A woman receives the name “widow” in exchange for her husband. That’s no small trade off. He is gone and she has been left alone. Death came leaving emotional rubble as a tornado that demolishes a city leaving ruins and distress behind.
Distress is defined as “great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction.” That’s exactly the setting James 1:27 commands us to walk into, “Pure and undefiled religion is this, to visit the widow and fatherless in their distress.” Many would rather do anything else in the world than visit a woman in stressful circumstances. I agree it is often awkward and uncomfortable!
However, God works in the relationship between the widow and the world.
Personally, I believe the relationship between the two provides a visual aid of how God works with and through the body of Christ. Understanding how the two beautifully work together is similar to the crucial tension of the bobbin thread on a sewing machine or the important rhythm of two pedaling a tandem bicycle.
How do we minister to widows in crisis with the proper tension and tandem rhythm?
In Scripture, God’s word provides guidance through two widows during a crisis. It is important to note the different responses: Elijah certainly would have missed ongoing provision for himself and the country if he let the widow eat her last meal before making the request that she feed him first (1 Kings 17). And then another prophet, Elisha, and the the surrounding community would have missed the miracle of oil in the jars had they paid the widow’s debt instead of sending her out to ask for help (2 Kings 4).
Tension? Oh yes! One widow was asked to help while another widow was told to ask for help. The tension is in sensing the pull, as thread on a bobbin, of the Holy Spirit in the right direction. Requesting help from the widow or responding to her ask for help.
Tandem? Oh yes! The world needs the widow just as much as the widow needs the world. They must work together in sync under the influence of the Holy Spirit as the duo on a bicycle built for two.
There are times, like 9/11 or the days we are currently living in, when a disaster in the world intersects with normal day-to-day distress of a widow.
How does this impact a widow? A public calamity on top of a personal crisis often amplifies grief, fear, and anxiety. As isolation sets in, loneliness and possible depression increase. Asking for help is not easy. On a normal day it’s an unavoidable and uncomfortable aspect of the widow’s journey, but during times of mass suffering it can be even harder. Resisting asking for help is not always an issue of pride but rather because she doesn’t know how to ask, who to ask, when to ask, or wonders if she has used up her ask. However, the widow’s ask for help may be an invitation from God to join her in a miraculous moment.
How to Care for a Widow During a Crisis:
- Pray for her and with her! Make a call to ask how you can pray and then pray. When the Lord brings the widow to your mind, send a note of encouragement to let her know.
- Seek God on his best method of care. Follow God’s lead when caring for the widow. Sometimes that will mean giving her a call, sometimes that will mean paying her rent or buying groceries.
- Include them in opportunities to serve, pray, and give. God uses widows even in the most difficult of circumstances.
- Trust that God is at work behind the scenes. He uses pain, suffering, and times of crisis to work for our good and His glory.
- Understand that the greatest need of the widow is spiritual. Meeting a practical or emotional need may open the door to meeting her spiritual need, knowing Jesus Christ!