Have you ever lost someone you loved—a family member, a relative or a friend? This kind of loss is such a difficult, painful part of life. We struggle to deal with the grief and to grasp that we will never again see that loved one on this earth. For me, I think of my mother and father. How often I wish that I could see them again, that I could talk with them.
But my heart especially goes out to a certain group of people whose pain is multiplied by the shame and insults that come with their loss. In a time when they need comfort and support the most, they are completely rejected and abandoned.
Who am I talking about? They are the widows living in many parts of Asia. There are millions of them, and you cannot imagine the suffering they go through. This quote from the United Nations paints the picture well: “Absent in statistics, unnoticed by researchers, neglected . . . and mostly overlooked . . . the situation of widows is dramatic and, in effect, invisible.”
Unimaginable Suffering for Widows in Asia
Put yourself in the shoes of one of these women. You just lost your husband and provider, but that’s not all. The rest of your family has also rejected you. Your community has thrown you out. The words of your in-laws are still ringing in your ears: “You are the reason for this, our son’s death.” This is what they truly believe, that his sickness or accident was your fault. And forever you will live with this pain and agony.
What are you going to do next? You could go to the next village and look for work. But you know you’ll be mistreated there, too. You’re now expected to wear clothes that both clearly brand you a widow and are without color. And yet, what else is there to do? This is your new life.
Many of these women end up on the side of the road begging, hoping someone will have pity on them and that there will be enough to afford something for their children to eat that day.
Unfortunately, this is not just the story of one or two women. It is a very significant crisis.
How do we respond to this kind of suffering? We can think about these problems periodically and feel sad or wonder what will happen to the people affected. We might even decide to do something about it.
But it’s so easy to lose our perspective in the midst of our daily lives and struggles. We get a headache and suddenly all we can think about is finding the aspirin. You see what I’m saying? This is a human reality. It’s like blowing up a balloon: you keep blowing and blowing until it becomes bigger than your head and you can’t see anything else.
Returning to Authentic Christianity
Unless we make a deliberate choice, the things we face in our personal lives—discouragements, misunderstandings, unfulfilled expectations—will become like that balloon. They will become bigger and bigger until we are blind to anything else.
I’ve been serving the Lord full-time for over 50 years, and one of the greatest crises of faith I’ve encountered all over the world is how easily we as evangelical Christians can become calloused toward the needs around the world—the poor, the needy, the widows and the orphans.
We forget what authentic Christianity is: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27, emphasis mine).
Our ultimate example in this is God Himself. He created man in His own image and cares deeply about His creation. He links Himself with people who have no one to help. Psalm 68:5 says, “A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation.” He is with those who are suffering.
We must choose to open our eyes and see past the “balloon” of our daily life and struggles and enter into the compassion God has for the suffering. We have so many examples of people from the earliest days of the Church until now who have gone before us like bright lights; individuals who have received a unique call from God and ventured out to do something among the multitudes.
Hope for the Forgotten
In today’s world, I think of our Sisters of Compassion, who minister to the poor, the slum-dwellers, the widows, those who have contracted leprosy. It’s hard to think of anything more significant than the work these precious sisters are doing. They spend their days ministering to the rejected and forgotten in extremely practical ways. But it is the heart they do these things with that truly makes a difference.
Just think of what a kind word, a touch or a prayer from one of these sisters would mean for a widow who has been continuously rejected and avoided for years.
And then there are many other ways that GFA-supported workers are reaching out to widows with the love of Christ. They provide clothing, literacy classes and income-generating gifts that help women support themselves and their children. There’s even a team that ministers on an island where the majority of the population is made up of widows, many of whom lost their husbands as a result of tiger attacks.
These workers are bringing hope in the midst of extremely difficult situations. And yet, so many more widows are still suffering, still “invisible.”
Let me ask you, will you take this opportunity to look beyond your day, your surroundings and your struggles and reach out to these widows in some way? International Widows Day is happening on June 23. Maybe that could be a day that you set aside to fast and pray for these precious, neglected women. If you’re a blogger, perhaps you could dedicate a post to spreading awareness about their plight.
Or maybe you could consider taking your resources, whatever you are able to, and giving to help a widow who is suffering. You may not have a huge amount of money in the bank. Maybe you only have $5 to spare. But the question is this: is there some room, some space in your heart to say, “I am going to give whatever I can to help, to join with the suffering as the Lord does and to relieve the pain of others”?
Lord, we thank You for the many hundreds and hundreds of verses in Your Word that You gave to instruct us how we must respond to the suffering and the afflicted, the widows and the orphans. I pray that as Your people, we will not just be hearers of the Word, but rather, Lord, we’ll become instruments in Your hands to help, to care, to heal, to give hope. We pray, O Lord, that You will give each one of us grace to obey You. May our hearts remain tender and soft. Lead us in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Comment below with your prayer for the widows of Asia or share this post and encourage others to get involved through prayer and giving.
Dr. KP Yohannan, founder and director of the nonprofit organization Gospel for Asia, has written more than 200 books, including Revolution in World Missions, an international bestseller with more than 4 million copies in print. He and his wife, Gisela, have two grown children, Daniel and Sarah, who both serve the Lord with their families.
Gospel for Asia is a nonprofit organization serving the “least of these” in Asia since its beginning in 1979, often in places where no one else is serving. Gospel for Asia supports national workers who are serving as the hands and feet of Christ by ministering to people’s needs so they can understand the love of God for them for the first time. Gospel for Asia is engaged in dozens of projects, such as caring for poor children, slum dwellers and widows and orphans; providing clean water by funding wells; supporting medical missions; and meeting the needs of those in leprosy colonies. Through Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope Program, tens of thousands of children are being rescued from the generational curses of poverty and hopelessness.