Are your life’s circumstances beyond what you think you can handle? Does it seem as though the harder you try, the worse your situation becomes? Even if your troubles are more spiritual than physical, you may still be able to relate to the widow of Zarephath from the Old Testament.
To say that times were tough in the days of this widow and her son would be quite the understatement. In addition to the fact that this woman had no husband to love and provide for her and their son, there had been no rain for three years. The drought and famine had grown so severe that the widow eventually had no food in her home besides some meal and oil. The widow had resigned herself to cooking one last meal for herself and her son and went to gather sticks to prepare it.
At that moment, which must have felt like the most inconvenient one possible, a hungry man showed up. When he asked for water, the widow obliged. But when he asked for something to eat, she admitted outright her plans to cook a final cake. But this man—a prophet, he claimed to be—promised that if the widow would feed him first, God would make sure that she would never run out of meal or oil.
Perhaps she figured she had nothing to lose. Maybe she was desperate to believe that something or someone could save her son from starvation. For whatever reason, the widow of Zarephath obeyed Elijah, and in any case, her actions took a lot of faith.
Each of us experiences hardships as unique as we are, but we all face them. Sometimes we are tempted to give in to despair or give up completely. It’s generally in these lowest moments that God shows His face, whether through another person or a new opportunity. At that point, only two questions remain. First, will we recognize God’s help when it’s offered? And secondly, will we accept God’s help by doing what He asks of us?
The widow of Zarephath did. How amazed, how thankful, how emboldened the widow must have felt to watch Elijah’s promise come to pass! She had trusted that God would provide for her, and He did so with merciful consistency.
But then her son got sick. All of the widow’s joy and gratitude must have floated away with her son’s breath until it had all disappeared. Just as the widow’s son died even after the widow followed Elijah’s instructions, sometimes it seems that we are blessed only to be dealt a harder trial than ever before. In such cases, it is easy to become confused, hurt, or even angry at God.
It sounds as though the widow of Zarephath struggled with those feelings. When her little boy died, she took him to Elijah, and in both Biblical and modern terms, her bitterness shows through. “Why did you ever have anything to do with me?” she asked Elijah. “Did you come to call me to repentance and kill my son?” Perhaps she even called him “man of God” with sarcasm.
But even though the widow had lost her son so soon after obeying God’s command through a prophet, her faith was not completely extinguished. She had enough of it left to hand her son to Elijah when he asked her to. Then, at long last, the widow of Zarephath was finally given the deepest wish of her heart that she knew could only come from God: the restored life of her son. Her powerful testimony of Elijah’s calling as a prophet still inspires readers all over the world.
So don’t be afraid to go to God with your troubles. Don’t doubt that, even if it doesn’t happen right away, He will take care of you if you trust Him. And when you see God’s miracles in your life, remember to give Him credit whenever you tell your story.
|What the Widow Did||What We Can Do|
|Gathered sticks and cooked (1 Kings 17:10, 12)||Do everything we can to provide for ourselves|
|Fed Elijah before feeding her family (17:15)||Obey God even when it requires sacrifice|
|Went to Elijah when her son died (17:18)||Go to God in our hard times|
|Asked Elijah if she needed to repent (17:18)||Look for ways to improve and repent|
|Let Elijah pray over her son (17:19)||Trust God to take care of us and our loved ones|
|Testified that Elijah was a true prophet (17:24)||Share our testimonies of God’s word|