Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Was Leaving the Right Thing to Do?

Dear Aunt Dara,

I had a bad experience at a church and ended up leaving, but I wonder if leaving was the right thing to do.  It was a very small church, only about 6 or 7 persons who met at the pastor's house.  I had been very close friends with the pastor and his wife, and they said I was like their daughter, so I wanted so much to keep the friendship.  However, the church had a lot of issues that were either glossed over or ignored.  It was nothing blatantly sinful, though.  For example, we started 20-30 minutes late every single week, but some of the things were personal.  There was a woman in the church who made fun of things I liked.  She once asked me what book I was reading before service, and when I told her she immediately sneered, "Oh, why would you want to read about that?"  I was hurt but I didn't say anything because this woman had lost her husband and son in recent years and she was basically viewed as a pillar of Christian faith.  However, everything I said, from making a joke to expressing an opinion, was seen as critical by the pastor.  I was constantly being scolded about being critical and he frequently told me to get over myself and stop having the critical spirit.  

The pastor and his wife got a dog.  They knew I didn't care for the dog, so they attempted to train the dog to leave me alone.  They would say to the dog, "Leave it! Leave it! Leave it!"  I hated being called "it" and being used as a training tool.  They eventually got another dog and treated the dogs as their children.  I was disgusted by the dog hair covering the meeting room, the filthy dog toys everywhere, and the "cute" dogs' constant interruption during service, but if I said anything, it would have been seen as selfish and critical.  I didn’t like dogs, but everyone else did.

I shared some of my private struggles with the pastor in an email, and he shared it with the church without even asking me if it would be okay.  I was terribly hurt.  Eventually things got so bad that I cried every time I arrived at church because I felt so hurt inside.  Finally, the pastor decided we needed a talk, but the talk was him blaming me for everything and scolding my critical attitude, giving me a guilt trip, then telling me I would not fit in anywhere else.  Then I made him mad and he grabbed my arm and shoved me across the driveway to my car before basically insulting me in front of his wife.  I have not been back since.

I still feel terrible about what happened.  We were all supposed to be close-knit, but I had not fit in there for a long time.  Getting made fun of by the woman mentioned earlier did not help matters.  I begged God for months and months to change me so I would like dogs, among other things, but He did not.  I feel as if I didn't do enough to salvage the relationship.  You are only hearing my side of the story, but those I have talked to have mostly said that my old pastor was controlling and mean and that it was good I got out.  What is your opinion?

Confused Woman

Dear Confused Woman, 

To continue to attend a church where you feel that level of hurt and you cry at the thought of being there takes a lot of strength and dedication to the Lord.  It sounds as if you struggled a lot to fit into that church and did what you could to make it better.  I am sure that God saw your efforts and understands your struggles.  I have observed that sometimes when we have done all that we can do to make the best of our current church (or job), leaving is often the best solution.  When we look back later we are able to see that God used the problems associated with that church (or job) because He had a better plan for us—another church or job where He wants us to be.  You need not feel bad about leaving that church, for leaving may have been what God intended for you to do.  I hope that you have found another church where you feel edified and accepted.  Some of the scriptures that deal with how Christians are to treat one another are found in Romans chapter 12, Galatians chapter 5, Ephesians chapter 4, Philippians chapter 2, Colossians chapter 3, 1 Peter chapter 3, and 1 John chapters 3 and 4.

By the way, had the spirit of love been in that church, the pastor and his wife would not have persistently used the dog to harass you.  Furthermore, allowing the dog to interrupt church services was disrespectful toward God. 

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Should She Pursue a Relationship with an Age Difference?

Dear Aunt Dara,

I am a 31-year-old single woman.  I have a question on age differences.  I have been talking online to a guy I know who is 19 (soon to be 20 in less than a month).  He has shown some interest in me.  He is a Christian man and we share the same beliefs.  Would it be unbiblical or unwise to pursue this?  I feel people would judge me, especially because about 3 or 4 years ago he had been a student of mine. 


Dear Unsure, 

Unbiblical, no.  Unwise, probably. 

There is nothing in the Bible that forbids romantic relationships or marriage when there is a significant age difference, regardless of which one is the older of the two.  Generally speaking, society tends to have more negative regard toward a female being the older one, but nothing in the Bible indicates that such a relationship is wrong.  I have not been able to find a specific example in the Bible involving a marriage between a significantly older woman and a younger man, but Genesis 38:11 does give an example of Judah promising his widowed daughter-in-law that she could marry his youngest son when he was grown. 

However, in your case it would probably be unwise to pursue this.  First of all, wide age differences tend to become less significant when the people involved are older.  For example, if the younger of the two is in his or her 30s, both will have achieved sufficient maturity to meet the inevitable challenges that are unique to marriages involving disparate ages.  In your case, you have had years of experience as an adult, but he is just now entering adulthood.  He does not have the life experiences and independent living skills necessary to become the head of the household, and he likely still possesses many adolescent characteristics.  Therefore, you will likely find him to be too immature for you.  Secondly, both of you will face criticism and disapproval from others, so both of you will have to have a solid sense of self-esteem and self-confidence to withstand others’ disapproval and negative remarks.  It’s doubtful that a 19 or 20-yr-old has developed this level of maturity.  Be prepared for the stiffest disapproval to come from his family, especially his parents.  At worst, they may see you as the older woman who poses a threat to their son who is still a boy in their eyes, and they may try to break up the relationship.  At best, they will be suspicious of your motives.  Lastly, it would be unwise for the reason that you stated—you used to be his teacher.  Even if you have not been his teacher for a few years and he is no longer a legal minor, you will still be the subject of accusations and disapproval.  This could potentially have a damaging effect on your professional career.  With all these potential pitfalls, are you sure you want to take the chance? 

For further information on this topic, please refer to my post on January 4, 2011 titled “She’s Old Enough to be his Mother.” 

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Did She Receive a Message from God?

Dear Aunt Dara,

I think I may have received a message from God, and I'm not sure what to do with it.  When my husband and I were dating, we went to a music festival at a ski resort.  While on the mountaintop there, I had a "thought" that the following summer I would get engaged in that very spot.  It was completely unbidden, something like a whisper to my soul.  It made me nervous, but also gave me peace.  I prayed about it frequently over the following days, and sure enough, it came to pass.

Recently, I had a very similar experience.  This time the "thought" was that I would be pregnant on my brother's wedding day.  This was before he and his fiancĂ© set their date, but now they have one.  Their wedding is in October of next year.  So, if this truly was prophetic and my math is right, I could find myself expecting as soon as two months from now!  My dilemma is whether or not to tell my husband.  He is under a lot of stress right now, between work pressure and spiritual struggles, and I don't want to add to his burdens (especially if it turns out to be nothing).  But at the same time, I feel bad not telling him in case it is true and our whole life is about to change!  We've been married for two years and are pretty well in agreement when it comes to various aspects of child-rearing, including wanting to wait at least another year or two before we start trying. 

I keep going back and forth over whether to tell him what I experienced.  I don't feel peace about it either way.  What should I do?

Worried Wife

Dear Worried Wife,

You ask if you should tell your husband that you have a message from God that you will be pregnant next summer when your brother gets married.  I think that it would be a mistake to share this with your husband for two main reasons:

First of all, you mentioned that your husband is currently having spiritual struggles.  What would happen to him spiritually if he believed that you had a message from God and it did not come to pass?  We know that it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18).  If this truly is a message from God, it will come to pass.  Therefore, if your husband believes that you received a message from God and it doesn’t come to pass, his trust in God will plummet.  He may even doubt the existence of God.  Therefore, it is best to not tell your husband anything and to take a wait-and-see approach. 

Secondly, you have no way of knowing that your “thought” is a message from God.  Even you acknowledged that it might not be from God.  You are basing the possibility that it could be a message from God on a past experience in which you had a “thought” about something that came true.  This is flimsy evidence, at best, that God is sending you messages through you thoughts.  The Bible tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9).  Many people have believed things that were not true and made mistakes that they have long regretted because they followed what they believed God was speaking to them in their heart.  The Bible tells us that in times past God spoke to individuals through various ways (such as directly, audibly, in dreams, in visions, through prophets, and other ways), but now He speaks to us through the words of Jesus and the Bible which is the inspired word of God (Hebrews 1:1-2, 2 Peter 1:21).  An examination of all the Biblical examples of God speaking to people indicate that in all cases it was so that God’s will would be accomplished.  I can find no example that God ever gave a specific message to any individual regarding personal future events.  (I invite my readers to show me any examples that they may find.)  Therefore, rather than wondering that God might be sending you messages about your future through your thoughts, it’s best to just trust your future to God and live each day as it comes (Matthew 6:34). 

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Must a Christian Help Everyone Who Asks for Assistance?

Dear Aunt Dara, 

This school year has been very trying for my husband and myself.  We've been helping friends and family with many favors lately, but now I feel as though I'm a wet rag being squeezed dry.  My mother's vehicle broke down some months ago so every weekend or day off, I have to take her to run errands, pay her bills, buy groceries, etc.  At first I felt happy to help, but now it has become a stressor for me because I have to squeeze in all her errands plus my own.  We have three children and my life was already busy enough with them as it was.  My mom's solution is, "Why do you take them to so many birthday parties?” and, "Why do you have them in sports?"  In other words, why do anything for anyone else in this world, as long as I'm helping her?  She thinks I'm stressing myself out by having them participate in organizations and such.  I'm a little bitter toward her because I know my mom would not help me or anyone else that needs help.  She never has.  She's very selfish.  I had to work the moment I turned 16 and have had to support myself since.  I'm only thankful that my forced-upon independence taught me responsibility. 

Additionally, ever since my father-in-law’s girlfriend passed away, we've been having to help him financially.  We were happy to help him at first, but now it has become an annoyance because any extra money that we once had is gone.  My father-in-law doesn't seem to care that we have our own bills, our kids' expenses, etc.  We can't take a vacation or buy groceries without him thinking we're loaded, when in actuality we live paycheck to paycheck.  What annoys my husband the most is that his father has never been a giving, caring, or compassionate person with him.  When my husband was young and his parents divorced, he chose to live with his dad.  It turned out that his dad sent him away to live with various friends and relatives, but his dad still kept all the child support checks that came in from his mom.  When the time came for back to school shopping and my husband needed new clothes, shoes, and books, his dad refused to buy him anything because he could "never afford it.”  So at a young age, my husband had to start finding ways to make his own money to support himself.  We met and married young but have been blessed that we have always been able to support ourselves, without our parents' help but with God's help.  Throughout our 20 years of marriage, we have always put all our faith in Him and recognize that without Him, we wouldn't be where we are today.  We give Him all the glory and praise. 

In addition to helping our parents out, I have a couple of friends who have been needing our help this year.  Again, we are happy to help people when we are able to do so.  However, lately I feel as if we are being taken advantage of.  One friend leaves her kids with me at 6:30am each morning so I can take them to school with my own kids.  She has to rush to work from there.  My other friend relies on me to pick up her daughter from school at the end of the day, because she gets out of her job too late.  She either picks her up from my house really late in the evenings or, if she picks her up in a timely manner, she stays at my house chit-chatting until close to 10pm!  I don't get to make dinner, do chores, spend time with husband or kids, etc.  

I feel I'm at my wits end with all these people.  I have already had some minor meltdowns at home and start yelling over the silliest things just because I'm so frustrated, tired, and stressed out.  As a Christian, I feel we should be more like Jesus and help others with a happy heart.  My dilemma is that I used to have a happy heart when helping others, but lately I feel so angry and used.  I just want us to run far, far away and never come back!  I don't have the heart to be honest with any of them to tell them how I feel because I'm the type of person that will do anything to spare hard feelings.  I hate confrontations.  I've heard the saying, "Be a blessing and you'll be blessed.”  However, I just don't feel like I deserve God's blessings because all I've come to do lately is just complain about these people.  Can you please give me some advice as to how I should be feeling toward everyone?  I feel wrong for having ill feelings toward these individuals but I can't help it. 

At Wits End 

Dear Wits End, 

Let me summarize:  Your mother is demanding of your time and dependent on you for transportation.  Your father-in-law is dependent on your money to meet his living expenses.  Your friends depend on you to provide free babysitting and they interfere with your ability to meet the needs of your own family.  You don’t have any time for yourself, your husband, or your children.  You feel as if you are being squeezed dry and would like to run far, far away.  You are at your wits end and feel stressed, tired, frustrated, and angry, and so you end up yelling over minor things.  Conclusion:  You feel as if you are being used because you are being used, and those negative feelings are the natural result of stress from being taken advantage of.   

While it is true that Christians are to follow Jesus’ example and do good to others (Acts 10:38, Galatians 6:10), it appears that you have taken this to the extreme and are wearing yourself out in trying to help others.  Jesus frequently took breaks from teaching the multitudes and healing the sick so that He could meet His own needs (Luke 5:15-16).  The Bible instructs us to be temperate in all things (1 Corinthians 9:25, 1 Timothy 3:11), which means to show moderation, to have self-restraint, and to do things within a reasonable limit.  That even includes doing good works within a reasonable limit, and the Bible warns us that we will destroy ourselves if we do not (Ecclesiastes 7:15-16).  The Lord never intended for us to allow ourselves to be used or to do so much for others that we totally wear ourselves out and neglect our own family and our own needs.  

It appears as if you believe that to be like Jesus you must help everyone, so therefore you must not turn down a request for help.  Jesus recognized when people were trying to take advantage of Him and did not give them what they wanted (John 6:22-27).  He did not always respond to requests and He set conditions for the people He helped (Matthew 15:21-28).  Additionally, God does not always give us what we ask for in prayer and sets conditions for His blessings (John 9:31, James 1:5-8, James 4:3, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9).  Therefore, if God can deny requests and set limits and conditions for what He does for people, then we can do the same.  You have the right to set appropriate limits and conditions with others, and you have the right to turn down requests.  It is okay to tell your friend that she must pick up her child by a certain time.  It is okay to tell her that it’s time for her to leave because you need to cook dinner for your family.  It’s okay to set limits for your mother and father-in-law. 

Are you actually helping these people, or are you fostering dependency?  Helping means that you render assistance, and inherent in this definition is the understanding that such aid is temporary until the person no longer needs assistance (2 Corinthians 8:11-14).  If the person is not moving toward gaining independence, it ceases to be “receiving help” and becomes a reliance or dependency on the giver.  What effort has your mother made to repair her car or to obtain other means of transportation?  What effort has your father-in-law made to be able to manage his expenses on his own?  What would they do without you?  If you were no longer able to provide transportation for your mother or give money to your father-in-law, what would they do?  It appears that you are no longer helping your mother and father-in-law.  They have become dependent on you and you are supporting them.  If you continue to provide transportation and money to them, they will have no motivation to work toward becoming independent.  Your first responsibility is to your own family—to your husband, children, and home.  You and your husband need to have an honest discussion with each other to come to an understanding of what changes need to be made to set reasonable limits with them to reduce your burden and stress.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Is it Wrong to Hide a Bank Account from a Spouse?

Dear Aunt Dara,

My husband and I have both accepted Jesus as our Savior and try to live according to His word.  With that being said, I have been keeping a secret bank account from him because I am scared of the way he handles our finances.  We have been married for 4 and 1/2 years now and he has never held a steady job.  He has been fired and let go of employment more times than I can count.  We are a one income household, but he spends as if we have two incomes.  I made him start paying the bills because I thought it would make him more aware of the finances as well as take some pressure off of me.  However, he has made several late payments and we have accrued several late charges because of it.  When I ask him if he has been applying for jobs or ask him what he has done for the day, he gets extremely defensive and it starts a fight.  My husband has been spoiled and therefore does not cook or clean, so I have to make time for those things before or after my job.  On top of this, he likes to have nice things so if I receive a bonus, he believes he is entitled to spend that as well.  Last year, I wanted to use my bonus at the beginning of the year to pay off the last of our bills and have at least $1000 left over to have as a buffer so we are not living paycheck to paycheck as usual and sometime overdraft.  However, when I told him what I think we should do with my bonus, he said he "needed" a new 60 inch TV because it had been a while since he bought one.  Meanwhile, we have three nice televisions in the house that all work great.  He didn't speak to me for over a week until I gave in to his request.  For this reason, I have opened up an emergency savings account to hide money in case anything urgent comes up.  Is it wrong to hide this from my husband?  I think of the story of Abigail and Nabal and how her defiance of her husband was thought of as wisdom, but I don't want to be wrong.  I love my husband, but he is extremely unwise with our finances and it is causing me horrible panic attacks and anxiety.  He says he is saved, but I don't actually see any fruit of the Spirit in him.  Please help.  Thank you so much!

Frustrated, Hurt and Anxious

Dear Frustrated, Hurt and Anxious, 

Is it wrong to hide a bank account from your husband?  Keeping secrets is not necessarily a sin.  Sometimes it is the wise thing to do.  Samson was wise to not tell Delilah the source of his strength, and he paid a high price when he did (Judges 16).  Rahab did the right thing when she kept the secret that she was hiding the Israelite spies (Joshua 2).  But is it wrong to keep a secret from a spouse?  You cited Abigail as an example.  While it is true that Abigail assisted David and his men without her husband’s knowledge, she told her husband what she had done the following morning after he had sobered up (1 Samuel 25:36-38).  Esther kept the fact that she was an Israelite secret from her husband until it became necessary to reveal this to him (Esther 2:10, 7:3-4).  Keeping secrets is rarely healthy in a marriage, and keeping financial secrets is especially harmful to a marriage because the other spouse will eventually find out the truth and that will undermine trust.  What will happen when your husband finds out that you have a secret bank account?   

In a marriage, the two are to become one (Matthew 19:5).  Therefore, the ideal situation for finances in a marriage is for both to be fully aware of all assets, obligations, and expenditures, and for purchases to be made by mutual decision.  Christians should pay all bills, debts and obligations when due (Romans 12:17).  Christians should work to provide for their family and necessities should be paid for before any nonessentials are purchased (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, 1 Timothy 5:8).  However, when one spouse is irresponsible with money, the one who is most responsible should be in charge of managing the finances.  Even though the husband is the head of the wife and the wife is to be submissive to her husband (Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18), there is nothing wrong with the wife being the primary financial manager if she is the one who is more responsible with money.  Furthermore, it is not wrong for a wife to make independent financial decisions.  The virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 did not ask for her husband’s permission to buy real estate or to manage her business independently (Proverbs 31:16, 24), and a married woman was among the women who provided financial support for the needs of Jesus and His disciples (Luke 8:1-3).   

Since your husband has a proven record of being irresponsible and mismanaging money, you should be the one in charge of managing the finances for your home.  You are the sole wage earner in your family.  It is up to you to assure that bills are paid on time, and you are wise to develop a savings account.  Your husband spends more than you earn and insists on making unnecessary purchases, but he did not work to earn the money.  You did!  If he wants to have money to buy his toys, he should get a job and use his own money.  (Nothing teaches a person the value of money better than having to work to earn the money to buy the things one wants.)  Your husband has a problem with greed and covetousness, and you are supporting it.  If your husband had a problem with gambling, would you give him money to take to the casino?  If he had a problem with alcohol, would you give him money to buy beer?  If he tries to pressure you into giving him money so that he can spend it frivolously, remember that you must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29) and you cannot obey your husband if it means supporting or participating in his sin (Acts 5:1-11).   

Here are my suggestions on how to handle your situation: 
1.     Tell your husband about the savings account.  Apologize for not telling him sooner than you did.  Explain the reasons that you established the account.  Continue to deposit part of your income into this account on a regular basis.  Do not allow him to talk you into putting his name on the account too.  Reconsider the wisdom of having a joint bank account.
2.     Develop a budget with your husband and stick to it.
3.     You may need to consult a professional financial planner to assist you with the development of a workable budget and to help impress upon your husband the dangers of his irresponsible spending habits.
4.     Take over the responsibility of paying the household bills again.
5.     Ask your employer about withholding part of your earnings for savings, such as in a credit union account or a retirement savings account. 

None of those suggestions will be easy, so pray before you do anything.  Pray a lot.  You are in a very precarious position and your husband will be resistant to making any changes.  Financial issues are one of the top reasons that couples fight, enter marriage counseling, and end up divorced.  That is why it is beneficial to discuss financial issues prior to marriage and why premarital counseling should always address financial management.  Please keep me updated and I will be praying for you. 

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Monday, August 21, 2017

Man Wants to File a Restraining Order Against His Wife’s Mother

Dear Aunt Dara,

Recently my wife and I learned that she has a teenaged half-sister by her father.  Her parents are still married and have hidden this information from my wife.  She found this out after being contacted by her sister's grandmother.  Ever since my mother-in-law learned that we know about the new sister and that we are going to attempt to have a relationship with her, my mother-in-law has become verbally hostile toward us and has been very irrational about the situation.  Her behavior has come to the point that I have changed our locks.  I am now to the point that I am done with her harassment and I am also done with her.  However, this is causing a problem between myself and my wife.  She wants me to "play nice," but I have played nice for several years after other situations and now I am done.  I am tired of seeing my wife suffer these verbal attacks.  I want my mother-in-law out of our lives if she can't be civil, but my wife says I am being irrational.  All I want is for my wife to not have to deal with this.  My wife recently gave birth to our third child, so I am even more protective of her because she is post-partum.  I told my mother-in-law that she is no longer welcome at my home unless she can be civil and that she can only come if my father-in-law also comes with her because she acts differently when he is around.  However, she came to our house yesterday while I was at work and started verbally attacking my wife again.  I want to file a restraining order against her, but my wife does not want me to do that.  I want to protect my family, but in doing so it will cause conflict between myself and my wife.  I have turned the other cheek so many times.  I don't know what to do now.

Fed Up Husband 

Dear Husband,

You love your wife and you want to protect her from harm, including emotional and verbal abuse.  That is the normal and rational response for a husband, and you are not being irrational in wanting to protect your family.  “Playing nice” by turning the other cheek does not mean that you have to allow abuse to continue.  God never expects us to remain in a situation where abuse occurs and continues or in a situation where we may be in danger.  Jesus Himself took measures to avoid physical harm (John 8:59), and on numerous occasions He avoided getting involved in the Pharisee’s attempts to verbally trap Him. 

It sounds as if your mother-in-law is angry because the family secret has been discovered and exposed.  It’s apparent from what you said that this girl was born as the result of your father-in-law’s infidelity while married to your mother-in-law.  This would have been a very difficult thing for your mother-in-law to have experienced and likely would have resulted in a marital crisis for them at the time.  While you and your wife view this younger half-sister as an addition to your family, your mother-in-law sees her as a threat to the family and a reminder of things she’d rather forget.  Your mother-in-law feels threatened, and the natural tendency when threatened is to defend oneself by attacking back.  Unfortunately, she has chosen to attack you and your wife.  It also sounds as if this is just the current side issue of a much wider problem involving your mother-in-law’s behavior.  Does your father-in-law know that your mother-in-law is harassing you and your wife?  If not, he needs to be told.  It’s not healthy for your children to witness their grandmother verbally abusing their mother, and this needs to stop. 

You are within your right to set limits, rules and boundaries with your mother-in-law, and your wife needs to be on board with enforcing them.  Nobody should be subjected to verbal abuse, especially in one's own home.  As a family, you should set clear limits that your mother-in-law’s visits will be restricted if she cannot be civil.  The family needs to understand that your mother-in-law will be required to leave your home if she begins to verbally abuse you or your wife.  This includes phone calls!  Your wife should be instructed to end a visit or phone call if her mother becomes verbally abusive.  I would NOT recommend taking out a restraining order against your mother-in-law.  That would only give fuel to the fire and make the situation worse.  Do not take revenge!  Continue to pray for your mother-in-law and treat her kindly (Romans 12:17-21, 1 Peter 2:19-23, Matthew 5:43-48).

You should affirm your mother-in-law’s fear and assure her that the girl does not have to be a part of her life and she will not have to see or talk to the girl.  When she brings up the subject in the future, remind her that she does not need to see or talk to the girl, but you and your wife do plan to have her in your lives whether she approves or not.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Is it Ever Acceptable to Hold Back Help?

Dear Aunt Dara,

I am writing because my husband and I have been helping out our son and his wife since before they married nearly 10 years ago.  My son is a very hard worker, but he is overwhelmed at home.  His wife worked full time when they were dating, but almost right away after marriage she dropped to part time work.  She could not keep up with housework.  She does not cook.  My son does the grocery shopping and cooking.  She then stopped working completely, but still could not keep up with the house and it is very, very dirty.  My son did not want any more children but she has just given birth to a fourth child.  When she was only 3 months into her pregnancy, she stopped loading the dishwasher because she said she was in too much pain.  She doesn't even unload it when the dishes are clean.  There are always tons of dirty dishes, overflowing trash, food all over the kitchen and dining room floors, piles of clean and dirty laundry all over, but the worst is the dozens of dirty diapers on the floors of the children’s rooms.  They purchased a new van and a beautiful home two years ago with gorgeous landscaping and a beautiful patio.  The home had beautiful wall-to-wall carpeting.  It was just immaculate, but within three months it was a pit.  It’s so heartbreaking to see what has become of both the home and their vehicle.  All she ever does is complain about how much pain she is in.  She does her hair and her nails, but just constantly wants my son to help her with the house and kids.  She ruined their credit by not paying the bills on time.  We have babysat so she wouldn't have to take her children to all kinds of appointments.  I do her dishes, wash her floors, clean her nasty stovetop, etc.  We pick up our grandson on Friday nights so my son can get some sleep because he works midnight shift on the weekends.  (We have to drive to pick up our grandson because she can't handle the drive.)  My daughters babysit and buy them all kinds of diapers and clothes for her and the kids.  She only takes, never gives.  We had a Bible study when they first got married, and after the study she had a meeting at her house to bad mouth me because I shared how the Lord had healed me.  (She assumed I was criticizing her for using medicine.  I wasn't.  I use medicine, too.)  Our family used to be very close but we have not had any family fellowship since.  There are some things that I appreciate about her, however.  I love how she is funny and creative, and she seems to love my grandchildren.  

My question is my son asked my husband, who is 60 years old and works midnights also, if he could pick up our grandson on Friday.  We have done this tons of times.  The thing is, my son is off work for a month on family leave for the baby.  He could easily bring the boy to us, but that would mean his wife would have to be alone with a 3-year-old, an 18-month-old, and a week-old baby.  All healthy.  I had 4 children, and took my babies everywhere!  My mom had 8 children, no car, and my dad left when I was two.  Her mom had 10, and her mom 12 children.  I don't think it is fair for our son to ask his elderly father, who is in very poor health, to give up his weekend time so his wife doesn't have to take care of her own responsibilities.  There is so much we have done for them already.  We even catered their wedding reception because her family didn't have the money, even though we don't have much either.  We drove 90 minutes each way to set up, and we shopped, cooked, cleaned, and packed up.  We were happy to do it.  We love the Lord and our family, but we are wondering if we can keep this up.  We think it is time for our daughter-in-law to handle her own responsibilities.  My son is so worn out and depressed.  He told his Dad he feels like she baited and switched him.  I feel he is at fault too, for not making her do more of her job as a housewife.  He gives her everything she wants.  (As a side note, we are not allowed to kiss our grandkids or post pictures of them.  I made the mistake of announcing to my friends on Facebook that I was going to be a grandmother, and they publicly chastised me.)  I say all this to ask what we should do.  What would the Lord want us to do?

We’ve Gone an Extra Thousand Miles

Dear Extra Thousand Miles,

My heart goes out to you and your husband for the years that you have been taking responsibility for your son's family.  It's evident that your daughter-in-law's laziness will continue as long as the family continues to take up the slack by doing things that are her responsibility.  You and your husband are of the age when your children should be taking care of you, not the other way around (Matthew 15:1-9; 2 Corinthians 12:14).  Furthermore, parents are not responsible for taking care of their adult children (Mark 10:6-8).  Your son and his wife are a separate family unit.  They are the ones who are responsible for taking care of their home and their children—not you.  You may think that you are helping them, but you are actually hurting them.  You should immediately stop doing their housework.  This means NO washing their dishes, mopping their floors, doing their laundry, taking out their trash, etc.  When you stop "helping," your son and his wife will have to work out their household duties together, as they should have been doing for themselves from the beginning.

Occasional babysitting is okay.  It's called visiting with your grandchildren.  However, it is not your responsibility to take care of your grandchildren.  Parents are responsible for taking care of their own minor children.  As you pointed out, generations of parents have been taking care of their children, no matter how many children they have.  If you want to have the grandchildren in your home or babysit when their parents have appointments, then fine.  However, you have the right to set limits on how often or how long their visits are.  Don't be afraid to say no.  Furthermore, it’s their responsibility to bring the children to you and pick them up after their visit.  As you pointed out, they really have no reasonable excuse for not bringing your grandson to you.  After all, when your son is at work your daughter-in-law is alone with the children and she finds a way to manage it.

Your daughter-in-law (and possibly your son, too) will vehemently fight against any changes that you make and will likely say some very hurtful things to you and about you.  Stay strong and don't back down.  If you give in and resume doing things for them, your daughter-in-law will have won and she will never change her behavior.

God bless,
Aunt Dara