“God gets up early and stays up late.” One of my seminary professors uses this phrase to remind us that God is never caught off guard by our crises. Our time of need is never too early or too late for God to meet us then and there.
God directs our attention to the needs of those who are often overlooked—whether they are children who face the challenges of growing up after losing their parents, or adults who face the challenges of growing old after losing their spouses.
Care for widows and orphans is a theme that carries through the whole Bible. Although the Bible calls us to help those who have suffered the devastating loss of a spouse or parents, it never portrays widows and orphans as objects of pity. In fact, some of the most heroic and revered people in the Bible were widows and orphans. The widows Ruth and Naomi became ancestors of King David and Jesus the Messiah. The orphan Esther became the queen of Persia and liberated the Jewish people from a plot to destroy them.
The Bible also offers examples of widows and orphans who helped others against all odds. For example, when the prophet Elijah was fleeing from King Ahab, God told him to go to Zarephath, saying, “I have directed a widow there to supply you with food” (1 Kings 17:9). God made the widow able to provide for herself, her son, and the prophet by miraculously refilling her last jar of flour and jug of oil. In another example, the prophet Elisha told a widow and her sons to gather all the empty jars she could from her neighbors, and then start filling them with her last little bit of oil. The widow did what he said, and she had enough oil to pay her debts and provide for her family (2 Kings 4:1–7).
By empowering these two widows to care for themselves and others, God helped these women and their sons in a way that was more than mere charity. The more patriarchal a society is, the more women and girls will suffer disproportionately upon the death of their father or husband. Women in patriarchal societies must depend on the charity of others in times of crises. Freeing women to support themselves and others is an important systemic way of helping widows and orphans. No matter how suddenly crises may come upon us, God’s help leads to lasting, systemic change.
The articles in this issue of Mutuality feature the voices of widows, widowers, and orphans. This issue also features examples of people who care for widows and orphans in ways that break cycles of dependence and lead to lasting change. These authors testify to a God who “gets up early and stays up late,” who meets us in our time of greatest need, and never leaves us alone.