Why is it that a city whose name connotes “beauty”, “pleasantness”, “lovely” is first introduced to us with an event whose picture reflected grieving and sorrow? Sometimes pain, sorrow, grief and hopelessness can be found in the most beautiful and pleasant people, places and situations. This week in the series “Unnamed women of the Bible”, I am writing about the The Widow of Nain: Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief.
Luke 7:11-17 introduces to the city of Nain and an unnamed woman in the bible often referred to as the widow of Nain. Luke is the only one of Jesus’s followers that records her story pointing us to the compassion of Jesus.
Who was the Widow of Nain?
Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” – Luke 7:11-13
This woman was a widow who had just lost her only son. Life had dealt her a hard blow by taking away two people who mattered to her most. She had walked this same road before to bury her husband. And so, she leads the procession of mourners, tears streaming down her face and no words to speak as she walks this lonely road once again to bury her only child.
I remember meeting a young widow many years ago. I visited her home with an older friend who left me in the sitting room to speak with her uncle. While waiting, I admired the pictures in the living room, but one picture of a very young and pretty woman stood out amongst many. Almost immediately, a woman walked into the room, she looked like the woman in the picture but different in a way. She looked withdrawn and sad. I could perceive that she was going through a difficult season. I also later got to find out that her husband had just passed away in a plane crash leaving her with two very little children.
Can you picture the widow of Nain walking slowly to the cemetery where all she had left in her life would be laid to rest? A great crowd surrounded her, many she knew and others she had never met. They all came to share in her grief. But it did not matter now. And even though they wept with her, they would never fully understand her grief. More people came and joined the procession, they heard what had happened to her. Yet nothing they said made sense, all she could see was an empty home and a bleak future.
No words could take away her pain and sorrow. And two words now described her in this season of her life – husbandless and childless. To lose a spouse is hard enough, but to lose both spouse and child can be devastating. The widow of Nain was in a dark place with no answers to what her tomorrow would look like going forward.
Widowhood in Today’s World
In my part of the world, some tribes and regions give widows a hard time after the death of their spouse. I have heard of cases where the husband’s family come in and take away all that belonged to the man. They take away houses, cars and even money, except for those women who had access to their husband’s bank account and financial details. Some of these women are left on ground zero with nothing for their children’s education and future.
Unfortunately, many of these young women were totally financially dependent on their husbands and when death came calling, their whole world was turned upside down. Widowhood can translate to loneliness, deep grief, depression and a mental breakdown for some of these women. They find themselves starting a new journey alone that normally two people would have travelled together. It is my prayer that these young widows will find hope in their hopelessness.
Jesus and the Widow of Nain
Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” – Luke 7:11-13
Jesus had just spoken about a man’s faith just before starting on his journey to this town called Nain. The centurion had showed great faith for his servant’s healing through his words. Jesus was amazed and the centurion’s servant was healed.
Let us not forget that Jesus had a huge crowd and his disciples with him on this journey. And just as they approached the gate of this town, another crowd was leaving the city gate. The air around this crowd of people was thick with tears, mourning and grief. One group of people with Jesus were excited as they had just witnessed a miracle, while the other group of people were in mourning with a widow. It was a case of an atmosphere of faith versus hopelessness.
When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”- Luke 7:13
Did you know that Jesus sees and feels your pain? And in those moments when we are unable to verbalize our pain, God sees, and his heart reaches out to us. Jesus singled out this widow from the crowd and spoke peace to her spirit. He said to the widow of Nain– ‘Don’t cry’. All the widow of Nain had in that moment were her tears and unanswered questions. It was dark all around her as she wondered if this grief would ever end. But Jesus shows up and speaks hope to her spirit.
Are you grieving the loss of a loved one? Is your world clouded in the darkness of uncertainty, pain, trauma, divorce and financial instability? Are you sinking deep in the ship of loneliness and shame? Are your eyes tired from the constant tears and pain in your heart? Jesus is here and he is saying to you – ‘Don’t Cry’, ‘Stop the tears’, – I am here now.
Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. – Luke 7:14-15
Do you know that Jesus never leaves you where he met you? Not only did Jesus speak to calm the storm in this woman’s life, but he also shone light into the darkness in her life.
Jesus touched the bier and they that carried the bier stood still. He went straight to that thing that had caused her so much pain and sorrow and touched it. Everyone watched silently until he said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” Luke 7:15 – The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Jesus came before her himself, holding her son by the hand and gave him back to her. It is like Jesus saying to you today, take back what you have lost, take back your joy, take back your purpose, take back your life, I have filled it with my presence, healing, abundance and made it whole again. And this was why he said to her- ‘Weep not’, because he had come with her answer.
You may never receive your loved one back alive like this woman. Perhaps he/she died many years ago and you are still lost in deep grief. Jesus is saying to you, arise from those broken emotions. Arise from the pain of your loss. Arise from the hurt and guilt from your broken marriage. Arise from your fear of the future. Arise from the dust and darkness. Arise! It is true that you may not fully understand all that is happening in your life right now, but Jesus is saying to you today – Arise and find purpose in your pain.
When you can take that step of faith and arise, you will see that Jesus will give you back your joy. He will bring his love and peace into your family. He will restore purpose back to your life. All he is saying to you today is to ARISE.
“Beauty remains even in misfortune. If you just look for it, you discover more and more happiness and regain your balance. A person who is happy will make others happy, a person who has courage and faith will never die in misery.” – Anne Frank
3 Life Lessons from The Widow of Nain
1. God sees you and will take away your pain
And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said unto her, weep not. And he came and touched the bier and they that bare him stood still. And he said young man; I say unto thee, arise. And he that was dead sat up and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. – Luke 7:13-15
Jesus found this woman in her place of pain and deep grief. He saw her and he sees you too in your pain and grief. And God will always meet you in your place of most profound need.
From the place of His dwelling, He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. – Psalm 33:14-15
The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. – Proverbs 15:3
But you, O Lord, know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you.– Jeremiah 12:3a
Jesus goes on to turn this woman’s attention away from that which was causing her pain. He identified and could feel what she was going through. He told her to ‘weep not’, because he wanted her to see that what she was crying over would be restored. Jesus did not only take away her pain, but he also restored back her joy, peace and future. Will you trust today to take away your pain?
2. God will give your life purpose again
Many times, it is easy to remain stuck in the seat of despair, while embracing our pain and struggles. Note that until this woman closed her eyes to the world around her in silence, only then was she able to hear a word that would change her life forever.
Even when Jesus said ‘Weep not’, she may still have asked ‘how’ within her. A question many of us still ask today. How do I walk and live through this devastating loss? How do I find hope in the darkness of this grief? In meeting Jesus, she was no longer the woman who many mourned with; she was now a woman whose testimony caused others to rejoice and bow in worship to God. Her life became a sweet-smelling fragrance that brought hope to the hearts of many.
Jesus helped a widow to rediscover her purpose. Her testimony was powerful enough to bring hope to others. And she is still fulfilling that purpose today. You may have lost everything imaginable today, abandoned with no place to go. Jesus is giving you faith through his word. Will you trust him for a new story and future?
“The beauty and power in our stories are revealed in our fiery trials and challenges which always seem so insurmountable.” – oneinspiredmum
3. God wants to use your testimony to change lives and nations
Profound and reverent fear seized them all, and they began to recognize God and praise and give thanks, saying, a great prophet has appeared amongst us. And God has visited his people in order to help and care for and provide for them. And this report concerning Jesus spread through the whole of Judea and all the country round about. – Luke 7:16-17
It can be clearly observed that a great company accompanied this woman as she went to bury her only son. And for many people to have followed her, she must have been an influential woman or someone who had touched the lives of many. Yet status and popularity did not make her immune from loss, pain and sorrow.
Nain was that place that signified sorrow and pain for one woman. Maybe, it even represented a place where dreams died, and hope was buried. Yet, from the scriptures, we see something that separated the people of Nain from others. When Jesus raised a dead man back to life, rather than judge him, they recognized and acknowledged his Lordship.
Reverent fear seized them all; not some, but all of them. They believed immediately that Jesus was a prophet. They recognized that his presence had brought liberation and joy into their town. The people of this city knew that God had visited them. They had one voice and one spirit. They chose to believe and rejoice together. It is funny to note that a city that was together in mourning became a city that rejoiced together.
Hope returned to the city of Nain. Faith was restored to a place where many had lost many things dear to them. I believe these people understood life’s seasons and timing, so they knew when their hour of visitation came.
One woman’s testimony brought light into a city. And through these same people, Jesus was made known in surrounding cities and towns. He did not have to go to those places, the people of Nain revealed him through their testimony. Did you know that your testimony and story can turn cities, towns and nations to God?
The widow of Nain who lost her only son and was in deep grief became the woman whose testimony revived an entire city and its surrounding towns. It is amazing what God can do with you irrespective of what you may be going through. In this woman’s sorrow, joy was born. In her grief, she found hope. In her silence, her answer came.
Lord, I ask for grace to walk through this difficult season and pain in my life. Shine your light into the darkness that has clouded my mind and spirit. Help me to see what you are doing in my life in this season. Hold my hands through this devastating loss and help me to find purpose again in this pain. May my story and testimony point many to God. Amen!