When we stand at the wedding altar, vowing the rest of our lives in marriage, until death do us part, it normally never occurs to us that death might be our reality sooner than we imagine. And when this happens, we may find ourselves overwhelmed, confused, and maybe even financially stretched and in unknown territory. It is in this place that we may also experience loneliness like never before.
Understandably, to alleviate the pain of living alone with all of its struggles, we may consider living arrangements that would never have been an option in our earlier days, prior to marriage when we were guarding our purity. Now, on the other side of the altar, released by death from the marriage covenant, we wonder if the rules are different. These are valid questions.
Although widowhood does not come with a guidebook, the word of God is our lamp and light for all situations, even those situations that seem to be gray. Admittedly, some topics are not clearly discussed in scripture which makes it all the more important to lean not in our own understanding, acknowledging Him, and asking the Holy Spirit to direct our path (Proverbs 3:5-6).
If we look at widows in the word, we discover that their encounters with men and their living arrangements vary across the board:
- Responding to a command: God’s word to the Prophet Elijah, “commanding” the widow of Zarephath to provide for him. This extended stay certainly leaves out details that would be helpful for the “Is cohabitation with a man okay?” question. But, it is important to remember that this was a God-ordained ministry to a widow and her son and is not reason enough to assume a universal directive for widows.
- In need of care: Mary, Jesus’ widowed mother, was left in the care of John the Beloved. The brief mention of this instruction from the cross in John’s gospel is void of details letting us know if this provision meant they were to live under the same roof (John 19:26-27). However, the admonition, as one of our Savior’s last words, shows His compassion for the widow.
Jesus’ knowledge that the woman at the well was not living with her husband, and highlights this reality (John 4:18), leaving us to believe that what takes place behind closed doors matters. Even so, His offer of living water to the thirsty woman says more than any statement of judgment or condemnation ever could. Jesus knew that despite her circumstances, He was the only one that could satisfy her deepest need.
Living with a man outside of a marriage covenant, even if the relationship is pure before God, is a decision that must be carefully considered. The goal should be to live in holiness, not only from the inside out but also as a light for those on the outside looking in.
When a woman has been bereft and left alone, she must understand that God’s rules do not change regarding purity. God’s standard is the same, regardless of whether you are a virgin and have never married or have already experienced intimacy in marriage.
“Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, NKJV).
Scripture gives us a strong encouragement to not only flee from temptations but to live as a light to others who are watching.
“Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22, KJV).
The world, our children, and even our grandchildren are watching. I’ve heard it said that our lives may be the only Bible someone reads. Widows have an opportunity to shine bright as they put their trust in God (1 Timothy 5:5). And we must be careful not to hide that light under the bushel of compromise.
It is possible to live in the same space with a man and remain pure, especially if there is no physical attraction or physical intimacy isn’t possible. For me, however, this would be uncomfortable, awkward, and contrary to my personal convictions. My counsel against it is the same as it would be for a never-married woman. But as you seek the Lord for yourself, here are five considerations when different reasons for cohabitation present themselves as an option:
- Companionship: Widowhood can be lonely, especially when you live by yourself. Waking up and tucking in at night, alone, is painful. The empty bed is now a daily reminder of your reality. What once represented passion, joy, and intimacy, now whispers cold, sad, and alone. You may be tempted to fill these empty spaces with a man, but God asks us to reserve those places for Him or for a husband to fill. Even though you may be physically alone, God is always with you. God refers to Himself as a Husband to the widow (Isaiah 54:5).
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4, NASB).
- Convenience: We all know that the cost of living increases year after year. Two living for the price of one seems to be a reasonable consideration especially when your financial status as a widow may drastically change, leaving you scrambling to make ends meet. Do not compromise. God works best in circumstances requiring faith and not sight.
“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33, NASB).
- Caregiving: For the widow who has the gift of service or showing mercy, it is tempting to consider her widowhood as an opportunity to put these gifts into action. Even though the Bible does not speak specifically to caregiving for a man in your home, you must take care to protect your witness, as well as protect yourself from the temptation of a man living, even temporarily, in your home. And even though God promises to be a Defender of the widow (Psalm 68:5), it is not wise to put yourself in a vulnerable situation by caring for a man who is not your husband.
“For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man” (2 Corinthians 8:21, ESV).
- Comfort: When we are grieving, the boundary lines of our convictions may start to blur. It becomes easier for us to justify letting go of previously high standards under the guise of needing consolation. For the widow, it is crucial that when left alone we come under the covering of God and His Word, looking to Him to heal our broken hearts.
Having a great support system not only helps with practical needs and your fatherless children but also provides the necessary accountability to uphold biblical morals.
- Crisis situations: These demand trust in God. Perhaps you never thought you would be considering live-in options and yet here you are in a place of desperation. If money is a problem, rather than cohabitating with a man, you might consider another widow or single woman. Don’t settle for less than God’s best for you. The widow left with debt (2 Kings) gives us hope. He will take care of you.
“Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NASB).
The Apostle Paul encouraged those who are single and widowed to remain alone (1 Corinthians 7:8). Although this may not be God’s plan for you, the learned attitude of contentment is key.
Allow the Lord to meet every single one of your needs. He is able and is the only one that will truly satisfy.