The Mystery of Widowhood

“Though mystery shrouds the glory of our lives, it is there. Mystery must be mined, one shovelful at a time and with careful inspection of each collection. It is easy to overlook gold when your eye is not trained for the unpolished mineral. All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien/The Fellowship of the Ring

One of the hardest things that a widow wrestles with after the death of her husband is trying to discover who she is and finding her purpose as a single lady. Many of us found our joy and value in being a wife and when that “job” was ended, we find ourselves floundering. In reading Gary Barkalow’s book IT’S YOUR CALL: WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE it has come to my attention that we have something to give to this world that has to do with joy and intimacy with God and not a “job” evaluation.

I myself have tried and tried to figure out just what my life is all about now – what my purpose is as a single woman. In fact, I have looked for that purpose, theme, and direction so hard that I have allowed it to become a major stressor and narrow my range of being able to hear God.

The journey of widowhood is one that begins when we are thrown way down into the valley onto totally unknown trails. Barkalow writes, “I have heard said that the most spectacular vistas require traveling the roughest, most dangerous trails. And so it is with our lives—to reach the most beautiful, authentic, fulfilling places in life will require some risk. A life lived in fear is a life half-lived. We tend to look for a definitive activity, position, or place that we can call ‘God’s will’ for our lives. We want a precise, easily understandable answer to the question ‘What am I supposed to do with my life?’ But we are never offered that in Scripture. What Scripture does say is that God ‘will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go’ (Psalm 32:8) and that He ‘is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him’ (Phil. 2:15 ISV). God’s calling on our lives is far more mysterious than methodological, and mystery is something we don’t handle well.

I cannot better explain the word “mystery” than the way that Barkalow describes it below:

“Mystery is something to be embraced, journeyed through, and enjoyed. It’s not that mystery can never be explained but rather that mystery unfolds—not all at once, but a little at a time. ‘Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ (Rom. 11:33-34). God is not a little confused or in the dark. He knows what is going on, who you are, and why you are here at this time in His story. We must believe that God knows what He is after with us. In the midst of mystery it is helpful to remember that the best is perhaps what we understand least. There is more to you than you know. What is most glorious about you is yet to be fully revealed. Your life has a depth and purpose that cannot be revealed in a moment in time; it must be journeyed into with one discovery leading into the next.”

The question that immediately pops into my mind is why does there have to be mystery? Proverbs 25:2 answers that: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” God doesn’t hide things from us so we can’t find them. He hides them knowing that it draws us closer to Him during the search. This is certainly true in the life of a widow who is consistent in her grief journey. Suddenly life becomes only you and God together. And when something that we are searching for is uncovered and found, there is joy in that discovery.

We are not to occasionally ask, seek, knock. Our life is to be one of continually asking, seeking, and knocking. We are to be explorers not tourists, archaeologist not museum visitors. Our life should be continual shouts of ‘I found another one!’ Not only does God want us to experience the excitement of discovering truths about our purpose and design, He wants us to stay in intimate conversation with Him. God knows that if He were to tell us everything we needed to know about our lives, assuming we could comprehend it, we would probably run off in desire and excitement to fulfill our purpose, without returning to the conversation. I believe God will give us enough clarity to keep us encouraged and moving, but He will also shroud enough of our purpose in mystery to keep us coming back for more intimate conversation. Mystery is an invitation to intimacy with God. Instead of wasting your energy fighting mystery, allow mystery to stir you and guide you to keep asking and seeking and knocking”, says Mr. Barkalow.

I cannot express to you how knowing that this mystery of widowhood is not to be found out all at once but a little at a time takes the load off of my trying to figure everything out. How about you?