Once there was a widow who lived with her young son. She had been through so much in her life and I cannot begin to understand the pain and suffering that she felt. The days after her husband died were full of disbelief. There was the time she went outside to call him for a meal and other times when she turned to tell him something and remembered he was no longer with her. She felt so foolish each time she started to talk to him, she had loved him so much that she found it hard to believe that she had lost him forever.
Eventually her disbelief and denial gave way to anger and she shouted at her gods until she was hoarse. She was so angry with everyone and she was frustrated by how unfair everything was.
Later as the anger subsided she began to try to work out what might have been. If only I hadn’t been so sinful was her dominant thought, she felt guilty about many things and she began to blame herself believing she wasn’t worthy of a happy life. She went through what had happened in her mind over and over again considering what might of been if they had done things differently. She couldn’t sleep and she couldn’t stop her mind whirring away constantly
After her mind slowed down she felt numb. She felt sorrow and sadness at a level that she had never experienced before and there were times when she felt that she couldn’t go on. Although he didn’t know it, her son had got her through the darkness. He was so young and he didn’t fully understand what was going on but he would come and lift his arms up for a hug and she found those hugs so comforting. In those moments she felt a failure as a mother, she was supposed to be caring for him but his touch and love were sustaining her.
Each day the darkness cleared a little and eventually she came to a point of acceptance about what had happened. This amazing woman found a way of living with her pain and loss. She felt like she was beginning to live her life again and then the drought came.
Within months food was hard to come by, animals were dying and people were dehydrated, malnourished and ill.
She couldn’t believe what was happening, hadn’t she suffered enough? Surely this couldn’t be real?
Then she was angry again shouting at her gods, how dare they let her suffer in this way.
Eventually the anger was replaced by guilt as she remembered her past mistakes. She wondered if she was cursed, she had plenty of skeletons in her closet and she began to consider the possibility that she was being punished.
The guilt gave way to depression as she watched her son waste away in front of her. She felt like the worlds worst mother, she felt so powerless and she despaired.
One day she awoke and things felt different. It was like someone had turned a light on in her mind and she was seeing clearly. She had a little flour and oil left, she would make a final meal for herself and her son and then they would die together. She set off to gather firewood to cook the bread. The widow didn’t like this place of acceptance she had reached but what choice did she have?
As she gathered wood, she met the prophet. Things changed that day as he promised that his God would always miraculously provide flour and oil in the jars she had at home. Months later God had been true to his word, life was good and she was worshipping and following the God of Elijah. Her despair had been replaced by hope. She had watched her son change from skin and bones to becoming a healthy young boy again.
Life was good and she was relived and satisfied but then her son died. She couldn’t believe it, she thought she had found a God who cared and then this happened. This time as she mourned it took moments, not days for her to become angry. She shouted at Elijah and even accused him of killing her son. As she ranted and raved she began to feel guilty about her past again and she began to babble about her sins.
Elijah cried out to God, ‘why have you allowed this tragedy’. Elijah had always seemed to know what God wanted and God had even revealed the future to him before and with this in mind it is amazing that he had to ask God. Elijah was alone for most of his life and yet we see how deeply he has bonded with this boy. We can feel Elijah’s pain in his prayer and he goes on to call on God to let the boy live again.
As the boy came back to life the widow was astonished and she said ‘now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the Lord truly speaks through you’.
Things went really wrong for the widow, her son and Elijah. How do we feel when things go wrong? How do we respond?
Are we like the widow, believing that God is punishing us for our sins?
Are we angry with God?
Do we have faith to call on God when we are in pain? As we pour out our hearts to him we make space for God’s healing presence to fill us.
You can read the account of this story in 1 Kings 17:17-24, I have added a lot to the story about how the widow may have been feeling and this is based on the stages of bereavement that people can go through. As we try to understand the widow’s life experience it gives us a greater insight into the story.
If you want to know what had happened to Elijah previously then click on the links below.