Emotional Widows

1 Timothy 5:3 “Honor widows who are widows indeed.”

Observation: Paul here counsels regarding widows within the church. He draws a distinction between younger widows whom he advises to remarry if possible, and widows above the age of sixty. Each widow, he says, should have “fixed her hope on God” and continue “in entreaties and prayers night and day” (1 Tim. 5:5)—a wonderful example to the church. In these verses, Paul twice uses the phrase, “widows indeed” to distinguish between those who had family available and those who did not, and were thus to be cared for by the church.

Application: Widows indeed. How does a woman become a “widow indeed”? The first and most obvious thought is that her husband has died and she either bore no children or they have also died. Children who transfer across the country for a high-tech job are no excuse; such a woman would be a regular widow, not a widow indeed. 

Paul, of course, is describing the physical condition of widowhood, but there are others, perhaps in our immediate families, who need covering, protecting, and all sorts of care. Look beyond Paul’s intended definition for a moment and we may find, to our shame, that there may well be widows among us whose husbands have not died—emotional widows. It’s easy to identify a “widow indeed”; her needs are glaring, and she hasn’t a family to meet those needs. But discerning an emotional widow is another matter entirely. A loved one whose physical needs are well met may be shriveling within her (or his) heart from emotional abandonment. He or she has a spouse through whom God intends to prosper the spirit, but if the spouse’s focus is elsewhere, how will the emotionally widowed be honored as today’s reading demands? 

There was a season early in our marriage when Cindy and I were strong as a couple, physically satisfied, growing closer to the Lord and to one another. Then a season of illness intruded, a season, as it turned out, that was not to be a brief skirmish, but an all-out invasion. To the extent that I allowed disappointment with God to intrude upon my own heart, my wife gradually but inexorably moved toward a position of emotional widowhood. As my heart shut down toward dreams of the future, I became less effective in meeting her needs in the present. Finally, thankfully, the day came when God’s love once again burst within me; I was filled with fresh passion to care for her, to be by her side till the end. 

I wonder: are there other emotional widows in my life? God wants me to fulfill His purposes in that loved one’s life as well. 

Prayer: Father, I am so grateful for what You taught me about Your faithfulness through Cindy’s illness. Keep the fires of Your passion burning in my heart, Lord, as I serve others You have placed in my life.

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