They number in the hundreds of millions around the world, and yet to many they are invisible. Their struggles with poverty and human rights violations aren't tracked by statistics in some countries because their plight evokes no pity. They are looked over and looked past, detached from any significant identity and often considered nonentities.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, "It can be said that no group is more affected by the sin of omission than are widows." And this "sin of omission" is resulting in a humanitarian crisis in Southeast Asian countries like India and Sri Lanka where many of the more than 40 million widows "survive" either by waiting for people to throw food or money at them on the streets or by resorting to prostitution.
To draw attention to the difficulties of widows around the world, June 23 has been designated as International Widows Day.
In places like Sri Lanka, Hope For The Heart is working to bring hope of a better future to all who have been marginalized, especially to the nation's many wartime widows who lost their husbands during long-running civil conflict within the country. Hope Centers are being established all over the island nation of Sri Lanka to provide hope and help to those who need it most right in their own neighborhoods. These centers are staffed entirely by Sri Lankans who offer biblical guidance to make powerful life changes.
One lady from a Hindu background recently contacted Hope For The Heart to share her story because "God has done so many good things in my life!" Many of these "good things" came about only after tragedy and hardship.
She told us how her family was displaced as a result of the warfare and how her husband lost his life near the end of the war in 2009. She was left to provide and care for her four children while living in a refugee camp. She described her situation: "At this critical time I was really troubled and fear of my future, so I was forced to suicide with my children [sic]."
Many of those struggling with life-threatening thoughts do not feel connected to others. They feel all alone – exactly how this lady felt. Part of what I often share with those who are considering suicide is a plan to restore hope based on the Word of God from Lamentations 3:19-24 …
1. Remember the facts of your affliction.
"I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall." v. 19
2. Remember the feelings of your pain.
"I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me." v. 20
3. Recall the times when you had hope.
"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope ..." v. 21
4. Review the reward of God's love.
"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail." v.22
5. Recite the fact of God's faithfulness.
"They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." v.23
6. Rest in His fullness – He is your hope.
"I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'" v. 24
When Jeremiah's (the author of Lamentations) thoughts led him to the dark bowels of despair, he made a conscious choice to focus his mind on the love, compassion, faithfulness and sufficiency of God – and we can too.
A neighbor introduced this precious Sri Lankan widow to a local Hope Center. Here she learned how to process her pain, found help for herself and her family, and began to develop hope for her future. She still faces challenges, but she is not alone. The support network at the Hope Center helped her take steps toward stability and to chart a new course for her life. She now proudly testifies, "I am a strong believer of Christ Jesus and I have a strong hope that Jesus will take care of my needs and will bless my future! I thank God and the Hope For The Heart team with full of my heart for saving myself and my children from death! [sic]"
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27). It is our privilege and high calling to serve these widows in distress. As you consider the situation of widows here at home and around the world, what will you do to bring them hope?