The following article was published in 2009, ten years after my husband went to live with His Heavenly Father.
Since becoming a Widow (January 1999 to January 2009)
Sometimes it seems like so long ago. Other times, like yesterday. Weeping lasted for the night, then came morning. Ten years ago today. January 25, 1999, 7:20 AM, he took his last breath and made the journey from his earthly home to the home of His Heavenly Father. At that moment, after thirty-one years of marriage, I became a widow. What now? I had no idea of the journey I was beginning that day. His memorial service included the hymn, “Because He lives … I can face uncertain days … Because He lives. Because I know He holds the future, life is worth the living….” Those words reaffirmed my faith and hope in Jesus Christ. Looking back, I can testify that my eye had not seen, nor had my ear heard, nor had my mind imagined what God had prepared for me (1 Cor. 2:9, NLT). Now ten years have passed—a decade full of God’s protection, God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s forgiveness, God’s provision, God’s love, and God’s surprises. At first, I thought to write this for my own personal chronicle, but today I would like to share it with you.
As I look back over these ten years, I can testify that my God is a husband and a protector to the widow. He tells His people to fight for the rights of widows (Isa.1:17, NLT). He says He will protect the property of the widows (Prov.15:25). He says He will be a defender of the widows (Psa. 68:5). Years ago I could quote these verses, but today I know them to be true. I have received them…. and I put my trust in them.
As I look back over these ten years, I can testify that my God continues to be Jehovah-Tsidkneu, my righteousness (Jer.23:6). In myself, there is nothing good. My righteousness is as filthy rags. Regardless how hard I try, I fall short. But He, God, who is Jehovah, is my Mediator. As my Mediator, Jesus Christ is my righteousness. For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for my sin, so that I could be made right with God through Christ (2 Cor. 5:21, NLT). How awesome is that? I rest in His amazing grace.
As I look back over these ten years, I can testify that my God continues to be Jehovah-Maccaddeshem, my sanctifier. In the past my sin separated me FROM God, but through the blood that Jesus shed for me on Calvary, I am cleansed from all unrighteousness—set apart from sin and consecrated, dedicated, and devoted to Him. Without Him, I realize I am nothing (Rom. 7:18). With Him, all things are possible (Matt. 19:26).
As I look back over these ten years, I can testify that my God continues to be Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord who is present. He kept His promise to never leave me or forsake me. One of my favorite scriptures is Jesus’ words, “Lo, I am with you always.” He knows how I feel, He knows when I’m hurting, He knows where I am, He knows what I’m thinking or planning, and He knows the why of all these things. He’s the God of How? What? When? Where? and Why? Ultimately, all life’s answers are found in Him. In Him, I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28). If it had not been for the Lord on my side, there’s no telling where I’d be (See Psa.124). “He is the air I breathe–His holy presence living in me. His very word spoken to me is my daily bread. I’m desperate for Him. I’m lost without Him” (adapted from lyrics by Michael W. Smith). I cannot help but praise Him through the valleys, up the mountains, across the deserts, through the rocky places, and when all is smooth.
As I look back over these ten years, I can testify that my God continues to be Jehovah-Rohi, my shepherd. He is that great Shepherd who equips me with everything good for doing his will and who works in me what is pleasing to Him through Jesus Christ to whom is glory forever and ever (Heb.13:20-21). He lets me feed in the pastures of His Word and glean from their teachings. When my mind begins to wander, He gently pulls me back into the fold and reminds me to stay focused on what matters—staying close to Him so I don’t lose my way. On days when I feel so all alone, I just begin to praise Him. He is my Comforter and Friend.
As I look back over these ten years, I can testify that my God continues to be Jehovah-Rapha, my healer. One of many healings happened in 2002. A few days before I was to leave for West Africa to teach at Agape Bible College, I was attacked with severe bronchitis and laryngitis. I went through the prescription of antibiotics. It was time to go, but I still had difficulty breathing and a raspy voice. I began another round of antibiotics. Should I cancel? Would the bronchitis be made worse—aggravated by the 16-hour flight? I had made a commitment and was determined to keep it, so I boarded the plane. Sitting at dinner a few hours after I arrived in Ghana, I realized I was talking! No laryngitis. No difficulty breathing. Hallelujah. I was healed and proceeded to lecture six hours a day, four days a week for the next month—with no recurring problems. Scripture says I am a co-worker with God—He’s the healer but sometimes my part is to eat right, maintain healthy habits, and take helpful medications. Other times, it seems He just has mercy on me and heals without my help.
As I look back over these ten years, I can testify that my God continues to be Jehovah-Jireh, my provider. He has met my emotional needs by placing people in my life who genuinely care about me. He has met my physical needs by providing for a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my pantry. He has met my psychological needs by overlooking my shortcomings and quirks and helping me forgive those who can’t. He has met my spiritual needs by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and my daily relationship with Him.
As I look back over these ten years, I can testify that my God continues to be Jehovah-Nissi, my banner. Soldiers on the battlefield are encouraged to keep fighting when they see the banner, the flag, of their country. Jesus loved me before I knew Him; He loved me so much He gave His life for me. “His banner over me is love” (SS 2:4). Ten years ago I could not have imagined how life would be without my husband and without the church fellowship I had loved and been a part of for so long. I could not have imagined moving two thousand miles away from the life I knew. But His love reminds me that I am His.
As I look back over these ten years, I can testify that my God continues to be Jehovah-Shalom, my peace. He has put within me His peace which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. It guards my heart and mind (Phil.4:7). Sometimes I call out to Him, “Master, the tempest is raging. The storms are drawing near.” And oh so calmly, He whispers: Peace! Be Still.” His peace greets me with the morning light, and at the end of the day when I lie down to sleep it bids me good-night.
As I look back over these ten years, I’m aware that the blessings of God have been multiplied to me again and again. I’ve had the privilege of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ both at home and abroad and seeing Him liberate, transform, and renew lives. My travels took me to 27 countries including Israel and across most of the United States including Alaska and Hawaii. Five of my books on the Fragrance of Jesus were published as well as miscellaneous other writing credits. I gained a wonderful daughter-in-law and two beautiful grandchildren.
Through all of these meaningful and fulfilling experiences, I was keenly aware of my husband’s absence and often found myself wondering what he would think and how he would have responded in these various situations. I wanted to talk things over with him. Sometimes I felt sad that he didn’t get to meet his daughter-in-law, didn’t get to see that his children have continued to be disciples of Jesus Christ, missed out on the unparalleled joy of being a grandparent. It is then I must quickly remember that his years of suffering are over and he is no longer connected to this earth. There is no pain or sadness or loneliness where he is.
Nevertheless, one does not shed a husband of thirty-one years (or any significant number) as easily as we leave behind a house, clothing, furniture, or even friends. It continues to be a puzzle to me how some widows marry again so quickly. Yet, I know it is not easy trying to fit into a world of married couples when one half is missing. I am happy for them to find a companion with whom to share their remaining years. In the Apostle Paul’s words, I find affirmation for them but in the same scripture passage, I find identity and solace for me: “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment—and I think I also have the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 7:39-40: 39, NKJV).
As I look back over these ten years, I see them as a bridge made of faith and trust in Jesus Christ over which I’ve walked from then to now; and I will continue to walk through these next years with unwavering faith in Him.
“My God and I will go for aye together; we’ll walk and talk just as good friends do. This earth will pass, and with it common trifles, but God and I will go unendingly.” (Vs. 3 of Text by Austris Whithol; Music: by Wolfgang Mozart and Austris Whithol)
Our last family picture – Christmas Eve dinner at the church 1998
(c) C. Yvonne Karl, The Alabaster Box, Jan.28, 2009.