway: Four Reasons We're Not Reviewing Fifty Shades of Grey, 2015.

Phyllis Chesler, The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom,  2005, pp.11-12.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali,  Infidel, Pp. 31-3.

Amnesty International, “Media briefing: Violence against women in Pakistan,” April 17,2002,

Lisa Beyer, “The Women of Islam,” Time , November 25, 2001; Andrew Bushell, “ChildMarriage in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” America, March 11, 2002, p. 12.5

Sisters in Islam, “Rape, Zina, and Incest,” April 6, 2000, A Classic Manual of    Islamic Sacred Law , translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller. Amana Publications, 1999, n3.2;m11.10 (1).

Vie, John Kie. When Home is Where the Hurt Is. Cleveland, Tennessee: Family Ministries, pp. 61-63.

Felming, Jennifer Baker. Stopping Wife Abuse. New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1979, p. 65.

Barrier, Roger. Three Pleas to Heal Sexual Abuse.

Ferguson, David. Intimate Encounters. Austin, Texas: Intimacy Press, 1997, pp. 29-37.

Title from Dr. Kevin Leman's Best-Seller: The Pleasers: Women Who Can't Say No and the Men Who Control Them. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Revell Publishing, 2006.