A few weeks ago, I had lunch at the house of a dear elderly widow who has been a member of our church for over 50 years. As I watched her struggle to serve me the lunch she had prepared, I realized something was different. She was moving slower. She was moving more cautiously. She was hurting worse than ever. As we began to eat, she shared with me that she had gotten too old and frail to live alone and that she would be selling her home (a home she built herself with her husband over 50 years ago) and moving out-of-town to live with her daughter. As she described the process to sell her home, give her possessions and all their memories to the family members who want them, and move away from her church, I was reminded of what a discouraging and hopeless feeling this must feel like, knowing life will never be the same as it once was. What words of comfort and encouragement can we extend to them as they face this scary and uncertain time?
Remind them the family member willing to care for her is a gift and provision from God. Some of the most difficult experiences I have watched is this same scenario, but there is no family available or willing to care for a widow’s needs. These kinds of folks are left to fend for themselves or go to a nursing home. Though not ideal in the widow’s mind, nevertheless these family members are a gift of grace and should be acknowledged.
Be sympathetic, but acknowledge your inability to understand her feelings of despair. There are some paths in life that only those who have walked them know what it feels like. Losing a child, losing a spouse, a physical debilitating condition are all moments like this one where only those who face it know the struggle. The worst thing we can do as young, optimistic pastors in the prime of our lives is to think we know this unique position to which these folks face.
Remind them of the hope she still has in Christ. Though age, sickness, and frailty can remove us from our home, church and many aspects of the life we knew and loved for so long, “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ” (Rom. 8). These moments are great reminders of the supreme treasure, hope, and comfort that God is still for us who are in Christ. Always place the person and work of Christ before these who feel the weight of their circumstances and rejoice with them in the gospel.
Pray with her and for her. Ask her how you can pray for her so that you not only hear from her the specific issues to pray for, but we can often gauge the level of trust she has in God and his purposes from her words as they face this uncertain road. Also reassure her that the church will continue to pray and stay in touch with her.
Caring for widows in all circumstances is a gift from God. Let us seize these kinds of moments as our greatest opportunity to bring to hope of the gospel to these dear saints who need a special word from those spiritually entrusted to their care.