Following our announcement and the collective joy, another member of church stood up. She was also widowed some time ago, but her own story is turning out differently so far. God has not given her a new husband; rather she has had to live day to day trusting in His grace and like St. Paul, learning how to “be content in all things” including singleness.
As an aside, I will mention that I only met my first wife and my future wife after reaching a point in my life where I had placed marriage on the altar so to speak -- essentially saying “God, I do not desire to be single, but if that is your own ‘Plan A’ for me, I am trusting that You will give me the grace to walk through it joyfully for as long as it pleases You.” I would not go so far as to say that reaching this attitude is a prerequisite for obtaining a spouse from God, but it is certainly an attitude that is going to lead to a healthier marriage if God gives you a spouse.
So what is the lesson in this testimony? As C. S. Lewis used to say (quoting Chesterton who was probably quoting more ancient authorities), people need to be reminded much more often than they need to be instructed. The lesson is one that we affirm in our creeds but which we are apt to overlook until we walk through it repeatedly, and that is the importance of recognizing and rejoicing in God’s sovereign hand in every area of our lives. God is not subject to time or limited to it -- even secular science teaches that time as we know it is not something fixed or immutable. God created time and as the psalmist says, He knows all the days of our lives before we experience any of them. That means that God, standing outside of time and in eternity, saw the chemical changes in my first wife’s body that would ultimately lead to her early demise. He likewise saw, from the vantage point of eternity, the circumstances that would lead to my new wife becoming widowed many years ago. And yet, because Scripture also teaches us that God intervenes affirmatively in the fabric of space and time, He saw these things and devised His own ‘Plan A’ in response to them. And amazingly, God gives us the freedom to cooperate in our own responses to the situations He permits -- carrying out those responses within the fabric of space and time.
This does not mean that we must passively accept everything that happens without trying to correct a bad situation. Plainly, God does permit bad things to come our way; we never viewed cancer as God’s “gift” to us as it has been unfortunately characterized by a prominent author. His gift was that He was present with us in our walk through the process of the disease and gave grace according to His eternal plan.
Faced with a difficult situation, our prayers therefore can become “Father, You saw this coming from eternity and You know what the best plan in response to it is going to be; help me to walk through that plan.”
Once again paraphrasing C. S. Lewis, we are going to do God’s will regardless of our choices (because God sees everything from eternity and tailors what happens to us according to our responses), but it makes a big difference whether we carry out His will the way St. Peter did or the way that Judas did.