Christian Biblical Counsel: WIDOWHOOD

Widowhood

Wisdom in a Wilderness

by June Hunt

“Like lightning,   grief strikes my life. Its piercing impact momentarily paralyzes my mind, but   soon the reality of loss shatters the numbness with torrents of despair.”

—Carolyn Rhea

 

I.     DEFINITIONS

A. What is Widowhood?

Widowhood is the time period following the death of one’s spouse for as long as there is no remarriage.

B. What is a Widow?

•     A widow is a woman whose husband is dead and who has not remarried.

•     The Latin word for widow is vidua, which means “to separate or divide.”

Biblical Example:

Anna

“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” (Luke 2:36–37)

C. What is a Widower?

•     A widower is a man whose wife is dead and who has not remarried.

•     The male counterpart of widow.

Biblical Example:

Abraham

“She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.” (Genesis 23:2)

D. What is Mourning?

•     Mourning is expressing deep sorrow or grief over the death of someone.

•     The Greek word for mourning is klaio, which means “to wail.”

“When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.” (John 11:31)

•     A specific period of time during which signs of grief are shown.

“When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father.” (Genesis 50:10)

—  A custom was to wear black for a specific time of mourning.

—  Flags are flown at half mast to indicate a national mourning.

E. What is Grief?

•     Grief is deep sorrow caused by the loss of anything or anyone having a strong emotional value.

•     The Latin word for grief is gravis, which means “heavy, grave.”

“They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life. And the disciples were filled with grief.” (Matthew 17:23)

•     Grief Facts

—  Grief is a process.

—  The deeper the emotional involvement, the deeper the grief.

—  Grieving has no set time frame. It can last for months or even years.

—  God intends to heal our hearts when they are filled with grief.

“You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:20)

 

II.    CHARACTERISTICS OF THE WIDOWED

A. Mourning

•     Marooned

 

feeling   abandoned and deserted by mate

 

•     Overwhelmed

 

feeling unable   to handle life alone

 

•     Useless

 

feeling   without purpose in life

 

•     Resentful

 

feeling angry   at God for allowing mate to die

 

•     Numbness

 

feeling unable   to accept daily reality

 

•     Isolated

 

feeling loss   at not being a part of other couples’ activities

 

•     Neglected

 

feeling lonely   and feeling misunderstood by others

 

•     Guilty

 

feeling   remorse over past attitudes and actions

 

“The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.”

(Psalm 116:3)

B. Stages of Mourning

•     Denial

 

an attempt to   avoid the reality of mourning

 

•     Anger

 

an emotional   reaction to:

 

—  fear

 

 

 

—  frustration

 

 

 

—  hurt

 

 

 

—  injustice

 

 

 

•     Depression

 

an inability   to find any hope for the future

 

•     Bargaining

 

a promise to   be a better person if God will bring another mate to take away the pain of   loneliness

 

•     Acceptance

 

an ability to   face life as a whole individual with confidence and a sense of purpose

 

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.”

(Lamentations 3:19–25)

 

III.   CAUSES OF PAIN

A. Surface Causes

•     loss of companionship

•     lonely marriage bed

•     lifestyle changes

•     low self-worth

•     lack of healthy self-sufficiency

•     locked into the past

•     left to raise children alone

•     limited financial resources

•     living life through children

•     looking for another marriage partner

B. Root Cause

Resisting God’s Grace for Healing

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

(Hebrews 12:15)

Wrong Belief:

“Since my mate died, my life has little purpose, and I can’t face living the rest of my life alone.”

Right Belief:

Although my mate has died, I will never be alone because Christ is always with me. I will lean on Jesus’ strength to get through each day, and I will look to Him for meaning and purpose in my life.

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” (Psalm 18:32)

 

IV.  STEPS TO SOLUTION

A. Key Verse to Memorize

Widow

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”

(Psalm 68:5)

Widower

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.”

(Psalm 18:32)

B. Key Book to Read and Reread

The Book of Ruth

Responses of   Two Widows

 

Chapters

 

Verses

 

Naomi

 

Verses

 

Ruth

 

Chapter One

 

8

 

•      Thoughtfulness towards her   daughter-in-law

 

16

 

•     Loyalty to her mother-in-law

 

 

 

12

 

•     Self-pity over her circumstances

 

16

 

•     Submission to her mother-in-law

 

 

 

20–21

 

•     Bitterness toward God

 

17

 

•     Faith in God for her future

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18

 

•      Determination to be with God’s   people

 

Chapter Two

 

20

 

•     Gratefulness to God for his   provision

 

6–7

 

•     Perseverance in her work

 

 

 

22

 

•     Wisdom for her daughter-in-law

 

10

 

•     Humility before Boaz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

 

•     Confidence in the Lord’s   protection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17–18

 

•     Responsibility toward her   mother-in-law

 

Chapter Three

 

1

 

•     Concern for her daughter-in-law’s   future

 

5

 

•     Obedience to her mother-in-law

 

 

 

18

 

•     Discernment of God’s ways

 

11

 

•     Modesty before Boaz and others

 

Results

 

Chapters

 

Verses

 

Naomi

 

Verses

 

Ruth

 

Chapter Four

 

9

 

•     Received Payment for her property

 

10

 

•     Became wife of Boaz

 

 

 

10

 

•     Maintained the family name

 

10

 

•     Received protection of Boaz

 

 

 

15

 

•     New zest for life

 

11

 

•     Received respect in the community

 

 

 

15

 

•     Provided for in old age

 

13

 

•     Gave birth to a son

 

 

 

16

 

•     Gift of a grandchild

 

17

 

•     Became part of the genealogy of Jesus   Christ

 

C. Do’s and Don’ts for Widows and Widowers

Don’t let yourself be consumed with self-pity.

Do … Learn contentment with your circumstances.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)

Don’t look for another marriage partner to take care of you.

Do … Look to the Lord to meet your needs.

“For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name.” (Isaiah 54:5)

Don’t become consumed with false guilt.

Do … Accept God’s grace for you.

“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Don’t make major decisions while in grief.

Do … Establish priorities.

“[There is] a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

Don’t compare your circumstances to others.

Do … Focus on the role God has for you now.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

D. Growing Through Grace

•     Recognize your grief.

—  Know the stages of grief.

—  Share your pain with another.

—  Allow your inner feelings to show outwardly.

“ ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ ” (John 11:34–36)

•     Realize your insufficiency.

—  Acknowledge your grief and pain to God in prayer.

—  Admit you are powerless to carry the grief alone.

—  Know you will realize “His sufficiency” through your insufficiency.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)

•     Relinquish control.

—  Recognize God’s sovereign control over your life.

—  Give your personal dreams and desires to God.

—  Become more aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit and yield to His control.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)

•     Respond to God’s grace.

—  Recognize that God loves you and has not deserted you.

—  Spend time in God’s Word. Personalize and memorize key Scriptures.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

“ ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” (Psalm 68:5)

—  Allow God to meet your emotional needs.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

•     Rebuild your life.

—  Recognize that God has a new purpose for your life.

—  Be active in church and fellowship with other Christians.

—  Become involved in the lives of others.

“The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

Special Ministries for the Widowed

“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

(1 Corinthians 7:32–35)

Prayer

•     Fasting and praying in behalf of others

“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” (Luke 2:36–37)

Counsel

•     Counseling with godly wisdom

“Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.’ ” (Ruth 2:22)

Teaching

•     Training others in sound doctrine and how to live a godly life

“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2:1–5)

Service

•     Working to meet the needs of others

“So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.” (Ruth 2:17–18)

Hospitality

•     Extending a generous and warm welcome to guests

“Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” (1 Kings 17:9)

Giving

•     Recognizing and providing financial needs of Christians

“As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’ ” (Luke 21:1–4)

At the beginning   widowhood is a waiting room—not waiting on God to reveal a new mate—but   waiting on God to reveal a new ministry. If you’ll trust God for all your   tomorrows, He’ll use you in other’s sorrows.

—June Hunt

 

 

God’s Word For Widows

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,   is God in His holy dwelling.”

(Psalm 68:5)

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with   confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our   time of need.”

(Hebrews 4:16)

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”

(Psalm 116:15)

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is   steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever for the Lord,   the Lord, is the Rock eternal.”

(Isaiah 26:3–4)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty   hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him   because he cares for you.”

(1 Peter 5:6–7)

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was   great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

(Psalm 94:18–19)

“ ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and   burdened, and I will give you rest.’ ”

(Matthew 11:28)

“His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain   for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

(Psalm 30:5)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus   Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us   in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the   comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of   Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort   overflows.”

(2 Corinthians 1:3–5)

“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me   according to your word.”

(Psalm 119:28)

 

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Baker, Elizabeth. Wanting to Follow, Forced to Lead. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991.

Bagne, Gwen. Embracing Life Again: Finding God Faithful in the Midst of Loss. Enumclaw, WA: Winepress, 1999.

Caine, Lynn. Being A Widow. New York: Penguin, 1990.

Convissor, Kate. Young Widow: Learning to Live Again. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.

Cushenbery, Donald C., and Rita Crossley Cushenbery. Coping with Life After Your Mate Dies. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991.

Davis, Verdell. Riches Stored in Secret Places. Dallas: Word, 1994.

Hsu, Dorothy. Mending. Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1982.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

MacArthur, John. Caring for Widows. Chicago: Moody, 1991.

Raley, Helen Thames. To Those Who Wait for Morning. Waco, TX: Word, 1980.

Rhea, Carolyn. When Grief Is Your Constant Companion: God’s Grace for a Woman’s Heartache. Birmingham, AL: New Hope, 2003.

Sissom, Ruth. Instantly A Widow. Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1990.

Smoke, Jim. Turning Your World Right Side Up. Colorado Springs, CO: Focus on the Family, 1995.

Teterud, Wesley M. Caring for Widows: You and Your Church Can Make a Difference. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.

Worden, Mary Jane. Early Widow: The Journal of the First Year. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1989.[1]

 


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Widowhood: Wisdom in a Wilderness (2–12). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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