Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Though Fatherless and Widowed- God is Father and Husband

My cousin Mike and I have talked much over the years about the fatherless. He has visited us twice in Uganda, so he has not only heard me teach on the fatherless, but he has seen firsthand what it means to labor in the “fields of the fatherless.” He has come to understand God's Fatherhood to the fatherless as unfolded throughout the Old Testament. He has understood what Psalm 68:5 means when it says, “A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling.” And he has delighted in the culmination of all that these things point to in the Gospel and the doctrine of adoption, where God Himself adopts spiritual and physical orphans into His family and Himself becomes “Daddy.”

Last year Mike took all that I have written concerning God's heart for the fatherless and the widow and he taught it in a Sunday School class at his church. He has spoken on spiritual adoption to the church and he has been my constant encourager as I've labored to begin writing a book on these things. Yet these are not just things that Mike has “learned” like you would learn that 2 + 2 = 4. No, you don't become passionate about “facts” or “truth” for truth's sake. Mike has become passionate about these things because they have been “revealed” to him and they have affected and changed the way he relates to God.

I am convinced that Mike's ownership of these things, his longing to know God intimately, his realization that though he has had a father, spiritually he was fatherless, but in salvation, in the Gospel, he has been brought into the family of God where God IS his Father, all of these things were preparation for what was coming. When Mike was woken up at 4:30 in the morning to his mother's desperate cries, he knew what was happening. He ran out of his house to find his father, dead. In those desperate moments as shock and pain shot through his body, as he was helpless to do anything to bring his father back, the realization of what Mike had become sank in.

When I called him the first thing he said to me was, “I'm fatherless, my dad is dead.” He went on, “But my Papa's with me, he's the best father in the world, and it's good.” He went on to tell me the horrible story of what took place when he found his father, yet the peace and comfort he had in it all was the knowledge that His Father was with him. Suddenly, what Mike had been so passionate about was more of a reality than it ever had been.

That verse in Psalm 68 also says that God is the defender of the widow. Though Mike's mom, my Aunt Nancy, had become fatherless six months before, she now has to face life as widow, a young widow, and she has the daunting task of forming a new identity apart from the one who's life had also defined her own.

When Mike asked me to speak at the funeral I did not want to at first. How could I stand before my family, all of us full of emotion, and deliver the Word of God. But then God brought me to John 11 and the message I was to speak, so I agreed. I spoke out of John 11- the story of Lazarus. It's an amazing passage relating to death, the depth of pain and grief that we bear, the questions that naturally arise during grief, Jesus' response to these questions, and his entering into our own suffering, as he weeps right along side of us, though he knows the purposes and the results of such tragedy in our lives. What came out powerfully is the great hope of the Gospel for us both in resurrection and life to come, as well as the healing and comfort in life now.

I can not enter into the grief of another and feel exactly what they are feeling, even if I've been through something similar. But there is one who himself as suffered just as we have, and He alone is able to enter in and bring the healing and comfort that we so long for. He is the Father to the fatherless, and the defender, the husband, of the widow. I'm so thankful for those beautiful pictures found in Scripture! And I'm so thankful for His Spirit's help to deliver His message of hope in the midst of such grief.


P.S. an after-thought said...

Thank you for these essays. I've been checking Uganda blogs since returning from Kamuli in late November. I feel like I left a part of my heart there. In fact, I told one man he is now like a son to me and I hear he is seriously ill, not AIDS or malaria. When he is ill, he can't get to a computer to email.

Yesterday I gave a presentation on Matthew 25 using my Uganda pictures for illustration.

Keith said...


Thanks for the note. I'm so glad that you are carrying a love for Uganda in your heart!