WILL GOD PROVIDE?                                               

If you’ve ever taken a Rahe-Holmes stress test, you’re probably aware that the #1 life stress factor is loss of a spouse. Something in me just wants to shout “DUH!” When a spouse dies, every single thing about life changes. Every. Single. Thing.

One of the big areas of adjustment, especially for a large percentage of women, is that of finances. It has been said that on the average, women lose 40% of their income when their husband dies. Statistics indicate that 90% of married women will be widowed, and they typically outlive their husbands by 15 years. Some estimates suggest that 50% of all widows live below the national poverty level. That’s more than half of the approximately 17 million widows in this country! Granted, this is not true for ALL widows, but it is the reality for many. Many women have never had careers outside the home. Many others were not the one in the marriage who handled the finances, and they may have absolutely no idea what their financial situation is.

I was one of those who unfortunately knew what the financial situation would be…or at least I THOUGHT I knew. During the months that Dave and I journeyed through his cancer, many questions came to my mind about how I would survive without him. We were, of course, praying for healing and doing everything possible in terms of medical treatment – but the reality was that nothing was working and continuing to live life without him seemed to be more and more inevitable.

We had lived a life together in fulltime ministry for 50 years. We pastored churches for 25 years, where we lived in church-provided parsonages. For the next 25 years we worked as missionary staff with Christ For the City International, having to raise our entire support through many gracious donors who believed in the work we were doing. Upon becoming a widow, I had no retirement plan to speak of, still had a sizeable mortgage due to having lived in parsonages so many years, and Dave had taken the ministry option for exemption from Social Security about 30 years previously. (Fortunately, he had paid in enough years that his Social Security benefits were vested.) He had enough life insurance to cover a funeral, and really no other financial assets. For most of our 50 years together, I was a stay-at-home mom and worked part-time jobs. I knew what my situation would be. Even with a college education, I was still 70 years old and not really viable in the job market!

I share all of this to say that although I knew the promises of God in my heart, my head was in a whirl of how I would ever survive financially. I was convinced that all those donors were supporting us only due to Dave’s ministry, and that they would disappear if he died. When I even considered what the future would look like, knowing I had very few resources, I could barely breathe.

Many women find that when their spouse dies, they lost their self-confidence in their ability to make decisions – particularly in handling finances. Finding yourself in situations where decisions must be made while feeling compromised can be very disconcerting – to say the least!

Here are some helpful things for new widows to remember:

  1. Don’t make any major financial decisions right away. Focus only on the most immediately pressing things and postpone what you can. Don’t buy or sell investments or properties that you don’t understand. Instead, take care of things like your cash flow, making sure the bills are paid, and filing for any relevant death benefits.
  2. Don’t make career decisions too soon. If you were working when your spouse died, consider keeping your job. There can be benefits other than financial!
  3. Watch out for those who prey on widows! Yes, they’re out there. Unscrupulous salespeople who will try to engage you in all kinds of scams in order to get your money! Be especially careful with purchases and investment opportunities.
  4. Make decisions about housing carefully and thoughtfully. It’s generally best to give this some time before making any permanent, life-impacting decisions. Remember that your support networks are usually in the area where you live. If you relocate too soon, you run the risk of secondary grief due to other losses during a time when you’re already likely struggling. You may feel you need to sell your home, but it may not be the right time.
  5. Talk with a reputable financial advisor who can give you an objective review of your situation. Find someone you trust who can be a partner to help you think through your whole situation and help you make decisions that are the best for you. It’s best to find someone who is familiar and experienced in working with widows. Check out your Social Security options as soon as possible. Talk with someone regarding whether to file on your account or your spouse’s, and what your options are. File for death benefits. Make sure you consider other benefits due, i.e., retirement accounts, life insurance, and investments.
  6. Don’t become a purse for everyone who thinks you have money –whether or not you do! Keep your financial situation to yourself, and don’t be pressured into parting with your funds!

Now, having considered practical wisdom, let’s look at what God says about the situation. Psalm 23:4 says: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me;” God will never leave us to deal with these situations alone. The key is that we must learn to turn to Him, and to ask Him for what we need. He has not abandoned us.

Deuteronomy 31:8 gives us an amazing promise: It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

The good news is that the Lord himself goes before us in all these things. He knew from the beginning that I would one day face this season of living without Dave. And to reassure you, He has done so many miracles of provision for me that space doesn’t allow me to share them here! My needs are met, my bills are paid, and He has given great peace that He will continue to care for me through His people who love me and believe in His calling on my life.

If you find yourself today in a financial wilderness, not really even understanding what all you need to handle, know that God is going before you. He knew you would face this, and He’s already made a way for you.

Please feel free to share this, and to leave your thoughts and comments. Or you can email me at sheryl@freshhope.us.

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