I must pause here, for some of you may have trouble swallowing the truth that God’s goodness was at work in arranging your mother-daughter relationship. Perhaps you have a mother who is not a Christian or, worse, whose behavior causes you great heartache and trouble. She may be an alcoholic, verbally berating, or physically abusive (for those of you in this situation, please seek counsel from your pastor and, if necessary, protection by the authorities). Your mom may have abandoned you, leaving you desperately confused, alone, and shouldering heavy responsibilities. The one person you would expect to love you best has hurt you most.

Or maybe you are a mother whose daughter’s rebellion has caused deep pain and sorrow. She has turned her back on you and on God; she is angry, rebellious, and unkind. Your attempts to show love have only invited further insults and greater hatred. Her lifestyle is wreaking havoc in your family, and you don’t know where it will end. Maybe, in the quiet moments, you wish you’d never had a daughter.

So how could a loving God have chosen your mother or daughter? You are at a loss to understand.

While I can’t begin to comprehend your suffering, there is a story in the Bible that can help you gain understanding. You may recall the account of Joseph found in the book of Genesis. As a young man he experienced great harm from his family — in fact, his brothers sold him into slavery. But Joseph understood that God’s sovereign love was at work for good even through the malicious actions of his brothers.

From slavery, and by way of prison, Joseph eventually became powerful in the land of Egypt and saved his people from famine. He later told his brothers, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive" (Gen. 50:20).

Whether or not your mother or daughter intends her actions for evil against you, she cannot thwart God’s intentions. God has a plan, a gracious plan, for your mother-daughter relationship. Just as He used Joseph’s sufferings to save a nation, He is more than able to bring forth astonishing good from your trials. So may I urge you to put your trust in our sovereign God? Even now His purposes are at work in your mother-daughter relationship.

God's Plan for All Mothers and Daughters

For all of us, the guarantee that God has ordained our mother-daughter relationship for good provides the hope we need to resolve any conflict and surmount any challenge. There is no problem in our relationship that causes God to rethink whether or not He got it right by putting us together. So neither should we question it.

God actually uses each other’s limitations, flaws, and peculiarities to help us grow in godliness. The habits that annoy or embarrass us, the sins that tempt us to anger or resentment, and the views and opinions we don’t understand about one another — all these were custom designed to help us grow in biblical womanhood. I love what Mr. Knightly says in the matchmaking comedy Emma: "Maybe it is our imperfections which make us so perfect for one another!"1

My mom and I have experienced this dynamic in our relationship. One thing you need to know about Mom is that she loves peace, order, and structure. She would say that she tends to love it too much. By contrast, I didn’t always appreciate my mom’s love for order. Thus my disorderly, haphazard way of living was a source of tension at times when I lived at home.

But things have changed since I have gotten married. Now that I have a family of my own, I love an orderly schedule and a clean house — almost as much as Mom. I’m always calling her for useful tips to simplify my life. I appreciate this strength of her character like never before. But she would also say that God used her daughters (and primarily me) to help her overcome an excessive concern with a clean and organized house. We’ve both grown in godly character, thanks to our God-ordained differences.