So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.” But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!” So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.
Some time later the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. 18 Then she said to Elijah, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?” But Elijah replied, “Give me your son.” And he took the child’s body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?” And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!” Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the Lord truly speaks through you.” 1 Kings 17:10-24 (NLT)
In this passage, we see the story of Elijah visiting the widow at Zarephath. The famine was severe, and she didn’t have the money to buy food. As she was preparing to make a final meal for herself and her young son, Elijah approached and asked her for some bread. The audacity! This “man of God” was asking a poor single mom for food when she didn’t even have enough to feed herself and her son! Elijah, however, assured her that God would provide—that her oil and flour would never run out if she would so generously feed him. So, the woman went home and did what Elijah had asked. And, the Lord was faithful and kept his promise—her oil and flour never ran out.
As I read this story, I had to ask myself if I would have enough faith to use the last of my flour and oil for someone else. Would I trust God’s word and the faithfulness He has shown me over my lifetime? If I’m honest, I’m not sure I would. I want faith like the widow at Zarephath! I suddenly find myself lacking in so many ways.
As we continue in the story, however, we find that life changed for the widow. Her son died. This woman who exhibited such faith and experienced God’s miracle was now angry. “Man of God, what have you done to me?” she demands of Elijah.
Really? Hadn’t she been experiencing God’s miracle every day since Elijah arrived? The flour and oil never ran out. It became a daily miracle, and I’m sure she began to expect God’s provisions. How could her “great faith” be shaken so quickly?
I have never lost a child. I cannot even begin to fathom the fear and pain she was experiencing. But, God had been faithful. Hadn’t he been building her faith to get her through the tough times? Wouldn’t a never-ending supply of flour and oil be enough for her to believe that God is who He says He is?
At this point in the story, Elijah calmly takes her son upstairs and raises him back to life. In an instant, the widow’s outlook changes, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is truth” (v. 24). I find it interesting that the daily provisions she had come to expect were not enough for her to truly believe that God is who He says He is. It was not until her son was raised back to life that she exclaimed her faith in God and His word. It took a major trial for her to reach a point of truly believing God and His word.
Maybe I’m not so unlike the widow. For the first 37 years of my life, when I described my relationship with God, I always used the word “faithful.” God was the one constant in my life I could always count on. He was always there, always blessing me. He had always answered my prayers. Even when I was faithless, He was still faithful because He cannot disown His own (2 Timothy 2:13). When I felt my faith was weak, I simply reviewed his faithfulness to me over my entire life. It was so reassuring and always built my faith. God was 100% faithful and could be trusted in all things—big and small. Or, at least that’s what I told others.
And then the storms came. I found myself abandoned, a single mom trying to raise three kids. My marriage had fallen apart, and all my hopes, dreams and expectations came crashing down around me. My ministry had been ripped away from me. I was no longer a wife or a pastor’s wife, and I had no idea who I was. I simply stared into the mirror, and I saw an insecure, ugly, unknown woman staring back. I was financially, emotionally, and spiritually broken. I was frantically trying to pick up the pieces of my life and fit them back into the puzzle that had been my life. But, it seemed that the pieces no longer fit. The puzzle was somehow different.
Hadn’t God promised me blessings for my obedience? I had done my best to walk in obedience all my life, so why did the man I had given my life to betray me in this way? Where was God’s goodness and faithfulness? Could He truly be trusted? Had my entire life been a sham? All those years of His never-ending faithfulness—of his daily provisions of flour and oil—suddenly seemed to dissolve. They were no longer relevant to my life. They were a distant memory.
Three years later as I begin to emerge on the other side of this calamity, I realize that God was still there, still faithful. I haven’t seen my marriage resurrected, but I have seen my own life and that of my children resurrected! We are truly new creations in Him! I don’t have all the answers as to why this happened, but I do know that He has walked this long and difficult road with me. He has pursued me relentlessly when I tried to walk away in anger. He has given me a new compassion for those who are hurting. He has given me a newfound faith, one that has been tested through the fire and has been refined. He has been the Great I AM at every turn—whatever I need, whenever I need, He has been exactly that. I no longer just teach His faithfulness; I have lived it! How much richer my faith is for having been through the fire!
The future still seems uncertain at times, but I am certain of one thing: God is faithful, and His word is true! He has promised me that ALL things work together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He tells me that He has plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). He tells me that this suffering won’t last forever, but one day He will have me put together and on my feet for good (1 Peter 5:10). Not one of His good promises to me has ever failed (Joshua 23:14).
I still don’t know what the puzzle of my life will look like when He is finished, but I do know that it will be beautiful! How do I know? Because He is faithful and His word is true!