“My Spouse Passed Away.“
This is one of the most difficult causes for single parenthood.
In some situations, it happens suddenly because of an accident. In other circumstances, it happens over time, as the family walks their mom or dad through an illness that eventually takes their life.
This week, we’ve committed not to shy away the season of single parenthood. That considered, today we commit not to shy away to asking the question, “What’s It Like Being a Widowed Parent?“
I have two accounts to share: One Biblical from the book of 1 Kings, and one cultural from ministry journey.
A Widow From Zarephath
Being widowed with children in Biblical times was a tragic ordeal, especially if the father passed away. Despite laws to care for widowed mothers, it was a constant struggle to feed and clothe her children.
During times of war and famine, widowed mothers were left to fend for themselves, which often ended in death.
1 Kings 17 tells of one such widow.
To set the stage for this account, a terrible famine has hit the land. There’s no water and no food. Let’s pick up at verse 7:
“7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him (Elijah): 9 ‘Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.’ 10 So he went to Zarephath.
When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ 11 As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’ 12 ‘As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.’
13 Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.”’
15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” (1 Kg. 17:7-16)
Elijah was a prophet, God’s messenger to the People of Israel. Sustaining Elijah’s life was essential to God’s greater plan. All of a sudden, this single mom and her son, who no one cared about, were brought into God’s greater plan (and now recorded for us in Scripture).
There was no more wheat to gather and grind for flour. There were no more olives to pick and press for oil. And yet, this widow’s faith and submission to Elijah (as a prophet of God), sustained her life.
A single parent’s faith in the Lord, has sustained her.
A Widow From Alaska
But what’s it like to be a widowed single parent in our culture today?
In my ministry journey, I was blessed to serve a 4-year term in Alaska. While there, I met a single mom, who had faced a terrible circumstance. And yet, she remained faithful, endured and continues to endure in faith.
In preparation for this post, I touched base with her. Though she will remain nameless, she has given me permission to tell her story.
She and her husband had been married for almost 8 years, but they had dated for five years before that, since they were 16 years old. They had a little boy who was 18 months, and she was 5 weeks pregnant with their little girl.
She actually passed the pregnancy test just days before he left for his trip. And the two of them were the only ones that knew she was pregnant at the time.
Unfortunately, he did not make it home.
His bush plane crashed and her husband was killed. Obviously, she was devastated and grief-stricken. There was a time of healing that needed to take place, and then the process began, putting her life back together.
I asked her to recount some of what she was thinking, feeling and working through during those difficult first years. And to reflect on what she still struggles with, becoming a single parent out of tragedy. Here’s some of what she said:
“I struggled with God being Love when He took my best friend and number one provider for the family.“
“I was too heart broken to marry at first, then just too overwhelmed with making life work, mother and career woman, then there was no one I felt like was worth dating. I know that sounds harsh, but all the single Christian men weren’t single any more.“
“I can say that I know God is there for us in a special way that He might not for ‘whole’ families. He always provides for us. I don’t know how to explain it…I also know that I consider our family whole. I won’t date unless someone can join into our lives and make it better. I work full-time, care for my kids full-time, and care for the house. Dating is not something I’m opposed to; I just don’t have time for it. If ‘he’ doesn’t make us better than we are good (without him). He has to love the Lord, my kids, and me. I’ve not found this man yet. But I’m praying and waiting for if or when.“
“In the meantime I also don’t stop living. We go on at least one vacation a year. And I trust God to care for us then too. And it might sound small, but landing in Hawaii in the dark, when you don’t know where you are going, and thinking you might be sleeping in a Safeway parking lot in a rental car till light, with just two small kids, well that takes faith!“
“I still don’t have answers, but I have faith…ultimately I have to have the hope of Heaven, of God’s eternal love for me, my kids and our complete (yet separated) family.“
That’s a faith-filled single mom, wouldn’t you agree?
In our culture, the temptation is for the single parent to settle for anyone who will take them. As loneliness takes hold of their heart, unhealthy thoughts can slip in:
“If I can just get someone that’ll accept my kids, I’ll take whoever I can get.“
Too often these thoughts end in heartache.
Choosing a partner that is passionate about Jesus has been something that I’ve written a lot about in the past few weeks.
Now look at this testimony from a single mom who is faithfully setting Jesus’ standard for herself and her children. All the while, enduring daily struggles; maintaining both roles of primary caregiver and primary provider.
Once again, a single parent’s faith has sustained her.