by Gaye Clark
Do you think you will marry again?” I stared in disbelief at my friend who’d asked the question. My husband, Jim, had only been dead a week.
My daughter, Anna, glared at her.
My friend realized she’d spoken too soon and swallowed hard. “I mean, I can’t see you staying single for long, Hon. All I am saying is, be open to love again when the time is right.”
As she turned to leave Anna started to follow until I pulled her back.
“I oughta deck that woman,” Anna said. “Where does she get off say’n something like that now? Or ever for that matter?”
When you bury your husband at 50, God grants you the gift of seeing eternity in technicolor detail amidst your pain. It’s not just your husband’s death you face, but your own also. Hard to miss when they place your name on your husband’s tombstone as well. Hard to miss when complete strangers walk through your home’s estate sale picking up family treasures as if they were junk and asking, “What’s the lowest you’ll take for the china?”
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7, “ A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is.” (1 Corinthians 7:39-40)
Before I met my husband, I read these verses with a grain of salt, with a they-won’t-apply-to-me mentality, never dreaming one day they would. After all, didn’t widows become widows after 80 or so? I could not have been more wrong. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age of widows is 59 years old, with 2,800 women joining the ranks of widowhood every day. In 2013, those statistics became my reality.
And then in less than a week after Jim’s death, I encountered the question I’m asked most often. Do you plan to marry again? Most people will then answer it. They offer something like, “Marriage is good, and of God,” or “A second marriage could offer comfort, healing, and protection.”
Someone even sent me a copy of Danny Gokey’s song, Let Your Heart Beat Again, and noted, marriage would do the trick. What!? Was I dead otherwise?
Marriage is a good thing. I know. I was married to an imperfect, but godly man for 27 years. But seven years of widowhood taught me that marriage, sweet as it is, cannot be our ultimate desire for happiness. Christ is. And while there is nothing inherently wrong in remarriage, (let the reader understand) for now, I will agree with Paul. This widow is happier if she remains as she is. Here are a few reasons why:
- Being an unmarried widow has granted me a freedom to expand my time with the Lord, sit at his feet, meditate on his word, and pray. When people have asked, “But aren’t you lonely?” Sometimes I am, but it hasn’t killed me. Alone is neither a permanent destination nor a devastating diagnosis I’m forced to endure. After all, loneliness isn’t unique to singleness, and marriage doesn’t always provide the cure.
- As an unmarried widow I am forced to trust the Lord to be my shield and protector, be it from the intruder at night, or from financial hardship, or from other trials. I’ve reminded myself, “through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come,” and Christ has never left me once. I am not suggesting we don’t lock doors, and save money in 401(k)s, or avail ourselves of counseling when needed. But ultimately, we cannot rest in them.
- As an unmarried widow, my relationship to the church has been greatly enhanced. Singleness has allowed greater flexibility to serve the body of Christ and get to know her people. Unmarried does not mean that I am called to go it alone. Widows sometimes need help, but we should not be helpless. I can give as well as receive. As a result, I have been blessed to have an abundance of counselors and help when I am in need.
- As an unmarried widow I am free to love my children, my grandchildren without the additional concerns of a new husband and his family and his children. My kids know they can call me in the middle of the night if they need to and I will be there. I love being that kind of mother and grandmother.
Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my husband, but I don’t look back with sorrow alone. In both marriage and now widowhood, God enabled me to flourish under his care. In both circumstances, He accomplished it. We readily embrace marriage as a gift from God. What if we pursued the gift of singleness with equal zeal? What might God do with that? A widow who buries her husband would do well to also bury any notion that remarriage would offer more solace than her Savior.
A woman’s hope and value are not determined by her marriage status. Her only comfort and assurance are in Christ who suffered and died for her. It would be good for both the widow and her church to bear that in mind. “Will you marry again?” shouldn’t be the most pressing question for a widow. Rather, ask, “In light that this world is passing away, what will you do with the remainder of this earthly time God has given you?”
Paul calls all of us to live with an eternal mindset that views our most cherished gifts—even the gift of marriage—as passing away, because they are. For me, that has meant to take hold of Christ, trusting that he has taken hold of me, and confess he must always be my greatest joy.
“The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.”
Gaye Clark is a nurse case manager for Parkridge Health Systems. She writes in her free time. She is the widow of James Clark, mother of Anna Wiggins and Nathan Clark, and grandmother of three. You can follow her on Twitter.