I will never forget standing in the church building at the end our morning worship and watching her fight back her tears. I watched her unconsciously play with her wedding ring as she told me about her beloved husband. I didn’t know her husband, and had just asked what I thought was a casual question in passing not really related to her husband, but somehow the conversation quickly turned to that topic. When I saw her reaction I felt guilty and mentally kicked myself for saying anything that could have caused such pain. I listened, fighting back my own tears as I watched her choked back hers, while a few she was unable to stop slowly rolled down her cheeks. Finally, I asked how long it had been since her husband passed. “It will be 24 years in two months,” she said.
It is summer time, June to be exact, and that, of course, means weddings, weddings and more weddings! In fact, our small congregation will have five couples marry this spring/summer. Everyone is anxious to assure the bride to be that all will go well, the dresses will fit and the tuxes will arrive on time, etc. It is an exciting time. However, this is also a time in which I am mindful of our widowed sisters, our sisters who are left to walk this world alone. I am inspired by these women and their love for the Lord as I watch them walk into the building alone, and sit alone as they worship their God. They understand that a happy marriage and perfect love for their mate can only be found through a strong, abiding, submissive love for the Lord. I am mindful of these wise women. I seek their council when I need to know how to comfort a sister who is struggling in her marriage, and when I am ashamedly fighting my own selfishness in my marriage. I seek them out, I listen, and I watch.
They understand the frustration, anger and hurt that can occur in a marriage. Many have lived through the pain that Sarah must have felt when Abraham put her last, and looked after his own interests first, denying she was his wife, even to the point of giving her to another man (see Genesis 12:10-20; and Genesis 20). But despite feeling neglected and unappreciated, these sisters, like Sarah, remained faithful and waited patiently on the Lord (1 Peter 3:6).
Some of my widowed sisters endured years of heartbreak like Abigail (see 1 Samuel 25) that all the while married to an ungodly, angry, and perhaps, abusive husband remained steadfast to the Lord’s commandments (1 Samuel 25:18-34). But they, like Abigail, because of their deep abiding faith in the Lord, and their commitment to His will above their own (Galatians 2:20), remained kind, gentle (Colossians 3:12) and faithful, serving their husbands as if serving the Lord (Romans 12), because the Lord asked her to (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18); because she loved her Lord more than her own selfish desires (Ephesians 5:33b); because she never lost sight of her commitment and hope that her husband would see the Lord in her (1 Peter 3).
Many of these widowed sisters lived through struggles to “make ends meet.” And they know the dangers and destruction that selfishness can have on a marriage. They understood the discouragement they could bring upon their husbands if they succumbed to the temptation of greed, wanting more than their husband could provide (Proverbs 31:11). These are women who understand how important it is to resist the sin of discouraging their husband as they studied Job’s wife in Job 2:9; Job 19:17, or the sin of tempting her husband as they read about Eve enticing her husband to disobey the Lord in Gen. 3:6, or the sin of criticizing their husband they read Michael succumbed to 2 Samuel 6 when she angered the Lord by criticizing David.
My widowed sisters understood the godly commandment to leave their mothers and cling to their husbands as the Lord told them to in Genesis 2:24. Many of my widowed sisters followed Ruth’s example and left their families to follow their husband’s God (see Ruth 1). They felt the pain, they knew it would cost them and their families, but held tighter to their God, and their husbands as the Lord directed them in Mark 10:6-9.
I am always mindful of these wise women and try to visit a nursing home that is owned and managed by the Lord’s church every week. Almost every apartment on the assisted living wing is occupied by a widow. I seek out these Christian widowed sisters, my widowed sisters I see sitting alone in the worship assembly, my Christian widowed mother and aunt. I seek them out, I watch, and I listen. I think about the oath they took on their wedding day long ago and I think about the young women we will see this spring and summer walk down the aisle to their future husband and make the promise of a lifetime to their Lord, as they did.
I am confident that the marriages we all will witness this spring and summer will last a lifetime; all marriages can. I am also confident that each couple will have struggles and a few tears; all marriages do. However, I am more confident in the Lord’s boundaries regarding marriage (Genesis 2:22; Matthew 19:9). My wise widowed sisters understand more than I do that it takes a lifetime to learn to love perfectly, a spiritual love (1 Corinthianse 13: 4-7), one that sacrifices willingly (Gensis 22:2) for another (1 John 4:10). These widowed sisters know they did not do it alone. They know they were blessed by the Lord as they sought His will above their own, and looked to God’s great example of true love (John 3:16).
By Tracy Frederick
Tracy is the wife of Greg who serves as an elder for the Arkansas City church of Christ. They have a grown daughter who faithfully serves her Lord. She teaches (and LOVES) the 2-3 yr old Bible class, interprets for the deaf as needed, helps with ladies day preparations and speaks at ladies days, has taught teen girls classes loves refinishing antiques, and teaches communication full-time at a nearby college. She writes for and serves as editor for the site “Sister to Sister.” You can also check out their Facebook group.