Statistically speaking, women in the United States outlive men by about five years, though the gap has narrowed in recent years as more women enter the workforce. From a physiological standpoint, females mature about two years earlier than males, and generally lead men in spiritual development. Perhaps these factors account for men marrying younger wives. My father is six years older than my mother and my wife’s father is seven years older than her mother. Age disparity was especially true in biblical days; for example, Jacob was likely Rachel’s senior by 65 years. And given the cultural ramifications of the day, Joseph was likely six to twelve years older than Mary, the mother of Jesus. Facing these numbers, women who are younger than their husbands and who live longer than their husbands will consequently encounter widowhood. If the Lord does not come, most will be widows for many years. According to Church history, the Lord’s own mother braved this condition for decades. A Time To Grieve Just as time is required to heal a broken bone, the Lord uses time to heal a broken heart. The pain of both injuries is very real, but the healing processes are very different. Time by itself does not heal a broken heart; proper healing depends on what the grieving person does with the time. Warren Wiersbe wrote: “Each year in the United States some eight million persons experience the death of a close family member, and the loss of that loved one is very much like the loss of a limb. It is an emotional amputation, and it affects you deeply. Doctors tell us that there is a definite relationship between illness and a grief badly managed. When the emotions do not heal properly, they affect the body and make the grieving person much more susceptible to certain illnesses. Loneliness and depression that are not handled in a mature way will certainly cause long-term problems that may not respond to medicine.” 1
Sin intruded into humanity with the fall of Adam; unfortunately, sorrow and death accompanied sin. But comfort is found in knowing Christ and understanding that death is only a temporary separation from our loved ones in the Lord. Death is but a doorway into the presence of the Lord Jesus and all those that He has called home prior to our jubilant entrance. “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8 KJV). Psalm 116:15 reads: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Why is the death of loved ones precious to the Lord? Because, if they are believers, He is finally able to be with them personally.
Sorrow is normal, and God has given us a capacity to grieve, heal, and have hope. The Christian has a “blessed hope” despite the sorrow of death. Again, Paul wrote: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Th. 4:13-18).
The Rapture of the Church is imminent and will bring all of our suffering and sorrow to an end, “for we shall see Him as He is” “and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Until then, we must have faith that God is weaving all of our sufferings into a broader blessing for mankind and for His greater glory. In the interim, between His advents, we are to “love His appearing” and live in purity with holy vigor (1 Jn. 3:2-3; Rom. 8:28; 2 Tim. 4:8).
A Time To Heal
Grieving for a time is natural, but it is not to overwhelm us as one who has no hope and no God. The Lord understands our grief, and He identifies with our sorrows, for He is the “Man of Sorrows.” He wept for the grieving at the tomb of Lazarus. It is normal to ponder the memories of loved ones and to grieve their “home call,” both publicly and privately. After the death of John the Baptist, Jesus “departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself” (Mt. 14:13, NKJV). But after a private time of grieving, He resumed His mission of serving mankind. “And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick” (Mt. 14:14). Those grieving should follow the Lord’s example and return to life’s normal activities as soon as possible. The Lord maintained a balanced lifestyle and did not consider His return to it as being disrespectful to John.
Though private grieving is normal, it is also important to share grief and sorrow with others. The grieving individual needs to sense the assurance of personal love and acceptance of others despite the change of marital status. The night before His suffering and death, the Lord sought comfort in the company of those who loved Him. “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.’And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me” (Mt. 26:36-38 KJV).
The grieving process cannot be shortchanged, nor should we be swallowed up by it. “Grief has its time,” said Samuel Johnson. “While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait until grief is digested.” 2 Remembering that sorrow is temporary while heaven is eternal will assist our thought-life during grieving. The Lord said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions … I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (Jn. 14:1-3).
A Time For Questions
After one has grieved and adapted to a life of singleness, certain questions arise: “Can I remarry?” “Should I remain single to better serve the Lord?” Scripture contains several examples of women who became widows. Obviously, there were many widows in biblical times who did not remarry (Acts 6:1); others, like Tamar and Abigail, did remarry. After her husband Nabal died, Abigail married King David (1 Sam. 25). Why did some widows remarry, while others did not? The main factors in this decision are age and family situation.
Abigail was a younger woman without any children, yet capable of child bearing (2 Sam. 3:3). Tamar’s situation was the same (Gen. 38). Paul’s instruction to the Church is consistent with their actions: “I will, therefore, that the younger women (widows) marry, bear children” (1 Tim. 5:14). Paul also states that a widow “is at liberty to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39). In other words, the widow does not go back under her father’s authority; she herself makes the decision to remarry or remain single – her only limitation being that she marry a believing man. Abigail agreed to marry David, but her father was not involved in the decision. David chose her, and she chose David; she was not given in marriage. So, the question, “Should I marry again?” is one that only the widow can answer, though she’d be wise to seek counsel. “In the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14).
Practically speaking, I know one elderly widow who chose to remarry, and she gleams with joy. Unfortunately, I am aware of another who also remarried and regrets the decision. No disrespect intended, but we become more set in our ways with age. Younger people are more adaptable in their thinking, whereas older people often just endure.
Before contemplating remarriage, a wise widow will allow time for grieving, pray for the Lord’s direction and seek counsel before deciding. Satan is a high-pressure, quick-decision salesman, whereas God is longsuffering and patient. A widow should wait upon the Lord. There is nothing dishonorable in remarrying; marriage is clearly God’s provision and protection for many widows. Elisabeth Elliot, wife of slain missionary Jim Elliot, was widowed twice and remarried twice. For those who do not remarry, God will attend to their needs. “The Lord preserveth the strangers; He relieveth the fatherless and widow” (Ps. 146:9).
1. Warren Wiersbe, Comforting The Bereaved (Moody Press, Chicago, IL: 1985) p. 21.
2. Wiersbe, p. 24.
By Warren Henderson
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org