The trauma of losing a spouse to death is one of the most devastating events
in the life of any person. Expressing Christ-like, unconditional love toward
widows or widowers will help as they struggle to begin a frightening new life
alone. This is a time when nonbelievers may be open to the gospel as they
contemplate the eternal destiny of their loved oneand their own eternal
On mission Christians can approach grieving spouses in a
sensitive manner that honors their grief.
On mission with seniors
By Mary Kay Klim
Senior citizens, people age 65 and older, represent one of the fastest
growing age-specific populations on the continent. Of those who know Christ,
many are the most effective on mission Christians in our churches, but a large
portion of this population presents a mission field ripe with possibility. If
we are to penetrate with the gospel the culture of our parents and
grandparents, we must actively seek to draw them into the churches and, when
necessary, take the church to them. But how?
Gods Word and His love transcend age, handicap, mental ability and attitude.
Still, some people will go to their deathbeds refusing to hear about Gods
redemptive plan for their lives. We can work to change this by giving seniors a
safe place to hear the gospel and worship, whether in a traditional church or
in their homes.
In Sunday school and the church pewMake
seniors feel accepted and loved. Greet them. Following church, take
them to lunch or bring lunch to their home. This will provide opportunities to
bring up points from a sermon or Sunday school class.
Be sensitive. Be sensitive to the difference in worship
styles due to age or culture. If possible, find a church with more than one
service that accommodates different styles of worship.
Give them a hand. Make sure the facilities are handicapped
accessible. This includes having ramps and specially equipped bathrooms. Large
print Bibles and bulletins along with large television screens can help
visually impaired people participate in worship services.
Give them a ride. Providing transportation for the elderly
opens the church doors to those who can no longer drive or get out of the house
Give them a break. Give a break to the caregiver, often a
family member of a homebound senior, by providing care while the caregiver goes
to church or other events. This is a way to provide a ministry and reach not
only the senior but also the caregiver.
At home and around townHome and car
repair. Some churches provide a handy man ministry or car repair
clinic one Saturday morning each month. This is especially helpful for widows.
Try going in pairs for security and more effective evangelism. While one of you
does tasks around the house, the other can fellowship with the senior, finding
ways to tell about Christ.
Transportation. Rides to the store, to doctor visits or to
church functions are another need for some seniors and a great opportunity to
form relationships that lead to evangelism.
Food and finances. Many churches have a food pantry, meal
programs or some sort of drop-in center for seniors. Offer Bible study and
fellowship in addition to material help.
Grandparenting help. With an increasing number of children
being raised by grandparents, a great way to reach seniors with the gospel is
by ministering to their grandchildren. Working through an outreach ministry to
children can easily open the door for grandparents to attend functions and
learn about Christ.
Mary Kay Klim is a writer in Hillsborough, New Jersey.
The widow wants to hear her husbands name, to feel the comfort of his presence
through words. Encourage her to share her feelings, but dont force her. If she
wants to talk, listen attentively, then prayerfully comment. Simple answers
such as I can only guess at how deeply you hurt or Im so glad youre talking to
me are comforting and non-intrusive.
When a widow alludes to painful memories, avoid statements about the good
health your family or friends are experiencing. Such comments can be hurtful,
because she senses you have not grasped the pain she is feeling. It may even
add to her grief, making her feel that God doesnt love her as much as He loves
others, or He would have healed her husband also.
By spending time with the widow and explaining and showing that you are
doing so because the Bible tells us to look after widows, on mission
Christians can lead a nonbeliever to understand that she is important to God,
that He loves her. Give her confidence, so she will put her faith in Him.
On mission message: Widows who experience feelings
of insecurity may withdraw. Assure the widow that God loves her, that she is
special to Him, but His choice is not to protect her from grief but to give her
strength and peace to deal with her loss. As you minister to a nonbeliever, she
will see your sincerity and trust you. Then you can explain that Christ wants
her to trust Him.
A grieving widow is trying to come to terms with losing her husband and
facing life without him. Remarks such as Its time to get over it can inflict
sorrow, because the widow knows she cant throw away those years she and her
husband spent loving each other.
On mission message: Be sensitive to a widows
moods. Many times a smile cant radiate through her painful memories. Your words
assuring her of Gods promises to take care of her can become a beacon for her,
a reflection of Him in you. This way, you are serving God and showing the
non-Christian widow that Christ sees and hears her pain.
Avoid telling the widow that God healed someone else because of his or her
faith and prayers. Oftentimes, the widow is already dealing with inner conflict
as to why God did not heal her husband after her fervent prayers.
On mission message: This is the hope of all
believers: God is a loving God, and it is His will for all to believe and be
healed in heaven. An on mission Christian can share this belief and
open the door for a nonbeliever to accept the gospel.
For those who have never lost a spouse, its better not to say you
understand. The widows pain is too deep, the sorrow too overwhelming for you to
pretend you understand feelings unless youve experienced the same loss. A widow
knows you do not understand how she feels because she didnt feel that way until
her husband died.
Words spoken to a widow at home, at church, or wherever you meet, such as, I
still miss seeing your husband, bond the widow with you; they show that her
husband meant something to you. If appropriate say something like, He was a
good man and loved the Lord. He had a wonderful sense of humor. I remember
when.... Whatever is appropriate, but be sincere. A widow who hears your
memories of her loved one will embrace your friendship.
On mission message: Share a personal experience of
loss with the nonbelieving widow. In doing so, she will understand that Jesus
strengthened you during a difficult time. As the non-Christian sees Christ in
you, encourage her to seek Gods eternal love through the gift of His
Give the widow a chance to enjoy her husbands memory with you. If she cries,
thats okay. Shell remember you with fondness for letting her remember him. Its
not necessary to dwell on the husband, but let the widow know you havent
forgotten him and that he had a valuable place during his life.
A widows hurt is deeply ingrained, and she is facing a new lifestylealone.
If you knew the couple before the husband died, dont stop calling the widow.
She is already coping with self-worth, feelings that shes no longer a whole
person. Let her know that you remember her, that you care for her as much as
you did before her husband died.
A card with a verse such as Psalm 116:15, Precious in the sight of the
Lord is the death of his saints, comforts the widow. It reminds her that
God loved her husband and wanted him with Him for some special reason. An
on mission Christian can send a note of encouragement, a poem sharing
Gods love and His promises for us and our loved ones. These are tangible
messages that will be reread many times.
Some group settings are difficult for the widow. Dont insist that a widow
participate in a group in which she will miss her husband more intensely. As
God begins to heal her broken spirit, she will emerge again to enter the new
world God has given her.
On mission Christians can help the nonbeliever have a deeper
understanding of the Father and His love. She will experience a deeper sense of
her own drawing closer to God, knowing that her separation from her loved one
placed him in the arms of God.
ResourceA Caregivers Survival Guide (InterVarsity Press 2000) by Kay
Marshall Strom is for anyone caring for a spouse, elderly parent or other adult
relative. Kay has experienced a lifetime of lessons caring for her own disabled
husband and has cataloged several insights to pass on to other caregivers
including: finding spiritual support, maintaining relationships and dealing
The widowerThe death of a loved one can profoundly
affect men, often called the silent grievers. Because the grief is, at times,
suppressed, it is never processed and resolved, writes Eva Shaw in What To
Do When A Loved One Dies.
A new role: In the midst of grief and loneliness, many
widowers find themselves learning new life skills, such as shopping for
children, cooking and supporting grieving children. An on mission Christian can
encourage the widower in these new tasks and offer to help. As the widower,
young or old, sees Christ in you, he will be drawn to the Source of your
Silence: Sometimes a grieving man will lock his feelings
inside himself. This is a good opportunity for a man to reach out to another
man by meeting him on his own terms. Find out what he likes to do, and meet him
there. If he walks, walk with him. Encourage him to tell his story over and
over. To give him confidence, tell him of a personal experience in which God
Expectations: Widowers, especially young men, often
experience the unrealistic societal expectations for him to be strong and take
it like a man. The man is expected to be more resilient and able to control his
feelings. These expectations may inhibit a man from openly expressing his
grief, writes Delores Kuenning in Helping People Through Grief.
On mission message: Assure him its okay to talk
about his wife, to share his feelings, to cry. Assure him that God still has a
wonderful plan for his life and that he can begin following that path by
placing his trust in the Lord. This is a time in which you can share Gods love,
and perhaps because of you, the widower will put his faith in Christ.
Lavada Haupt is a writer living in Jacksonville,
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