The morning reading for today had a phrase that caught my attention. Often in Scripture, Israel and the Church are portrayed as God's (or Christ's) bride, waiting in holiness for him. At other times, this waiting bride is described as less than stellar in her behavior, chasing after other lovers. Either way, God's people are characterized as a bride-to-be, waiting, but not yet wed.
Then there is this text from Isaiah 54:4. "Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore." That single word: "widowhood." There is not a single other instance where God's people are referenced by this term. Repeatedly the Scriptures tell us of God's special care for the widows and orphans, the most vulnerable people in the ancient world. Even today with all our social safety nets, widows and orphans have a tough time of it. Widow is a dark, ugly word.
The contrast here between the expectant bride and the dashed hopes and dreams of the widow could not be more pronounced. The widow remembers the days of exciting anticipation, but awakens every morning in an empty bed, sits alone every evening staring at an empty chair, and weeps broken-heartedly in the dark. It's that combination of remembered joy and present sorrow that makes "widow" such a hard garment to wear. It is a title that many of God's people carry with them on a daily basis. They remember those early years when God was close, when they felt his touch, breathed in the fragrance of his presence, knew the exhilaration of his power and praise. Those were good times, and the memory would be sweet if only they could experience it once more. But something went wrong; something died, and it all dried up. Perhaps it was a sin, one of the devil's traps into which they repeatedly fell. Or a grief endured, a grief so deep and wrenching that it opened up a black hole in their soul that sucked every bit of light and hope into its vortex. Maybe another believer betrayed them, wounding an already struggling spirit.
Here is the Good News! Christ's love is not only for the hopeful; it is not limited to those who anticipate a blessing. It is also for those who have no reason to hope, for those who never imagined that life could be wonderful once more, for those who once knew joy that since withered and died. The widow, even the widow can lift up her head and once more sing praises to the One who in his resurrection brings life even to the dead. And if the dead live, the widow is a widow no more!