The scope of a widow’s needs is as wide as the horizon. Since God commands the body of Christ to visit the widow and fatherless in their distress even defining this care as “pure religion” what better place to look for guiding principles than from scripture. The Bible shares stories of widows throughout that serve as an instructive model for those helping her.
There is a lot to learn from the widows in the word.
There are women, especially widows, who are put in situations where they must remind themselves that the ways of God are good even though often mysterious and difficult. Tamar, Abigail, and Bathsheba represent widows with unwanted stories, yet two of them ended up in the line-up of King David’s wives and two in a more important family line—the genealogy of Jesus Christ.
Tamar, widowed twice, and sets a trap of prostitution for her father-in-law. Abigail, widowed after enduring a difficult marriage, only to find herself in the house of the king. And infamous Bathsheba finds herself in the arms of David resulting in an unwanted pregnancy and soon a precious infant in her arms. Not only did she become a widow almost overnight, but by the hand of the one who was responsible for the death of her husband!
Job, one of the first stories written in the Bible tells, of great tragedy none of us would want to experience—the loss of family, resources, and even his own health, only to be restored double-fold in the end.
In Job’s darkest hour, God gently and boldly shows Job His character (Job 38-40). Job then humbly declares Job 42:3,
“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore, I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (emphasis added).
There are many moments in our lives and biblical stories of widows that we must declare with Job as “too wonderful for me.” Full of mystery, we may never be able to reconcile these tales with our limited understanding and finite minds. It is tempting to grow bitter and callous in our misunderstanding of our own difficult seasons; however, reading the true stories in the Bible of those who forged their way through baffling and often painful circumstances offers wisdom and hope in life’s storms!
Most do not and would not use the adjective “wonderful” to describe the unfathomable ways of God in our own personal lives, but should we? The Psalmist agrees that God is too wise to be mistaken and too good to be unkind. His sovereignty over our lives is knowledge often too wonderful (mysterious) for me:
“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it” (Psalm 139:1-6, emphasis added).
These verses have brought so much comfort to me in my own seasons of uncertainty and pain. I must trust that God isworking for my good and for His glory, even if I cannot clearly see or understand His ways at the moment. He has made provision for me from beginning to end and His hand of love is upon me.
God always sees. One of the consequences for David’s sin was the death of the baby. Talk about a painful story for Bathsheba—the husband she loved was murdered, giving her the title of widow, when the not-long-enough grieving period was over, she remarried and was given the gift of bearing a child, only to be ripped away by the end of the first week of the child’s life!
WOW—such knowledge is too wonderful for me! This story is unsettling for sure especially the part about David having so many wives when God clearly told rulers to be one-women-men!
Solomon, the son conceived in Bathsheba’s moment of consolation with David, wrote the book of Proverbs. Known as the wisest man in the land, his last chapter, Proverbs 31, is a guide for men to follow when looking for a wife. Even though this ideal woman is unnamed, perhaps the Proverbs 31 lady is Solomon’s very own mom, Bathsheba or his great, great grandmother, Ruth—a widow herself and a woman of valor.
Sadly, women today endure similar circumstances, and for that I am truly grieved. When we are faced with disappointments and mounting sorrow, it stings when God’s answer to our cry is an unwanted response. David repented, fasted, and prayed for God to heal his child, but God said no.
David models for us how to respond to a disappointing answer from God. My guess is that Bathsheba followed his lead:
“So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate” (2 Samuel 12:20).
How to walk alongside of a widow facing disappointment and great loss:
- Allow time for grief to run its course. David arose from the ground – but only after a time of great fasting and prayer asking God to let his baby live. Life will bring us to very low points where we beg God for relief. When God responds with a no, those walking alongside of the widow must be sensitive with your words and encouraging phrases. You cannot fix the pain in the moment even though you know she will eventually rise above the devastation and life will go on.
- Pray for her. David washed himself – Yes, David committed a very costly sin but so do we. In fact, our personal sins sent Jesus to the cross—the only payment sufficient for all sin. Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance. Many women are widowed because of the sin of her husband. This is a sad, but a true reality. Death as consequence for sin brings layers of grief for the widow. This widow will grieve not only his death but the sin that caused his death. When her husband is not there to repent or say I’m sorry, forgiveness is a painful and difficult process. Pray for her.
- Hope with her. David anointed himself – David’s sin came with consequence but did not remove the calling of God on his life – he was ultimately known by God as a man after God’s own heart. God works in mysterious ways and will take what the enemy meant for evil and use it for good. Disappointment is often the foundation of a great work of God. He will use pain for an eternal purpose. Hope is the anchor that will bring her through the storm.
- Understand that grief takes time. David changed his clothes and worshiped – Grief has seasons. The early stage of shock and denial is a gift allowing the widow to put one foot in front of the other to make it through the funeral and transitioning from wife to widow. The numbness will wear off and she will feel all the feelings of the loss. Like David, she will eventually put on the garment of praise testifying of God’s faithfulness to her as she walked through the valley.