Helping Widows Through Their Trials

ONE of the best-known stories about widows is the Bible account of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. Both women were widows. Naomi, however, lost not only her husband but also her two sons, one of whom had been Ruth’s husband. Because they lived in an agricultural society that depended much on its menfolk, their situation was indeed tragic.​—Ruth 1:1-5, 20, 21.

However, Naomi had an outstanding friend and comforter in her daughter-in-law Ruth, who refused to leave her side. In time, Ruth proved to be “better to [Naomi] than seven sons”​—not only because of her deep love for Naomi but also because of her love for God. (Ruth 4:15) When Naomi recommended that Ruth return to her Moabite family and friends, Ruth replied with one of the most touching expressions of loyalty ever recorded: “Where you go I shall go, and where you spend the night I shall spend the night. Your people will be my people, and  your God my God. Where you die I shall die, and there is where I shall be buried. May Jehovah do so to me and add to it if anything but death should make a separation between me and you.”​—Ruth 1:16, 17.

Ruth’s attitude did not escape Jehovah God’s notice. He blessed the little household of Naomi and Ruth, and eventually Ruth married the Israelite Boaz. Their child, who became an ancestor of Jesus Christ, was cared for by Naomi as though it were her own. This history is an example of how Jehovah cherishes widows who draw close to him and trust in him. Further, the Bible tells us that he values those who lovingly help widows in their trials. So how can we today support the widows in our midst?​—Ruth 4:13, 16-22; Psalm 68:5.

Specific but Not Overbearing

When offering help to a widow, it is best to be clear and specific but not overbearing. Avoid vague comments such as, “Let me know if you need anything.” That could amount to saying, “Keep warm and well fed” to someone who is cold and hungry and then doing nothing to help. (James 2:16) Many people will not ask for assistance when they need something; instead, they suffer in silence. To help such ones takes discernment, perceiving what their needs are. On the other hand, taking too much initiative​—essentially taking over the widow’s life—​might lead to hurt feelings or conflict. Hence, the Bible stresses the need for balance in our dealings with others. While encouraging us to take an unselfish personal interest in people, it reminds us not to be busybodies.​—Philippians 2:4; 1 Peter 4:15.

Ruth displayed such a balanced attitude toward Naomi. While sticking loyally to her mother-in-law, Ruth did not push or dominate her. She took sensible initiatives, such as obtaining food for Naomi and herself, but she also followed Naomi’s instructions.​—Ruth 2:2, 22, 23; 3:1-6.

Of course, what is needed may differ greatly from one person to another. Sandra, mentioned earlier, says: “I had what I needed in my distress​—very dear and loving friends who flocked around me.” Elaine, mentioned earlier, on the other hand, needed time to herself. Being helpful, therefore, means being discerning and striking a balance between respecting another’s privacy and being available to help when needed.

Support From the Family

A warm, loving family, if there is one, can do much to reassure a widow that she will be able to cope. Although some family members may be able to offer more help than others, all can contribute. “If any widow has children or grandchildren, let these learn first to practice godly devotion in their own household and to keep paying a due compensation to their parents and grandparents, for this is acceptable in God’s sight.”​—1 Timothy 5:4.

In many cases, financial support or “compensation” may be unnecessary. Some widows have sufficient funds to care for their needs, and others qualify for state benefits, which are available in some lands. But where widows are in need, family members ought  to help. If a widow has no close relatives to offer support or such relatives are unable to help, the Scriptures encourage fellow believers to come to her aid: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation.”​—James 1:27.

Those who act on these Bible principles truly “honor widows.” (1 Timothy 5:3) To honor a person means, in effect, to demonstrate respect for that one. People who are shown honor feel valued, cherished, dignified. They do not feel that others are helping purely out of a sense of duty. Ruth, although herself a widow for a while, truly honored Naomi by willingly and lovingly making sure that Naomi’s physical and emotional needs were cared for. In fact, Ruth’s attitude quickly earned her a fine reputation, so that her future husband said to her: “Everyone in the city of my people is aware that you are an excellent woman.” (Ruth 3:11, footnote) At the same time, Naomi’s love for God, her undemanding nature, and her deep appreciation for Ruth’s efforts in her behalf no doubt made it a pleasure for Ruth to assist her. What a fine example Naomi is to widows today!

Draw Close to God

Family members and friends cannot, of course, fill the void left by the death of a mate. For this reason it is important for the bereaved person to draw especially close to “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4) Consider the example of Anna, a devout widow who was 84 years old at the time of Jesus’ birth.

When Anna’s husband died after they had been married just seven years, she turned to Jehovah for comfort. “[She] was never missing from the temple, rendering sacred service night and day with fastings and supplications.” (Luke 2:36, 37) Did Jehovah respond to Anna’s godly devotion? Yes! He showed his love for her in a very special way by allowing her to see the baby who would grow up to be the Savior of the world. How this thrilled and comforted Anna! Clearly, she experienced the truth of Psalm 37:4: “Take exquisite delight in Jehovah, and he will give you the requests of your heart.”

God Works Through Fellow Christians

Elaine states: “For a long time after David’s death, I had a physical pain, like a knife turning in my rib cage. I thought it was indigestion. One day it became so bad that I thought I would have to see a doctor. A discerning spiritual sister and friend suggested that my grief might be a factor and encouraged me to ask Jehovah for help and comfort. I took her advice right there and then and offered a silent but heartfelt prayer, asking that Jehovah sustain me in my grief. And he did!” Elaine began to feel better, and soon thereafter even her physical pain went away.

Congregation elders can especially offer friendship in a kindly way to grieving widows. By providing regular spiritual support and comfort in a tactful and discerning way, elders can help them stay close to Jehovah despite their trials. Where necessary, elders can also help in arranging for material support. Such compassionate, discerning elders truly become “a hiding place from the wind.”​—Isaiah 32:2; Acts 6:1-3.

Permanent Comfort From Earth’s New King

The one whom aged Anna rejoiced to see some two thousand years ago has now become the Messianic King of God’s heavenly Kingdom. This government will soon eliminate all causes for sorrow, including death. In this regard, Revelation 21:3, 4 says: “Look!  The tent of God is with mankind . . . And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” Did you notice that this passage refers to “mankind”? Yes, humans will be liberated from death and all the mourning and outcry it brings.

But there is even more good news! The Bible also promises a resurrection for the dead. “The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his [Jesus’] voice and come out.” (John 5:28, 29) Just like Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, they will come out as humans, not spirit creatures. (John 11:43, 44) Those who thereafter ‘do good things’ will be brought to human perfection and personally experience Jehovah’s fatherly care as he ‘opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing.’​—Psalm 145:16.

Those who have lost a loved one in death and who put faith in this sure hope find it a source of great comfort. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) So if you are a widow, be sure to “pray incessantly” for the comfort and help you need daily to carry your various burdens. (1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Peter 5:7) And take the time each day to read God’s Word so that God’s thoughts can comfort you. If you do these things, you will see for yourself how, in spite of all the trials and challenges you face as a widow, Jehovah can truly help you to find peace.

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Being helpful means to strike a balance between respecting another’s privacy and being available when needed

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The elderly widow Anna was blessed by God