My Journey Back to Peace and Contentment
By Betty White Coleman
Separation can be a distressing experience. And death means separation, even if that separation is temporary. Losing a loved one often causes pain, whether spiritual, physical, mental, or emotional. Sometimes it also brings financial hardship. No family has been exempt from death’s visit. Preparation can help ease some of the hardships associated with this reality of life we know as death.
Planning ahead for funeral costs and care for dependent survivors can reduce the financial stress of losing a loved one. Jesus gave us an example of this as he provided for his mother from the cross. “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (John 19:26, 27).
Coping with Loss
Staying connected to God’s Word and spending time with others who love and live out God’s Word can keep us spiritually healthy in times of grief and loss. Those who followed Jesus during his ministry observed and imitated his manner of living. Paul understood the value of this and wrote, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
A balanced diet, adequate rest, and exercise can help survivors guard their physical health as well.
Mental and emotional stress often follow the loss of a love one. Steps can be taken, however, to preserve mental and emotional health even before death occurs. Showing respect and compassion for loved ones while they live helps ensure good memories with few regrets.
Before Jesus went to the cross, a woman showed kindness and gratitude to him by anointing him with precious ointment. In response to her action, Jesus said, “When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matthew 26:12, 13).
Judas Iscariot responded to the death of Christ in a different way. He felt such guilt for his betrayal and treatment of Jesus that he went out and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-5).
Even with preparation, the void death leaves in a survivor’s life can be the biggest challenge to overcome. Mary Magdalene wept at Jesus’ tomb because she loved and missed him. I understand. When I became a widow at the age of 49, what seemed like good planning on our part when my husband was alive wasn’t working so well. A year had passed and the ache in my heart had no more diminished than the wonderful memories I had of our marriage and our time together. I knew I needed to let go but it seemed as if I needed my husband, or at least his memory, more with each passing day. Dating wasn’t an option. Where would I find someone so kind, so loving, so good as William?
I busied myself with the work of the church, clubs, and charity functions. I reached out to family and friends. But at the end of the day as I knelt to pray I cried to the Lord—the one who, I felt, truly understood my loneliness and the one who had the consolation I desperately sought.
Searching the Scriptures
Like so many days since the Lord had called William home, I found myself searching the Scriptures for comfort. Before William’s death I made it a practice to read through the Bible each year. I had become slack in this commitment so, on the first anniversary of his death, I decided I would begin my reading again.
I soon realized how much I had missed the wonderful stories and wisdom contained in the Scriptures. When I had trouble sleeping I would pull out my Bible and continue my journey through God’s Word. I realized that God could and would supply my every need if only I trusted him. I decided that if I needed a husband, God would send me one in his time.
It was the day before my fifty-first birthday. I was reading in the book of Isaiah, chapter 54. My mind wandered to birthdays I had shared with William. Memories of the laughter, surprises, and love flooded my mind. Then the words of Isaiah seemed to leap off the page straight into my heart: “You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name” (Isaiah 54:4, 5).
I read the words again slowly, “For your Maker is your husband.” I asked myself, “What is it about my husband’s absence that caused the most anxiety?” Among the responses that came to mind were his companionship, his love and kindness, his support and help, and the stability he brought to my life. Still thinking about Isaiah 54:5, the Spirit prompted me to search for Scriptures that showed similarities between my Maker’s qualities and the qualities I missed most about my husband.
As a companion and friend, my husband was a company keeper. We laughed together, cried together, encouraged one another, and shared work, play, meals, faith, and life. My search for my Maker as a companion led me to Psalm 119:63 (King James Version) that reads, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.” The New International Version translation reads, “I am a friend.” I could call on my husband anytime day or night and he always made my concern a priority—just like my Maker.
I missed my husband’s expressions of love. William’s love was not bestowed on me in exchange for or because of what I had, or what I did, or who I was. Rather, he loved me in spite of some less-than-praiseworthy attributes. His kindness, patience, and gentleness spoke volumes about his genuine love for me. First Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love is patient, love is kind.” I focused on John 3:16, “For God so loved.” God didn’t just love, he so loved. His love is the greatest love ever expressed.
I read verse after verse from Genesis to Revelation affirming God’s love for me. I realized his love couldn’t be measured or comprehended. And as it was in my marriage, God’s love was not given in return for anything I had or did. It was unconditional. Because I knew William and because William knew Christ, I had shared 12 years with someone who exemplified a Christlike love for me.
William supported me professionally, financially, emotionally, and spiritually. He was my rock. All the while, it was God in William empowering him to meet my needs. My Maker has been my help and support before, during, and after my marriage. As Psalm 121:1, 2 says, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Verse 8 corroborates that this help is “both now and forevermore.”
There’s something comforting about knowing someone will be the same in good times and bad, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse. Our relationship had stood the test. The stability I had known in my marriage was based on a truth found in Hebrews 13:8 which says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and forever.”
I smiled. It was clear that God had been with me all the time serving as my friend, my comforter, my provider, and yes, my husband.
God’s unfailing love, faithfulness, and favor help me live a joyful, full, and contented life. I’ve learned that each day offers occasions for celebration and praise. I delight in the experiences I share with my Maker, my husband—the Lord Almighty.
If you are grieving or experiencing other difficulties, I invite you to seek the great “I AM.” Psalm 105:3 says, “Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.” I say, “Amen and Amen.”
Betty White Coleman lives and works in Brookhaven, Mississippi as a contract employee for a Human Resources Consulting Company.