Please take a moment and wrestle with the following question: What is my attitude towards the Bible? Do I believe it is the true, inspired word of God that I need to apply to my life as best I can? Or, is it just another book I can ignore as I go about my daily business?
In his article, Why Your Attitude Is Everything, motivational speaker Keith Harrell wrote, “Your mind is a computer that can be programmed. You can choose whether the software installed is productive or unproductive. Your inner dialogue is the software that programs your attitude, which determines how you present yourself to the world around you. You have control over the programming. Whatever you put into it is reflected in what comes out.” When it comes to applying God’s word to your everyday life, what does you mind tell your body to do?
Jesus’ brother, James, makes it clear in his letter what he thinks Christians should do with it. He writes in James 1:19-27 – “19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
James expectations in this passage are very clear. Learn God’s word and then do what it says. To help us apply it, he gives us some practical things we can do. One specific way he tells us to apply our faith to daily life is to “look after widows in their distress.” Before the church can look after widows in their areas of distress, we have to know the answer to one important question- What causes widows distress?
The best way to find out is to ask them. I talked to several widows that I know and asked them two open ended questions. Their answers contained similar topics that could be categorized into common themes.
The first question is: How is life different for you as a widow compared to when your husband was still alive?
The most common answer and the one that was usually mentioned first is many of them feel sense of loneliness. It works its way into the everyday events of life that other people simply take for granted. Here are some of their comments:
* ”There’s no one to tell about your day when you come home, whether it was funny or bad.”
* ”It gets lonesome. Especially when evening comes.”
* “Previously, there were two of us to care for, companionship and friendship. Now life has diminished, my world is smaller, my home more quiet.”
* “There’s no one here to laugh with.”
* “There’s no one there to care if you’re sick. I wish someone was there to care.”
* “I miss my children not visiting. Even the ones that live close by don’t seem to have time. This increases the loneliness.”
The most common ways they pass the time is by watching TV, working on puzzles and eating.
They also deal with the reality of loss:
* “After my husband died, I had to sell my house. I moved away from my home, my church and my friends. You learn to cope with it because you have to.”
* “Holidays are hard because I can’t help with things.”
* “It’s hard not being able to drive.”
Some widows deal with fear:
* ”There is always the subconscious thought at nighttime of an intruder breaking into my home.”
* “Staying by yourself is different. One time a strange noise doesn’t bother you and the next time it’s like, “What’s that?”
In addition to loneliness, loss and fear, they have to deal with other strong emotions:
* “I think about heaven more since my husband died.”
* “Sometimes I feel relief that I no longer have to take care of my husband all the time. Then I feel guilty for feeling this way.”
Widows are forced to deal with new responsibilities:
* “The hardest part of widowhood is having to do things my spouse once did – caring of the vehicle, outside work, keeping records, tax preparation and paying bills with limited finances.”
* (When making decisions) “I ask, ‘What would my husband do if he were here?’”
The financial situation changes when the husband goes to be with the Lord.
* “I’m living on $1000 less a month since my husband died but everything else goes up.”
The second question I asked was: If I asked you to come up front on Sunday morning and address the congregation about being a widow, what would you say? The answers varied depending on whether or not they could still drive. Those who can drive said things such as:
* “Nothing. The people at church are supportive.”
* “Live your life. God called my husband home but he hasn’t called us yet. Keep active. Other people out there need you.”
* “Without the church in my life, I could not be living a contented life. I know I can count on members of the church to help out in a crisis or when a need arises.”
The answers from those who can’t drive or don’t drive often had a different tone:
* “I miss church. I wish more people would call or visit me.”
* “Please realize I’m a widow and lonesome.”
* “Some widows almost quit living because they have no one to take them places or do things with them.”
* “It’s a long, lonely life.”
There was also a desire for us to know how family dynamics affect them. One made the comment:
* “When your children complain to you about each other, it pulls you down.”
How can we give widows some practical help? We help widows by spending time with them, learning about their needs and then helping. Not only does this help them get some work done, it helps them with their loneliness.
If we’re truly going to follow Jesus, we have to have the mindset that not only are we going to read and study the Bible, we’re going to do what it says. As Ben Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said.” One area where we want to hear God tell us, “Well done, good and faithful servant” is in the area of helping widows in their areas of distress.