Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Roll thy way upon Him, lean also upon Him, and He gets it going.”
Psalm 37: 5
“Faith is the courage of the spirit which projects itself forward, sure of finding the truth.”
Today’s Study Text:
“So he arose and went to Zarephath. When he (Elijah) came to the gate of the city, behold a widow was there gathering sticks.”
1 Kings 17: 10
“A Home In Zarephath – Part 2
A Word About Widowhood”
“The final lesson of learning to be independent -- widowhood…is the hardest lesson of all.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Have I lost the one I loved and found myself feeling very alone?
How did my world change when my spouse died?
In what ways would my life be different if my spouse passed away?
“Where you used to be there is a hole in the world which I find myself walking around in the daytime and falling into at night.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
“Your absence has gone through me like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color.”
W. S. Merwin
We don’t know her name. We don’t know how old she was. We don’t know how long she was married. All we know is what the Bible tells us in 1 Kings 17. She was a poor widow, living in a town called Zarephath. It was here where she had a small place to reside with her young son.
As I prepared the devotional thoughts for this particular week, I found a startling fact revealed -- and it is this: throughout all the reference material, the books of biographies, and the scholarly commentaries about Elijah, not one focused on the point-of-view of the widow woman. We are told she was commanded by God to make a place in her life and her home for the prophet, Elijah. We certainly don’t find that she volunteered to “take in” Elijah. Instead, a foreign neighbor’s God, came to this woman with the command, or as we found out yesterday, enjoined her, which is likened to authoritative control, and said she would be having a houseguest.
Since this story most frequently centers on Elijah, I’d like to turn the tables for the rest of this week and rather than looking at how Elijah felt, I would like to first, explore how a widow woman from Zarephath might have felt if a man, a rough-hewn mountain man at that, came to live in her home for an undetermined amount of time. And I’d like to examine the widow’s life in four specific ways.
First today, I want to look at what widowhood means in general. What happens when a “beloved” spouse dies?
Second tomorrow, I want to look at what God has to say in His word, the Bible, about the treatment and care of widows and their children, as well.
And then, I want to delve into the first conversation Elijah had with his new “landlady,” the widow of Zarephath.
And finally, we will go to the New Testament as we uncover what Jesus said about this particular widow and how the early Christian church responded to the needs of the widows in their midst. (And I have a special surprise from one of God’s precious daughter’s here in the Garden.)
I find the topic of “widowhood,” as I have called it today, to be one I unfortunately have had to deal with as both my grandmother and mother have spent many years alone. Specifically, my mother has been a widow for over a quarter of a century when she lost her one true love.
It wasn’t a death she could plan for. My dad’s health seemed to be improving -- it appeared the best he had in years. He walked five miles everyday. He was at his high school weight. He had no destructive health habits that would cause him to develop any major problems -- at least that’s what we all believed. And this is why his sudden death came as such a shock. How do you prepare for the unexpected?
Yet, in the years which have passed since this event took place, I’ve found that it is not the suddenness of death which causes the deepest pain -- it is death, itself. That cold handed evil that never, in God’s gracious plan for His children’s world, would ever have entered to tear-away at the fiber of our beings.
Whether death comes without warning or becomes a long drawn out process that makes us shake our heads and cry out, “Why?” the aftermath of death’s arrival leaves those behind to try and “get on with things.” How hard this can be?
For my mother, getting on with life was made slightly easier because she was surrounded by loving family members and unlike the widow in Zarephath, she was not forced to harvest the sticks of aloneness nor was she found wanting, unable to make it financially as has happened to way too many widows down through history.
For my mother, the challenge of widowhood was the relearning of how to effectively survive the great loss of partnership -- shared work, shared time and shared love. But as she found, to put one foot in front of the other on a daily basis, and to move forward bravely, can offer us a tremendous opportunity for heavenly miracles to fill our lives.
I believe the Scripture provides a tremendous model as we witness the widow of Zarephath opening, not only her hand and home, but her heart to Elijah and the presence of his God, who was the ultimate miracle that revealed a whole new world to this woman.
It took a lot of courage for an individual, steeped in the traditions of Baal worship, to allow the authority of the God of heaven and earth to rule her world. And I wondered to myself, “Would I have been as open to the voice of God as she was?”
This is a vital question that confronts each of us in those painful moments in time when our world, as we know it, is turned upside down. But as the widow of Zarephath’s story shows us, at the moment when she experienced the greatest loss, both socially and financially, was the time when God reached down to ignite a fire of renewal in her heart. The same can be true in your life and mine.
I love the following words, penned by a grieving widow named Mrs. Benson who was the wife of Edward Benson, archbishop of Canterbury:
Give Me Strength
“Lord God, make me strong and of good courage. All the beauty of our past life together, the home we made, the dignity and glory of it, the fellowship, the humor, the conspiracies, the discussions, the beating fervent, keen, pulsating life; the splendid web which Thou gavest us to weave -- all this is over. With one touch Thou calledst him home, and it has fallen to pieces round me. Give me strength and power to be still and see what Thou wilt do.”
The message sent to us today from the “widowhood” of the woman of Zarephath is one of hope, especially to those who heed God’s command and go through an open gate that leads to the kindly service of those we are called to help. What we will witness in the woman from Zarephath’s life of pain and lack, blossomed a life of fruitfulness.
“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.”
Christopher Robin to
Winnie the Pooh
why have You let this happen?
why did You forsake us?
Creator – why uncreate?
Redeemer – why destroy wholeness?
Source of love – why rip away
the one I loved so utterly?
Why? Why? O God?
In this pit of darkness,
hollowed out by grief and screaming,
I reach out to the one I loved
and cannot touch.
Where are You, God?
Where are You,
in my wounds
which are also Yours?
as I hurl at You
my aching rage and bitterness,
and stay here
until this hacked-off stump of my life
discovers greenness again.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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