Elijah engages a widow who has an edge. She makes it clear that this is not a good time for him to be asking for hospitality. Notice the dynamics of this exchange. He acknowledges a fear she has not yet stated aloud. By personalizing his response, he attends to her emotional reality compassionately, and she does as he asks. Despite the woman’s circumstances, Elijah insists that she do her original job: providing hospitality to the stranger. He does not allow her to remain in the victim role. Hospitality brings with it a mutuality. Elijah knows that to receive help the widow needs to contribute via transformative choices. As the story evolves, the meal and oil continue in abundance. This encounter surely alters her worldview of Elijah’s God.
And yet when all goes wrong and the widow’s son dies, she reverts to a posture of distrust and anger. Without rebutting her accusations or responding to her hostile tone, Elijah takes her son in his arms and prays.
Let us wonder at Elijah’s spiritual sensitivity and consider what it means to come alongside people who are thoroughly broken. When people feel out of control and losses seem too great, projecting fear as rage is human. Elijah meets the woman’s bitterness straight on. He attends to her physical needs: “There was food every day” (niv) and to her emotional state, holding close her beloved son in prayers to the God of life. The relief of her physical and emotional crises becomes the means of attending to her spiritual needs and brings her to a clear knowledge of and belief in God.
Perhaps when we speak hope to people and embody God’s presence in their despair, they receive in abundance that which was in scarce supply, that which they need to live.

God of mercy, teach us how to come alongside those who despair so that we embody your concern for the broken. Amen.

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