I realized lately that I’ve not been in the best mental or emotional state. I’ve been incredibly stressed for the last few weeks and have, honestly, not been handling it all that well. I’m grateful for that revelation and for the people around me who are giving me grace in spite of my utter foolishness.
When I’m in seasons of stress and I’m reacting poorly to the circumstances of life, I am the queen of justifying my actions. I can mentally contort myself into believing that my behavior is the correct one even when, at my core, I know that’s the furthest thing from the truth.
Today’s unnamed woman showed incredible grace and kindness during one of the most stressful situations a person can face: almost certain death.
“Then the word of the Lord came to him [Elijah]: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 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?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”
“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.”” 1 Kings 17:8-12 (NIV)
Every other time I’ve read these verses, I’ve glossed over this portion to get to the exciting miracle part. But I think these few verses are worthy of camping out in for a few moments.
Verse twelve reveals so much about this woman’s emotional state at the time: she was prepared to die. I wonder for how long she had been holding out hope for their situation improving. She probably had been rationing meals for weeks (if not months) and was probably very malnourished. I imagine that this mother did all that she possibly could, rationed her resources for as long as she could until finally, she had no other choice—all hope was completely gone.
Yet, despite her fatigued mental, emotion, and physical state, she was kind to Elijah and obedient to God.
Had I been in her position, I could’ve easily become angry with God, not wanting to obey him when he spoke and instructed me to take care of another person. I might’ve been tempted to give Elijah a piece of my mind and let him know just how rough my son and I had had it. In a situation that dire, I probably would’ve complained and complained and complained some more, just for good measure. But this amazing woman did none of those things.
The Widow of Zarephath’s obedience and kindness provides an incredible example for us for living a life of faith.
Her story makes me wonder how often a breakthrough in our lives is just on the other side of a courageous act of obedience. I wonder how often we miss seeing the goodness of God in our lives because we opt out of serving another. I don’t believe that we should serve others or follow a command of God in order to get something in return, but I do whole-heartedly believe that he rewards those who diligently seek him and, often, that involves responding in obedience when it’s inconvenient or serving someone when we don’t want to.
Thankfully, God is gracious and kind to us in the midst of difficult situations and is consistently beckoning us back to him. Because this woman had intentionally drawn near to God and let her love for him outweigh her immediate needs, a miracle was performed through her.
The Widow of Zarephath reminds me that even small acts of obedience and service can have an incredible impact on our world.
In moments of stress or distress, do you find it difficult to obey God and serve others?
How can you take a courageous step of obedience and service today?