`There was carried out one that was dead, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.' Luke 7: 12, 13.
Any attempt to set forth the teaching of Scripture on the education of children would certainly be incomplete, if it had nothing to say on what always is so sad and difficult, and yet often has been so blessed and successful a work — a widow's training of her orphan children. There are few sights which so claim and attract sympathy, both human and Divine. It is indeed one of the sorest trials that can befall a woman. The husband for whom she left her father's home, on whom she counted, and leant as her guide and guardian, in whom her life and her love found their joy, to whom she looked as her help and strength in the training of her children — her husband is taken from her, and she is left alone and desolate. The stricken heart seeks in vain for the object of its affection; in temporal prospects there is perhaps nothing to which to cling, and the sight of the beloved little ones still left her, instead of being a treasure to which her love now clings, at first only gives new bitterness to the trial. It is not only the heart of man that is touched by this thought: the heart of God too. Throughout Scripture, from the repeated commands in the law of Moses down to James's testimony that pure religion teaches us to visit `the fatherless and widows' in their affliction, God never forgets the widow. `A Father of the fatherless, and a Judge of the widows, is God in His holy habitation;' `He upholdeth the fatherless and the widow;' `Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me' (Ps. 68: 5, 146: 9; Jer. 49: 11): Such words reveal to us the very heart of God.
And now, when Jesus came, how could He fail of showing in this too, that He was the Father's image, that God was in Christ. It is as if the picture of the Master's life would be incomplete without the story of the widow of Nain. In what He said of the widow's mite, we see how His eye watches over a widow's poverty, and values, what men would call, her little deed of love. At Nain we see Him as the Comforter of widowed motherhood. Let us go to Nain, the sacred spot to which so many a widow has resorted to find in Jesus her Friend and Lord, to learn what Jesus, the Friend and Savior of our children, has to say to a widow weeping over her child. Not only when the tears are those of sorrow over one taken away, but those of anxious love or sad distress at the sight of those still left behind, Jesus meets us with His, Weep not.
Weep not, widowed mother, as you look at your little ones, and the heart almost breaks at the thought of their being fatherless. Weep not, but come, follow me, as we seek Him who has been anointed `to comfort all that mourn.' Weep not, as you tremble to think of how you are to train and educate them all alone in your feebleness. Let your soul for a little be silent unto Him who came from heaven to say to the widow, `As one whom his mother comforteth, will thy God comfort thee;' weep not.
Weep not! And may the wounded heart not have at least the comfort that the unrestrained flow of its tears does often bring? Just think for a little moment. As little as the widow of Nain knew why Jesus spoke thus, do you know it yet. But let it be enough that Jesus says it. All the other parents, whose children Jesus blessed, came and asked for help; He speaks to the widow without being asked. Her widowhood is her sufficient plea: `When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said, ‘Weep not.' Jesus is looking on you; do not let your tears keep you from looking and listening to Him. Be sure that if it could have been, He would have spared you that cup; that now that it has come, He is looking on you in compassion, waiting to comfort and to bless; in the tenderest love, but with the voice of authority Jesus says, Weep not.
But Jesus was not one who comforts only with words; His words were always followed by deeds.
And so, if you will look up and see, He will show you what He will do. To the widowed mother at Nain He gave back the dead son, who had been to her in the place of a husband. And His believing people know that, though it may last a little while, the departed ones who have died in the Lord will be given back to them, in glory and forever. Look up to Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, weeping widow! and believe; them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. The resurrection, the meeting again, the being ever with the Lord, are realities, as real; more real, more mighty than the separation and the sorrow; look up in faith, it is Jesus who speaks, Weep not.
But oh, the desolation that meantime fills the heart and the sense of utter feebleness and unfitness to fulfil my charge with these boys, these girls, who still live, and who do so need a father's wise, firm, loving rule. Dear mother! when Jesus says, Weep not, He never speaks without doing; He gives what can dry the tears. What think you? if Jesus were to take the place of the father to these children, would not this make you smile and sing even through the tears. If, as a living reality, Jesus would undertake the responsibility of educating those children, of being your Adviser and your Strength and your assurance of success in your work, would this not be enough to stay those tears? And just this is what He comes to do. What God spoke of old, `Leave thy orphans to me, and let thy widows trust in me;' `The Lord upholdeth the fatherless and the widow,' Jesus comes in human tenderness, and in the nearness of the Holy Spirit, to fulfil. You may trust your fatherless children to Him; He will preserve them; He will, in a Divine fulness and power of meaning, be the father of the fatherless.
It may be that a widowed mother reads these words, to whom they have but little meaning. Though a Christian, she has so little yet learned to live by faith, to count the unseen things of faith surer and clearer than the things of sight, that the promise appears all vague and distant. She hardly dares hope that it ever will become a reality, that she may be quite sure that Jesus will do it for her. She does not feel as if she is good or holy or believing enough, that her children should receive such a wonderfully special and Divine guidance.
My sister! would you learn what Jesus would have of you, that you may with confidence depend upon your children being preserved and blessed by Him, and your tears pass away in the sunlight of His love and care, come and listen. Of a widow He asks but one thing — 'Let thy widows trust in me:' `She that is a widow indeed trusteth in God, and continueth in supplication and prayer night and day.' Trust me! this was what He claimed from the widow of Nain; this is what He asks of you. Trust Jesus! this is the message I bring you this day in your weeping, anxious widowhood. Trust Jesus! trust Him for yourself. Let each thought of your departed one lead you to say, I have Jesus with me — I will trust Him. Let the consciousness of sin and shortcoming, of unfitness for your mother's work, awaken the prayer, Jesus! I will trust You, to make me what I should be. Trust Him with your children, with their temporal and their eternal interests. Only remember, the life of trust just needs a life of undivided, of simple, childlike surrender. Be wholly His, and He will prove Himself wholly yours. Tarry in prayer and supplication, in the silent, restful committal of every care and fear to Him. Really trust Him; in every prayer make this the chief thing. I have now entrusted my need to Him, I trust Him with it; I am confident He is mighty and faithful to keep that which I have committed unto Him. Trust Him wholly; they who wholly trust Him, find Him wholly true.
And if ever the double trial of the widow of Nain should be yours, and you have to mourn the loss not only of a husband, but an only son, oh, remember that there is still Jesus, the Comforter of the widow doubly desolate! This will be the time in which you will find Him become doubly precious, and you will have grace to say, My flesh and my heart fail; but God, but Jesus, is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.
Blessed Lord Jesus! how shall I praise You for that thoughtful love which would not give us the record of Your life without the story of the widow of Nain. Blessed be Your name for the revelation of the special place the widow has in Your heart, and the tenderness of that compassion which drew near to her before ever she knew that she might look to You! Lord Jesus! for every widowed mother we now pray to You. Teach her to come to You with her fatherless children. We bless You that there are thousands of widowed mothers who have proved how wonderfully You can bless the feeble, and how richly You have blessed their children.
Teach the widow, we pray You, to put her trust in God and in You. You are able and You are willing to do what man dare not expect, what man counts impossible, if we honor You by trusting Your love. O Savior! help the feeble faith of every widow. Let her desolation and her sorrow and her feebleness compel her now wholly to cast herself with her children on You, to depend upon You alone. Draw Yourself near, O You compassionate One, and reveal Yourself. Speak into the depths of the sorrowing, anxious heart Your word of comfort: Weep not! Oh, let Your widowed child hear You speaking, see You come to take charge, and provide, and care for the education of her children. Teach her that her one work is to trust You, in separation from the world, in holy devotedness to You, to trust You for a more than human, a Divine guidance and blessing on her children. Let her continue in prayer and supplication, in daily communion with You the Unseen One, the portion of her children. Let her then fully know how truly You are the widow's Friend, the Savior and the Friend of her children. Amen.