But What About the Widows?

We pass her in the hallway every Sunday. My daughter is typically busy running to find her daddy, and I am typically hurrying to get home to prepare lunch, so I rarely notice her except to say "sorry" when Kate gets in her way. Her name is *Susan, and she is a widow. I have heard her name here and there over the years we've attended our church, but it has never really registered in my heart to wonder about her any more deeply than that.

Several months back, I was attending a women's event at my church. It was the kickoff dessert function for our new ministry in which women of all ages would be placed in random groups to have dinner together once a month. It was during this meeting that Susan said these twelve words that wrecked me: "I am looking forward to this. I just get so lonely sometimes." And this phrase played in my mind:

But what about the widows?

It is no mystery to most that our family is fully invested in the ministry of orphan care. We are foster parents. We hope to adopt one day. This is what our lives look like right now. Yet I cannot ignore that within the bounty of scripture that describes God's heart for orphans, He almost always includes widows in that list, too. For instance, when God was establishing the laws for His people to follow, He included a mandate to protect the vulnerable of society:

"At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do."  Deuteronomy 14:28-29
"You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child."  Exodus 22:22

But what about the widows?

The psalmists describes God as a defender and protector of widows:

"Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation."  Psalm 68:5
"The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin"  Psalm 146:9

But what about the widows?

In Jeremiah, the words of the Lord are recorded as He calls Israel back from her idolatrous and wicked ways to following His way:

"For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow...then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that gave of old to your fathers forever." Jeremiah 7:5-7

But what about the widows?

In James, the writer clarifies that true religion, true belief in God, has actions that follow that believing. True religion is this:

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."  James 1:27

But what about the widows?

For months I have not been able to shake Susan's words. Ironically (or not), Susan and I were randomly assigned to the same group. Not only would her words of loneliness haunt me, but the reality of her situation would follow me. At dinner recently, Susan innocently described how lonely she has been since her husband passed away three years ago. She described how her adult children are so busy with their lives and their children, they do not often make it this way to see her. She talked about house projects that need to be done, but how she feels herself a burden when she makes her needs known to others. And again, I thought,

But what about the widows?

What about the widows? What are we doing to remember these? Maybe she is, like Susan, advanced in years. Maybe she lives alone now in a house too large for one elderly lady, with too much property to care for on her own. Perhaps she spends many lonely days aching for the companionship and the full house she once knew. Maybe she is, like many others, the young mother who lost her husband to an unexpected death. She is worn thin because of the demands upon her to care for all her children's needs and to provide for her family without the support of her spouse. Or maybe she is that middle-aged woman, her children grown and her home empty or nearly empty. Life is still in full swing as she works full-time, but her days, too, are filled with the struggles and aches of widowhood that only other widows can understand. She has yard work that needs tending, but her husband was always the one who handled this. She has bills that need paying, but she was never the one who managed their finances.

But what about the widows?

The Lord has caused this phrase to echo in the chambers of my heart for months, asking me, "What will you do?" My lame attempt at saying, "But God, are we not doing enough already?" has continuously crashed to the ground empty and lifeless, because really, we should never be too busy or too preoccupied with this or that to not take the opportunity to love on others. We are called to give ourselves away. Again, this is the gospel in action. This is eternal living.

We had Susan over for dinner the other night. It was not a fancy meal, and it was filled with the loudness of a toddler and an infant. The mealtime contained interruptions due to needed discipline and parenting. The food wasn't the greatest. But Susan, she beamed. She laughed; she told us her stories and shared with us her wisdom. She put our current struggles in perspective from a lifetime lived. Our daughter bonded with her and joyfully showed her our home. Susan held our newborn and told us of her many grandchildren.

Did you know that when Susan was a child, she slept on a feather bed in a screened-in porch, even in the dead of winter? She stayed warm with lots and lots of handmade quilts. Did you know that when Susan gave birth to twins, already the mother of two toddlers, she did not own a washer and dryer? Oh, and this was in the days before disposable diapers! Did you know that Susan and her husband bought their first property for $300 and paid it off over ten years with payments of $37/month? They built their house one room at a time, taking out small loans and paying them off before adding more to their home. They made do with what they had, and they worked hard to provide for their family.

I write this post today in hopes that you, too, if you have not already, will begin to consider this phrase:

But what about the widows?

I write this post in hopes that we all will consider how we might notice those widows in our presence. They may or may not attend your church. They may or may not know the Lord. But they are precious to our Lord, and therefore they are precious to us.

We were richly blessed by the time we spent with Susan. It will not be the last time we spend time with her. And I can say with confidence that while I know Susan was blessed and encouraged by dinner the other night, I think we came out on the better end of the deal.

"In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" Acts 20:35

*In order to protect her privacy, a fictional name has been used